Special Committee on Decolonization Adopts 2 Information-Related Draft Resolutions as It Opens 2017 Substantive Session

12 June 2017
2017 Session, 3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)

Special Committee on Decolonization Adopts 2 Information-Related Draft Resolutions as It Opens 2017 Substantive Session

Delegates Vote Down Effort to Hear Petitioners on Question of Western Sahara

Opening its 2017 substantive session today, the Special Committee on Decolonization approved two draft resolutions on the transmission of information from Non-Self-Governing Territories, and on the dissemination of information on decolonization.

The first draft, approved annually for adoption by the General Assembly, would have the 193-member organ reaffirm that administering Powers should continue to transmit information under Article 73 (e) of the Charter of the United Nations.

By other terms, the Special Committee would have the Assembly request that the administering Powers transmit regularly to the Secretary-General statistical and other information on the economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories for which they were responsible.

The second text, on the dissemination of information on decolonization, would have the Assembly approve activities undertaken by the Departments of Public Information and Political Affairs, encouraging updates to and wide dissemination of an information leaflet on what the United Nations could do to help Non-Self-Governing Territories.  By other terms, the Assembly would request that the two Departments develop ways to disseminate material on the issue of self-determination, exploring collaboration with the decolonization focal points of territorial governments, particularly in the Pacific and Caribbean regions, while encouraging the involvement of non-governmental organizations.

In other business, delegations debated whether to hear petitioners on the question of Western Sahara, as representatives of Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Timor-Leste, Syria, Chile, and Bolivia said that exercise must be reserved for the Fourth Committee (Special Decolonization Political).  The Special Committee then decided — by 7 votes in favour (Antigua and Barbuda, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Sierra Leone) to 8 against (Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Syria, Timor-Leste and Venezuela), with 5 abstentions (China, Ethiopia, Iraq, Mali and Russian Federation) — that it would not hear petitioners.  Eight delegations were absent.

Ethiopia’s representative asked why it was only now that the Special Committee wished to hear from Western Sahara petitioners.

Côte d’Ivoire’s representative said that any party involved in the matter would help to paint an accurate view of the situation on the ground.  Grenada’s representative expressed a similar sentiment, emphasizing that hearing from all petitioners was in line with the rules and procedures.  Indonesia’s speaker reiterated the need to be fair to all petitioners.  Representatives of Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Jamaica and India said there was no legal bar to hearing them.

Morocco’s representative described the vote as evidence that the Special Committee was “extremely divided”, saying the result would have been “very different” had all delegations been present.  All petitioners had a right to express themselves, he said, emphasizing that prohibiting petitioners was strictly political and a contradiction that the Special Committee would not be able to explain to history.

Algeria’s representative said “never ever” had petitioners from Western Sahara spoken before the Special Committee, adding that they would have sufficient time to speak during the Fourth Committee.

In opening the meeting, Special Committee Chair Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela) underlined the need for a substantive debate on the Special Committee’s relevance and effectiveness, expressing hope that the behaviour of States would conform to the norms and practices governing the Special Committee, the General Assembly and the United Nations as a whole.  He expressed regret at the lack of respect shown towards the Special Committee on some occasions, as well as the raising of topics that were not relevant to its work or that related solely to the internal affairs of individual States.

The Special Committee also held discussions on the questions of Gibraltar, Tokelau and Western Sahara.

In other business, the Special Committee — known formally as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence of Colonial Countries and Peoples — adopted its programme of work for the session.

At the outset of the meeting, delegates observed a minute of silence in memory of Miguel d’Escoto, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, and former President of the General Assembly, who passed away on 8 June.  They expressed condolences to his family and friends.

The Special Committee will resume its work on Monday, 19 June.

Opening Remarks

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), Chair of the Special Committee, said the absence of action towards fulfilling its mandate had led it to suffer an increasing lack of relevance.  One of the main reasons for that reality was the attitude of certain countries towards occupation and colonialization, he explained.  The lack of interest in moving forward towards ending colonialism had had resulted in an attitude of mistrust due, in part, to the unwillingness to cooperate demonstrated on several occasions by some administering and occupying Powers.  Underlining the need for a substantive debate on the Special Committee’s relevance and effectiveness, he expressed hope that the behaviour of States would conform to the norms and practices governing the Special Committee, the General Assembly and the United Nations as a whole.  He expressed regret over the lack of respect shown towards the Special Committee on some occasions, as well as the practice of raising topics that were not relevant to the Special Committee’s work or related solely to the internal affairs of individual States.  Such practices were intended to sabotage the Special Committee’s work, he said.  In that context, members should refrain from resorting to the use of force or otherwise despicable tactics, he stressed.


The Special Committee then took up a draft resolution titled “Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 (e) of the Charter of the United Nations” (document A/AC.109/2017/L.4).

The representative of Cuba noted that administering Powers were expected to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General information on the economic, social and educational conditions in Territories for which they were responsible.  The information was important for the Special Committee’s decision-making and for assessing the situation in each Territory.  It should be factual and up to date, he emphasized, while noting with concern that the Secretary-General’s report showed that several administering Powers had not sent the required information.

The representative of Venezuela stressed the vital importance of administering Powers providing such information.

Acting without a vote, the Special Committee then approved the draft resolution (document A/AC.109/2017/L.4).  By its terms, the Assembly would request administering Powers to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General statistical and other technical information concerning economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories for which they were responsible, in addition to the fullest possible information on political and constitutional developments.  By other terms, the Assembly would request that the Secretary-General continue to ensure that adequate information was drawn from all available published sources in the preparation of working papers on each Territory.

JANOS TISOVSZKY, Officer in Charge, Strategic Communications Division, Department of Public Information, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on dissemination of information on decolonization during the period from April 2016 to March 2017 (document A/AC.109/2017/18).  He reported that the Department had disseminated 32 press releases covering numerous statements, hearings and meetings in English and French, adding that it had also deployed press officers to cover decolonization seminars held in Nicaragua and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.  They worked in close collaboration with the Decolonization Unit of the Department of Political Affairs during seminars and in efforts to continuously update and maintain the “UN and Decolonization” website in the Organization’s six official languages, he said, adding that the Department also highlighted decolonization activities through its “Global Issues” and other special webpages.  The Department’s various social media accounts also promoted decolonization-related issues and was able to drive traffic to the “UN and Decolonization” website, he said, adding that the Department also provided visitors to United Nations Headquarters with educational information on the topic.

The representative of Cuba welcomed the Department’s outreach efforts, and urged it to expand its activities so as to effect the greatest possible dissemination of decolonization information, using all available platforms.  There was also need to ensure the balanced treatment of all official United Nations languages in terms of the decolonization information made available.

RIE KODOTA, Officer in Charge, Decolonization Unit, Department of Political Affairs, then provided an update on its contribution to efforts to disseminate decolonization information, in collaboration with the Department of Public Information.  The Department of Political Affairs had uploaded all available statements and discussion papers on the “UN and Decolonization” website, which was now available in all six languages.  The Decolonization Unit was also responsible for the yearly preparation of Secretariat working papers on each of the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories, she said, emphasizing that all working papers for 2017 had been issued in the first quarter and posted on the website.  There had been a significant increase in the number of page views observed in 2016, she noted, saying that was a testament to the growing popularity of the “UN and Decolonization” website.

The Chair (Venezuela) expressed some concern over the dissemination of information on the Special Committee’s work, saying that some of the material had not been updated.  It was also critical to ensure that information flowed in a timely manner, he added.

The Special Committee then approved a draft submitted by the Chair on dissemination of information on decolonization (document A/AC.109/2017/L.5).  By its terms, the General Assembly would approve activities undertaken by the Departments of Public Information and Political Affairs, and encourage updates to and wide dissemination of the information leaflet on what the United Nations could do to assist Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Additionally, the Assembly would request that both Departments implement the Special Committee’s recommendations and develop ways to disseminate material on the issue of self-determination.  In that effort, they would explore collaboration with the decolonization focal points of the territorial Governments and encourage the involvement of non-governmental organizations, as well as Non-Self Governing Territories.

Taking up the draft “Question of sending visiting missions to Territories” (document A/AC.109/2017/L.6), the Chair noted with concern that the Special Committee had not been able to dispatch a visiting mission for the past two years.  It was important to comply with the mandate set forth by the General Assembly to carry out at least one mission a year, he emphasized.

The representative of Côte d’Ivoire said his delegation was surprised to see a proposed visit to the Sahara contained in the draft and expressed strong reservations about any such visit.  The Security Council was the organ dealing with the Sahara and such a visit would be in violation of the United Nations Charter, he said, reiterating that a political process was under way, in accordance with Security Council resolutions.

The representative of Grenada, associating herself with Côte d’Ivoire, said the paragraph proposing a visit to Western Sahara should be deleted, emphasizing that the Special Committee should visit all 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories, including Gibraltar and the Malvinas.

The representative of Timor-Leste stressed the importance of planning which Territories to visit, adding that it was extremely important to visit Western Sahara.

The representative of Algeria underlined the importance of being careful with language in distinguishing between “Sahara” and “Western Sahara”.  The Special Committee had taken the decision to visit Western Sahara in 1991, he recalled, adding that all that remained was a matter of implementation.

The representative of Morocco said he was perplexed that the Sahara was the only Territory to which reference was being made, adding that the draft should include all requests for visiting missions made over the years.  Why was the Sahara singled out?  He also questioned why the Chair referred to General Assembly resolutions but ignored those of the Security Council.  The Council resolutions said there was a political process that should be allowed to play out, he noted.

The representative of France said New Caledonia could not be the only Territory visited and called for a timetable.

Also speaking were representatives of Antigua and Barbuda, Venezuela and Indonesia.

Following that discussion, the Chair indicated that the Special Committee would resume its consideration of the draft resolution at a later date.

Question of Gibraltar

FABIAN PICARDO, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said the Chair’s comments on visiting missions “defy logic” and were totally unacceptable.  Recalling that the people of the United Kingdom, as well as those of Gibraltar, had voted to leave the European Union, he said that although Gibraltarians had voted by 96 per cent to remain within the bloc, they would nonetheless abide by the United Kingdom’s decision.  Briefly outlining Gibraltar’s history — including the cruel punishments inflicted on the Territory’s people as a result of their temerity in casting votes to remain British — he reiterated that the question of Gibraltar should have been closed 50 years ago following a referendum by which by more than 99 per cent of the Gibraltarian people had voted to remain British.  “Our right to self-determination is not vitiated by a non-existent doctrine that sovereignty disputes suspend application of inalienable rights,” he stressed.  “We will not roll over” and allow the Spanish to claim Gibraltar as a result of being worn down by years of failure on the part of the Special Committee.

The people of Gibraltar had again confirmed their choice to exercise self-determination in a 2002 referendum on joint sovereignty, he said, recalling that they had also rejected that proposal by 99 per cent.  “Our people wish to be delisted and decolonized,” he said, declaring:  “Brexit or no Brexit, if we held another referendum today on joint or full Spanish sovereignty over Gibraltar, the results would be the same.”  The Gibraltarian people did not reject the notion of cooperation with their neighbour, and remained ready to return to the Trilateral Forum for Dialogue, from which only Spain remained absent, he noted.

FRANCISCA MARÍA PEDROS CARRETERO (Spain) said that she appeared before the Special Committee once again without a solution to an anachronistic colonial situation from which her country regrettably continued to suffer.  Recalling that Gibraltar had been taken from Spain by the United Kingdom, causing the Spanish-descended “real people of Gibraltar” to flee, she said the Treaty of Utrecht clearly delineated the seized territory, which had never included the surrounding waters nor the area surrounding “the Rock”.  Spain had repeatedly demonstrated that the question of Gibraltar was a matter of decolonization, she said, citing a number of General Assembly texts — including resolution 2231 (XXI) of 1966, which called on the parties to speed up the process of decolonizing Gibraltar — by which it called for a negotiated bilateral solution between the two countries.  Spain had invited the United Kingdom to the negotiating table year after year, she noted.  Calling attention to the co-sovereignty proposal Spain had presented to the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) in October 2016, she said it envisioned both a local authority and a competent regional Spanish authority.  The Special Committee must not permit the delisting of Territories that remained under colonial rule, she emphasized.

RICHARD BUTTIGIEG, speaking for the Self-Determination Group of Gibraltar, said that Spain “says one thing here, but then acts very differently towards us in Gibraltar”.  Because the Special Committee continued to fail in its duty to visit, it had never been able to witness the unnecessary queues at the border or the frequent illegal incursions by Spanish naval assets into British Gibraltarian territorial waters.  Agreeing with Spain’s description of Gibraltar as “a colony within Europe”, he asked why that country continued to oppose the decolonization requests that his group had submitted.  “Spain’s position is not only hypocritical, but in fact downright malicious,” he said, adding that it wished to gain sovereignty over Gibraltar against the people’s democratically expressed wishes.  Underlining that the sharing or transfer of a nation’s sovereignty to third parties was not one of the decolonization methods stipulated by the United Nations, he said Spain’s recent proposal could in fact perpetuate Gibraltar’s colonial status.  He called upon the Special Committee to do more than merely pass a “stale resolution” every year which did not advance matters in any way.  It should inform Gibraltar what more it required if the decolonization criteria submitted so far remained unsatisfactory.  “We have been waiting for an answer for decades,” he said.

The representative of Venezuela encouraged the parties to continue discussions in order to reach a solution to the dispute over the question of Gibraltar by finding areas of common ground.

Question of Tokelau

ALEKI FAIPULE SIOPILI PEREZ, Titular Head of Tokelau, said the Territory had been practising self-governance for quite some time and had discovered that harmonizing the governance of three distinct villages was the biggest challenge.  The lack of key skills among the workforce, Tokelau’s distance from supply markets and transportation requirements made Tokelau’s situation even more challenging.  Building confidence in self-governance would be the best preparation for self-determination, as and when that decision was made, he emphasized, noting that the Tokelau Public Service Commission was now in place and able to provide support and encouragement to the incoming government, which was starting its new three-year cycle.

Noting that the United Nations had taken responsibility for managing global efforts to address the key issues relating to climate change and rising sea levels, he said that Tokelau, as a collection of three low-lying atolls, had already been impacted by climate change through significant coastal erosion and ocean acidification.  The realities of climate change were already visible in the Territory, although its current political status regrettably excluded Tokelau from direct access to financing from various climate-funding mechanisms.  He described Tokelau’s efforts — working with the Government of New Zealand — to improve the quality of education, while also highlighting the success of Tokelau’s first non-communicable disease summit.  Furthermore, a mobile network had been launched earlier this month, and fishing revenues had also increased markedly in recent years, thanks to assistance from the Government of New Zealand.

The representative of Iran noted that the population of Tokelau stood at 1,499 people, although more than 7,000 of the Territory’s people lived in New Zealand.  He noted that each atoll had its own administrative centre, which would make self-governance difficult.

The representative of Sierra Leone noted the close relationship between Tokelau and New Zealand, saying the most recent report made it evident that ties continued to grow stronger.

DAVID NICHOLSON (New Zealand), Administrator of Tokelau, said his country was committed to its constitutional relationship with that territory’s people, who faced a number of challenges as one of the world’s most geographically isolated places.  Noting that Tokelau possessed its own unique culture, language and conditions, he said successive independence referendums had not met the majority thresholds required, which had resulted in a long “pause” in the decolonization process.  New Zealand was focused on improving the quality of life on the atolls and was ready to move ahead in a very careful, deliberate and forward-looking fashion, in accordance with Tokelau’s political development, strengthened self-governance and enhanced national planning, he said.

On paper, he continued, the Administrator and New Zealand’s Foreign Minister had great responsibilities, although in practice, Tokelau’s leaders carried the majority of those duties and made the majority of decisions for their people.  New Zealand sought to ensure that Tokelau would have as much self-governance as was feasible, in line with its people’s preference.  New Zealand was working with Tokelau on rehabilitating reef passages and had helped to facilitate major upgrades that would allow the transfer of passengers from ship to shore, he said, noting that such transfer was currently extremely difficult since all three atolls were surrounded by fringe reefs.  New Zealand also supported Tokelau’s efforts to adapt to climate change and to reduce the incidence of non-communicable diseases while helping it to strengthen budget preparations in relation to those threats.

The representative of Venezuela expressed his delegation’s desire to continue working closely with the leaders of Tokelau in their efforts towards self-determination, adding that it was committed to ensuring that the decolonization process continued in that Territory.

Question of Western Sahara

The representative of Cuba noted that 54 years had elapsed since the Special Committee had declared Western Sahara a Non-Self-Governing Territory.  Citing a number of United Nations and African Union resolutions that, over those decades, urged the parties to ensure that the people of Western Sahara were able to exercise their right to self-determination, he said Assembly resolution 71/106 called on them to reach a just, lasting solution, to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and to fulfil their commitments under international law.  To the contrary, virtually no progress had been made and the issue remained at a standstill, he said, reiterating his country’s support for the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination, he outlined its help since 1976, including its dispatch of medical teams to refugee camps and scholarships that allowed young people to study in Cuba.

The representative of Venezuela, also voicing support for the right of Western Sahara’s people to self-determination, recalled that both the Security Council and the General Assembly had ratified more than 40 resolutions on that issue.  Concerned that the people were suffering because one side continued to ignore the Special Committee’s requests, he emphasized that the situation remained untenable, representing a threat to international peace and security.  Venezuela was also concerned about the humanitarian situation and the deterioration of human rights in Western Sahara, he said.  Urging concessions by Morocco in relation to the management of Western Sahara’s natural resources, he called upon all countries currently engaged in economic activities there to end them, in line with United Nations resolutions that repeatedly confirmed the need to protect and ensure the rights of indigenous peoples over their natural resources.

CLAUDE STANISLAS BOUAH-KAMON (Côte d’Ivoire) expressed concern about the stagnation in the decolonization process, saying it was due to the Territories themselves, as well as the difficult international context.  Regarding Western Sahara, he welcomed efforts to take the reality on the ground into account, as well as the Secretary-General’s effort to relaunch the negotiating process.  That could help breathe new life into the situation, he said.  He called upon all sides to demonstrate compromise and ensure that a fair, lasting and mutually agreed political solution could be found.  Côte d’Ivoire awaited the official appointment of a new Special Envoy, as well as the new “road map”, he said.

KEISHA A. MCGUIRE (Grenada) said Morocco’s proposed initiative represented a serious step towards ending the dispute, and took note of the Security Council’s strong encouragement for enhancing cooperation on the issue of Western Sahara, particularly the facilitation of further visits to the region.  Grenada supported fully the Council’s latest resolution, which called for the registration of refugees to guarantee the protection and promotion of human rights.

BIRUK MEKONNEN DEMISSIE (Ethiopia) said it was unfortunate that the Western Sahara situation had been lingering for so long and expressed hope that the appointment of a new Special Envoy would be instrumental in reinvigorating negotiations.  Ethiopia had always supported efforts for a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for the self-determination of Western Sahara’s people, he said.

The representative of Dominica said the ultimate objective was a mutually agreed, good-faith political solution, as recommended by various Security Council resolutions.  Voicing support for the “serious and credible” autonomy plan presented by Morocco in 2007 — which would allow the Sahrawi people’s full enjoyment of the right to self-determination, and reinforce stability and security in the region — she also drew attention to Morocco’s new development model, launched in 2015 to improve the Sahrawi population’s living standards.  She welcomed the peaceful, transparent and democratic holding of two crucial elections in 2015 and 2016, as well as Morocco’s work in the area of human rights.

The representative of Antigua and Barbuda, associating herself with Grenada and Dominica, said the Special Committee should act on a case-by-case basis and base its solutions on compromise.  She also described Morocco’s autonomy proposal as innovative, serious, credible and consistent with international law.

The representative of Nicaragua expressed solidarity with the Sahrawi people and support for efforts for a just, lasting solution to ensure their ability to exercise the right to self-determination.  Expressing concern over the lack of progress on the question of Western Sahara — due to one side’s refusal to respond to the Special Committee’s appeals, as well as its efforts to prevent the holding of a referendum — he urged Member States to support the Secretary-General’s efforts to encourage negotiations, and called upon Morocco to end its occupation.

SAM TERENCE CONDOR (Saint Kitts and Nevis) associated himself with Dominica, Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda.

MARIA HELENA LOPES DE JESUS PIRES (Timor-Leste) expressed full support for the Frente Polisario as the legitimate representative of the people of Western Sahara, and for the Secretary-General’s efforts to find a political solution, including through the appointment of a new Special Envoy.

AHMED BOUKHARI, Frente Polisario, described the crimes that Morocco had committed against his people as “unspeakable”.  History would judge that country fully one day and reveal the tragic nature of those crimes, which included use of prohibited weapons and mass killings.  The people of Western Sahara had been the victims of violence, rape, torture and other indignities that had resulted in death, he said, recalling that the  Committee on Human Rights had expressed its concern over the use of torture and other treatment of Western Sahara’s people.  Many observers and journalists attempting to visit occupied zones had been expelled, he noted.

The Sahrawi people had been victims of colonialist harm for more than 42 years and had faced armed aggression in the battlefield, he continued.  Where did the referendum stand today and who was obstructing it?  Morocco had agreed to the referendum, but had subsequently manipulated it to implicate the United Nations and the African Union, he said, emphasizing that to state that the United Nations had abandoned the self-determination referendum was simply false.  The Organization could arrange a new one in just a few months, and the obstacle preventing things from moving forward was the lack of political will.

He went on to describe the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) as a prisoner of the occupying Power, which forced it to “look aside” and not inform New York about the serious incidents taking place there.  Recalling Morocco’s recent expulsion of MINURSO staff and its having prevented then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from visiting the region, he said that country had initiated a military confrontation, in violation of the ceasefire agreement, and done everything in its power to delay the designation of a new Special Envoy.  The Sahrawi people had full confidence in the Special Committee’s work, he said, extending an invitation for a visiting mission.

The representative of Grenada emphasized that the previous speaker had delivered his statement as a representative of the Polisario Front, not of the people of Western Sahara.  While the Assembly had made that designation, it had never been an endorsement of the Polisario Front as the “sole representative” of the people of the Western Sahara, he said, adding that that designation had later been formally amended.

The representative of Antigua and Barbuda associated herself with Grenada’s statement.

The representative of Côte d’Ivoire, also endorsing Grenada’s statement, voiced his clear opposition to the Polisario Front’s participation as representing the people of Western Sahara.

The representative of Sierra Leone warned that unless the Special Committee was viewed as being equitable, it risked eroding its own credibility.

The representative of El Salvador called for the early resumption of negotiations, underlining the importance of protecting colonial Territories against all attempts to break them up because such actions were incompatible with the principles of the United Nations.  Morocco’s return to the African Union “gives us hope” by providing the opportunity to engage in a negotiation process under the auspices of that regional body, he said.

ELTON KHOETAGE HOESEB (Namibia) pointed out that the people of Western Sahara continued to wait for the referendum, expressing concern over the continuing denial of their right to self-determination.

MATÍAS PAOLINO (Uruguay) defended the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination and called for resumed negotiations.  Hopefully, the next Special Envoy would be able to begin work at once, and there would be greater cooperation between the parties.

LOIS YOUNG (Belize) emphasized that the Sahrawi people must be permitted to exercise their right to self-determination in a free and democratic manner.  Belize called upon the Special Committee to undertake an official visit to Western Sahara in the next three months, and recommended that the Fourth Committee adopt a resolution that would determine a date for the referendum.

DARLINGTON M. KADYAUTUMBE (Zimbabwe) noted that the people of Western Sahara remained under foreign occupation and were being denied the right to self-determination, while many of them were living in poverty or had been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.

FRANÇOIS SOUMAH (Guinea) emphasized the importance of resuming negotiations in order to find a mutually acceptable political solution.

The representative of Gabon, noting that the Maghreb region continued to be undermined by terrorism, described the Moroccan autonomy proposal as “optimal” because it was both in line with international law and reflected the right to self-determination.

The representative of Morocco said only in the Special Committee could someone enter a United Nations meeting and take the floor without registering a formal request.  Indeed, the speaker for the Frente Polisario was not listed and appeared to be receiving special treatment, a violation of procedure.  In all the years that the Frente Polisario had been addressing the Fourth Committee, that body had received and reviewed documents containing formal requests, he said, noting that such a procedure had not been followed today.  Indeed, the Special Committee had lost its honour and become politicized since the present Chairman had taken up his post, he said.

The Chair interrupted the representative, calling on him to refrain from speaking in offensive terms.

The representative of Morocco went on to warn that “somebody is pushing for their own agenda” against the Special Committee’s wishes by violating the consensus.  The matter was not really about the Sahara but about the Special Committee’s credibility and the respect it deserved.  Outlining the history of Western Sahara’s colonization, he said that history confirmed beyond a shadow of doubt that “the Sahara is Moroccan” and should no longer be on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  After years of stalemate, the Security Council had called on all parties to move towards a negotiated political solution, and Morocco had, therefore, put forward a compromise-based autonomy plan, he said.  Recent United Nations resolutions enshrined the international support for that proposal, which reflected a constructive spirit.

In contrast to that expression of goodwill, he said, others continued their obstructionist positions, posturing in ways fundamentally opposed to the principles of the United Nations.  Indeed, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other high officials had declared that basing a solution on a referendum was not realistic or attainable, and since then, various entities and organs of the United Nations had welcomed Morocco’s autonomy proposal as “serious and credible”.  Citing evidence of fraud on the part of the Frente Polisario leadership, he drew a contrast to Morocco’s successful and peaceful conduct of local, regional and legislative elections in recent years.  He underlined that the General Assembly must not make any recommendations on a dispute currently under consideration by the Security Council unless the latter requested it to do so.

The representative of Senegal reiterated his appeal for a fresh look at the changing situation in Western Sahara in light of Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative.  That plan was a basis for the current political process, and was seen by the Security Council as both serious and credible.

The representative of South Africa emphasized the need to ensure that all actions and initiatives relating to Western Sahara were in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

The representative of Algeria said the international community must not abandon its commitment to the people still living under colonial rule in the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The people of Western Sahara had been waiting 42 years for the United Nations to fulfil its responsibility, he said, noting that all relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council reaffirmed their right to self-determination.  Indeed, those resolutions recognized no ties whatsoever between the Territory and any other country, he pointed out, expressing regret that the paper recently produced on the question of Western Sahara did not accurately or fully reflect developments on the ground.  Citing various legal and diplomatic opinions supporting that view — including those of the European Union, the African Union and the United Nations Legal Counsel — he stressed that MINUSRO had been deployed to organize and supervise a referendum.

He went on to recall the Secretary-General’s 2015 statement to the effect that the definitive status of Western Sahara was subject to a negotiation process under the auspices of the United Nations — and that the 2007 proposal of the parties had not opened the way to such negotiations.  Encouraging Member States to read the relevant resolutions, he said the African Union, the General Assembly and the Security Council were the sole referees in the dispute, and all unilateral actions attempting to impose a fait accompli should be rejected.  The African Union had continuously committed itself to advancing the decolonization of Western Sahara as a priority issue, he said, recalling that the regional bloc’s recent Summit of Heads of State had unanimously voiced its support for the right of Territory’s people to self-determination while also calling on the General Assembly to set a referendum date.  “Algeria will never back down,” he vowed, emphasizing that there was no alternative to a free choice for the Sahrawi people, as determined by a free and fair referendum organized and supervised by the United Nations.

The representative of Morocco said the Frente Polisario speaker’s request to address the Special Committee had not been formally distributed because he had been attempting to take the floor as a representative of Western Sahara.  “You, Mr. Chair, hide that document”, he said, describing that as an attempt to allow the speaker to take the floor in that capacity.  That reflected a real problem in terms of the Special Committee’s rules, he added.

The representative of Algeria expressed concerns about Morocco’s statement, including the delegate’s use of the word “schizophrenia” and his reference to “Moroccan Sahara”.

For information media. Not an official record.