Press Releases

    13 February 2002


    Freely Expressed Wishes of Territorial Peoples Must be Heeded

    NEW YORK, 12 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the opening remarks by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to the Special Committee of 24 on decolonization at the opening of its 2002 session in New York:

    I am pleased to join you as you begin your deliberations for 2002.

    Since 1961, the Committee of 24 has played a central role in keeping the principle of self-determination on the agenda of the United Nations.

    In May, East Timor will join the ranks of sovereign States, ending a long period of suffering and marking another major achievement of the decolonization movement, which brought about one of the signal transformations of the twentieth century.

    This Committee will continue to review the political, social and economic situation in the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, paving the way for General Assembly resolutions aimed at protecting the interests of the peoples of these Territories.

    This Committee has also sought to remind both the administering Powers and the territorial peoples that Non-Self-Governing Territories can be said to have reached a full measure of self-government if one of three options have been achieved -- free association, integration or independence -– and that none of these options is to be imposed, but rather must be the result of the freely expressed wishes of the territorial peoples, as envisaged in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV).

    I hope that the administering Powers will respond to the efforts of the Committee to find creative and constructive ways to address the long-standing issue of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories. I urge them to move forward in finding appropriate arrangements with the full participation of the people of each Territory. This is an opportunity that should not be missed.

    In recent years, the Committee has tried to open new doors, to engage all the administering Powers in a practical dialogue on the future of the Territories. It has called for programmes of work to be established so that each Territory can freely determine its political status and pursue its economic, social and cultural development.

    I hope that in this new century it will be possible to close, once and for all, and in accordance with the principle of the 1960 Declaration and all relevant resolutions, a chapter that truly belongs to a previous era.

    In that spirit, I wish the Committee every success in the year ahead. Thank you very much.

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