9 June 2005
Decolonization Committee Approves Draft Resolution on Information, Considers Question of Western Sahara
NEW YORK, 8 June (UN Headquarters) -- The Special Committee on Decolonization this morning approved a draft resolution by which the General Assembly would approve the activities of the Department of Public Information (DPI) and the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) in the dissemination of information on decolonization.
Prior to taking that action, the Special Committee took up the question of Western Sahara and heard a statement by a petitioner on behalf of the Frente POLISARIO (Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro). It also acceded to additional requests for hearing submitted by organizations from Puerto Rico, as well as to requests for hearing on the questions of the Falklands Islands (Malvinas) and the United States Virgin Islands.
By the draft resolution entitled “Dissemination of information on decolonization” (document A/AC.109/2005/L.4/ Rev.1), which was approved without a vote, the General Assembly would consider it important to continue and expand the Special Committee’s efforts to ensure the widest possible dissemination of information on decolonization, with particular emphasis on the options of self-determination available for the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
The Assembly would request DPA and DPI to implement the recommendations of the Special Committee to continue their efforts to take measures through all the available media, including publications, radio and television, as well as the Internet, to give publicity to the work of the United Nations in the decolonization field.
Among other things, the two Departments would be requested: to develop procedures to collect, prepare and disseminate, particularly to the Territories, basic material on the issue of self-determination; to seek the full cooperation of the administering Powers in the discharge of the above tasks; to develop a working relationship with the appropriate regional and intergovernmental organizations, particularly in the Pacific and Caribbean regions, by holding periodic consultations and exchanging information; to encourage the involvement of non-governmental organizations, as well as the Non-Self-Governing Territories in the dissemination of information on decolonization; and to report to the Special Committee on measures taken in the implementation of the present resolution.
Before taking action on the text, the Special Committee agreed to waive the 24-hour rule under which no proposal shall be discussed or put to the vote at any meeting unless copies of it have been circulated to all delegations not later than the day preceding the meeting.
Regarding the question of Western Sahara, the Special Committee had before it a working paper prepared by the Secretariat (document A/AC.109/2005/2) containing information on the report and good offices of the Secretary-General, as well as consideration of that question by the Security Council and the General Assembly.
The Special Committee will meet again at a time and date to be announced.
MOULOUD SAID, representative of Frente POLISARIO, said the discussions on the question of the Western Sahara during the recent seminar in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had shed light on the actual situation regarding the decolonization process of the Territory. That process was characterized by a serious deadlock as a consequence of Morocco’s rejection of the Baker Plan. Through that unjustified rejection, Morocco had tried to force the hand of the international community in giving its blessing to continued colonization of the Territory. Morocco’s presence in the territory was a violation of international law, and its tactics implied bad faith as Morocco had rejected the settlement plan and the Houston accords, which had been approved by the Security Council.
He said Morocco continued with its policy of systematically violating the human rights of the people in the territory and of pillaging the territory’s natural resources -- a policy typical of any colonial, occupying Power. The recent wave of repression in response to the 23 May peaceful demonstration of Saharawi people showed the true face of colonial occupation. Moreover, close to 600 civilians and 150 prisoners of war continued to be unaccounted for since 1975. Atrocities had been perpetrated under the eyes of the United Nations Mission, which preferred to look the other way. Moroccan authorities were also trying to attract foreign investors to exploit the natural resources of the Western Sahara in an attempt to legitimize the Territory’s occupation. He appealed to the Government of Spain to see to it that the Binta Airline cancel its recently started flights to El Aaiun, the Territory’s capital.
The case of Western Sahara was a challenge to the United Nations’ and the Special Committee’s attempts to eradicate colonialism, he said. It was unacceptable to close the eyes any longer to the three-decades-long suffering of the Saharawi people. The situation was a constant threat to peace and security in the region. The Special Committee must reaffirm its interest in bringing to completion the process of self-determination for the Saharawi people.
ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) said that the situation in Western Sahara was indeed a cause for shame and sadness involving violations of the rights of the Territory’s people, including their right to self-determination. The Western Sahara question had been on the Special Committee’s agenda for a long time and there was a lack of action on the part of the United Nations leadership to end the situation, perhaps by sending an appropriately empowered emissary to bring the process to a good conclusion, thus ensuring that the Saharawi people achieved true self-determination. In light of the Secretary-General’s report, “In Larger Freedom”, particularly its reference to the freedom from fear, and the General Assembly President’s report to Member States, the lack of action reflected a double standard and a twofold morality.
JULIAN R. HUNTE (Saint Lucia), Chairman of the Special Committee, asked the petitioner what effect the Security Council’s intervention in the Western Sahara question had had on the political process.
Mr. SAID, recalling that the Council’s intervention had come about after the 1991 signing of the peace settlement between the Frente POLISARIO and Morocco, said it had then become the Council’s responsibility to set up the Settlement Plan. It had been thought that the establishment of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) in 1991 would lead to the self-determination referendum in January 1992, but the Moroccans had prevented it and then had dragged their feet for many years. Later, the Secretary-General had appointed James Baker III as his Personal Envoy, and he had held that position until his resignation last year because Morocco had rejected his proposal and certain Security Council members did not want the referendum to take place. The situation had now changed and there was a real threat to peace in the region owing to recent developments.
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