Members Also Hear Officials, Petitioners from Non-Self-Governing Territories
Opening the substantive portion of its 2021 session today, the Special Committee on Decolonization approved three draft resolutions relating to information from and visiting missions to the world’s 17 remaining Non‑Self‑Governing Territories.
Acting without a vote, the Special Committee approved the annual draft resolution “Information from Non‑Self‑Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73(e) of the Charter of the United Nations”. By that text, the General Assembly would request that administering Powers respect their Charter obligations by transmitting to the Secretary‑General information on the economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories under their respective administrations, subject to such limitation as security and constitutional considerations might require.
Again without a vote, the Special Committee approved the draft resolution “Dissemination of information on decolonization”, by which the General Assembly would approve the decolonization‑related activities of the Department of Global Communications and the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs. It would request that they continue their efforts to make information on relevant United Nations efforts widely available.
The Special Committee also approved the draft resolution “Question of sending visiting and special missions to Territories”. By that text, the Special Committee would request that its Chair and Bureau develop, on a case‑by‑case basis, a plan for the conduct of visiting missions to the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories.
Acting by acclamation, the Special Committee also elected Bassam Sabbagh (Syria) as its Rapporteur for its current session, his election having been postponed at the organizational meeting on 18 February pending his arrival in New York.
The Special Committee then took up the questions of Gibraltar, Tokelau, Western Sahara, British Virgin Islands and French Polynesia, while also approving draft resolutions relating to the dissemination of information about its work and its dispatching of visiting missions to the world’s 17 remaining Non‑Self‑Governing Territories.
On the question of Western Sahara, many delegates and petitioners outlined their positions on the nearly 60‑year‑long dispute between Morocco and the Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro (Frente POLISARIO). Numerous speakers described Western Sahara as Africa’s last colony, while others endorsed Morocco’s claim of sovereignty over the Territory.
Morocco’s representative described the “Moroccan Sahara” as the natural continuation of his country, emphasizing that the Territory is in no way a question of decolonization. Rabat’s autonomy initiative for Western Sahara is a serious proposal supported by many Member States, he said, adding that the next Special Representative of the Secretary-General should aim at resuming round-table talks involving Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Frente POLISARIO.
Algeria’s representative countered by stressing that Western Sahara has always been a decolonization question, yet, after 58 years, there has been little progress towards an independence referendum. The peace process has collapsed, the Security Council is at a stalemate over the issue and the people of Western Sahara are still suffering while their natural resources are systematically plundered, he said, calling upon the Council, especially, to do more.
The 29-member Special Committee — formally known 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 — also examined the questions of Gibraltar, Tokelau, British Virgin Islands and French Polynesia, during its first in-person substantive meeting since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Spain’s representative, asserting his country’s position on Gibraltar, said Madrid wants talks with the United Kingdom to advance the process of decolonizing the Territory. Several elements are essential, including United Nations guidance of the process, he added, also emphasizing that the United Kingdom must respect its obligations.
New Zealand’s representative spoke not only in his national capacity, but also on behalf of the Ulu-o-Tokelau [titular head of state and government of Tokelau], who was unable to travel to New York due to pandemic-related restrictions. He underscored the help that New Zealand is providing to help Tokelau prepare for self-governance and dodge the spread of COVID-19.
Also speaking today were representatives of Cuba, Indonesia, Fiji, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Chile, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Papua New Guinea, Ecuador, Venezuela, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Grenada, Gambia, Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, Eswatini, Mozambique, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Jordan, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Namibia, Burundi, Botswana, Angola, Bahrain, Lesotho, Gabon, United Arab Emirates, Senegal, Comoros and Iran.
Others delivering statements were officials representing the Departments of Global Communications and Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.
Representatives and petitioners from Gibraltar, Tokelau, British Virgin Islands, French Polynesia and Western Sahara also participated.
The Special Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 15 June, to continue its main session.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The Special Committee on Decolonization took up the report of the Secretary‑General “Dissemination of information on decolonization during the period from April 2020 to March 2021” (document A/AC.109/2021/18).
NANETTE BRAUN, Chief of the Communications Campaign Service in the Strategic Communications Division of the Department of Global Communications, highlighted points from the report, saying among other things that the Department issued 22 Press Releases, in English and French, on meetings and statements relating to the work of the United Nations on decolonization. She added that it plans to deploy a Press Officer to the Caribbean Regional Seminar on implementation of the fourth International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, scheduled for Dominica on 25 to 27 August.
She went on to report that the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs maintained and updated a decolonization website, in the Organization’s six official languages, which attracted more than 112,700 views. United Nations social media, video and news platforms also produced content on the Organization’s role in support of decolonization, she said, adding that the worldwide network of United Nations information centres also promoted decolonization activities.
JOSIANE AMBIEHL, Chief of the Decolonization Unit in the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, said that, during the period from April 2020 to March 2021, the Unit prepared working papers on the Non-Self-Governing Territories under the Special Committee’s purview. In doing so, it sought the cooperation of the administering Powers to enhance coordination on the transmission of information under Article 73(e) of the Charter of the United Nations concerning topics including the impact of, and response to, the coronavirus pandemic, she added. The Unit has also regularly updated the United Nations website on decolonization, which has been further enhanced since its June 2019 revamp, within limited extra-budgetary resources, she noted.
In October 2020, the Department launched a video animation in English titled United Nations and Decolonization: Past to Present, highlighting the Organization’s commitment to the decolonization mandate, she recalled, noting that translated versions in the five other official languages are being released today. She went on to present a brief teaser video, thanking Department and other FSecretariat staff for lending their time and voices as narrators, “thereby reducing the cost of the project”.
Acting without a vote, the Special Committee then approved a draft resolution titled “Dissemination of information on decolonization” (document A/AC.109/2021/L.4), by which the General Assembly would approve the decolonization-related activities of the Departments of Global Communications and Political and Peacebuilding Affairs. It would request that they continue their efforts to make information on the Organization’s decolonization work widely available.
The Special Committee then took up the annual draft resolution “Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73(e) of the Charter of the United Nations” (document A/AC.109/2021/L.3). By its terms, the General Assembly would request that the administering Powers concerned respect their Charter obligations by transmitting information to the Secretary-General on issues related to the economic, social and educational conditions of each Territory, subject to such limitations as security and constitutional considerations might require.
The representative of Cuba, pointing to the Secretary-General’s report “Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73(e) of the Charter of the United Nations” (document A/75/64), said it is clear that not all administering Powers are fulfilling their Charter obligations to report regularly on the social and economic conditions in their respective Territories, despite successive General Assembly resolutions urging them to cooperate fully with the Special Committee and participate in its sessions and seminars.
The representative of Indonesia said it is worth noting promising developments among the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories, adding that the trend must continue. Emphasizing the importance of consultation, engagement and dialogue, he also expressed hope that the Special Committee can continue to use visiting missions to assist in its work.
The representative of Fiji said the Special Committee should continue to create a space in which to listen, note concerns and hasten the process of self‑determination for those who choose that path. Acknowledging the role of administering Powers in supporting preparations by the Territories in their charge for a different future, he noted, in particular, the support provided by New Zealand in Tokelau, where referendums took place in 2006 and 2007, and by France in New Caledonia, where a third referendum is to take place later in 2021.
The Special then approved draft resolution “L.3” without a vote.
Acting again without a vote, it then approved the draft resolution “Question of sending visiting and special missions to Territories” (document A/AC.109/2021/L.5). By that text, the Special Committee requests that its Chair and Bureau develop a plan, on a case-by-case basis, for conducting visiting missions to the Non-Self-Governing Territories. It also calls upon the administering Powers to cooperate with the United Nations in that process if they have not yet done so, or to continue to cooperate by facilitating such visits.
Question of Gibraltar
DAVID GUERRERO LISTON, representative of the Government of Gibraltar in the United States, said the Territory’s current population of about 30,000 has been shaped over 300 years into a unique melting pot that has lived harmoniously in an area barely twice the size of Central Park. “All we ask is to exercise our right to self-determination,” he said, adding that this is no longer 1713, but 2021, and time for the people to define their destiny. “We need to look towards a future where dialogue replaces conflict and confrontation.” He went on to note that Gibraltar is the first Territory to have vaccinated all residents over the age of 60. Recalling that Gibraltar left the European Union in 2020, he said cooperation in the dialogues leading up to its exit, and in other areas, has fostered trust, including with Spain. As such, he invited the Special Committee to visit Gibraltar and examine those new developments.
AGUSTÍN SANTOS MARAVER (Spain), while reiterating his delegation’s support for the Special Committee’s work, emphasized that its ambitious objectives remain incomplete. He recalled the decision of the International Court of Justice in 2019, noting that repeated resolutions and processes have not yet resolved the question of Gibraltar. Highlighting the Gibraltar-related United Nations resolutions adopted since 1963, he said Spain is requesting talks with the United Kingdom to advance the decolonization process. Several elements are essential, including United Nations guidance of the process, he said, adding that the United Kingdom must respect its obligations. Regarding steps taken around the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, he recalled that Spain negotiated, among other things, a tax agreement with that country and arrived at an understanding on Gibraltar.
Question of Tokelau
CRAIF HAWKE (New Zealand) spoke on behalf of the Ulu-o-Tokelau [Titular Head] of Tokelau, who was unable to travel due to the pandemic. Describing it as a blessing for Tokelau, he said related travel restrictions are protecting the Territory’s people from exposure to the coronavirus and ensuring its COVID-free status. Tokelau closed its borders in April 2020, but allowed its National Executive Board for Disease Control and Emergency Response to assess travel exemptions, he said. That enabled more than 100 residents to return, including students who had been attending schools in New Zealand and Fiji. Tokelau’s three villages refocused their work programmes to prioritize the refurbishment of infrastructure for quarantine and isolation hospitals, with financial support from New Zealand and United Nations agencies, he noted. He went on to acknowledge New Zealand’s efforts to strengthen Tokelau’s infrastructure in the areas of energy, health care, education, transport and telecommunications infrastructure, adding that construction of an airstrip is under consideration.
He reported that the territorial administration has begun relocating senior officials of the National Public Service from Samoa to Tokelau in response to a long-term wish for the Territory’s “children” to return and give modern advice in person. That will help to consolidate the integration of traditional and modern knowledge that characterizes Tokelau’s emerging governance model, he said, emphasizing that Tokelau is living with the negative consequences of climate change, including rising sea‑levels and ocean acidification. He went on to state that, whereas the act of self-determination carries risks, Tokelau’s confidence is growing as it refines a governance model that integrates its culture with a Western model. The governance structure that Niue and the Cook Islands chose may not suit Tokelau, but with God’s guiding hand, New Zealand’s help and the benevolence of the United Nations, Tokelau will get there, he said.
Speaking in his national capacity, he said that ensuring Tokelau remains free of COVID-19 remains a key focus of New Zealand’s engagement with the Territory, noting that intensive planning and preparation are under way to vaccinate the population in July. The need to keep Tokelau’s borders closed has slowed, but not stopped, as efforts continue to improve living conditions and increase self-governance capacity, he emphasized. Besides extending an additional $4.6 million in supplementary budget support and grant funding, New Zealand has recruited a health adviser to support improvements in clinical health services, he added.
Another $4 million over four years has also been committed for the implementation of Tokelau’s secondary and digital education strategies, he continued, adding that work on a new submarine cable and inter-atoll communication network continues. New Zealand is also working in partnership with Tokelau to ensure that the Territory’s fisheries remain sustainably managed, and supporting efforts to modernize its laws to ensure they reflect international norms. He went on to stress that challenges arising from COVID-19 have only strengthened New Zealand’s resolve to help strengthen Tokelau’s capacity for self-governance and decision-making.
Question of Western Sahara
GHALLA BAHIYA, speaking for the Conseil Régional de Dakhala-Oued Eddahab, expressed hope that forthcoming elections will mirror the high voter turnout of the 2015 electoral process, with many women participating on all levels. She described Morocco’s 2015 development model as the cornerstone of related policies, based on the participation of the local population and the result of broad consultations. The model aims to create 120,000 jobs and improve economic growth, investment in infrastructure and in the renewable energy sector, she said. As a result of the new model, the Moroccan Sahara is set to become a new economic hub, she said, welcoming the decision by the United States to recognize it as part of Morocco.
MHAMED ABBA, speaking for the Conseil Regional Laayoun Sakia Al Hamra, noted that gains have already been seen from the implementation of the 2015 development model, including economic growth and job creation. Recalling the extensive dialogue among Moroccan Saharan parties, he expressed support for Morocco’s autonomy initiative as the way forward.
SIDI MOHAMED OMAR, speaking for the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguía el-Hamra y de Río de Oro [Western Sahara] (Frente POLISARIO), said that, faced with Morocco’s act of aggression in 2020, the people had no recourse but to reiterate their right to self-determination. “We are where we are today because the Moroccan State is allowed to block the referendum to which it committed for many years,” he added. Emphasizing that the international community has chosen to turn a blind eye to Morocco’s violations of human rights against the people of Western Sahara, he said that in taking military action in 2020, that country violated the ceasefire with impunity. “Enough is enough,” he said, stressing: “Western Sahara is not a commodity to be traded on Wall Street.” Going forward, efforts must be redoubled to ensure the people of Western Sahara can exercise their right to self-determination, he said.
AHMED MOHAMED FALL noted that the people of Western Sahara are still waiting for a referendum on Morocco’s colonial presence and military occupation, while emphasizing that dialogue is an absolute necessity for peace. Emphasizing their legitimate right to self-defense and self-determination, he called for an immediate end to hostilities and for a time frame for the organization of a referendum.
MOHAMED HICHAM RADOUI said the United Nations has a duty to protect civilians against the occupying Power and to end the inhumane blockade that has been condemned by several humanitarian organizations. Pointing to the non‑implementation of Security Council resolutions, he emphasized that pressure must be exerted on Morocco, including by the United States, despite the decision by that country’s previous administration to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.
TOURIA HMYENE, speaking for the Association for the Freedom of Women Sequestered in the Tindouf Camps, said the Frente POLISARIO systematically violates human rights in the camps, monopolizes political discourse and silences those with differing views. Women, in particular, face all forms of exploitation and abuse, including rape and sexual assault, she said, pointing out that the Human Rights Council has expressed concern about the host country’s de facto devolution of authority in the camps to Frente POLISARIO.
KHALID BENDRISS, speaking for the Association for the Support of the Moroccan Autonomy Initiative, said the Tindouf camps have yet to be subjected to a census, despite numerous requests by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A census would assess needs and allow for humanitarian assistance, he said. Noting that the Security Council has also called upon UNHCR to conduct a census, he added that the international community must condemn the host country’s continued refusal, emphasizing that as long as it opposes a census, the situation of the people living in the camps will remain unchanged.
MOHAMED ALI ARKOUKOU, speaking for the Sahrawi Association in USA, expressed his strong sympathy with the deep frustration of Western Sahara’s people with the Special Committee. “You have all failed the people of Western Sahara,” he said. Recalling that the ceasefire was broken in 2020, he said military action and more than 200 strikes were carried out against the population, who remain under siege. Moreover, the United States President’s recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara in 2020 seems to have led the Moroccan authorities to think they have “hit the jackpot”, he said. The international community and the Special Committee must now take same bold action and recognize Western Sahara as its actual status: a colonized territory.
AGRON PALI noted that Morocco continues illegally to occupy Western Sahara despite calls for an end to the occupation, reflected in numerous United Nations resolutions. Indeed, the United Nations has never recognized Morocco’s annexation of the Territory, he pointed out. The indigenous population has now been hugely outnumbered by Moroccan settlers moving into the annexed Territory, he said, emphasizing the “sacred duty” of the United Nations and the Special Committee to make every effort to support the people of Western Sahara. While many Western Powers have defended the rights of other peoples around the world, they remain silent when Morocco exploits Western Sahara’s natural resources, he noted, stressing that it is time for action to end the occupation.
CHRIS SASSI, SKC, noted that, after 46 years, many people are losing patience and no longer have confidence in negotiations, while the Security Council is doing nothing to address the military situation or to alleviate suffering. Conditions in the camps are difficult, with fewer deliveries of international assistance, he said. Emphasizing that time is not limitless, he added that, as war rages, there are few glimmers of hope.
ROMINA PERINO recounted her several visits to the camps, saying she found admirable and peace-loving people who ask only to live in peace and freedom in their homeland. They have built a modern society on social justice and democracy, with women playing a central role, she said. The United Nations and the Special Committee can no longer stand aside as the people of Western Sahara continue to suffer, she added, emphasizing that they must decide their future freely and democratically.
MOHAMMED ELAISSAOUI, Organisation for Ending Human Rights Violations in the Tindouf Camps, said Frente POLISARIO mercenaries are forcing children to participate in military activities and indoctrination campaigns. It is well-known that the organization was created for hegemonic and geostrategic purposes, he stated, adding that the organization has become a recruitment pool for Al-Qaida in the Maghreb. The Frente POLISARIO is also engaged in the trafficking of weapons in the Sahara and in the Sahel region, he said, while comparing the Tindouf camps to “hell on earth”.
IBRAHIMA TOURE (Côte d’Ivoire) said differences must be put aside, especially in light of the pandemic, and efforts redoubled to find solutions. Recalling that United Nations resolutions reaffirm the need for a lasting political solution based on compromise, he welcomed the efforts of the Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy, including two meetings with stakeholders in Geneva, emphasizing that a third round table must advance the debate. The parties and States in the region must work together to find a just solution, he stressed. Welcoming Morocco’s autonomy initiative, he said recent events underline the need to create an environment of peace with a view to advancing the political process. In that vein, Côte d’Ivoire welcomes the efforts of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) with a view to reaching a final settlement of the dispute, he said.
LEYLA VÁSQUEZ (Chile) said the situation must be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions. Emphasizing the importance of recognizing efforts being made by all parties, he said the Special Committee must not dismiss the progress made by Morocco. Chile supports ongoing efforts towards completion of the Special Committee’s work and o a day when members can say “mission accomplished”, he added.
PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA (Cuba), emphasizing the need for a mutually agreeable solution, expressed hope that the people of Western Sahara can fully exercise their right to self-determination. They need the international community’s support, he added, highlighting Cuba’s contributions to health and education in the Territory.
WALTON WEBSON (Antigua and Barbuda), citing the pandemic’s continued impact on all nations, called for equal access to vaccines for all peoples of the Non‑Self-Governing Territories. He commended Morocco’s achievements in the fight against COVID-19, especially its vaccine programme in the Sahara. Expressing support for the ongoing political process, he reminded all parties that its purpose is the achievement of a practical, sustainable solution that addresses the concerns of all. A political solution to the long-standing dispute and enhanced cooperation among member States of the Maghreb Arab Union would contribute to the stability and security in the Sahel region, he said. Calling on all to respect the ceasefire, he asked the parties to demonstrate political will and promote an atmosphere of dialogue towards the improvement of the human rights and the development of the people of the Sahara.
LOREEN RUTH BANNIS-ROBERTS (Dominica) expressed full support for Morocco’s autonomy initiative, describing it as a win-win compromise that seeks to resolve the dispute for the well-being of the region. She urged Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Frente POLISARIO to remain engaged in the round‑table process as requested by the Security Council, and called upon UNHCR to proceed with the registration of those living in the Tindouf camps.
COSMOS RICHARDSON (Saint Lucia), noting that Security Council resolution 2924 (2019) speaks to a realistic, practicable, enduring and compromise-based political solution to the Western Sahara question, said the question is how to get there. He welcomed the round‑table process and expressed support for Morocco’s autonomy initiative, noting that, following recognition by the United States of that country’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, more and more countries are opening consular offices in the Territory.
FRED SARUFA (Papua New Guinea) called for genuine dialogue, consistent with the spirit of Council resolutions, with the Special Committee allowing all relevant stakeholders to voice their perspectives. Noting that his delegation is the main sponsor of the Special Committee’s annual draft resolution on the question of Tokelau, he said the 2021 text will largely be a technical rollover, but with additional language regarding COVID-19 and democratic elections held earlier in the year.
JASSER JIMÉNEZ (Nicaragua) affirmed that the people of Western Sahara have the right to self-determination, and expressed his delegation’s support for that right, emphasizing that the process must advance in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions.
EMANUEL TILMAN (Timor-Leste) said that, since his country’s removal from the Special Committee’s list in 2002, there have still been no changes for the remaining 17 Non-Self-governing Territories waiting to exercise their right to self-determination. The continuing existence of colonialism, in its many forms, is a violation of basic human rights and an obstacle to the economic and social development, as well as the well-being of all peoples, he said, emphasizing that expediting the decolonization process is an imperative. He went on to reiterate Timor-Leste’s strong support for and enduring solidarity with the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination and called for the full implementation of MINURSO’s mandate. He also urged the Secretary-General to appoint a new Special Envoy as soon as possible to resume the talks between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO, with the participation of Algeria and Mauritania. Reaffirming Timor-Leste’s recognition of the Frente POLISARIO as the legitimate representative of the people of Western Sahara, in accordance with United Nations resolutions, he said it also supports the periodic dispatch of visiting missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories that will help the Special Committee better understand the aspirations of their peoples.
MARIO A. ZAMBRANO ORTIZ (Ecuador) noted that decolonization has been one of the cornerstones of the United Nations, but the process is yet to be concluded. Emphasizing the need to promote dialogue and cooperation between parties in the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories on the Special Committee’s list, he reaffirmed Ecuador’s support for advancing negotiations in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions.
ASBINA MARIN SEVILLA (Venezuela), noting that her delegation has recognized Western Sahara for decades, rejected attempts by some States to turn the matter into anything other than a question of decolonization. Condemning recent military action and violence, she emphasized that the ceasefire must be respected. Venezuela calls for direct negotiations between the Frente POLISARIO and Morocco, she said, expressing support for the Secretary-General’s efforts to advance talks. She went on to call for conducting the long-awaited referendum on self‑determination and urged the Special Committee to send a mission to Western Sahara as soon as possible to gain a better understanding of the situation on the ground.
REDAE GIRMAY ABRAHA (Ethiopia), noting that his part of the world continues to be affected by colonialism and occupation, called up both sides in the dispute over Western Sahara to pursue a solution within the framework of African solutions to African problems. Ethiopia supports the implementation of decisions taken by the United Nations and the African Union with the aim of achieving a peaceful and lasting solution, he affirmed.
JUAN MARCELO ZAMBRANA TORRELIO (Bolivia) said no effort must be spared to recognize the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and the relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. Dialogue and negotiation must be the keys to consolidating the right of the people of Western Sahara to decide their own future, he emphasized.
NERISSA WILLIAMS (Grenada), noting that her country has itself travelled on the road of decolonization, affirmed its commitment to the ideals and principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, to the Special Committee’s invaluable work and to the relevant General Assembly resolutions asserting the need for colonialism to end. She expressed support for the round‑table meetings held in 2018 and 2019, with the participation of Morocco, the Polisario Front, Algeria and Mauritania, while welcoming Morocco’s autonomy initiative as a viable proposal towards ending the dispute over Western Sahara.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said the Moroccan Sahara is the natural continuation of his country and has nothing in common with the other Non-Self-Governing Territories, emphasizing that it is in no way a question of decolonization. Morocco, he added, is committed to the peace process under the exclusive auspices of the United Nations, in accordance with Security Council resolutions and with the participation of Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Frente POLISARIO. The Secretary-General’s next Special Envoy should resume round-table discussions involving those four parties, he said, while stressing that any compromise must reflect Morocco’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity. He went on to describe his country’s autonomy initiative as a serious solution, supported by many Member States, with any other proposals having long been laid to rest.
Recalling the recognition in 2020 of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara by the United States and the ensuing opening of consulates by several countries, he said his country has made colossal efforts to ensure the development of the Moroccan Sahara, setting an example for the wider region and for the African continent at large. After the Frente POLISARIO attempted to block the border crossing at Guerguerat in 2020, Morocco undertook civil engineering work to allow the passage of people and goods to resume, he recalled. The Frente POLISARIO acted like brigands, he said, vowing they will never set foot in that part of the Moroccan Sahara again. He went on to express concern about the fate of people living in the Tindouf camps and the violation of their rights. Noting that the head of the separatist Frente POLISARIO is being prosecuted in Spain for crimes against humanity, among other charges, he said the group is recruiting children and sending them to training camps. He called upon the UNHCR to register those living in the camps.
LANG YABOU (Gambia) said Western Sahara has enjoyed significant development “for the right reasons”, including Morocco’s efforts to extend its national vaccination campaign to the wider population of the Sahara. Gambia is not surprised by that supreme act of State responsibility, as it reflects Morocco’s commitment to the region’s development. He expressed full support for the political process under United Nations auspices, emphasizing that the stability and security of the Sahel is very much a collective responsibility. The Gambia fully supports Morocco’s sovereignty over all its territory, including the Moroccan Sahara, and encourages favourable consideration of its autonomy initiative as a viable compromise, he said.
PETRONELLAR NYAGURA (Zimbabwe) expressed support for United Nations action in support of full implementation of all relevant resolutions, including ensuring the holding of a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara. She urged the Special Committee to conduct a visiting mission in support of the Secretary‑General’s efforts to relaunch peace talks, emphasizing that it is only through such measures negotiations, alongside the African Union’s efforts, that the people of Western Sahara can enjoy their rights to self-determination.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), welcoming the round tables held in Geneva with keys stakeholders, said the new Special Envoy must continue that effort in pursuit of a realistic, lasting political solution based on compromise. He welcomed Morocco’s autonomy initiative, new development plan and measures to combat the pandemic. Emphasizing that peaceful coexistence and respect for human rights must prevail, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions, he urged all parties to find an agreement to end the prolonged dispute, in compliance with corresponding agreements. Such a settlement would contribute to peace and stability in the region, he added.
MELUSI MASUKU (Eswatini) expressed hope that ongoing political processes under the exclusive auspices of the Secretary-General culminate in an amicable compromise, as recommended in several Security Council resolutions adopted since 2007. Eswatini welcomes the round-table processes involving the participation of Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco and Frente POLISARIO, in line with Council resolutions, particularly resolution 2548 (2020), he affirmed, noting that the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy have given momentum to the process. He expressed Eswatini’s support for Morocco’s autonomy initiative as a compromise solution. He went on to point out that a political solution to the long-standing Western Sahara question will enhance cooperation between members of the Maghreb Arab Union and contribute to the stability and security in the Sahel. Stressing the importance of participation by elected representatives of the Moroccan Sahara in the Special Committee’s regional seminars and meetings, and in the two Geneva round tables, he encouraged all parties to be mindful of United Nations efforts. He welcomed Morocco’s new development model for the Moroccan Sahara, launched in 2015, saying it has empowered the population and raised human development indices in the region. He also commended Morocco’s achievements in the fight against COVID-19 in the Moroccan Sahara.
INÁCIO VIRGÍLIO CHICO DOMINGOS (Mozambique) said his country supports efforts to find a solution that enables the people of Western Sahara to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence. The lack of progress is perpetuating their suffering, he added. He urged Morocco and Frente POLISARIO to resume their efforts for a lasting, fair and sustainable solution and emphasized the important role played by the African Union, pointing out that both sides are members.
WAJDI HASSAN M. MOHARRAM (Saudi Arabia) expressed support for Morocco’s efforts in pursuit of a realistic political solution based on compromise and Security Council resolutions under the auspices of the Secretary-General. He welcomed the convening of round-table talks and called for more efforts to end the protracted dispute. Saudi Arabia supports Morocco’s autonomy initiative, he said, describing it as compatible with international law, the United Nations Charter and relevant decision by the General Assembly and the Security Council.
MOHAMED SIAD DOUALEH (Djibouti), expressing support for the United Nations‑led process to resolve the question of Western Sahara, emphasized the importance of maintaining the momentum from the Geneva round tables. Commending Morocco’s serious, credible efforts, including its widespread COVID-19 vaccination campaign, he said the autonomy initiative is an excellent basis for discussions with a view to resolving the dispute. Noting Djibouti’s establishment of a consulate in Dakhla in February, he said that settling the regional dispute over Western Sahara must be based on the involvement of all parties.
MOHANNAD ADNAN MOUSA SHADDAD (Jordan) said his delegation has established a consulate in Dakhla as a measure of support for resolution of the dispute. Emphasizing that Morocco’s sovereignty must be respected, he commended its new development model and far-reaching vaccination campaign. He went on to welcome the Secretary-General’s efforts and the recent round-table discussions, saying that working towards peace requires serious commitment on the part of all actors.
MATHU JOYINI (South Africa) said it is regrettable that after so many decades, a full measure of self-government for the people of Western Sahara has not yet been attained. Rising tensions at the end of 2020 pose further challenges for the Special Committee’s work on the question, she noted, cautioning that such negative developments could lead to serious consequences for peace, security and stability. Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO must abide by their ceasefire agreement and avoid any actions that could trigger a further rise in tensions and possible hostilities, she emphasized, calling for full implementation of the relevant Security Council and African Union resolutions. She asked the Secretary‑General to appoint a new Personal Envoy who can engage with both sides and spearhead resumption of the stagnant peace process, stressing that the long‑awaited referendum should not be delayed any further. Urging the Special Committee to send a visiting mission to Western Sahara, she recalled that it has not done so since 1975. She went on to underline that any recognition of Western Sahara as a part of Morocco is tantamount to recognizing an illegal occupation.
YEMDAOGO ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso) welcomed the progress made at the Geneva round tables, adding that, given their positive outcomes, a new Special Envoy should ensure further such meetings. Burkina Faso welcomes the Security Council’s request that the four major actors remain engaged, he said, also welcoming Morocco’s autonomy initiative. It is in line with international law, the United Nations Charter and relevant General Assembly and Council resolutions, he added. Burkina Faso congratulates Morocco on its achievements in combating the pandemic, including its provision of broad access to vaccines, he said, while calling upon both sides to respect the ceasefire.
HELENA KUZEE (Namibia), noting that the people of Western Sahara have been denied the right to self-determination for decades, said the Special Committee has continued to shatter their dreams. Condemning the violation of human rights in the occupied Territory, she warned that the rising tension could lead to the most serious consequences for peace, security and stability in the whole region. Namibia desperately wishes to see actions that advance progress in the process of decolonization in Africa’s last colony, she said, urging the Special Committee to actively support the Secretary-General’s efforts to relaunch the peace process. Ensuring that negotiations between the Frente POLISARIO and Morocco are substantive will chart the way for the long-desired objective, she added. Namibia calls upon the occupying Power to end its occupation of Western Sahara and to stop undermining its territorial integrity, in line with the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, she affirmed. Pointing out that the United Nations has long been charged with the responsibility of ushering in an era of renewed hope for the people of Western Sahara, she stressed: “Their frustration is growing and we can no longer delay their inalienable right to live freely in their country.”
ZEPHYRIN MANIRATANGA (Burundi) said the Western Sahara question urgently requires a negotiated political settlement, given the current situation in the Sahel. Expressing support for Morocco’s autonomy initiative, he noted that the Security Council has recognized that and other Moroccan efforts geared towards addressing and resolving the dispute. Welcoming the Geneva round-table discussions, he said Burundi looks forward to further talks. He went on to commend Morocco’s development model for fostering economic growth.
COLLEN V. KELAPILE (Botswana), underscoring his delegation’s support for the inalienable right of West Sahara’s people to self-determination, expressed concern about the collapse of the 1991 ceasefire on 13 November 2020 and the resulting military confrontations. Urging both sides to support the peace process by refraining from provocative actions that could destabilize the situation, he said the Special Committee must do its part, given the continuous plundering of natural resources, human rights violations, aggressive military actions and challenges caused by the pandemic. A visiting mission is long overdue, he emphasized. Reiterating Botswana’s unwavering support for the full decolonization of Western Sahara, the last colony in Africa, he said self-determination and the Territory’s subsequent full independence will be a positive contribution to peace and security on the continent and globally.
MARIA DE JESUS DOS REIS FERREIRA (Angola) called upon the Secretary-General to appoint a new Special Envoy and urged the Special Committee to actively support his efforts to relaunch the peace process, with direct and substantive negotiations between the Frente POLISARIO and Morocco. Enabling the people of Western Sahara to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence must be the ultimate goal, she emphasized.
SOFIANE MIMOUNI (Algeria), recalling the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in 1975, said Western Sahara has always been a question of decolonization. However, although the General Assembly has been seized of the issue for 58 years, there has been little progress towards a referendum, he pointed out. Moreover, three decades on, MINURSO is still struggling to fulfil its mandate, he said, adding that such unilateral procrastination and the obstruction of peace efforts have led to distortions on the ground. The peace process has collapsed, the Security Council is at a stalemate and the people of Western Sahara are still suffering while their natural resources are systematically plundered, he noted. Algeria calls for greater efforts to break the deadlock, including by the Security Council, which, in resolution 2548 (2020), reaffirmed its commitment to help the parties reach a solution that would provide self-determination for the people of Western Sahara, he said, emphasizing that talks between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO is the obvious path to a just and lasting solution. He urged the Secretary-General to appoint a new Special Envoy who can hopefully help the two sides resume dialogue. For its part, the Special Committee should use all existing tools, including a visiting mission, to ensure the rights of the people of Western Sahara and complete the decolonization process, he said, adding that, as a neighbouring observer country, Algeria will continue to fulfil its duty to the refugees in Tindouf.
ALYAA SAYED SALMAN ALAWI AHMED SALMAN (Bahrain), reiterating her country’s support for Morocco’s efforts to resolve the Western Sahara question and provide a lasting peace, in line with United Nations resolutions, said Manama opened a consulate in Moroccan Sahara in December 2020, as a demonstration of its support for Morocco’s continuing efforts to find a solution to that issue.
NKOPANE MONYANE (Lesotho) expressed deep concern over the contravention of the commitments under the Organization of African Unity Settlement Plan that both sides welcomed three decades ago, and condemned the November 2020 attacks near Guerguerat that subjected civilian protesters to injury, groundless arrests, torture and death. It is disturbing that the people of Western Sahara still endure the inhumane treatment meted out by the Moroccan armed forces, he said, condemning all forms of attacks against civilians and urging both sides to cease hostilities and engage in talks. He also called upon the Security Council to urgently facilitate the self-determination referendum. While Western Sahara’s current situation is dire, it is appalling that the Special Committee’s last visiting mission was in 1975, he said, while calling upon both sides to refrain from destructive attempts to divert even the little progress achieved thus far. He went on to express regret at the deplorable treatment of the people of Western Sahara, which remains the only colony in Africa, in deliberate contravention of the principles of the United Nations Charter and the relevant resolutions.
FRANKLIN JOACHIM MAKANGA (Gabon), voicing support for the Moroccan autonomy initiative, stressed the need for a political solution, as well as more dynamic cooperation by the member States of the Arab Maghreb Union. Noting that Gabon, like others, has opened a consulate in the Moroccan Sahara, he welcomed substantial progress in human rights and Morocco’s strict respect for the ceasefire. He also expressed concern about the violation of human rights in Tindouf and called for the registration of its inhabitants.
MOHAMMAD YOUSUF ABDULLA MOHAMMAD BASTAKI (United Arab Emirates) reiterated full support for Morocco’s sovereignty over the Moroccan Sahara and for its autonomy initiative, which is in line with relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, as well as the two round tables held in 2018 and 2019. He also welcomed Morocco’s initiatives in human rights, its cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the participation of inhabitants of the Moroccan Sahara in recent elections.
CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal) said Morocco’s autonomy initiative is a viable option by which to find a lasting solution, as it considers United Nations resolutions and such critical issues as the refugees in the Tindouf camps. Noting that his country opened a consulate in the Territory in December 2020, he expressed his delegation’s support for Morocco’s efforts to resolve the Western Sahara question and address related issues. As part of the constructive momentum generated at the round tables held in Geneva, the international community must support the Secretary-General and the Security Council with a view to finding a definitive end to the dispute, he emphasized.
ISSIMAIL CHANFI (Comoros), welcoming the convening of round tables with key actors in advancing efforts to resolve the dispute, he expressed appreciation for the participation of elected officials from the Territory, while emphasizing the importance of cooperation with neighbouring countries. He commended Morocco’s proposed development model and efforts in fighting COVID-19. While noting that Comoros recently opened a consulate in the Territory, he expressed concern about sporadic violence and conditions in the Tindouf camps.
MOHAMMAD REZA SAHRAEI (Iran), saying decolonization should remain a significant priority for the United Nations, reaffirmed the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination. Iran supports negotiations leading towards a political solution to that end, he said, emphasizing that the process must continue within the framework of United Nations-sponsored talks, in good faith and in the spirit of the United Nations Charter.
Question of British Virgin Islands
NATALIO WHEATLEY, Deputy Premier of British Virgin Islands, said the Territory must be able to govern itself to the maximum extent possible, but there has been no movement in that direction. Instead, institutions have not been able to function, he said, citing a growing trend of delaying or rejecting bills passed by the legislature. Citing a recent example, he said the Governor failed to endorse a bill relating to disaster management passed by the legislature, and the United Kingdom did not consent to a medical marijuana bill passed by the elected government. In addition, a media blitz was launched against the British Virgin Islands, raising grave concerns among neighbours in the Caribbean region, he noted. He went on to state that progress in fighting COVID-19 continues, noting that the United Kingdom has contributed vaccines and technical advice. However, the pandemic’s impact on the economy has been challenging and efforts to establish a post-pandemic recovery plan centred on the Sustainable Development Goals are ongoing, he said. Given those developments, the British Virgin Islands invites the Special Committee to send a visiting mission in 2021 to examine for itself the situation on the ground, he added.
WALTON ALFONSO WEBSON (Antigua and Barbuda), emphasizing his country’s long‑standing and varied connections with the British Virgin Islands, described the Territory as “long-hanging fruit” in the global process of decolonization. Recent developments suggest that the United Kingdom does not always fully respect the principles of self-governance. He requested that the Special Committee send a visiting mission to the Territory.
ELIEZER BENITO WHEATLEY, Special Envoy of the British Virgin Islands government, said there is renewed public interest in the British Virgin Islands in governance issues, especially in the areas of disaster preparedness and financial services. Brexit has also raised questions about the Territory’s relationship with the United Kingdom. There is a feeling that a constitutional review is required, but many citizens recognize the need to raise public awareness about the next steps. He encouraged the United Nations to organize an education campaign, stressing that the average person must understand what independence, free association and integration mean.
Question of French Polynesia
MANUEL TERAI, International Affairs Of French Polynesia, said that, over the course of the outbreak, measures such as lockdown orders and curfews were imposed, and vaccination campaigns have seen dropping rates of infection. French Polynesia has chosen to stay open for visitors while keeping the health situation under control, he said, highlighting its dependence on tourism and the fishing industry, alongside plans for getting people back to work to prevent an economic crisis. In addition, authorities are drafting a recovery plan with a longer-term vision. Throughout the pandemic, French Polynesia has participated virtually in regional activities and hosted a range of events, including the opening of the permanent diplomatic mission of Australia. Turning to concerns about the ongoing nuclear issue, he said France owes truth, justice and respect to all Polynesians. Recalling that, in 2018, French Polynesia had denounced certain statements made about it, he asked that parts of the draft resolution related to these claims be removed. The vast majority of French Polynesians do not believe the current situation reflects a decolonization matter, he said, suggesting that a dialogue be established to continue communication between the Special Committee and France.
C. G. CORBIN, petitioner, underscored the asymmetrical relationship between the Territory and the “Metropole” in the areas of natural resources, nuclear testing and the electoral process. For French Polynesia, the next logical step is the implementation of a genuine decolonization programme, he said, emphasizing that the current dependency arrangements were never meant to be permanent.