Delegates welcomed round table discussions on Western Sahara planned for Geneva in December and emphasized the importance of African Union support for that initiative, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its general debate on decolonization questions today.
Cameroon’s delegate expressed support for the ongoing efforts of Horst Koehler, Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General in Western Sahara, noting that his appointment has lent new impetus to the forging of a political resolution of the dispute over the Territory.
Kenya’s representative agreed, expressing appreciation for the Personal Envoy’s plan to convene a round table meeting in Geneva, recalling that in July, the African Union Summit in Mauritius established a mechanism intended to lend effective support to United Nations efforts in Western Sahara. “Self-determination is in our DNA,” he said, noting that all available options for self-determination are valid if they align with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned.
In similar vein, Ethiopia’s delegate said the African Union will play a key role in the peace process by establishing an African Mechanism, welcoming the African Union’s commitment to engage directly with Heads of State and Government in support of the United Nations-led peace process.
Gabon’s representative also voiced support for the ongoing political process conducted under the Secretary-General’s auspices, noting that the Personal Envoy’s visit to cities in the region last June, and the upcoming round table in Geneva, demonstrate Morocco’s willingness to participate in a diplomatic process.
Senegal’s delegate emphasized that neighbouring countries should make significant contributions to the process and welcomed the invitation to participate in the Geneva round table. He recalled that Security Council resolutions established the correlation between a negotiated solution to the dispute over Western Sahara and the reinvigoration of cooperation among countries of the Arab Maghreb region.
Botswana’s representative urged the parties involved to demonstrate flexibility and restraint for the benefit of the civilians affected, welcoming renewed efforts by the African Union and the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy to ensure the resumption of negotiations between the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguía el-Hamra and Río de Oro (POLISARIO Front) and Morocco.
The United Kingdom’s representative said his delegation is clear about its sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago, adding that the islands have been British since 1814 and strongly refuting the claim of Mauritius. However, the United Kingdom remains committed to ceding the archipelago to Mauritius when it is no longer needed for security purposes, he said.
However, the representative of Mauritius pointed out that the matter is under review at the International Court of Justice and that the Court’s advisory opinion is likely to advance the cause of decolonization.
Also speaking today were representatives of India, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, China, Namibia, Mexico, Indonesia, Bahrain, Iran, Burkina Faso, Yemen, Saint Lucia, Lesotho, Venezuela, Bangladesh, Uganda, Honduras, France and the Russian Federation.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Spain, Argentina, United Kingdom and Mauritius.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 16 October, to continue the decolonization debate.
DEEPAK MISRA (India) recalled his country’s history with colonialism and its efforts to eradicated it, including its engagement with the Afro-Asian Conference at Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955 and its election as the first chair of the Decolonization Committee (Committee of 27) in 1962. Although more than 80 former colonies have gained independence and joined the United Nations, the process remains unfinished, he said. Noting the vigorous participation and commitment on the part of members of the Special Committee on Decolonization, he called for a pragmatic approach, emphasizing the need to prioritize greater cooperation with international agencies. He also suggested channelizing resources that would enable Non-Self-Governing Territories to build capacities in the quest to achieve their goals.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) noted that 2 million people in 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories “continue to languish under colonialism”. Noting also that the decolonization agenda is not limited to those Territories, she said it also encompasses other people living under alien occupation and foreign domination. In that context, the right of Kashmir’s people to self-determination has been recognized and promised by the Security Council and by both India and Pakistan, she said, while pointing out that they are still waiting for the Organization to fulfil its promise of a supervised plebiscite. India has deployed hundreds of thousands of troops to suppress the legitimate freedom struggle of Kashmir people, unleashing violence and cruelty documented by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, she said. Noting that General Assembly resolutions and decisions on decolonization provide the necessary legal framework, she emphasized that their implementation is not possible without political will on the part of that organ and the Security Council. “Selective application only erodes the confidence of the international community, undermines the credibility of the United Nations system and encourages a culture of impunity,” she warned.
ASMA AL HAMADY (United Arab Emirates), affirming the importance of peaceful resolution of conflicts, expressed her delegation’s support for current efforts to find a negotiated solution to the question of Western Sahara through the facilitation of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy. Reiterating her country’s firm support for Morocco’s territorial integrity and the Moroccan autonomy proposal, she welcomed that country’s positive response to the Personal Envoy’s latest initiatives and its continuing engagement in seeking a just and lasting political solution to the Western Sahara question. She went on to reiterate her country’s demand for recognition of its sovereignty over three islands occupied by Iran for 47 years, while also reiterating the need for a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Palestinian people’s plight.
GUILLERMO FERNANDEZ DE SOTO (Colombia), associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Union of South American Nations (UNISUR), reaffirmed his country’s support for Argentina’s rights over the Malvinas Islands. Calling for the resumption of negotiations between the parties, in accordance with the relevant resolutions on the issue, he expressed regret that the dispute has not been resolved. He also warned against unilateral decisions in the Territory and urged all parties to maintain a constructive attitude through negotiations on a peaceful solution.
ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) recalled that since the Organization’s inception more than 80 territories have achieved independence, yet the process remains unfinished at the end of the Third Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. Urging the United Nations to intensify efforts to end colonialism under the relevant resolutions, he said that his country reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and their right to establish their own State. The Arab Peace Initiative offers a framework for that process, he emphasized, urging the United Nations to discharge its responsibility by compelling Israel to comply with the relevant resolutions. Regarding the question of Western Sahara, he said Morocco continues to participate with good intentions in seeking a permanent solution there, and Saudi Arabia supports its autonomy proposal as a constructive, equitable and realistic solution, in accordance with international law. Paying tribute to Morocco’s economic development of the Territory, he cautioned that there will be no resolution unless there is a climate of calm. He went on to denounce Iran’s efforts to violate the sovereignty of the United Arab Emirates over the three contested islands and affirmed his delegation’s support for all actions that the United Arab Emirates may take to regain control over them.
LIE CHENG (China), highlighting the General Assembly’s adoption of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, noted that, at present, more than 2 million people live in Non-Self-Governing Territories, primarily in the Pacific and Caribbean regions. Noting that traditional colonial thinking and behaviour are still evident, he said China has consistently supported peoples’ rights to self-determination, emphasizing that militarization activities in the Non-Self-Governing Territories must stop. Disputes must be resolved peacefully in order to find lasting political solutions acceptable to all, he added.
LORATO L. MOTSUMI (Botswana) expressed support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in their legitimate struggle for self-determination. Similarly, Botswana supports the people of Western Sahara in their quest for independence, he added, noting with deep concern the continuing stalemate in efforts to resolve that question as well as reports of human rights abuses. She urged the parties involved to demonstrate flexibility and restraint for the benefit of the civilians affected. Welcoming renewed efforts by the African Union and the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy to resume negotiations between the POLISARIO Front and Morocco, she urged the parties to find a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution.
NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia) said that, just as the United Nations fulfilled its obligations towards his country’s people, Namibia and the wider international community must seek to fulfil their obligations towards other colonies. “It is only as we seek to ensure the full process of decolonization that peace, security, and development will be assured,” he emphasized. Expressing concern that the execution of the Western Sahara referendum brokered by the United Nation in 1991 remains outstanding, he welcomed the Personal Envoy’s relaunch of talks in Geneva between POLISARIO and Morocco in December. Citing the many outstanding resolutions on the situation in Palestine, he urged the Government of Israel to implement them while calling for renewed and urgent efforts to launch credible negotiations.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), noting that that the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism will draw to a close in two years’ time, said a new strategy must be defined and called upon the Committee to finalize, in 2019, a constructive programme of work specific to each situation. Regarding Western Sahara, he reaffirmed his delegation’s support for the ongoing political process conducted under the Secretary-General’s auspices, emphasizing the necessity to work towards a political settlement of the dispute since the Sahel region is characterized by security challenges. In that regard, Gabon welcomes Morocco’s autonomy proposal, which will allow a mutually acceptable negotiated political solution, he said, stressing that that the Personal Envoy’s visit to cities in the region last June and the upcoming round table in Geneva demonstrate Morocco’s willingness to participate in a diplomatic process.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) described the relationship between his country’s Government and its overseas Territories as a modern one based on partnership and shared values. “Where the people of a Territory choose to remain British, we will maintain and deepen our special relationship,” he said. The United Kingdom has fully committed itself to involving those Territories, including Gibraltar, in negotiations to leave the European Union in order to ensure that their priorities are considered, he said, adding in that context that a Joint Ministerial Council met on 14 June to discuss priorities as well as contingency planning. Moreover, the democratic development of the Territories continues, he said, recalling that during the course of 2017, elections took place in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Saint Helena and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)* in 2017, he recalled. Returning to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), he emphasized that there can be no dialogue concerning sovereignty until that Territory’s people wish it. Stressing that the 2013 referendum sent a clear message that they do not want such a dialogue, he reiterated that his delegation is also clear about its sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago, underlining that the United Kingdom also has a long-standing commitment to the people of Gibraltar and will not enter into a process of sovereignty against their wishes.
JAGDISH DHARAMCHAND KOONJUL (Mauritius) noted the recent developments on the Western Sahara question, specifically the upcoming meeting involving POLISARIO, Morocco and the United Nations. Expressing support for the initiative, he also called for a solution that will give the Territory’s people the right to self-determination and welcomed the African Union’s pledge to support the negotiation process. The mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) must be renewed, he said, emphasizing that it must not be limited to peacekeeping but also entail unhindered access to the people and organization of the self-determination referendum. Regarding comments by the United Kingdom’s delegate about the Chagos Archipelago, he emphasized that the matter is under review at the International Court of Justice. Written statements have been submitted and the oral hearings are complete, he said, adding that judges will now deliberate on the matter, which will have a significant impact on the plight of Mauritians removed from their islands by the colonial Power. The Court’s advisory opinion is likely to advance the cause of decolonization, he added.
MARÍA ANTONIETA SOCORRO JÁQUEZ HUACUJA (Mexico) said the continuing existence of Non-Self-Governing Territories demonstrates that the United Nations has much to do on the decolonization front. Reiterating her country’s recognition of Argentina’s legal rights over the Malvinas Islands and the importance of finding a solution pursuant to the relevant declarations by the United Nations, she said the parties must resume negotiations in accordance with those declarations. She went on to reaffirm Mexico’s support for a solution to the Western Sahara question in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions, adding that MINURSO should be able to operate at full capacity in order to fulfil its mandate.
ALI ANDIKA WARDHANA (Indonesia) applauded the efforts of the Department of Public Information in disseminating information on colonization and called upon the relevant United Nations entities to provide the Non-Self-Governing Territories with the technical assistance they need. Reaffirming the need to focus solely on the remaining 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories rather than unlisted territories he said that only then could progress be made in finding solutions acceptable to all relevant parties. Meanwhile, he reiterated the importance of moving the decolonization process forward within United Nations frameworks and on a case-by-case basis, emphasizing that there can be no “one-size-fits-all” approach.
ALYAA SALMAN (Bahrain) noted that the Palestinian people continue to struggle for the exercise of their inalienable right to self-determination, stressing their right to establish an independent sovereign State within the pre-1967 borders. Turning to the question of Western Sahara, she called attention to Morocco’s autonomy proposal, expressing appreciation for the kingdom’s efforts to promote good governance and human rights in the Territory. Calling for an end to Iran’s occupation of the islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb, she urged that country to cooperate with the United Arab Emirates so as to resolve that situation through negotiations.
MOHAMMAD REZA SAHRAEI (Iran) said the administering Powers of Non-Self-Governing Territories have an obligation to protect human and natural resources against possible abuse. Furthermore, they should pay full compensation for any economic or social consequences of their occupation. Moreover, Iran is concerned about military or other activities by such Powers that harm the people of the Territories, he said. Visiting missions by the Special Committee on Decolonization can provide effective means to ascertain the aspirations of the people in those Territories, he said, calling in that context, for administering Powers to cooperate fully with such missions. In responding to statements by representatives of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia regarding the islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb, he reiterated his delegation’s position that it does not recognize any such dispute. The three islands are an inseparable part of Iran’s territory, he emphasized, pointing out that his country has always expressed its readiness for bilateral talks with the United Arab Emirates to dispel any misunderstanding in that regard.
ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso), describing decolonization questions as “very political”, said they can only be resolved through dialogue. Concerning Western Sahara, he said that his delegation supports the process facilitated by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy and calls upon all States in the region to contribute to the negotiation process. In that context, he welcomed Morocco’s prompt response to the Personal Envoy’s invitation to the upcoming round table in Geneva, he said, while also reaffirming his delegation’s support for the kingdom’s autonomy proposal and its socioeconomic and human rights accomplishments in the region. Commending the Personal Envoy for facilitating the round table, he expressed hope for a positive response and participation by all parties invited.
CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal) called upon members to take a new look at Morocco’s autonomy proposal, saying it was created on the basis of “dynamic compromise”. Calling upon the Special Committee on Decolonization to draw on Security Council recommendations calling on the parties to pursue negotiations without preconditions, he urged neighbouring countries to make significant contributions to the process, noting in that regard that Senegal welcomes the invitation to participate in the upcoming round table in Geneva. Security Council resolutions have established a correlation between a negotiated solution to the dispute and the reinvigoration of cooperation among countries of the Arab Maghreb region, he said, adding that a political solution will allow for a positive answer to the question of refugees in the Tindouf camps.
INTISAR NASSER MOHAMMED ABDULLAH (Yemen) said colonialism undermines development and contradicts the mission of the United Nations. On the question of Western Sahara, she welcomed Morocco’s efforts to find a solution. Regarding the territorial dispute in the Persian Gulf, she called upon Iran to withdraw, reiterating the sovereignty of the United Arab Emirates over the disputed islands. Turning to the question of Palestine, she voiced support for the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and to establish their own State.
COSMOS RICHARDSON (Saint Lucia), noting that global vulnerability to climate change is increasing, pointed out that Non-Self-Governing Territories in the Caribbean and Pacific regions are especially vulnerable to its economic and infrastructural effects, irrespective of their level of development. Endorsing the outcome of the 2018 Regional Seminar on Decolonization - which acknowledges the special vulnerability of Non-Self-Governing Territories and calls on the Special Committee to develop programmes to address it, alongside relevant United Nations entities - he also spotlighted a 2017 study by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) assessing integration opportunities for that region’s Non-Self-Governing Territories, which should serve as a guide going forward. Noting that three International Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism have elapsed largely ignored, he asked the Secretary-General to provide Member States with a detained analysis of challenges to implementation of the United Nations mandate, with special reference to small island Territories.
THOMAS AMOLO (Kenya) expressed regret that 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories remain on the agenda, expressing hope that the Special Committee’s recommendations will help liberate peoples living under the yoke of colonial bondage and foreign occupation. Kenya’s struggle for national liberation set a strong foundation for its foreign policy, he said, recalling that the republic’s architects recognized the strong link between independence and freedom, equity, sustainable development and shared heritage. “Self-determination is in our DNA,” he emphasized, noting that all available options for self-determination are valid as long as they align with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned and with the Organization’s principles. He recalled that during the African Union’s July Summit in Mauritania, it established a mechanism intended to lend effective support to United Nations efforts in Western Sahara. Welcoming current initiatives, he took note with appreciation of the Personal Envoy’s plan to convene a meeting in Geneva, urging the parties to engage in the talks without preconditions.
MAHLET HAILU (Ethiopia) called for renewed efforts to resolve the political impasse over the Western Sahara question, emphasizing that there is no alternative to direct negotiations between the parties. Commending the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy in that aim, she called upon the parties to demonstrate political will and full commitment. The African Union will play a key role in the United Nations-led peace process by establishing an African Mechanism, she said, stressing the African Union’s commitment to engaging directly with Heads of State and Government in support of the United Nations-led peace process.
NTHABISENG MŌNŌKO (Lesotho), associating herself with the African Group, said that, as a former colony, her country cannot remain indifferent in situations of colonial domination. Friendly relations among nations must be based on equal rights and self-determination of peoples, she emphasized, adding that the right to self-determination must be exercised without hindrance by all people under colonial rule. Expressing regret that Western Sahara remains under colonial rule, she said that Territory’s people yearn to determine their own destiny. Turning to the Middle East, she noted that the plight of the Palestinian people is worsening and that hope for resolving the crises in Iraq and Syria continues to diminish. “Attainment of peace is a process that requires genuine engagement by all parties towards peace in the region,” she stressed.
HENRY SUAREZ (Venezuela), associating himself with CELAC, highlighted the importance of administering Powers relaying information about the needs of the peoples in the Non-Self-Governing Territories to the Secretary-General, and of respecting the natural resources of those Territories. Recalling with satisfaction the visiting mission to New Caledonia, he requested that the Special Committee also dispatch a mission to American Samoa and Monserrat as well. He went on to call for a negotiated solution to the situation in Western Sahara, expressing support for the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy in that regard. As for Puerto Rico, he said Venezuela supports the right of that Territory’s people to decide their own political future, including their own economic and social development, he said, also calling upon administering Powers to fulfil their responsibilities in respect of reparations for the impact of hurricanes.
FAIYAZ MURSHID KAZI (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that his country’s constitution stipulates unequivocal support for “oppressed peoples throughout the world waging a just struggle against imperialism, colonialism or racialism”. He went on to quote the words of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his country’s founding father, to the General Assembly in 1974: “The right to self-determination which the Charter of the United Nations promised can be redeemed only through the supreme sacrifice of millions of valiant freedom fighters in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The struggle still continues […] The process of decolonization, though greatly advanced, has yet to reach its ultimate goal.” With less than two years left before the conclusion of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, Bangladesh calls for an objective assessment of what has been achieved during this period, he said.
PHILIP ODIDA (Uganda) said that his country remains committed to supporting the cause of the decolonization of all peoples, especially as it relates to Western Sahara, and remains convinced of the necessity of resolving the political status of Western Sahara by engaging its own people under the supervision of MINURSO. Uganda therefore supports the continuation of its mandate and that of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, he said.
MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon) said the appointment of the Secretary‑General’s Personal Envoy lends new impetus to the political solution in Western Sahara. Building peace in the Territory means strengthening agreement, friendship and fraternity between Morocco and Algeria, he said, describing them as two great countries of the Maghreb and both of which have great relations with Cameroon. In its recent resolutions, the Security Council reaffirmed that a political solution to the long-standing dispute will contribute to security in the Sahel region, he noted, expressing hope that the Committee will approve the draft resolution on the matter by consensus.
DULCE SÁNCHEZ DE OROZCO (Honduras), associating herself with CELAC, highlighted the important contributions of the Special Committee on Decolonization in relation to the question of the Malvinas Islands. Emphasizing Argentina’s legitimate rights over that Territory, she noted that they have been under occupation for many years and urged renewed efforts towards resolving the dispute. Moreover, Argentina’s claim is supported by all of Latin America, she pointed out, urging all Member States to put an end to colonialism, which hinders economic, social and cultural development.
Right of Reply
The representative of Spain, speaking in exercise of the right of reply in response to the comments by his United Kingdom counterpart, said that Gibraltar breaks the territorial integrity of Spain as a State. The decolonization of that Territory should be carried out between Spain and the United Kingdom, he added, expressing regret at attempts by the administering Power to “adapt” the political status in Gibraltar by claiming there is no colonial link between itself and the Territory while also claiming the right to self-determination. Noting that Spain will be involved in Brexit negotiations as they relate to the status of Gibraltar, he emphasized that once the United Kingdom has exited the European Union, no agreement or treaty will apply to Gibraltar without an additional agreement between Spain the administering Power.
The representative of Argentina said, also in response to the United Kingdom, that the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and the South Sandwich Islands, as well as the surrounding maritime areas, are an integral part of Argentina and the object of an internationally recognized territorial dispute. Recalling the relevant resolutions on the issue, he said the Government of Argentina rejects the United Kingdom’s claims to the Territory, emphasizing that the principle of self-determination is not applicable to the people of the Malvinas. The 2013 vote is illegal and does not affect the sovereign rights of Argentina, nor does it change the multiple decisions and resolutions on the topic, he said, underlining that to pretend that the Territory’s citizens will be the arbiters of the issue is false since there are no inhabitants under international law, he said.
The representative of the United Kingdom responded again to Spain’s delegate, stressing that the people of Gibraltar enjoy the right to self-determination and the Government of the United Kingdom will not enter into arrangements under which they would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their wishes. In response to Argentina’s representative, he said that his delegation has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), South Georgia Islands, South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas. The Territory’s people freely pursue their own development, he said. Emphasizing that no United Nations resolutions dilute the obligation of self-determination, he said there can be no dialogue on sovereignty until the people of the Territory wish it. Responding to the representative of Mauritius, he noted that the Chagos Archipelago has been British since 1814 and strongly refuted that country’s claim. However, he maintained that the United Kingdom remains committed to ceding the Territory to Mauritius when it is no longer needed for security purposes. He went on to express disappointment that Mauritius took the bilateral dispute to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion.
The representative of Argentina, recalling the General Assembly’s rejection of proposed amendments to incorporate the principle of self-determination into the question of the Malvinas Islands, called for a definitive and just solution in compliance with General Assembly resolutions.
The representative of Spain said her delegation has no doubts as to the limits of its territory, emphasizing that the waters around Gibraltar are sovereign Spanish waters. Pointing out that the referendums held on Gibraltar have not been recognized by the United Nations, she emphasized that they cannot represent the source of a change in the Territory’s status.
The representative of Mauritius emphasized that the matter at hand is before the International Court of Justice, adding that his delegation will respond once the Court has given its opinion.
DEE-MAXWELL SAAH KEMAYAH SR. (Liberia), Committee Chair, noted that the Russian Federation has sought the postponement of action on a draft resolution relating to French Polynesia (document A/73/23) until a later date.
The representative of the Russian Federation said many delegates have noted that the text is not clear and that paragraphs have been removed. He called for a discussion of the text in the Special Committee on Decolonization.
The representative of France said he does not understand the decision to delay action on that text.
The Committee Chair said that if delegates are not prepared to take action on the text, action will be postponed.
* A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).