Texts Cover Gibraltar, Western Sahara, Resource Exploitation, Offers of Study, Training to Non-Self-Governing Territories
Taking action on a series of decolonization texts today, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved five draft resolutions — three of them by recorded vote — and one draft decision for adoption by the General Assembly.
Concluding its general debate on decolonization questions, the Committee approved — by a recorded vote of 115 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”.
By other terms of that text, the Assembly would recommend that all States intensify their efforts to ensure full and effective implementation of the Declaration through specialized agencies and other entities of the United Nations system. It would urge those that have not yet provided assistance to Non‑Self‑Governing Territories to do so as soon as possible.
The Committee also approved a draft resolution related to “Economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories” by a recorded 162 votes in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 3 abstentions (El Salvador, France, United Kingdom). By that text, the Assembly would reaffirm its deep concern at the number and scale of natural disasters in the course of 2017 and their devastating impact on Caribbean Non‑Self‑Governing Territories. The Assembly would also express 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 would call upon administering Powers to ensure that the exploitation of marine and other natural resources in the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories do not violate relevant United Nations resolutions and do not adversely affect the interests of the Territories’ peoples. It would also call upon those Powers to provide all necessary assistance to those in the Territories affected by recent hurricanes in order to alleviate humanitarian needs, support recovery and rebuilding efforts, and enhance emergency preparedness and risk reduction capabilities.
By a recorded vote of 161 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 3 abstentions (France, Guinea-Bissau, United Kingdom), the Committee approved a text titled “Information from Non‑Self‑Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations”. By its terms, the General Assembly would request that administering Powers transmit or continue to regularly transmit to the Secretary‑General statistical and other technical information relating to the economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories within a maximum period of six months following the expiration of the administrative year.
Acting without a vote, the Committee went on to approve draft resolutions on “Offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories” and on Western Sahara, as well as a draft decision on Gibraltar.
Also speaking today were representatives of Bolivia (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Oman, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Costa Rica, Sierra Leone, Venezuela, France, Zimbabwe, Kiribati, Djibouti, Togo, Benin, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Zambia, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Morocco, Algeria, Finland (on behalf of the European Union), United Kingdom and Argentina.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the United Kingdom, Iran, Argentina, United Arab Emirates and Morocco.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 17 October, to take action on outstanding texts and is expected to begin its consideration of questions relating to information.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), described decolonization as one of the most salient tasks of the United Nations. Noting that some of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories are located in the CELAC region, he called upon administering Powers to take the necessary steps to proceed with the process and provide the Secretariat with the required information on a regular basis. He went on to express CELAC’s support for the Department of Global Communications and its United Nations information centres that disseminate information on decolonization, noting in particular the web page on decolonization in the Organization’s six official languages, and called upon the Department to redouble its efforts. Concerning the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas Islands, he expressed CELAC’s support for Argentina and urged the stakeholders to seek a resolution at the negotiating table. Both parties must refrain from unilateral decisions while the dispute‑resolution process is still under way, he emphasized. Regarding Puerto Rico, he said members of CELAC are committed to ensuring there are no more colonies in their entire region. He went on to call for measures to support the fragile economies of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, emphasizing that special attention must be paid to climate‑related challenges specific to island Territories.
SULTAN MOHAMMED THANI AL FAZARI (Oman) expressed support for international efforts to find realistic and practical solutions to the question of Western Sahara. In this context, he welcomed the holding of round‑table discussions in 2018 and 2019 pursuant to Security Council resolutions, saying they constitute the best means for settling disputes in the matter.
WALTON WEBSON (Antigua and Barbuda) emphasized the need for unwavering efforts to continue dialogue among administering Powers, Special Committee on Decolonization and the peoples of the 17 remaining Non‑Self‑Governing Territories. Expressing support for any lawful initiative constituting a serious effort to end outstanding disputes, he called upon all parties to demonstrate political will and promote dialogue. He went on to express appreciation for the cooperation extended by the United Kingdom and the territorial Government of Montserrat in relation to a visiting mission. He also called for the resumption of negotiations to find a peaceful solution to the dispute relating to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas.
LOREEN RUTH BANNIS-ROBERTS (Dominica) expressed support for the ongoing political process in Western Sahara and hopes for a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution. She welcomed plans for a third round‑table meeting involving Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguía el‑Hamra and Río de Oro (Polisario Front) while applauding Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative as a “serious and credible proposal to resolve this dispute”. She went on to encourage registration of the people living in the Tindouf refugee camps, in accordance with international humanitarian law.
CHRISTIAN GUILLERMET-FERNANDEZ (Costa Rica) reiterated Argentina’s sovereign rights over the Malvinas Islands, noting that his delegation’s position is supported by United Nations resolutions. Pointing out his delegation’s regular support for Argentina in various regional organizations, including CELAC, he urged stakeholders to resume negotiations on a peaceful end to the dispute as soon as possible. He went on to emphasize the need for a just, lasting political solution in Western Sahara, in accordance with international law, calling upon the United Nations to support the Territory’s decolonization.
IDRISS SAMAGUTY TEJAN (Sierra Leone), reaffirming that self‑determination is an inalienable right regardless of race, religion, colour or ethnicity, emphasized that it must be respected within the framework of the Charter of the United Nations. He went on to express support for a two‑State solution in which both Israel and Palestine can live side by side in peace and security. As for the Western Sahara question, he called for a mutually acceptable solution, expressing support for Security Council resolution 2468 (2019). Applauding the round‑table meetings involving Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Polisario, he said that he looks forward to a third meeting and expressed hope for a just and enduring political settlement.
JORGE ARTURO REYES HERNÁNDEZ (Venezuela), associating himself with CELAC, urged administering Powers to honour their commitment to provide substantive information in order to make it possible for all parties involved in the decolonization process to comply with their respective mandates. He also called upon administering Powers to participate in the work of the Special Committee on Decolonization, adding that United Nations visiting missions to the Territories can also facilitate the decolonization process. He went on to note that the Government of the United States continues to exercise colonial oppression over the people of Puerto Rico, pointing out that its recent appointment of the Territory’s current governing board generated many demonstrations. Turning to the question of Western Sahara, he called for a political solution based on cooperation.
PIERRE COCHARD (France) said his country’s Government has been cooperating fully with the United Nations on New Caledonia, in accordance with the Nouméa Accord of 1998. An important phase of that agreement’s implementation occurred in 2018, when 81 per cent of New Caledonians participated in a referendum and 56.67 per cent voted “no” on the independence proposal, he recalled. According to the Nouméa Accord, a second referendum will be held in 2020 and a third in 2022, he noted, recalling that his delegation hosted United Nations experts in the course of 2019, and their comments on the matter were heard by French authorities. Also at France’s invitation, the Special Committee on Decolonization visited New Caledonia in 2018 and was able to observe the measures taken there, he said. In the case of French Polynesia, however, there is no need for cooperation with the Special Committee because the Territory’s reinscription on the list of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories did not consider the wishes of its people, he emphasized, recalling that the President of French Polynesia spoke before the Fourth Committee and requested the Territory’s withdrawal from the list. Moreover, the Territory enjoys a high level of autonomy and has a democratically elected President, he said, adding that such a status suits Polynesians. This has been demonstrated at elections which meet democratic standards, he noted, expressing hope that the Territory’s presence on the list will be reviewed accordingly.
MOSES CHIKANYAIRO (Zimbabwe) pointed out that Western Sahara has been on the Committee’s agenda as a decolonization issue since 1963 and remains the only Non‑Self‑Governing Territory in Africa. Emphasizing that the people of Western Sahara have an inalienable right to self‑determination and look to the United Nations for help, he expressed Zimbabwe’s support for all Security Council resolutions on the Territory, including resolution 2468 (2019) extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 October 2019. Zimbabwe hopes negotiations will resume under the auspices of the Secretary‑General, without preconditions and in good faith, he said, stressing that such talks should achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that will provide for the self‑determination of Western Sahara’s people. He went on to request that MINURSO’s mandate include a human rights monitoring component to document violations of human rights against the people of Western Sahara so that the perpetrators can be held to account. Zimbabwe welcomes the African Union’s decision to establish a mechanism to extend effective support to United Nations efforts to find a solution, in accordance with the regional bloc’s Constitutive Act, as well as relevant African Union and United Nations resolutions.
TEBURORO TITO (Kiribati) welcomed Morocco’s positive role in supporting a multilateral approach to the Western Sahara question and in offering autonomy for the Territory’s people. He also welcomed the African Union’s support for the role of the United Nations, emphasizing that the regional bloc’s engagement is a necessary ingredient in the quest for the most appropriate solution to the question within the African sociocultural context. He went on to wish success to all stakeholders in Western Sahara’s quest for a happy and lasting resolution of the long‑standing situation.
SAADA DAHER HASSAN (Djibouti) said her country supports the political process under way in Western Sahara and expressed support for Morocco’s proposed autonomy plan. She went on to emphasize that only political dialogue will provide a resolution of the Western Sahara question in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions and international law.
MANZI TCHILABALO KARBOU (Togo) emphasized that the international community must redouble efforts to find a peaceful solution to conflicts over self‑determination. Negotiation is the only realistic way forward, he said, urging the parties to avoid entrenched positions. He went on to call upon Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania to continue their participation in United Nations initiatives, including the round‑table discussions on Western Sahara, and urged all stakeholders to bear in mind the Territory’s socioeconomic challenges. Taking note of Morocco’s development efforts in Western Sahara, he stressed that improved relations between Algeria and Morocco will advance the political process.
JEAN-CLAUDE FÉLIX DO REGO (Benin) noted that the General Assembly is pursuing its quest for satisfactory solutions for all parties in relation to the 17 remaining Non‑Self‑Governing Territories. As such, Benin supports the two round‑table meetings held to find a swift political solution to the dispute over the question of Western Sahara, he said. Describing Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative as a compromise in the search for a negotiated and mutually acceptable political solution based in realism, he pointed out that it has been recommended in a series of Security Council resolutions. He went on to congratulate Morocco on its development and human rights achievements, while stressing that no initiative can lead to a successful resolution without commitment on the part of all stakeholders. As such, he urged all parties to display a spirit of compromise in order to settle the Western Sahara question.
AMBROISINE KPONGO (Central African Republic) expressed her delegation’s full support for the political process on Western Sahara and for Security Council resolution 2468 (2019). Noting that Morocco is making laudable efforts for compromise, she welcomed the holding of two round‑table meetings and plans for a third. She went on to highlight the importance of realism and compromise, pointing out that Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative considers the specificities of Western Sahara. She also welcomed Morocco’s achievements on human rights, specifically the kingdom’s interaction with international mechanisms. However, she expressed concern about human rights violations in the Tindouf refugee camps, calling for the registration of the people living there.
DEREJE KORE GURACH (Ethiopia), emphasizing his delegation’s consistent support for a political solution providing for the self‑determination of Western Sahara’s people, expressed regret over the ongoing impasse in that Territory and the lack of meaningful progress in negotiations. He urged the parties to seek common points of convergence to pave the way for the resumption of talks without preconditions, in accordance with the relevant African Union decisions and with a view to reaching an amicable political solution within the framework of the United Nations. He also urged the Security Council to renew the mandate of MINURSO in view of the need for human rights monitoring and fulfilment of its mandate.
LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia) noted that the Committee meets to deliberate the issue of decolonization every year without much success. Despite progress since the founding of the United Nations, only one country has won independence this century, he observed, asking if the Organization is passing inadequate resolutions or whether Member States are sufficiently supportive of the process. Reiterating his delegation’s solidarity with Western Sahara, he recalled that Zambia participated in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) conference that reaffirmed United Nations resolutions dealing with Western Sahara, and encouraged all stakeholders to continue the progress made in negotiations.
AHMED ABDALLAH (Comoros) welcomed efforts by the United Nations to find a political solution in Western Sahara and encouraged all stakeholders to come together for a third round of discussions. He said Morocco’s proposed autonomy plan meets the highest international standards and is in accordance with international law, describing the kingdom’s efforts to develop the Territory as positive. He called for the participation of civil society in future round‑table discussions, while expressing concern over human rights violations in the Tindouf refugee camps.
FERNANDO DELFIM DA SILVA (Guinea-Bissau) said the question of Western Sahara cannot be settled outside the political process currently under way under the aegis of the United Nations. In this spirit, Guinea‑Bissau welcomes the two round tables and encourages Morocco to continue its efforts towards a mutually acceptable political solution, he said. The kingdom’s autonomy initiative is credible and has been followed up by real actions for the well‑being of Western Sahara’s people, he said, pointing out that a significant budget was allocated for that purpose.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said the sessions of the Fourth Committee are stuck in repetitive debates, particularly on the dispute of Western Sahara. Detailing the Charter responsibilities allocated to United Nations bodies, he pointed out that the Security Council has not asked the Fourth Committee to consider the matter, saying that its discussion therefore contradicts the Charter’s provisions. Moreover, the decolonization of Morocco’s southern provinces was completed in 1975, he recalled, detailing the history of that process. “The Sahara is no longer a matter of decolonization,” he reiterated, noting that the Territory has been integrated into Morocco. As such, the Fourth Committee should cease its examination of the dispute over the Moroccan Sahara and allow the Security Council to fulfil its mandate, he stressed. The Council has been able to make considerable progress on the dispute, noting that body’s recognition of Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative as serious and credible, he said. That solution allows the preservation of sovereignty while granting constitutional rights to the Territory’s people with full respect for their culture and human rights, he added.
Moreover, self-determination is not synonymous with a referendum, he continued, pointing out that the referendum issue has been “dead and buried” for two decades. Security Council resolutions 2440 (2018) and 2468 (2018) established parameters for a political solution, defining the participants in the political process as Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Polisario Front, he noted. The resolutions also assert the pre‑eminence of Morocco’s autonomy initiative as a serious and credible solution to the dispute. He described the participation in the round‑table meetings as effective, making substantive discussion of the autonomy initiative possible. He went on to observe that the Moroccan Sahara’s people have democratically elected representatives who participate in international and regional conferences. They contribute to development programmes, he added, noting that private entrepreneurs in the Territory contribute to the creation of wealth. In 2015, Morocco launched a new model for the Territory’s development, allocating a budget of $8 billion, he recalled. Turning to the issue of Polisario’s human rights violations in the Tindouf camps, he listed specific cases, emphasizing that those living in the camps must be registered with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for their own protection.
SOFIANE MIMOUNI (Algeria) observed that progress has slowed as the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism draws to a close and many obstacles undermine United Nations action to advance decolonization in the 17 remaining Non‑Self‑Governing Territories. Pointing out that Western Sahara has been on the list of inscribed Non‑Self‑Governing Territories since 1963, he said the matter is addressed in General Assembly resolutions 2229 (XXI) and 1514 (XV), which the International Court of Justice subsequently affirmed. There is, therefore, no doubt about the nature of the conflict over the Territory, he emphasized. He went on to state that, despite commendable international efforts, the people of Western Sahara continue to suffer the devastating consequences of exile and occupation. The stalemate in the peace process seriously threatens the peace and stability of the entire region, he warned, emphasizing the need for extra efforts to revive the terms of a just and lasting settlement that ensures the right of the Territory’s people to self‑determination. He encouraged the stakeholders to proceed in good faith and without preconditions, stressing that direct dialogue remains the most effective tool for building lasting peace.
Action on Draft Resolutions
Taking up several draft resolutions on decolonization questions, the Committee first approved — by a recorded vote of 161 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 3 abstentions (France, Guinea‑Bissau, United Kingdom) — a text contained in the report “Information from Non‑Self‑Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations” (document A/74/23, chapter XIII, p.41).
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in explanation of position, said her delegation does not take issue with the text’s main objective and will continue to meet its obligations fully in that regard. However, whether a Non‑Self‑Governing Territory has reached a level sufficient to relieve the administering Power of the right to submit information is a decision for the Territory and administering Power, not the General Assembly, she emphasized, explaining her delegation’s abstention.
Taking up a draft resolution contained in the report “Economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories” (document A/74/23, chapter XIII, p.43), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 162 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 3 abstentions (El Salvador, France, United Kingdom).
The representative of Argentina, speaking in explanation of position, said the text’s applicability depends on the fact that the right to free determination requires an active subject — a people subjugated to foreign exploitation. Should such a condition not apply, it is not appropriate to apply the principle of self‑determination, as is the case in the Malvinas Islands, he emphasized, pointing out that in that Territory, the United Kingdom drove out the inhabitants and replaced them with British nationals. Therefore, the right to self‑determination is not relevant, he stressed. He went on to detail the history of resolutions on the matter while stressing that the text approved today is not applicable to the Malvinas Islands.
Next, 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 by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations” (document A/74/23, chapter XIII, p.46), approving it by a recorded vote of 115 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 52 abstentions.
The representative of Argentina, speaking in explanation of position, said the text must be applied in accordance with the relevant statements of the United Nations and its bodies regarding specific Territories.
The representative of the United Kingdom also spoke in explanation of position, reaffirming her delegation’s support for specialized agencies, while emphasizing that the statutes governing those agencies must be carefully respected. The United Kingdom delegation therefore abstained, she added.
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” (document A/C.4/74/L.2).
It then took up a series of drafts on implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.
The representative of the United Kingdom, making a general statement before the action, reiterated her delegation’s full support for the principle of self‑determination and confirmed that her country would approve the text alongside the consensus. She expressed regret, however, that the Committee does not consider the modern relationship between the United Kingdom and its overseas territories, saying her delegation therefore considers some of the text’s language unacceptable.
The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc looks forward to consensual agreement on Western Sahara. Welcoming the adoption of Security Council resolution 2468 (2019), he highlighted the importance of women and young people participating in negotiations, while also expressing concern over lack of funding for the Tindouf camps and urging the international community to contribute to humanitarian efforts there.
Acting without a vote, the Committee then approved a draft resolution on Western Sahara (document A/C.4/74/L.3) as well as a draft decision on Gibraltar (document A/C.4/74/L.4).
Right of Reply
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in exercise of the right of reply in response to statements by delegates of Bolivia and Costa Rica, said her country has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). Nations must respect the legally binding principle of self‑determination, she added, pointing out that it applies to the people of the Falklands (Malvinas). The United Kingdom has a modern relationship with its overseas Territory, she stressed.
The representative of Iran rejected Morocco’s territorial claim, saying it violates international law. Morocco continues to ignore United Nations demands that it grant the people of Western Sahara their right to self‑determination, he said, emphasizing the importance of continuing negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations.
The representative of Argentina, speaking in response to the delegate of the United Kingdom, said the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas are part and parcel of his country’s national territory, illegally occupied by the United Kingdom. They are the subject of a sovereignty dispute between the two countries, and all resolutions on the matter urge the two parties to resume negotiations to find a peaceful and lasting settlement of the dispute, he noted. The Special Committee has voiced the same sentiments, most recently in the resolution it approved in June, he said. Reiterating that the principle of self‑determination is inapplicable to the dispute, he underlined that the interests of the Territory’s inhabitants are appropriately protected by General Assembly resolutions and Argentina’s Constitution.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates spoke in response to Iran, emphasizing that the Arab Gulf islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb are tightly linked to the Fourth Committee’s work. It is regrettable that Iran is trying to efface her country, she added, stressing also that the islands are part and parcel of the United Arab Emirates. She called upon Iran to settle the dispute peacefully through direct negotiations or through the International Court of Justice.
The representative of Morocco also spoke in response to Iran, reiterating the right of the United Arab Emirates to sovereignty over the three islands. He also called upon Iran to refrain from its provocations over the Tindouf camps.
The representative of Iran reiterated that Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb have been an integral part of his country’s national territory for thousands of years. The United Arab Emirates, which was created a few decades ago, is not in a position to challenge Iran’s sovereignty in the matter, he emphasized. Moreover, the question is not relevant to the work of the Fourth Committee, he noted, encouraging the United Arab Emirates to reconsider its hostile policies towards the Iranian people and to respect international law.
Responding to Morocco’s delegate, he reiterated the right of Western Sahara’s people to exercise self‑determination through a referendum.
 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).