The Special Committee on Decolonization opened its 2018 session today, electing by acclamation Walton Alfonso Webson (Antigua and Barbuda) as its Chair and agreeing to proceed with a visiting mission to New Caledonia in March, ahead of a referendum on self‑determination in that French‑administered territory.
Speaking at the outset of the meeting, Secretary‑General António Guterres — noting that decolonization had been a central aspect of his previous political life — recalled the colonial past of his native Portugal as well as the “very strong feeling of solidarity” between Portuguese democrats and liberation movements in Angola, Guinea‑Bissau and Mozambique.
He expressed solidarity with those Non‑Self‑Governing Territories affected by hurricanes in the past year and saluted the Committee’s call on the concerned administering Powers, as well as United Nations entities, to continue to support aid and recovery efforts.
The Chair said that, with the end of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism approaching, the Committee must intensify its efforts in implementing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and all relevant resolutions on a case‑by‑case basis.
Without a vote, the Special Committee decided to proceed with a visiting mission to New Caledonia on 12‑16 March, composed of three of its members and two Secretariat staff. The mission — which would also include consultations in Paris on 19 March — would follow up on the findings of a similar mission in 2014.
Taking the floor, Fred Sarufa (Papua New Guinea) said New Caledonia was in “a critical phase” ahead of the forthcoming self-determination referendum. The situation remained fluid and required close monitoring from all concerned parties, including the Committee, he said, asking that special consideration be given to Fiji and Papua New Guinea’s participation in the visiting mission.
In other business, the Special Committee — formally known 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 — approved the tentative programme of work and timetable for its 2018 session, contained in a note by the Chair (document A/AC.109/2018/L.2).
Acting by acclamation, the Committee also elected three Vice-Chairs — Anayansi Rodríguez Camejo (Cuba), Dian Triansyah Djani (Indonesia) and Adikalie Foday Sumah (Sierra Leone) — for its 2017 session, as well as Bashar Ja'afari (Syria) as Rapporteur.
In addition, the Special Committee decided to hold another meeting towards the end of March relating to the planning and organization of its 2018 Pacific regional seminar, after the Chair asked that an Asia-Pacific member come forward by 8 March and volunteer to host the event.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Indonesia, Cuba, Ecuador, Syria, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste and Iraq.
The Special Committee will meet again at a date and time to be announced.