6 October 2005
Fourth Committee Speakers, Opening General Debate on Decolonization, Welcome Progress on Issue of Tokelau, Note Imminent Referendum
Concern over Western Sahara Question, with Impasse on Peace Plan Efforts
NEW YORK, 5 October (UN Headquarters) -- Noting that the Second International Decade on the Eradication of Colonialism -- 2001-2010 -- was now at its midpoint, speakers in the General Assembly's Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this afternoon welcomed progress made on the issue of Tokelau and focused on the question of Western Sahara, as the Committee began its general debate on decolonization issues.
The representative of New Zealand, the administering Power in Tokelau, announced that, following approval of a draft treaty and supporting documents before the New Zealand cabinet, a referendum in Tokelau was expected to be held next month. If the outcome was favourable, it was expected that Tokelau could become self-governing in the second quarter of 2006. The voting paper proposed that Tokelau become a self-governing State in free association with New Zealand, and it invited voters to indicate their agreement with, or rejection of, that proposal. It was the wish of Tokelau, supported by New Zealand, that the United Nations monitor the referendum.
He said the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had agreed to organize a donors' round-table meeting in New York for the Tokelau International Trust Fund following an act of self-determination. Preliminary discussion had begun on accession to the Cotonou Agreement (between African, Caribbean and Pacific States, and the European Union) and Associate Membership of the Commonwealth. Tokelau already played an active role in regional bodies and would be admitted as an observer to the Pacific Islands Forum at its next meeting in Papua New Guinea, later this month.
At the outset of the meeting, the Chairman of the Committee, Yashar Aliyev (Azerbaijan), said the cause of decolonization had been one of the most defining issues of the latter part of the twentieth century. It was in no small measure due to the unstinting efforts of the Special Committee on decolonization, set up in 1961, that many of the 191 Member States were represented today as sovereign and independent States. Quoting the Secretary-General, he said, "Colonialism is an anachronism." As there were still 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remaining on the list, he said, "we must continue with our common endeavour, in the spirit of cooperation among all parties involved, to bring an end to colonialism in the shortest possible time".
In his opening statement, the Chairman of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, Julian R. Hunte (Saint Lucia), said the Committee had placed considerable emphasis on the need for the wider United Nations system to move into the implementation phase of the long-standing international mandate on self-determination and decolonization. The Special Committee had worked diligently to reflect the urgency of the task, taking a pro-active approach, including with a mission to Bermuda. Implementation of the actions called for in the resolutions adopted by the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly served to assist the Territories significantly in the development of their capacity to assume the responsibilities of self-government.
He said a tailored plan devised for Tokelau was contributing significantly to the decolonization process in that Territory. A similar work plan for the remaining Territories would similarly speed up the process on a broader scale. He, therefore, strongly encouraged the other administering Powers to step up and engage the Committee in a similar process.
The Special Committee's report was introduced by that body's Rapporteur, Fayssal Mekdad (Syria).
While welcoming progress made in Tokelau, speakers expressed concern about the impasse on the question of the Western Sahara. The representative of South Africa said, in that regard, that for a number of years the United Nations, the African Union and the rest of the international community had sought a solution that would afford the Saharawi people the possibility to freely choose, in a United Nations-supervised referendum, their own future. The peace plan, prepared by the then Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, James Baker III, had provided a fair way of addressing the matter. The Security Council had confirmed in its resolution 1495 (2003) that the Baker plan was "an optimum political solution on the basis of agreement between the two parties". However, efforts to resolve the impasse had yet to be successful.
The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said seven of the 16 listed Non-Self Governing Territories were in the Caribbean region. The CARICOM continued to foster the integration of those Territories in the Caribbean community, and the Territories were members of several regional organizations. The elevation of those Territories from political dependency to full self-government was in the interest of the Caribbean region and the hemisphere.
Representatives of the United Kingdom, China, United Republic of Tanzania, Cuba, Pakistan, Fiji, Argentina (on behalf of the Rio Group), Egypt, Iran and Papua New Guinea also spoke. The representative of the United Kingdom exercised his right of reply.
At the end of the meeting, the Committee granted 49 requests for hearings relating to the questions of Gibraltar, Guam, New Caledonia and the Western Sahara.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. Thursday, 6 October, to continue its debate on decolonization issues and to hear petitioners.
As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its annual debate on decolonization issues this afternoon, it had before it the 2004 report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (document A/60/23). The report recalls that the Special Committee was established by the General Assembly in 1961 in order to examine the application of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples contained in Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of December 1960, and to make recommendations on the progress of the implementation of the Declaration.
In 1991, according to the report, the Assembly endorsed a plan of action for the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, which would include the organizing of seminars in the Caribbean and Pacific regions to review progress achieved and the dispatch of visiting missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories. At its fifty-fifth session, in 2000, the Assembly declared the period 2001 to 2010 the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and called on Member States to redouble their efforts to implement the plan of action. At its fifty-ninth session, in 2004, the Assembly called on the Special Committee to finalize, before the end of 2005, a case-by-case programme of work for each of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, to facilitate the implementation of its mandate.
During its 2005 session, which began on 17 February, the report says that the Special Committee continued discussion on such case-by-case work programmes and held informal consultations with the administering Powers with a view to improving cooperation (as noted in section J of the report). It also sent a special mission to Bermuda, at the behest of the Bermuda Independence Commission and upon the invitation of the Government of the Territory. The Special Committee also continued its review of the list of Territories to which the Declaration is applicable, and heard speakers on its decision of 14 June 2004 concerning Puerto Rico.
Regarding future work, the report says that the Special Committee intends, during 2006, to pursue its efforts in bringing a speedy end to colonialism, and to pursue other efforts to accelerate the implementation of its plan of action. The Special Committee will continue to keep the situation in the Non-Self-Governing Territories under review, examining the impact of developments on the political advancement of each Territory. The Committee is particularly encouraged by the excellent cooperation of New Zealand and Tokelau at every stage of the negotiations in preparation for the exercise of the right of self-determination by the people of Tokelau towards the end of 2005. It is also greatly encouraged by the growing interest and participation by the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories in the regional seminars, and the Special Committee will continue to conduct seminars for the purpose of assessing, receiving and disseminating information on the situation in the Territories. The next seminar is planned for the Pacific region in 2006.
According to the report, the Special Committee will continue to seek the cooperation of the administering Powers in dispatching United Nations visiting missions as a means of collecting first-hand information on conditions in the Territories and on the wishes of peoples for their future status. Given the importance of disseminating information on decolonization, the Special Committee will continue to disseminate information on its activities and on the Territories in an effort to mobilize world public opinion to assist the people of the Territories to bring about a speedy end to colonialism. It also intends to develop, together with the Department of Public Information, programmes aimed at Territories that have requested information on self-determination options.
In its focus on the specific problems of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, the report states that the Committee will continue to recommend measures to facilitate a sustained and balanced growth of the Territories' fragile economies, through increased assistance in the development of all economic sectors and an emphasis on diversification.
According to the report, the Special Committee recommends, among other things, that the General Assembly renew its appeal to the administering Powers to take all necessary steps for the implementation of the Declaration; request all administering Powers to become involved in the Special Committee's work; and continue to invite the administering Powers to allow representatives of the Territories concerned to participate in the discussions of the Fourth Committee. It also recommends that the Assembly make adequate provisions to cover the Special Committee's activities in 2006. Should additional provisions be required over and above proposed programme budget for the biennium 2006-2007, proposals for supplementary requirement would be made to the Assembly for its approval.
The report also outlines the Special Committee's consideration of specific issues and actions taken on related draft resolutions during its 2005 session, including on the dissemination of information on decolonization; visiting missions to Territories; economic and other activities that affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self Governing Territories; implementation of the decolonization Declaration by United Nations specialized agencies and associated international institutions; information from Non-Self Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter; and specific territories.
Chapter XII of the report contains draft resolutions recommended by the Special Committee to the General Assembly, including recommendations on Tokelau and New Caledonia.
The Fourth Committee will also consider a report of the Secretary-General on the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (documents A/60/71 and Add.1), submitted pursuant to Assembly resolution 55/146, requiring the Secretary-General to report at the midpoint of the Second Decade on action taken, and on suggestions and trends that emerge from the deliberation of United Nations organs and the specialized agencies on the implementation of the Plan of Action adopted in 2000.
The report states that during the period under review, the General Assembly has annually considered a number of questions relating to decolonization, including the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. In that regard, the Fourth Committee monitors developments in all Non-Self-Governing Territories, and makes recommendations on them to the Assembly, as well as on the issue of the dissemination of information on decolonization and on the issue of the military. The Assembly also considered the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and other matters.
Among actions taken, the Assembly requested the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples to finalize before the end of 2005 a constructive programme of work, on a case-by-case basis, for the Non-Self-Governing Territories to facilitate the implementation of its mandate and the relevant resolutions on decolonization. Those Territories are: American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Guam, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Tokelau, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the United States Virgin Islands and Western Sahara. [East Timor gained independence in 2001 as Timor-Leste.]
The Special Committee was enlarged from 24 to 27 members in 2003 and now includes: Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Chile, China, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Dominica, Ethiopia, Fiji, Grenada, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Mali, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sierra Leone, Syria, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, United Republic of Tanzania and Venezuela. It has been at the forefront of United Nations efforts to implement the Plan of Action for the Decade.
According to the Secretary-General's report, the Special Committee has carried out periodic reviews of the situation in each Territory. It has taken decisions to continue to consider the question of Puerto Rico. It has also continued to hold annual regional seminars in the Caribbean and Pacific regions alternately. The Special Committee has further continued to seek the full cooperation of the administering Powers regarding visiting missions to the Territories. In 2002, a special mission visited Tokelau. The Assembly had reaffirmed that United Nations visiting missions are an effective means of ascertaining the situation in the Territories, as well as the wishes and aspirations of their inhabitants.
The report notes that the representative of New Zealand has continued to participate in the work of the Special Committee regarding Tokelau, as has the representative of France regarding the question of New Caledonia. The delegations of the United Kingdom and United States had not formally participated in Committee meetings in recent years, although a representative of the United Kingdom had participated in the regional seminars. Informal contacts have continued in order to improve cooperation between the Committee and the administering Powers and to develop work programmes for the decolonization of specific Territories.
In the case of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and Gibraltar, each subject to sovereignty disputes, the Special Committee and the Assembly have urged the Governments involved to continue their negotiations in order to find a definitive solution to the issues, according to the report. The question of Western Sahara continues to receive consideration by the Assembly and the Security Council, and it benefits from the good offices of the Secretary-General with the parties concerned.
The report concludes that the midpoint of the Decade offers an opportunity to review and assess progress made and to define priorities for follow-up and action. It states that the task of eradicating colonialism remains an unfinished process requiring the sustained and determined efforts of all concerned. Many of the Territories are small islands located mostly in the Caribbean and Pacific region. The Assembly has reiterated that territorial size, geographical isolation or limited resources should not affect the inalienable right of the peoples of those Territories to self-determination and has also emphasized that it is the administering Powers' responsibility to create conditions in those Territories that would enable their peoples to exercise that inalienable right freely and without interference.
Addenda to the report contain replies received from Member States, among them: New Zealand regarding Tokelau; Saint Lucia; Spain regarding Gibraltar; Syria; and, in document A/60/71/Add.1, Argentina regarding Malvinas (Falkland Islands).
The Fourth Committee also had before it the Secretary-General's report 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 (document A/60/64). It contains a list of the agencies and institutions that were invited to submit information on their efforts to implement the relevant United Nations resolutions. Summaries of the replies received from those bodies are contained in document A/2005/47.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General's report on offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories (document A/60/67), covering the period April 2004 through March 2005. The report lists 58 Member States and one non-Member State (Holy See) that have offered to make scholarships available to inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories. From the current period, it describes offers and awards from Australia, Malaysia, Portugal, Thailand, United Kingdom and the Holy See.
According to the report, applications for scholarships received by the United Nations Secretariat are simultaneously transmitted to the offering States for consideration and to the administering Powers for information. In the period covered by the report, the Secretariat received one request from a student for information on the availability of scholarships. The student was not the inhabitant of a Non-Self-Governing Territory.
The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General's report on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter (document A/60/69).
[Under Article 73 e, Member States with responsibilities for the administration of Territories whose peoples have not yet attained self-government agree to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General information on the socio-economic and educational conditions in those Territories, other than trusteeship Territories falling under Chapters XII and XIII.]
Transmissions under Article 73 e include information on geography, history, population and socio-economic and educational conditions. In the case of Territories under the administration of New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, annual reports include information on constitutional matters. Additional information on political and constitutional developments on Tokelau is given by the representative of New Zealand during a meeting of the Special Committee. France has not submitted information under Article 73 e of the Charter. An annex to the report contains the dates of information transmitted to the Secretary-General for the years 2000 to 2005.
The Secretary-General recommends that the information received from the administering Powers be used by the Secretariat to prepare working papers for discussion by the Special Committee on decolonization at its annual session.
The Committee had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the question of Western Sahara (document A/60/116), which summarizes the reports he submitted to the Security Council from 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2004 on the matter. In his report of 20 October 2004 (document S/2004/827), the Secretary-General informed the Council that there had been no change in the position of Morocco with respect to the peace plan for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. Morocco continued to reject essential elements of the plan, but indicated its readiness to negotiate a mutually acceptable autonomy status that would allow the people of the Territory to administer their own affairs, while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of morocco. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) maintained its support for the peace plan, while the position of Algeria also remained unchanged.
By resolution 1570 (2004), adopted on 28 October, the Security Council extended the mandate of United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April and requested the Secretary-General to submit an interim report on the Mission's size and concept of operation, including options regarding possible staff reductions. The report, submitted to the Security Council on 27 January (document S/2005/49), offered two options: the first one was to maintain the status quo; the second included a reduction of 16 per cent and closing the sector headquarters, as well as a team site. The Secretary-General expressed concern that the continuation of the political deadlock, if not reversed, might lead to a deterioration of the situation and that any reduction in the size of the military component of the Mission would have a negative impact on the effective implementation of its mandate. The parties had reiterated their strong desire that the Mission's military size be increased.
In a report submitted on 19 April, the Secretary-General informed the Council that despite an improvement in the political climate in the region, there was still no agreement to overcome the deadlock between the parties and to enable the people of Western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination. The Secretary-General felt that reducing MINURSO's size would not be advisable. The Mission should, at a minimum, be maintained at its current strength and that, given the gravity of some of the ceasefire violations, consideration could be given to its strengthening. On 28 April, adopting resolution 2598 (2005), the Security Council extended the mandate of MINURSO until 31 October.
On the issue of prisoners of war and other detainees and persons unaccounted for, the Secretary-General noted that POLISARIO Front continued to hold 410 Moroccan prisoners of war, but that, according to unconfirmed reports, on 12 February two of those prisoners had escaped. He also reported on the activities of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Western Sahara.
On 6 May, the Secretary-General announced that his Special Representative to Western Sahara, Alvaro de Soto, had been appointed as United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and his Personal Representative to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority.
In his opening statement, the Chairman of the Committee, YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan), said the cause of decolonization had been one of the most defining issues of the latter part of the twentieth century. It was because of the untiring efforts of the United Nations, particularly its Special Committee on decolonization, that nearly all of the world's population today was no longer under colonial rule. It was in no small measure due to the unstinting efforts of the Special Committee, set up in 1961, that many of the 191 Member States were represented today as sovereign and independent States. As the Secretary-General had stated, "Colonialism is an anachronism." There were still 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remaining on the list. "We must continue with our common endeavour, in the spirit of cooperation among all parties involved, to bring an end to colonialism in the shortest possible time."
Introduction of Reports
FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria), Rapporteur of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, introducing the Special Committee's report contained in document A/60/23, said the current year was the mid-term point of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. In its work, the Special Committee had continued to be guided by the goals of the Decade and its Plan of Action. The Committee had conducted a review of progress made. In that connection, he drew attention to the mid-term report of the Secretary-General (documents A/60/70 and Add.1).
He said that during 2005 the Special Committee had continued to analyse developments in the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories. It had benefited from the participation of representatives from Non-Self-Governing Territories and administering Powers, as well as from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and experts. The report stressed that the role of the administering Powers towards complete decolonization in the remaining Territories could not be underestimated. The report also underlined the importance of visiting missions to the Non-Self-Governing Territories. The agenda of the 2005 seminar, held in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in May, had concentrated on the strategies for the implementation of the goals of the Second International Decade.
JULIAN R. HUNTE (Saint Lucia), Chairman of the Special Committee, said it had placed considerable emphasis on the need for the wider United Nations system to move into the implementation phase of the long-standing international mandate on self-determination and decolonization. The process of self-determination was a basic human right. The international community, however, still had some way to go in ensuring the realization of that right. The Special Committee had worked diligently to reflect the urgency of the task. It had taken a proactive approach, beginning with a mission to Bermuda. The mission had been able to engage the people of Bermuda in an interactive dialogue on the challenges faced, as they were presently engaged in a public consultation on independence.
He said the Special Committee had also conducted a dynamic Caribbean Regional Seminar in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, providing for important elaboration on the situation in the various Territories offered by representatives of the peoples themselves. Highlighting the agenda item "Implementation of the Decolonization Declaration by the Specialized Agencies and the International Institutions Associated with the United Nations", he said implementation of the actions called for in the resolutions adopted by the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly served to assist the Territories significantly in the development of their capacity to assume the responsibilities of self-government. The Special Committee looked forward to working with the Council on initiatives which would identify modalities for further integration of the Territories in the work of the United Nations technical bodies in furtherance of their capacity-building.
He said the Special Committee had heard the views of the elected leadership of the Pacific Territory of Tokelau, which was undertaking a satisfactory decolonization process. That process reflected favourably on the genuine interest of New Zealand as the administering Power, and on the fortitude and spirit of the people of Tokelau. A tailored plan devised for Tokelau was contributing significantly to the decolonization process in that Territory. A similar work plan for the remaining Territories would similarly speed up the process on a broader scale. He, therefore, strongly encouraged the other administering Powers to step up and engage the Committee in a similar process. A return to formal cooperation of the remaining administering Powers with the Special Committee -- in one case after 20 years -- would significantly accelerate decolonization in the remaining Territories.
He said the Special Committee could not -- nor should it have to -- carry out the decolonization mandate alone. That mandate was the responsibility of the entire United Nations family. A plan of implementation for the wider United Nations system had, therefore, been set forth, which would organize the actions already called for into concrete activities, in furtherance of complete decolonization by 2010. The plan sought the implementation of long-standing directives by the United Nations family and identified areas where independent expertise was crucial. It was just such a proactive approach which must be carried forth into 2006. "The challenge of implementation is formidable", he said, "but it is a challenge which I am confident we can meet, with the support of the Member States."
SIMON WILLIAMS (United Kingdom), updating the Committee on developments between the United Kingdom and its overseas Territories, said that preparations were in hand for the seventh annual meeting of the Overseas Territories Consultative Council to be held in London this month. The Council, which was the forum for dialogue between democratically elected Chief Ministers and their equivalents from the Territories and United Kingdom Government Ministers, would provide the opportunity for discussion on a range of issues, including the relationship between the United Kingdom and the overseas Territories, constitutional modernization, good governance, environmental matters and issues relating to the United Kingdom's international obligations.
He said the United Kingdom welcomed the progress that was being made in the Constitutional Review Process. There had been recent useful discussion between his country's officials and representatives of Gibraltar, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands. In St. Helena, a consultative poll had rejected a revised draft constitution, and consideration of the next step was now under way in the Territory. An Independence Commission had been set up in Bermuda to look into the implications of any move towards independence, he said. In the past year, the United Kingdom had held extensive discussions with the Commission and had provided a paper setting out its position on a number of issues. That report had now been produced and was being studied by the Government of Bermuda.
He said his Government continued to support projects in the Territories in various fields to raise local capacity and to promote sustainable development and good governance. Projects ranged from economic diversification to the reform of legislation governing child and family welfare. His country also continued to support United Kingdom overseas Territories in their efforts to strengthen relations with the European Commission. The United Kingdom had also continued its informal cooperation with the Special Committee and a visit had been made to Bermuda with a view to considering movement towards the delisting of that Territory.
XIE YUNLIANG (China) said that, over the past six decades, assisting colonial people in exercising their right to self-determination had been one of the main objectives of Member States. With the support of the United Nations, the decolonization process had gained historic achievements. It was one of the success stories of the United Nations. There were still 2 million people living in 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories. The Second Decade fully demonstrated the aspiration of Member States to bring the process to an early conclusion.
Member States had an obligation to help those people with the exercise of their right to self-determination, he said. He expected that the administering Powers would cooperate more with the Committee. Most of the Non-Self-Governing Territories were small ones with weak development. He, therefore, called on Member States and administering Powers to facilitate development there, while preserving the human and natural resources.
GRACE MUJUMA (United Republic of Tanzania) called for a redoubling of efforts to bring a speedy end to colonialism in the remaining Non-Self Governing Territories. Regional seminars continued to be a catalyst for cultivating an understanding of self-determination among the peoples of those Territories, she said. Furthermore, the dissemination of information on decolonization continued to be vital to the people in the Territories to keep them fully aware of constitutional developments and the choices ahead. The Departments of Political Affairs and Public Information had been doing a commendable job in that respect.
She said the question of Western Sahara remained unresolved and was currently at a stalemate. Resolving it on the basis of the inalienable rights of the Saharan people to self-determination was still the only option for those people. Her delegation noted with sadness the lack of progress in that area; the situation had been complicated further with the non-compliance by signatories, both Morocco and the POLISARIO Front, to the military agreement reached with the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) with regard to the ceasefire. The two parties should urgently implement the Baker Plan, and avoid any violation of the ceasefire or any acts that would hinder MINURSO in the performance of its duties.
She said her delegation remained concerned at the continued acts of violations of human rights and urged both the Saharawi Government and Morocco to release all prisoners of war and political prisoners. The efforts of the international community were needed to genuinely help the people of Western Sahara attain their long-term desire for self-determination. There were a number of challenges ahead, so that would continue to be difficult without the encouragement and practical support from the administering Powers and the international community and institutions at large.
ILEANA NUÑEZ MODROCHE (Cuba) said achievements in the decolonization process had been very limited during the last few years. It had been surprising that during the preparations for the Assembly Summit, fundamental rights such as the inalienable right of peoples to self-determination had been questioned. The Fourth Committee, which some kept trying to eliminate through the reform process, had not escaped questioning. The revitalization of the Fourth Committee must not lead to its extinction, but rather to providing it with the necessary vitality to adequately fulfil its mandate. She emphasized, in that regard, that the step of "delisting" Territories must strictly follow a real decolonization process, in which the inhabitants of the Non-Self-Governing Territories had all the guarantees and necessary information to reach an outcome that resulted from a planned, transparent and just decision.
She said the visiting missions to the Non-Self-Governing Territories were of the utmost importance in collecting first-hand information on living conditions and the economic, political and social characteristics of the inhabitants, as well as in spreading information about the self-determination options they were entitled to. The experience in Bermuda was a positive step, as it had provided Member States with insight into the real problems of the Territory. It also showed the influence of cooperation between the administering Powers, the Territory and the United Nations. As the result of another visit, there would be a very positive outcome for Tokelau. She said she noted with concern the looting and over-exploitation of the land and sea resources of the Non-Self-Governing Territories in outright violation of the letter and spirit of resolution 2621 (XXV) of the Assembly.
She said the approval of a number of resolutions that recognized the inalienable right of the Puerto Rican people to self-determination and independence was a cause for rejoicing. Decontamination and cleansing of the area occupied by the Unites States Navy on the island of Vieques and the devolution of a former shooting range to the local authorities were still pending issues. The stalling of the settlement process for the Western Sahara was a cause of deep concern; she reaffirmed her country's full support for the Saharan people's struggle against colonizers and occupants, and demanded firm action from the United Nations. Likewise, she said, Cuba offered unrestricted support for the legitimate right of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute of the Malvinas (Falkland Islands), and called for the continuation of the dialogue and cooperation between the parties. She also urged the administering Power of Guam to fully cooperate with the Committee.
TIM MCIVOR (New Zealand) said the move by Tokelau towards a decision on self-government was continuing at a steady pace. In August 2005, the authority there had taken three important decisions towards an act of self-determination. They agreed to hold a referendum on self-government on the basis of the draft constitution and treaty, enacted a set of rules for the referendum, and authorized the Council for Ongoing Government to negotiate with New Zealand a final draft of the treaty and its supporting documents. A text that sought to meet the needs of Tokelau had since been negotiated with New Zealand officials, he continued. The next step was to put the draft treaty and supporting documents before the New Zealand cabinet. Following approval, Tokelau's Referendum Commission would be in a position to set the dates for the referendum, which was expected to be held in November 2005. If the outcome was favourable, it was expected that Tokelau could become self-governing in the second quarter of 2006.
Work was already under way in Tokelau on preparations for the referendum, he said. The referendum rules set the required majority at two thirds of those voting, with voting to be on consecutive days in Apia and the three villages of Tokelau. The voting paper proposed that Tokelau become a self-governing State in free association with New Zealand on the basis of the constitution and the treaty, and invited voters to indicate their agreement with or rejection of that proposal. There was provision in the rules for observers, and it was the wish of Tokelau, supported by New Zealand, that the United Nations monitor the referendum. The Office of the Administrator had recently coordinated the publication of a booklet on Tokelau as it moved towards self-government, in particular, describing the Tokelau International Trust Fund and inviting support for the Fund from other countries and international organizations, he said.
The Administrator of Tokelau and the Director of the Office of the Council for the Ongoing Government of Tokelau had recently visited Tokyo, Paris, Brussels and London to seek contributions to the Tokelau International Trust Fund and to explore technical assistance possibilities, he continued. In addition, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had agreed to organize a donors' round-table meeting in New York for the Fund, following an act of self-determination. The delegation had also begun preliminary discussion on accession to the Cotonou Agreement and Associate Membership of the Commonwealth. Tokelau already played an active role in regional bodies and would be admitted as an observer to the Pacific Islands Forum at its next meeting in Papua New Guinea, later this month. There was much work to be done in the coming months, and Tokelau and New Zealand greatly appreciated the support and cooperation of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee, he concluded.
ASIM IFTIKHAR AHMAD (Pakistan) said that the eradication of colonialism had been and continued to be one of the main priorities of the United Nations, but the agenda was not yet complete and a number of outstanding challenges had been pointed out in the report of the Special Committee. His delegation fully supported the view of the Chairman that the second half of this Decade must be concentrated on implementation. That would entail action and cooperation at all levels -- by the peoples of the Territories, the administering Powers, the international community and the United Nations system as a whole.
It was the responsibility of the administering Powers to create conditions in the Territories that would enable their people to exercise freely and without interference their inalienable right to self-determination. Specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations must also increase their assistance to the Territories, as called for in relevant resolutions. He regretted that only some of them had been involved in providing such assistance to the Territories. Improved and effective dissemination of information must be given a higher priority, he stressed. That was vital for the peoples of the Territories not only to increase their awareness of United Nations activities, but also to understand the options regarding their political status.
Pakistan believed that there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination in the process of decolonization, he said. His country welcomed the cooperation of between New Zealand and Tokelau and the developments in New Caledonia since the signing of the 1998 Noumea Accord. He encouraged the concerned parties in the case of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and Gibraltar to undertake negotiations to find peaceful and definitive solutions. With regard to Western Sahara, Pakistan supported a negotiated peaceful settlement that provided for self-determination. Finally, he expressed his Government's support for the struggle of the Palestinian people, and its hope for peace to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. His Government remained committed to the "composite dialogue" with India, in the interest of peace and prosperity in the region.
DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa), aligning himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said his country would not have been represented in the United Nations if it had not been for the effort of the Fourth Committee. He was concerned that the Saharawi people still could not exercise their self-determination. For a number of years, the United Nations, the African Union and the rest of the international community had sought a solution that would afford the Saharawi people the possibility to freely choose, in a United Nations-supervised referendum, their own future. The peace plan, prepared by the then Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, James Baker III, had provided a fair way of addressing the matter. However, efforts to resolve the impasse had yet to be successful.
He said that the POLISARIO Front had continued to maintain its support for the peace plan, but he was concerned that Morocco had yet to accept the Baker plan unconditionally. The Security Council had confirmed in its resolution 1495 (2003) that the Baker plan was "an optimum political solution on the basis of agreement between the two parties". He was encouraged that the first phase of the exchange of family visits programmes between Western Sahara refugees in the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria had been successfully implemented. Of greater significance, however, was the recent release by the POLISARIO Front of the remaining Moroccan political prisoners. He hoped Morocco would reciprocate with releasing the remaining Saharawi prisoners.
He said he was concerned about the Amnesty International report on the arrests by Morocco of six human rights defenders in Western Sahara, some of whom had been tortured. Tragic events like that would end if Morocco were to allow a United Nations-supervised referendum to take place as suggested in the Baker plan. The Saharawi Republic was a member of the African Union, and he was pleased that more African countries had joined in recognizing their independence. He commended the role played by MINURSO, under difficult circumstances, to enforce the ceasefire agreement and finalize the identification process. Reducing the size of MINURSO would not be advisable at the current stage. The international community had a solemn responsibility to support the right of self-determination of the Saharawi people.
SAINIVALATI NAVOTI (Fiji) said that many of the Non-Self-Governing Territories were small islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific, with low population bases, held hostage by their remoteness, limited natural resources and vulnerability to natural disasters. Fiji, nevertheless, reiterated its conviction that the territorial size, isolation or limited resources should not affect the inalienable right of the peoples of those Territories to self-determination. He emphasized that it was the responsibility of the administering Power to create conditions in those Territories that would enable their people to exercise freely and without interference that inalienable right.
Fiji believed that formal and informal contacts between the Special Committee on decolonization and the administering Powers should be continued as they had proven to be valuable vehicles for improving cooperation in the development of work programmes for the decolonization of specific Territories. Fiji also continued to support the dispatch of visiting missions to the Territories and sought the full cooperation of the administering Powers in that regard. Regional seminars had also served as an effective forum for discussion, he continued, and had afforded the representatives of those Territories the opportunity to present their views and recommendations to the Special Committee.
Fiji continued to support the peace plan for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, he said, and acknowledged the efforts of New Zealand in assisting Tokelau towards taking its place among the self-governing and independent nations of the Pacific. He also noted with appreciation the continued progress made so far for the Kanak people in New Caledonia under the Matignon and Noumea Accords. The Fiji delegation was optimistic that, given the cooperation and support of all, particularly the administering Powers, progress in the implementation of the Plan of Action of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism would be achieved.
CESAR MAYORAL (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group of member States, said that, under the sponsorship of the United Nations, more than 80 million people had been able to exercise their self-determination. For that reason, the decolonization process could undoubtedly be called one of the Organization's main successes. Despite those accomplishments, there were still 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories. The Rio Group called upon the administering Powers to adopt the necessary measures for the decolonization of each of the Territories, taking into account their particular characteristics. The Group also requested the administering Powers and interested States to implement the recommendations included in the report without delay.
He said the Rio Group deemed it necessary for the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to resume negotiations to achieve, as soon as possible, a peaceful, just and definitive solution to the sovereignty dispute relating to the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), South Georgias (Georgias del Sur), and South Sandwich Islands (Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas in accordance with United Nations resolutions and statements of the Organization of American States. While congratulating the people of Tokelau with the positive progress made, he underlined the cooperation and collaboration provided by New Zealand as administering Power and invited other administering Powers to follow suit. Regarding the small island Territories in the Caribbean and Pacific, he said it was necessary to continue adopting measures to facilitate the sustainable growth of their economies in order to advance the decolonization process according to the wishes of their peoples.
The Rio Group reaffirmed the responsibility of the United Nations with regard to assure the exercise by the Saharawi people of its right to self-determination according to a just, mutually acceptable and lasting solution. The release of the last group of Moroccan prisoners of war by the POLISARIO Front constituted an important step forward. The Group requested the parties to cooperate -- in line with pertinent Security Council resolutions -- with the United Nations, and among themselves, in order to put an end to the present deadlock.
TAREK ADEL (Egypt) said that continued support must be provided to aid the peoples of the Non-Self Governing Territories and to enable people under foreign occupation to gain their independence and freedom. In order to achieve that, awareness of the activities of the United Nations in the realm of decolonization must be raised, both in the Territories and in the wider world. The effectiveness of visiting missions must also be improved, he said, as such missions were perhaps the most effective tools in the struggle to achieve decolonization. Continuing, he underlined the importance of developing terms of reference for such missions and stressed that it was essential to set firm objectives which each mission should realize.
The administering Powers should provide the Committee with comprehensive information on the political, economic and legal developments in the Territories, he said. He also emphasized that it was the responsibility of the international community to safeguard the benefits to the Territories of natural resources, to prevent those resources from being exploited, and to allow people to gain from their cultural heritage.
It would be difficult to achieve sustainable development in those Territories without the help of United Nations development projects, he said. Grants should be provided to help educate the people of the Territories so that they were commensurate with the requirements for development. He underlined the importance of holding seminars and workshops on different aspects of decolonization and following up and monitoring those activities.
HOSSEIN MALEKI (Iran) said the goal of decolonization could not be fully realized as long as the long-standing dream of self-determination of all people living in the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories and struggling for freedom from exploitation and the scourge of colonialism did not come true. The Special Committee should continue its work more actively to fulfil its responsibilities and pursue its efforts in bringing about a speedy end to colonialism. It was incumbent upon Member States to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the Committee. The solution to the problem of the colonial situation must come from the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories and not be imposed on them by the administering Powers. It was necessary to establish an official and respectful relationship between the administering Powers and the Committee.
He said raising awareness about decolonization among the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories was one of the most important options available. People in colonial lands had the right to the necessary information about the decolonization process through traditional and modern communication technologies. Meeting the needs of the inhabitants in that regard was the obligation of the administering Powers. Visiting missions to the Non-Self-Governing Territories by the Decolonization Committee were of vital importance and should aim at assessing the latest situation in those Territories.
He said military installations and activities of some administering Powers in Non-Self-Governing Territories, which ran counter to the rights and interests of the peoples concerned, and the impact of such activities on the environment, economic development and health of the population, were sources of concern. The political, economic, social and educational advancement of the Non-Self-Governing Territories were indispensable elements of the decolonization process. It was the solemn obligation of the administering Powers to promote those elements.
MARGARET HUGHES FERRARI (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), speaking for the countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said those countries were passionate about completing the unfinished business of decolonization because the issue touched them directly; seven of the 16 listed Non-Self Governing Territories were in the Caribbean region. The CARICOM continued to foster the integration of those Territories in the Caribbean community, and the Territories were members of several regional organizations. The elevation of these Territories from political dependency to full self-government was in the interest of the Caribbean region and the hemisphere.
While some progress had been made in recent years, significant impediments remained to the realization of the universal right to self-determination, she continued. Those obstacles, in large measure, could be traced to insufficient information available to both the Territories and Member States alike. The people of the Territories remained, in large measure, unaware of the legitimate political options available to them. Similarly, information provided to Member States through official United Nations reports did not provide the necessary analytical insight on the dynamics of the contemporary dependency arrangements of the "new millennium colonialism".
Much of this information deficit was due to the incomplete implementation of successive plans of action of the International Decade(s) for the Eradication of Colonialism dating back to 1990. Expert analysis called for in the plan of action of the Second International Decade on the dynamic of the present-day colonial arrangements remained undone, and political education programmes in the Territories were too narrow in scope, or non-existent. On the issue of decolonization, the international community could and should do better, and the legitimization of modern-day colonial dependency should not be acceptable. For real constitutional and political advancement to occur, she said, the people required sustained and unbiased information on their legitimate options of political equality.
ROBERT GUBA AISI (Papua New Guinea) said that halfway through the Second Decade, few Non-Self-Governing Territories could envisage a process to fulfil their right to self-determination. One tended to forget that many Member States were born out of the Committee's efforts; the history of the Committee remained a part of a proud history. He acknowledged in that regard the cooperation of the administering Powers with the Special Committee.
An example of the work of the Committee was the real and steady progress that had been made in Tokelau, he said. Much work had been accomplished, including matters of an administrative and legislative nature. The establishment and maintenance of the Tokelau Trust Fund continued. He announced that Tokelau would be granted observer status to the upcoming meeting of the Pacific Island Forum to be held in his country. Commending Tokelau and New Zealand for their outstanding efforts, he expressed the hope that the achieved progress in Tokelau would become a beacon for other processes of self-determination. He also acknowledged progress made in the case of Bermuda.
Right of Reply
SIMON WILLIAMS (United Kingdom), replying to remarks made by the representatives of Argentina, Cuba and Pakistan, said that the United Kingdom's position on the Falkland Islands was well known and was last set out in a written right of reply to the President of Argentina in the plenary of General Assembly on 14 September 2005. There were no doubts about the United Kingdom's sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, and there would be no discussion over that sovereignty until such a time when the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands requested it.
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