Delegates called today for the centring of voices from Non‑Self‑Governing Territories and for more urgent decolonization action, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its general debate on that subject.
“We need to ‘put people first’ and at the centre of our work,” the Chair of the Special Committee on Decolonization emphasized, adding: “That includes the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories.”
She went on to detail progress made during the most recent session of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples — more commonly known as the Special Committee on Decolonization. Calling for urgent action before the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism concludes in 2020, she stressed the need for further dialogue with the administering Powers, the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories and other relevant actors.
With the floor open for national statements, Brazil’s representative spoke on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), reiterating the legitimate rights of Argentina in the question of the Malvinas Islands. Rejecting all unilateral actions in the Territory, he called for the resumption of negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom, leading to a lasting resolution of the dispute.
Argentina’s representative noted that, despite progress in a number of areas, the United Kingdom has refused to resume negotiations. Stressing that the question of the Malvinas Islands is a sovereignty dispute, he pointed out that the General Assembly has adopted more than 40 resolutions, all of which note the bilateral nature of the dispute and confirm that the principle of self‑determination does not apply in the Malvinas case.
Concurring, Guatemala’s representative stressed that the principle of self‑determination is not absolute and should not be used as a pretext to disrupt the territorial integrity of existing States. Turning to the question of Western Sahara, he applauded the recent convening of round‑table meetings between the parties concerned and welcomed the possibility of a third such meeting.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates commended Morocco’s efforts to improve the lives of the people of Western Sahara.
Tijjani Muhammad-Bande (Nigeria), President of the General Assembly, also addressed the Committee today, underlining the need to pair realistic peacekeeping mandates with adequate funding so that missions can fulfil their mandates. The Secretary‑General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative sets a clear road map for all stakeholders to renew their engagement in that regard, he noted.
The Rapporteur of the Special Committee on Decolonization presented that body’s report.
Also speaking today were representatives of Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Paraguay, Bahrain, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Iraq, Guyana, Bolivia, Kuwait, Grenada, Equatorial Guinea and Uganda.
Representatives of the United Kingdom, Iran, Argentina, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 8 October, to continue its debate on decolonization.
Introduction of Reports
Beginning its annual general debate on decolonization issues today, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) had the following documents before it: report of the Secretary‑General on Information from Non‑Self‑Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 (e) of the Charter of the United Nations (document A/74/63); report of the Secretary‑General on the Question of Western Sahara (document A/74/341); report of the Secretary‑General 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/74/80); reports of the Secretary‑General on Offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories (documents A/74/65 and A/74/65/Add.1); and the report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples for 2019 (Supplement No. 23, document A/74/23).
MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), Committee Chair, welcomed members back for the seventy‑fourth session and invited the President of General Assembly to address them.
TIJJANI MUHAMMAD-BANDE (Nigeria), President of the seventy‑fourth session of the General Assembly, said that whereas much progress has been made on the right to self‑determination, 17 cases of decolonization still require attention. He also noted that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) requires predictable funding and remains in a fragile financial situation, calling upon Member States to support the Agency’s vital work.
He went on to point out that preserving outer space for peaceful purposes and for the benefit of humankind is a shared responsibility, emphasizing the importance of finding ways to reap the benefits of space science and technology in order to invest in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Turning to peacekeeping, he stressed the need to pair realistic mandates with adequate funding so that missions can fulfil their mandates. The Secretary‑General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative sets a clear road map for all stakeholders to renew their engagement in that regard, he noted. As for special political missions, he said they must enhance their efforts in areas including mediation as well as conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), Rapporteur of the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, presented that body’s report (document A/74/23). He said it contains 13 chapters and two annexes on themes including the dissemination of information on decolonization; the question of sending visiting and special missions to Territories; and economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, among others. It also contains the Special Committee’s recommendations in the form of 19 draft resolutions. Moreover, annex II contains the report of the 2019 Caribbean Regional Seminar held in Grenada from 2 to 4 May, he said, going on to report that the Special Committee approved all resolutions and decisions by consensus during its session in June.
KEISHA MCGUIRE (Grenada), Chair of the Special Committee on Decolonization, noted that an unprecedented number of members attended the Caribbean Regional Seminar hosted by her country. She went on to say that, during its substantive session, the Special Committee decided to change its working methods and hear from the Territories, and then to review draft resolutions again before approving the texts relating to the Territories in order to ensure their voices are considered. Throughout the 2019 session, the Special Committee engaged with 12 of the 17 Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, she said, recalling that, at the request of the territorial Government of Montserrat, the Special Committee decided to dispatch a visiting mission to that Territory after its general election. She went on to note that only one more year remains until 2020, the year in which the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism is set to conclude. This highlights the urgent need for actions required to ensure progress towards full implementation of the Declaration on Decolonization. “We need to ‘put people first’ and at the centre of our work,” she emphasized, adding: “That includes the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories.” Further regular dialogue is required with the administering Powers, the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories and other relevant actors, as is political will, she added.
MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), highlighted the issue of the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas. Describing the issue as a sovereignty dispute, he called for a peaceful negotiated solution, recalling that MERCOSUR’s members adopted a joint communiqué on the matter in July. They reiterated Argentina’s legitimate rights in the dispute, he noted, stressing the need for a solution as soon as possible, in accordance with United Nations resolutions. He went on to reject all unilateral actions in the Malvinas, highlighting Argentina’s readiness and the prevailing climate of cooperation while calling for talks leading to a lasting solution.
Speaking in his national capacity, he reiterated Argentina’s legitimate rights, emphasizing that the principle of self‑determination cannot be invoked in the Malvinas situation. Calling upon the parties involved to return to the negotiating table, he expressed support for improved bilateral relations between Argentina and the United Kingdom. He added that, in keeping with General Assembly resolution 31/49 , Brazil does not authorize the use of its ports or airports for vessels or aircraft going to the Malvinas Islands.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) recalled the recent advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Chagos Archipelago, noting that it restates the customary nature of the principles reflected in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV). Emphasizing that people living under colonial rule have a right to self‑determination, he noted that Argentina defends that right in all cases where applicable, noting, however, that in some cases, the General Assembly has dispensed with consulting a Territory’s inhabitants. Self‑determination should not be a pretext for violating territorial integrity, he said, stressing that the question of the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas is a sovereignty dispute. Outlining the history of that issue, he said more than 40 resolutions adopted by the General Assembly note the bilateral nature of the dispute and confirm that the principle of self‑determination does not apply. Underlining Argentina’s constitutional commitments to respect the inhabitants’ way of life, he recalled the assistance that Argentina has provided to them. However, the United Kingdom has refused to resume negotiations despite progress in a number of areas, he said, adding that it continues to carry out unilateral actions in the Territory.
FRANCISCO JAVIER GUTIÉRREZ PLATA (Colombia), associating himself with MERCOSUR, expressed solidarity with Argentina in its claim over the Malvinas Islands and efforts to resolve the outstanding decolonization issue there. A peaceful solution must be found, he emphasized, calling for the immediate resumption of negotiations between the relevant parties. Dialogue and cooperation must be in line with United Nations resolutions on the issue, he said, stressing the General Assembly’s responsibility to help the involved parties achieve the resolutions it passes. Furthermore, parties must refrain from any unilateral decisions while the islands are in the process of decolonization, he said.
ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia), emphasizing that the right to self‑determination applies to all people, expressed support for the right of Palestinians to establish an independent State on the basis of the many relevant international agreements and United Nations resolutions. Regarding the Moroccan Sahara, he welcomed efforts by the United Nations to implement the relevant resolutions and expressed his delegation’s approval of the two round‑table discussions held in Geneva on that subject. He went on to express support for Morocco’s autonomy initiative in Western Sahara, commending that country’s efforts and investments intended to promote the Territory’s economic and social development.
LUIS ANTONIO LAM PADILLA (Guatemala) noted that whereas colonized people do have the right to self‑determination, the principle is not absolute and should not be a pretext to disrupt the territorial integrity of an existing State. Recalling that the dispute over the Malvinas Islands has existed since Argentina’s territorial integrity was broken through forcible occupation and displacement, he described the situation as a special and particular one, explaining that it does not involve an indigenous population. As such, the parties must re‑establish negotiations on the exercise of sovereignty, he emphasized. Turning to Western Sahara, he applauded the convening of round‑table discussions between the parties and welcomed the possibility of a third such meeting. A solution to that question is required for the security and stability of the entire Maghreb region, he observed.
JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay) emphasized his delegation’s support for Argentina’s rights with regard to the Malvinas question, urging the United Kingdom to resume negotiations towards a peaceful resolution of the dispute as soon as possible. Regarding Western Sahara, Paraguay supports the political process currently under way under the auspices of the Secretary‑General and on the basis of Security Council resolution 2468 (2019), he said.
MOHAMED AREF ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) expressed support for the Palestinian people’s quest for an independent State, with Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with international agreements and United Nations resolutions. He also expressed support for Morocco’s efforts to maintain its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the Moroccan Sahara. He went on to stress that the United Arab Emirates must be allowed to regain its sovereignty over disputed islands occupied by Iran, either through negotiations or the International Court of Justice.
FATIMA AL MEMARI (United Arab Emirates) said prolonged conflict has led the Middle East and North Africa to struggle with dangerous and unprecedented challenges. Welcoming the Secretary‑General’s efforts for a political solution on the Moroccan Sahara, she said Morocco’s autonomy initiative, under consideration by the Security Council, is a consensual solution in accordance with the United Nations Charter. Turning to the question of Palestine, she emphasized that there can be no stability in the Middle East without a solution that would allow the Palestinians to establish an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital. Warning that violations against Palestinians by occupying forces could allow extremists to take advantage of the people suffering there, she went on to condemn Iran’s occupation of three disputed islands belonging to the United Arab Emirates, describing it as a flagrant violation of international law.
ALEXANDRA ARIAS ORLOWSKA (Dominican Republic) reiterated her delegation’s support for Argentina’s sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas. The Dominican Republic maintains its solidarity in support of Argentina’s justified demands, as established by various General Assembly resolutions. A negotiated settlement between Argentina and the United Kingdom is the only way to end the dispute, she emphasized, appealing for the resumption of the necessary talks on the matter.
LUIS BERMÚDEZ ÁLVAREZ (Uruguay), associating himself with MERCOSUR, said the right to self‑determination is a basic principle of international human rights law. As for the situation in Western Sahara, Uruguay defends the people’s right to self‑determination, he said, calling for the referendum to take place. He paid tribute to efforts by the African Union, Secretary‑General’s Personal Envoy and the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). Turning to the Malvinas question, he expressed support for Argentina’s sovereignty rights in the matter, while emphasizing that the situation is directly related to that country’s territorial integrity. The Territory’s population does not meet the criteria of a subjugated people and the principle of self‑determination does not, therefore, apply to them, he stressed. Recognizing Argentina’s constructive attitude and recent initiatives towards cooperation, he expressed hope that growing links will contribute to a climate of confidence and trust that will result in a lasting solution.
ALI RASOL (Iraq) expressed concern that certain administering Powers often fail to attend meetings of the Special Committee on Decolonization despite being directly involved in topics under discussion. All administering Powers should be present in order to provide information and facilitate visiting missions, he said, emphasizing their responsibility to protect the human and natural resources of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories and to provide assistance after natural disasters such as hurricanes. Commending the role of certain specialized agencies in supporting relief efforts in the Territories, he said such investments must be coordinated with the people living in those Territories. Describing visiting missions as an effective means to observe the circumstances of Non‑Self‑Governing peoples and their relationship with administering Powers, he recalled his delegation’s participation in the visiting mission to New Caledonia in March 2018, applauding the constructive cooperation among the visiting mission, United Nations staff and the Government of France.
MEGAYLA ULANA AUSTIN (Guyana), recalling that the 1960 decolonization Declaration holds the subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation as constituting a denial of fundamental human rights, said colonialism propagates an objectionable dichotomy between the world’s peoples — those who freely determine their own political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development and those who are not allowed the free exercise of their right to self‑determination. She urged administering Powers to cooperate fully with the United Nations in finalizing a constructive work programme for implementing the relevant resolutions on decolonization, participate in Special Committee meetings and report the status of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories under their administration. Turning to Western Sahara, she said the well‑being of that Territory’s people should be among the primary factors motivating the quest for a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political settlement that would ensure their self‑determination.
EDUARDO LEÓN (Bolivia) rejected all actions aiming to silence the voices of people fighting for a world free of colonialism. Bolivia also supports Puerto Rico’s right to self‑determination, in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions, he added. As for the Malvinas Islands, he noted that more than 40 resolutions have been adopted, yet the United Kingdom has not complied with them. That country must negotiate in good faith to ensure that the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas fall under Argentine sovereignty, he emphasized. He went on to call for the withdrawal of Israel’s armed forces from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, stressing the State of Palestine’s right to self‑determination. Bolivia is committed to finding a fair and sustainable solution in terms of self‑determination for the people of Western Sahara, he said.
BASHAR ALDUWAISAN (Kuwait) said that although the State of Palestine is not considered a Non‑Self‑Governing Territory, its people have a right to self‑determination and must be allowed to establish an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital. He went on to call upon the Committee to enhance its capabilities in dealing with the people of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, expressing support for the Organization’s efforts in facilitating the two round‑table meetings on the Western Sahara. Noting the positive atmosphere of both meetings, he welcomed Security Council resolution 2414 (2018). He also commended Morocco’s accomplishments in the field of human rights and its cooperation with human rights agencies in Western Sahara, while stressing the need to respect Morocco’s unity and territorial sovereignty.
NERISSA WILLIAMS (Grenada), emphasizing that economic well‑being is intrinsic to the people of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, noted that the progress made by the United Nations and the Special Committee in that regard has slowed and become more complex. Most of the remaining Territories are small island communities, vulnerable to natural disasters and violent storms, she noted. On the Western Sahara question, she said Grenada supports the process intended to reach a political solution, and welcomed Morocco’s autonomy initiative as a viable and credible effort to find a lasting solution. Grenada looks forward to the report resulting from the visiting mission to Montserrat, she added.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said his delegation supports dialogue that both prevents and resolves conflict through peaceful means on the basis of policies that satisfy the needs of those involved. Dialogue and consensus are vital to sustainable development and to ensuring the well‑being of the Territories’ peoples, he added. Pointing out a positive trend towards dialogue in the decades‑long dispute over Western Sahara since the Security Council considered the matter, he said his delegation would welcome a realistic, rapid political solution to the dispute based on the commitment of all parties concerned. He went on to welcome Morocco’s implementation of a new development model aimed at improving living standards, and the efforts of that country’s Government and international human rights mechanisms. He encouraged Morocco to continue along that path, calling upon the parties involved to join that country’s efforts to ensure improved human rights in the Tindouf camps.
PHILIP OCHEN ANDREW ODIDA (Uganda) said the decolonization agenda and its processes must be handled with greater dynamism. The Special Committee must continue to examine each case with a view to developing proactive and focused approaches while strengthening its mandate where possible, he added. Uganda welcomes the presence and views of petitioners and all other stakeholders, including representatives of the administering Powers, as part of the Special Committee’s work, he said. He went on to underline that the situation in Western Sahara — an impediment to implementation of Africa’s development agenda — must be resolved through a referendum to be conducted by MINURSO. Uganda calls for renewed efforts to appoint a new Personal Envoy of the Secretary‑General to lend credence to the Organization’s efforts in Western Sahara, he added.
Right of Reply
The representative of the United Kingdom spoke in exercise of the right of reply, saying that her delegation has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and the Falklanders’ right to self‑determination. There can be no dialogue on sovereignty unless the Falklanders wish it, she emphasized, noting that the islanders do not want dialogue and calling upon Argentina to respect that wish. The United Kingdom’s relationship with the Falkland Islands is a modern one, based on respect and shared values, she pointed out.
The representative of Iran described claims that his country is illegally occupying three islands as unfounded and false. Iran does not recognize a dispute between itself and the United Arab Emirates because the islands in question are an inseparable part of Iran, he said, emphasizing, however, that Iran is willing to discuss the issue with the United Arab Emirates in accordance with the principle of good neighbourly practice.
The representative of Argentina said the Malvinas Islands are an integral part of his country’s territory and are currently illegally occupied, as recognized by various international organizations. Calling upon the Government of the United Kingdom to resume talks with the Government of Argentina in search of a solution, he emphasized that the right to self‑determination, the basis of the United Kingdom’s argument, is not applicable since the referendum to which that country refers was a unilateral British act and has no legal effect. It is up to the General Assembly to determine the modalities, he added, reiterating that a unilateral referendum has no legal value.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates emphasized that the islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb are part and parcel of her country’s territory, rejecting Iran’s continuing occupation as well as that country’s unfounded claims of ownership and its efforts to impose facts by force. She called for the peaceful resolution of the dispute, either through direct negotiations or by referral of the matter to the International Court of Justice, in accordance with the Charter and international law. It is regrettable that Iran describes the dispute as a “misunderstanding” in an attempt to absolve itself of responsibility, she said.
The representative of Saudi Arabia, citing Chapter VIII of the Charter, emphasized that regional organizations have an important role in addressing issues relating to international peace and security and such action is valid as long as it is in accordance with the Organization’s principles. Saudi Arabia supports the sovereign rights of the United Arab Emirates over Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb, he emphasized, calling upon Iran either to respond to Emirati calls for direct negotiations or to refer the matter to the International Court of Justice so that Tehran can prove its ownership.
 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).