Press Releases

    2 May 2002

    General Assembly Decides to Remove East Timor from List Of Non-Self-Governing Territories Upon Independence, Set for 20 May

    Assembly Also Sets Dates for September General Debate

    NEW YORK, 1 May (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly decided this afternoon to remove East Timor from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories upon its accession to independence. In doing so, it took note of the recommendation by the Constituent Assembly of East Timor that 20 May be the date for the official transfer of the powers of sovereignty from the United Nations to the East Timorese Government.

    The Assembly's action was taken by its adoption, without a vote, of a resolution recommended by the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (Special Committee on decolonization).

    [The last time a Non-Self-Governing Territory was removed from the list was in 1990, when Namibia became a Member of the United Nations and the United Nations Council for Namibia was dissolved. Apart from East Timor, the Non-Self-Governing Territories are currently: American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands/Malvinas, Gibraltar, Guam, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States Virgin Islands, and Western Sahara. The administering Powers are: France, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States.]

    The representative of Papua New Guinea made some general comments on the report of the Special Committee on decolonization. He said that after 20 May, members of the Assembly would look forward to the next stage -- welcoming East Timor as one of them, as an equal and sovereign Member State. When passed, the draft resolution before the Assembly would end the mandate of the Special Committee over one of the remaining 17 Non-Self Governing Territories. It would send a very strong message to all administering Powers that there was a transparent process, in which all Territories on the United Nations Decolonization List must be dealt with and that no administering Power might pass its own legislation or do as it pleased with any Territory or group of Territories.

    That transparent process involved the development of work programmes on a case-by-case basis for each Territory, in cooperation between the Special Committee, the administering Powers and the people of the Territory, taking into account all relevant issues and circumstances, he continued. The Committee oversee a proper administration for each of the Territories, up to and including the date of its removal from the List. The administering Powers could not bypass the Special Committee.

    In conclusion, he described recent efforts of the Special Committee to arrive at possible elements for work programmes for small Territories in the Caribbean and Pacific regions and called on all administering Powers, especially the bigger ones -- United States, United Kingdom and France -- to continue to fully cooperate with the Special Committee of 24 in its activities.

    In other matters, the Assembly decided to hold an eight-day general debate at its fifty-seventh session, from Thursday, 12 September, to Sunday, 15 September, and from Tuesday, 17 September, to Friday, 20 September. According to the decision, adopted without a vote, arrangements made for

    that debate, including a voluntary time limit of up to 15 minutes for each statement, shall in no way create precedent for the general debate at future sessions.

    In explanation of the vote, the representative of Cuba said he would have preferred that the general debate would be held during the 10 customary dates without a time limit on statements. However, he understood that speakers would not be interrupted. He also trusted that today's decision would not set a precedent.

    Adopting, without a vote, a resolution submitted by its President, the Assembly invited the President of the Economic and Social Council, the Chairman of the Information and Communication Technologies Task Force, the Chairman of the Digital Opportunities Task Force, and the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union to make statements at the first plenary meeting of the meeting of the General Assembly devoted to information and communication technologies for development, which will be held on 17 and 18 June.

    Also without a vote, the Assembly appointed, on its President's recommendation, Even Francisco Fontaine Ortiz (Cuba), Tang Guanting (China), Victor Vislykh (Russian Federation), Deborah Wynes (United States), and Muhammad Yussuf (United Republic of Tanzania) as members of the Joint Inspection Unit for a five-year term beginning on 1 January 2003.

    Finally, the Assembly was informed that the President of the Republic of Korea, who was to have been co-chair for one of the three interactive round tables during the special session on children (8 to 10 May in New York) would not be able to attend and agreed that the Prime Minister of Nepal would be co-chair in his stead.

    The General Assembly will meet again at a date to be announced in the Journal.

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