13 February 2003

Secretary-General Calls on Administering Powers, Special Committee to Reinvigorate Decolonization Process

NEW YORK, 12 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks today by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the opening meeting of the Special Committee on decolonization:

I am pleased to be with you as you open your 2003 session. An important agenda remains before this Committee.

Last year, we experienced the satisfaction of seeing Timor-Leste, a former Non-Self-Governing Territory, take its place in the United Nations as a sovereign nation. And for many years before that, the East Timorese were able to use this Special Committee as an important international forum in which to voice their aspirations.

As you embark on this new session, you will continue to base your work on the principles of the United Nations Charter and General Assembly resolutions 1514 and 1541, containing the Declaration on Decolonization. As these documents establish, Non-Self-Governing Territories can exercise a full measure of self-government through one of three options: free association, integration with another State, or independence. It is essential that the choice be the result of the freely expressed wishes of the territorial peoples.

I trust that at this session you will continue to seek appropriate arrangements for the remaining 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Let me, in this context, emphasize the importance of productive cooperation between the Special Committee and the administering Powers. We should recall that, at the inception of the United Nations, the administering Powers undertook the obligation under the Charter to bring the Territories under their administration to an appropriate level of self-government. Since its creation, the Special Committee's main goal has been to assist and expedite this process.

Since that time, many of the 16 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories have made considerable progress towards self-government by developing their constitutional, political, and economic systems. In recent years, the Special Committee has endeavoured to engage the administering Powers in a transparent and creative dialogue on the future of the Territories -- each of which has a unique set of circumstances and characteristics. It has sought to establish case-by-case programmes of work, with the full participation of the peoples of the Territories, so as to promote their political, economic and social development and to determine the status of each Territory in the context of decolonization.

I am pleased to note that progress has been made in establishing a programme of work for Tokelau, and that the Government of New Zealand and the people of the Territory provided full cooperation to the United Nations mission that visited Tokelau in August 2002.

Today, I call upon all the administering Powers and the Special Committee to work together in the search for innovative and practical ways to reinvigorate the decolonization process and enable us to close this unfinished chapter in history. I stand ready to provide any necessary support and assistance in this undertaking. In that spirit, I wish the Special Committee every success in the year ahead.

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