Fourth Committee Approves 19 Draft Resolutions on Decolonization Questions for Adoption by General Assembly

GA/SPD/669
17 October 2018
Seventy-third Session, 9th Meeting (AM)

Fourth Committee Approves 19 Draft Resolutions on Decolonization Questions for Adoption by General Assembly

Taking action on decolonization issues today, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved 19 draft resolutions, five of them by recorded vote, for adoption by the General Assembly.

Considering a draft resolution titled on implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (document A/73/23, chapter XIII, p.118), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 105 in favour to 9 against (Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Israel, Kiribati, Morocco, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, United Kingdom, United States), with 50 abstentions.

According to that text, the General Assembly requests that the Special Committee continue to dispatch visiting and special missions to the Territories, in accordance with the relevant resolutions.  It calls upon administering Powers to ensure that their economic and other activities in the Territories do not adversely affect the interests of their peoples, but instead promote development.  It also calls upon administering Powers to terminate their military activities and eliminate their military bases in the Territories.

The Committee also approved — by a recorded vote of 143 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (United Kingdom, France) — a draft resolution on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations (document A/73/23, chapter XIII, p.41).

By the terms of that text, the General Assembly requests that the administering Powers transmit — or continue to transmit — regularly to the Secretary‑General, statistical and other information of a technical nature relating to the economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories for which they are respectively responsible.

In another recorded vote, the Committee approved a draft resolution on economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories (document A/73/23, chapter XIII, p.41) by a recorded vote  of 149 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 3 abstentions (France, Liberia, United Kingdom).

By its terms, the General Assembly expresses deep concern at the number and scale of natural disasters and their devastating impact during on the Non-Self-Governing Territories in the Caribbean Sea during 2017.  It also expresses concern about activities aimed at exploiting the natural and human resources of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to the detriment of their inhabitants.

Further by that text, the Assembly calls upon administering Powers to ensure that the exploitation of marine and other natural resources in the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories do not violate the relevant United Nations resolutions and do not adversely affect the interests of the peoples of those Territories.  It also calls on them to provide all necessary assistance to the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories affected by recent hurricanes in order to alleviate humanitarian needs in the affected communities, support recovery and rebuilding efforts, and enhance emergency-preparedness and risk-reduction capabilities.

In other action today, the Committee approved — by a recorded vote of 105 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 52 abstentions — a draft resolution on implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations (document A/73/23, chapter XIII, p.46).

By that text, the General Assembly recommends that all States intensify their efforts through specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system to accord priority to the question of providing assistance to the Territories.  Further, it requests that the Secretary-General continue to assist those agencies and organizations in working out appropriate measures for implementing relevant United Nations resolutions, and to prepare a report on actions taken in that regard for submission to the relevant entities.

Additionally, the Committee approved a text on dissemination of information on decolonization (document A/73/23, chapter XIII, p.116) by a recorded 164 votes in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 3 abstentions (France, Liberia, Togo).

By its terms, the General Assembly stresses the importance of visiting missions of the Special Committee on Decolonization in contributing to the dissemination of decolonization information.  In that regard, the Assembly requests that the Department of Public Information actively engage and seek new and innovative ways to disseminate materials to the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  It also requests that the Departments of Political Affairs and Public Information implement the Special Committee’s recommendations and continue their efforts to give publicity to the Organization’s decolonization work.

Acting without a vote, the Committee also approved draft resolutions on the following individual Non‑Self‑Governing Territories:  American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands.

Again without a vote, the Committee approved a draft on Western Sahara, by which the General Assembly calls upon all parties concerned and the States of the region to cooperate fully with the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy as well as with each other.

Also by consensus, the Committee approved a draft resolution on offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories (document A/C.4/73/L.2).

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 18 October, to begin its consideration of questions relating to information.

Action on Draft Resolutions

Taking up several draft resolutions on decolonization questions, the Committee first approved — by a recorded vote of 143 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (United Kingdom, France) — a text contained in the report “Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations”:  draft resolution I (document A/73/23, chapter XIII, p.41).

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in explanation of position, said his delegation abstained from voting, explaining that while his country continues to meet its obligations to overseas Territories, the decision as to whether a Non-Self-Governing Territory has reached a sufficient level of autonomy is ultimately for the territorial government and the administering Power to decide, not the General Assembly.

By a recorded vote of 149 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 3 abstentions (France, Liberia, United Kingdom), the Committee went on to approve a draft resolution contained in the report “Economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories”:  draft resolution II (document A/73/23, chapter XIII, p.43).

The representative of Argentina, also speaking in explanation of position, said the draft’s applicability to a Territory depends on the right to self-determination.  That requires an active subject, and if such a subject does not exist, the principle of self-determination does not apply, he added.  In the case of the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, the legitimate population was expelled and replaced with British nationals, he recalled, emphasizing that the draft resolution approved is, therefore, not applicable to the Malvinas Islands.

By a recorded vote of 105 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 52 abstentions, the Committee then approved a draft resolution contained in the report “Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations”:  draft resolution III (document A/73/23, chapter XIII, p.46).

The representative of United Kingdom reaffirmed his delegation’s support for specialized agencies offering assistance to Non-Self-Governing Territories, while explaining that the statutes of such agencies must be carefully respected.  The United Kingdom, therefore, abstained from voting.

The representative of Argentina emphasized that the text under consideration must conform to the resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly.

The Committee then approved, without a vote, the draft resolution “Offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories”:  draft resolution (document A/C.4/73/L.2).  It went on to take up a series of draft resolutions on implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

The representative of the United Kingdom said in a general statement that although his delegation voted in favour of that text, it regrets the draft’s failure to take into account the United Kingdom’s special relationship with its overseas Territories and therefore considers the language in some of the draft resolutions unacceptable and not reflective of the modern relationship existing today.

The representative of the European Union said he looks forward to the consensual adoption of the draft resolution on the situation concerning Western Sahara.  He welcomed the Secretary-General’s commitment to relaunch the negotiating process and his appointment of Colin Stewart as the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).  Expressing full support for meaningful participation in the political process by women and youth, he encouraged an atmosphere conducive to dialogue as a means to enter into a more intensive phase of negotiations.  “We note with deep concern insufficient funding for those living in the Tindouf refugee camps,” he said, urging the international community to provide new and additional voluntary contributions.  The European Union encourages collaboration between the parties and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in implementing confidence-building measures, he added.

The representative of Papa New Guinea expressed support for the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy in Western Sahara and noted the latter’s invitation to neighbouring countries, encouraging them to accept.  He also welcomed Security Council resolution 2414 (2018) and expressed support for Morocco’s autonomy proposal.

Acting without a vote, the Committee began by approving a draft resolution on Western Sahara, by which the General Assembly calls upon all the parties concerned and the States of the region to cooperate fully with the Secretary‑General and his Personal Envoy as well as with each other.  It also calls upon the parties to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law.

Without a vote, the Committee then approved draft resolutions on the following individual Non‑Self‑Governing Territories:  American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands.

Also by consensus, the Committee approved a text on New Caledonia, by which the General Assembly stresses the importance of continued peaceful dialogue among the parties concerned in preparation for the act of New Caledonia’s self-determination on 4 November 2018.  Further by that text, the Assembly notes the concerns expressed regarding the provincial elections in terms of persistently varying interpretations of the restricted electoral provisions and the voter-registration appeal process.  In that context, the Assembly encourages efforts by the administering Power and the people of New Caledonia to address, in an amicable and peaceful manner, the concerns of all stakeholders under the relevant existing laws in the Territory and in France, while also respecting and upholding the letter and spirit of the Nouméa Accord.

By a recorded vote of 164 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 3 abstentions (France, Liberia, Togo), the Committee then approved a draft resolution contained in the report “Dissemination of information on decolonization:  draft resolution XVIII (document A/73/23, chapter XIII, p.116).

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in explanation of position, said the obligation that the text places on the Secretariat’s resources constitutes an unwarranted drain on the Organization.

The representative of Argentina emphasized that the text must be interpreted and implemented with the relevant General Assembly resolutions in mind, noting that all United Nations statements on the Malvinas Islands recognize a territorial dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom and call for renewed bilateral negotiations.

The representative of the United Kingdom reiterated that his country has no doubt about its sovereign right over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)* or the principle of self-determination.  The United Kingdom’s relationship with the Territory is a modern one based on cooperation, he added, noting that Argentina denies that human rights principles apply to the Territory’s people.

The representative of Argentina reiterated that the Malvinas are an integral part of Argentine national territory, occupied illegally and therefore subject to a territorial dispute recognized by the international community.  The principle of self-determination is inapplicable in this case, he stressed, reaffirming Argentina’s legitimate sovereign right over the Territory.

Finally, the Committee took up a draft resolution contained in the report “Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples” (document A/73/23, chapter XIII, p.118).

The representative of Morocco, speaking in explanation of position, said diplomacy and ethics demand that all Committee reports accurately reflect the decision-making process.  However, the recent report of the Special Committee on Decolonization does not do so, he noted, adding that they contain biased language that does not reflect the deliberations of the Special Committee’s recent sessions.  The language was falsified for politically motivated reasons, he said.  Fortunately, audio recordings and other documentation of the Special Committee’s meetings confirm Morocco’s assertions, he noted, calling upon Member States to consult those recordings.

By a recorded vote of 105 in favour to 9 against (Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Israel, Kiribati, Morocco, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, United Kingdom, United States), with 50 abstentions, the Committee approved that text.

The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of position, said his delegation opposed the five texts approved by recorded vote today.  Expressing concern that the draft resolutions consider independence a one-size-fits-all solution for Non-Self-Governing Territories, he emphasized that the peoples of the Territories may opt for any other status as an alternative, provided they freely select that status.  Turning to the text on implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, (document A/73/23, chapter XIII, p.118), he called attention to operative paragraph 14, noting that it contains an “outdated” call to terminate all military bases and activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Emphasizing the sovereign right of the United States to carry out such activities, he said it is facile to assume that such activities are harmful to the peoples of the Territories.  As for the texts relating to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he emphasized that the 2030 Agenda is non-binding and does not create or affect rights or obligations under international law, nor any financial commitments.  Applauding the text’s call for shared responsibility in that context, he stressed that all countries have a role to play in supporting and financing such efforts.

The representative of the United Kingdom said that his delegation continues to find some elements of the draft resolution unacceptable and thus voted against it.  Nevertheless, the delegation remains committed to modernizing its relationship with its Non-Self-Governing Territories.

The representative of Australia said his country is a strong supporter of the right to self-determination, but his delegation could not accept operative paragraph 14 of the draft resolution regarding the termination of military activities.  Voicing disappointment that such language remains in the text, he said that such activities are, in many cases, beneficial to the peoples of the Territories.  In the Pacific, Australia, New Zealand and France use military forces to coordinate disaster management, he pointed out, calling for the removal of that language from future versions of the text.  It was in that context that Australia abstained from voting, he said.

The representative of Kiribati said his country remains friendly with many colonial Powers, believing that States must not dwell on the past.  However, Kiribati is concerned that the Special Committee’s decisions are based on manipulated reports, he said, explaining why his delegation voted against the text.

The representative of Argentina underlined that visiting missions can only be dispatched to Territories where the United Nations has recognized the application of the principle of self-determination.  In accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions, such missions should not be undertaken in Territories experiencing a sovereignty dispute.

The representative of Spain said that although her delegation supports the principle of self-determination, it is not the only relevant principle with respect to decolonization.  Visiting missions can only be sent to Territories where the right to self-determination applies, not to those engaged in a sovereignty dispute, she added.

The representative of Syria said it is strange that a State that does not attend meetings of the Special Committee should vote against a related draft resolution and make statements about it.  It is unacceptable to exert pressure on rapporteurs for political ends, he emphasized.

The representative of Papua New Guinea said that although his country is a firm supporter of decolonization, his delegation voted against the text because of the reasons explained by Morocco.  Recalling that several delegations expressed concern over inconsistencies in the Special Committee’s draft report to the General Assembly, he noted that the corrections requested have not been made, and his delegation therefore voted against the text.

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*  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).

 
For information media. Not an official record.