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GA/COL/3351
27 August 2021

Speakers Highlight Upcoming Challenges, Opportunities for Non-Self-Governing Territories, as Caribbean Regional Seminar Concludes

SAINT JOHN’S PARISH, Dominica, 27 August – The 2021 Caribbean Regional Seminar on Decolonization concluded today with speakers highlighting the challenges and opportunities facing the world’s 17 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories — including the coronavirus pandemic and climate change — going into the fourth International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2021-2030).

Held under the auspices of the Special Committee on Decolonization, the theme for the 2021 Seminar was “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”.  (For further information, see Press Releases GA/COL/3348 of 23 August, GA/COL/3349 of 25 August and GA/COL/3350 of 26 August.)

Roosevelt Skerrit, Dominica’s Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Resilience, Economic Affairs, Investment, Planning, Sustainable Development, Telecommunications and Broadcasting, said in brief remarks that these are challenging times, but, by working together, it is possible to create opportunities.  He added that people may disagree on different things, but they can agree on the dignity of every human being on Earth.  Dominica will continue to play its part in the Special Committee because it appreciates that decolonization must be confronted in a mutually respectful environment, he pledged.

Kenneth Darroux, Dominica’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Business and Diaspora Relations, emphasized that the stakes are high where the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned.  Everyone must rise to the occasion because failure to do so could result in the loss of a whole generation, he said, adding that many States and Territories are battling the effects as they build resilience to natural and economic shocks beyond their control.  Going forward, Non‑Self‑Governing Territories must have access to resources, equipment and supplies to fight both the pandemic and climate change, he stressed.  “I therefore urge all of us to keep championing the case of equitable distribution of vaccines for citizens everywhere and denounce unnecessary and unwarranted blacklisting of countries who must battle to control fluctuating numbers as cases rise and fall.”

Before concluding its work, the Seminar heard presentations on the questions of Bermuda and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*.

Thomas Christopher Famous, Special Liaison to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for the government of Bermuda — “the most northern colony in the Atlantic Ocean” — said the past four years have shown that not all is well in paradise, with the region experiencing both natural and non-natural disasters.  “The sad reality is that climate change can render any of our islands […] inoperable in a matter of hours,” he said, emphasizing that Caribbean Territories, with limited resources from administering Powers, come together to help each other in times of need.

He went on to say that unnatural disasters came in the form of a 2019 attempt by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the United Kingdom’s Parliament to dictate measures to the peoples of the British Overseas Territories that would adversely affect them economically, socially and politically.  Those recommendations were put on pause after the peoples and leaders of the Territories rejected them, although they have since resurfaced in remarks by Government ministers in London, he explained.

“This leads us in the Overseas Territories to believe that, no matter how many times we say ‘no’, others with no cultural connections [with the Territories] will still attempt to force us to ‘just do it’,” he continued.  “That is colonialism redefined.  There is no other way to put it.”  Going forward, the Overseas Territories must stand together, tell their stories and be there for each other whenever the chips are down, he stressed, expressing hope that more Overseas Territories will participate in Special Committee meetings.

Paula Vernet, expert, who introduced herself as a professor of international law at the University of Buenos Aires and a descendent of the first Argentinian governor of the Malvinas, said the Territory’s current inhabitants constitute an “artificial population”, mostly of British origin, inserted by the occupying Power since its arrival in 1833.  Thus, they do not enjoy the right to self‑determination, she emphasized.  The parties to the dispute have an obligation to end the Territory’s colonial situation through negotiations, as the General Assembly has stated, she said, adding that the United Kingdom must come to the table to discuss a question that can only be resolved by restoring Argentina’s territorial integrity.

Keisha Aniya McGuire (Grenada), Chair of the Special Committee, delivered closing remarks, saying the Seminar was the first United Nations meeting held outside New York and staffed from Headquarters since the pandemic began.  She highlighted the participation of Territories, administering Powers, Member States, experts and others who made the effort to travel to Dominica despite COVID-19 restrictions.  Looking ahead to the fourth Decade, she said it must be a period of action and concrete results.  Commitment to mandate, collaboration, pragmatism and agility are key to the success of the Special Commission’s work, she added.

During the final session, the 12 members of the Special Committee present at the Seminar adopted draft conclusions and recommendations (document CRS/2021/CRP.24), agreed under a silence procedure.  Among other things, the Special Committee acknowledged that climate change is exposing many Non-Self-Governing Territories to even greater environmental and economic vulnerability, and that the ongoing global economic, financial and health crises — in particular the COVID-19 pandemic — has highlighted the importance of sustaining and diversifying the Territories’ economic base.

Participants also adopted the Seminar’s procedural report (document CRS/2021/CRP.19), to be annexed to the Special Committee’s annual report, now being processed, as well as a draft resolution expressing appreciation to the Government and people of Dominica.

The Special Committee is 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.

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* A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

For information media. Not an official record.