The Special Committee on Decolonization decided today to hold its Caribbean Regional Seminar in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, from 16 to 18 May.
Approving a set of guidelines and rules of procedure (document A/AC.109/2017/19), the 29-member body — known formally as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples — also agreed on the agenda and other organizational issues related to the biennial Caribbean Regional Seminar on the implementation of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.
The Special Committee decided on the theme “The future for decolonization in the Non-Self-Governing Territories: what are the prospects?” and that its delegation to the Seminar would be made up of 10 Special Committee members from the four regional groups: the Group of African States, the Group of Asia-Pacific States, the Group of Eastern European States and the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States.
Special Committee Chair Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela) noted that experts and representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories and non-governmental organizations would be invited to the Seminar.
Inga Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) expressed hope that the Seminar would advance progress on decolonization challenges. As a small island State, her country and others in the region had benefitted from the United Nations self-determination process, she said, appreciating the Special Committee members for accepting Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ offer to host the event.
Several members took the floor to express gratitude to the Government and people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for their offer to host the Seminar. Some delegates, including representatives of Bolivia and Nicaragua, offered observations and suggestions for achieving progress in fulfilling the Special Committee’s mandate. Anayansi Rodríguez Camejo (Cuba) said the Special Committee should consider the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Horacio Sevilla Borja (Ecuador) urged the Special Committee to devote its full attention to the Non-Self-Governing Territories on its list of pending matters and to examine all situations involving the rights to self-determination. Pointing out an apparent rebirth within the United Nations of the decolonization issue, he cited growing expressions of interest to chair the Special Committee alongside a spike in membership and observer status requests. In light of that increased interest, Dian Triansyah Djani (Indonesia) said future work must be guided by constructive engagement, sustained efforts and political will, including in addressing the listed Non-Self-Governing Territories on its agenda.
Hossein Maleki (Iran) then sought clarification as to how experts were put on a list maintained by the Special Committee. The Chair said the Bureau had tried to ensure that the experts had broad-based experience in a particular region, based on a set of criteria, which he said would be circulated to members.
Turning to its agenda item on visiting missions, the Special Committee first decided to continue its discussions with France on a visit to New Caledonia. Alexis Lamek (France), who spoke as an observer, acknowledged receipt of the request for that visit, saying his country was open to continuing a dialogue with the Special Committee and attached great importance to the issue.
With regard to a proposed visit to Western Sahara, the Chair regretted to note some speakers’ reservations. But, he said he would act in accordance with the Special Committee’s decision.
Claude Stanislas Bouah-Kamon (Côte d’Ivoire) said Western Sahara was the only Special Committee agenda item that was also being considered by the Security Council. As such, the United Nations Charter stated that no other body could or should get involved, he said. In a similar vein, Keisha A. McGuire (Grenada) said a visit would be redundant since there were several ongoing United Nations missions there. Claxton Duberry (Antigua and Barbuda) suggested instead a visit to a listed Non-Self-Governing Territory in the Caribbean region.
Several observers also shared their concerns. Omar Hilale (Morocco) expressed concern that the Chair had shown interest in pursuing a proposed visit. He proposed that the Special Committee respect the United Nations Charter. Article 12 explicitly stated that while the Security Council was exercising in respect of any dispute or situation the functions assigned to it in the present Charter, the General Assembly should not make any recommendation with regard to that dispute or situation unless the Security Council so requested.
Mohammed Bessedik (Algeria) insisted that the Chair continue to work on the proposed visit in conformity with relevant General Assembly resolutions and the Special Committee’s mandate. Having visited Western Sahara in 1975, the Special Committee should again consider a mission, he said, expressing hope that France could serve as a model for others to try to solve decolonization issues using dialogue within an existing framework. He proposed that visits be planned for all 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Jerry Matthews Matjila (South Africa) said “I am sitting here today thanks to the work of this Committee,” pointing out that South Africa was a colony in 1960 and that his colleagues had come to the United Nations to request a visit from the Special Committee. The Special Committee must continue to listen to the voices of those who needed to be heard. It must also fulfil the letter and spirit of General Assembly resolution 1514, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, he said, noting its reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Also delivering statements today were representatives of Papua New Guinea, Chile, Timor-Leste, United Republic of Tanzania, Saint Lucia, Venezuela, Ecuador and India. Observers from Gabon and Senegal also spoke.