Members Elect Bureau, Adopting Programme of Work, Timetable as 2021 Session Begins
Expediting the decolonization process must be seen as an imperative, United Nations Secretary-General Antônio Guterres told the Special Committee on Decolonization today, emphasizing that a constructive relationship with administrating Powers and all involved is indispensable for progress on a case-by-case basis.
In a message delivered by Rosemary A. DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, the Secretary-General opened the 2021 session of the 24-member body, known formally as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.
“This session marks the beginning of the Fourth International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism,” he pointed out, recalling that the decolonization Declaration marked its sixtieth anniversary in December 2020. He went on to note that the Special Committee improved its working methods and adjusted its work programme to better inform its deliberations and decision-making, determined to strengthen informal dialogues with the administering Powers and other stakeholders. “Together let us commit to engage in new dynamics to address the challenges ahead in a pragmatic manner, in line with the Charter and relevant resolutions of the United Nations,” he said.
Keisha McGuire (Grenada), newly-elected Chair of the Special Committee, noted that Non-Self-Governing Territories face special challenges compounded by the multifaceted impact of COVID-19, recalling also that the pandemic prevented the Special Committee from holding its 2020 Pacific Regional Seminar or any meetings during its substantive session in June. Instead, the Special Committee adopted its annual report, which contains all resolutions and decisions taken, she said. “Despite this change of working methods under the extraordinary circumstances, the Committee still maintained its long-standing practice of decision-making by consensus.”
She went on to detail other developments, saluting the people of New Caledonia for the peaceful conduct of the second referendum on independence in October. She also reported that, in an effort to improve its working methods, the Special Committee decided to adjust its work programme to hear petitioners from the Non-Self-Governing Territories first, and then review the related resolutions. “We hope to implement this decision in the 2021 session,” she said.
Calling upon Member States to renew their commitment and make the Fourth International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism the last to be observed, she said “unwavering action is crucial”, as is regular dialogue among the Special Committee, administering Powers, the Non-Self-Governing Territories and all other stakeholders. “By strengthening dialogue and cooperation among all, and by continuing to devise creative, realistic and practical proposals, we will be able to achieve concrete outcomes in the decolonization agenda.”
At the outset, the Special Committee elected its Bureau by acclamation, selecting Ms. McGuire (Grenada) as Chair, as well as Pedro Luis Pedroso Cuesta (Cuba), Alie Kabba (Sierra Leone) and Mohammad K. Koba (Indonesia) as Vice-Chairs. It decided to take up the election of the Rapporteur at a later date, pending the arrival in New York of Bassam Sabbagh (Syria).
Members also approved the document “Organization of work: relevant resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly” (document A/AC.109/2021/L.1), as well as the Special Committee’s tentative work programme and timetable (document A/AC.109/2021/L.2), with the understanding that it may be revised at a later date.
They also approved an offer by the delegation of Dominica to host the Caribbean Regional Seminar from 19 to 21 May 2021 under the theme “Charting a dynamic course for decolonization in commencing the Fourth International Decade and in the light of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19 pandemic), through commitment to mandate, collaboration, pragmatism and agility”. Members also approved the Seminar’s guidelines and rules of procedure (document A/AC.109/2021/19), as orally revised.
Other procedural matters addressed today included the composition of the Special Committee, the costs of travel and preparations for the Caribbean Regional Seminar, the extension of invitations to experts and organizations, and invitations to representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Several delegates then took the floor, with Dominica’s representative thanking the Special Committee for accepting the offer by her country’s Government to host the 2021 Caribbean Regional Seminar and inviting participants to spend a few extra days on “the nature island of the Caribbean”. She added that preparations for the Seminar will be subject to the latest developments related to COVID-19.
The representatives of Papua New Guinea and Fiji encouraged the Special Committee to consider New Caledonia’s third referendum on self-determination, in 2022, as part of its programme of work during the current session.
Also speaking were representatives of Cuba, Syria, Indonesia, Iran and the Russian Federation.