17 October 2013

U.N. General Assembly Fourth Committee adopts 2013 decolonisation resolutions

The administering powers which administer most of the remaining territories worldwide, continue their pattern of voting against U.N. decolonisation resolutions. 


General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
Fourth Committee
8th Meeting (AM)


Reiterating its conviction of the need for the eradication of colonialism, the Fourth Committee today concluded its annual consideration of the question of decolonization, and forwarded 11 draft resolutions to the General Assembly, six of them approved without a vote.

Continuing its tradition, the Committee approved by consensus its omnibus draft resolution on Questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.

That text would have the General Assembly reaffirm that, in the process of decolonization, there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which was also a fundamental human right, as recognized under the relevant human rights conventions. 

In a series of provisions concerning the administering Powers of the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories on the United Nations list, the Assembly would reaffirm those Governments’ responsibility to promote the Territories’ economic and social development and take all measures necessary to protect their environments.  The Assembly would call on the administering Powers to participate in and cooperate fully with the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization.

Speaking in explanation of position after the text’s approval, the question was raised about the application of principles other than that of self-determination to the Territories.  The representative of Spain said that although the delegation had joined the consensus on the draft because it supported the right to free self-determination, the principle of territorial integrity should also be applied in some cases, such as in that of Gibraltar.

Also speaking on that draft was Argentina’s representative, who expressed support for the right of self-determination in the Territories as outlined in the omnibus draft resolution, but, drawing attention to General Assembly resolution 1514 (1960), said that the principle of self-determination was only one of two guiding tenets applicable to Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The question of the Malvinas* was a “special and particular” case, whereby the territorial integrity principle, as established by numerous General Assembly resolutions, was also to be considered.

Also speaking in explanation after passage of the draft was the representative of the United Kingdom, called the approach of the Decolonization Committee “outdated” because it failed to take into account how the relationship between the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories had modernized.  Also, he added, the United Kingdom did not accept the assertion that the people of Gibraltar did not have the right to self-determination.

The Committee also approved without a vote a draft resolution on French Polynesia — reinstated just this year on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  By its terms, the General Assembly would reaffirm the inalienable right of the people of French Polynesia to self-determination and also recognize the significant health and environmental impacts of nuclear testing conducted by the administering Power in the Territory over a 31-year period.

Other draft resolutions approved without a vote today included three more on specific territories — New Caledonia, Tokelau, and Western Sahara, as well as a fourth draft text on study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  A draft decision on Gibraltar would be considered at a later date.

Requiring a recorded vote was a draft resolution on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories, which would stress the importance of timely transmission of adequate information relating to the Territories by the administering Powers.  A decision was taken to forward it to the General Assembly, by a vote of 149 in favour to none against, with 4 abstentions (Israel, Rwanda, United Kingdom, United States).

By a recorded vote of 107 in favour to none against, with 51 abstentions, the Committee approved a draft resolution on the 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.  
A text on dissemination of information on decolonization was approved by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 3 against ( Israel, United Kingdom, United States) with no abstentions.

Also requiring recorded votes were resolutions on economic and other activities affecting the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories — 153 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (Rwanda, United Kingdom);

and on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples158 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with no abstentions.

Prior to action, the Committee also heard from several delegates as its general debate on decolonization concluded.  Broadly speaking, the representative of Algeria said that the “pretexts and red herrings” used by the occupying Powers must be denied.  Concerning Western Sahara, it was pointless to hide the national aspirations of the Saharan people.  The United Nations, he added, must engage them in a genuine exercise of self-determination.

The representative of Morocco stated that a tiny minority persisted in seeing the Western Sahara issue through its own fantasies rather than through historic facts.  Morocco’s autonomy initiative represented a historic compromise with “a win-win focus” and was still on the negotiating table. 

Also participating in the discussion were representatives of South Africa, Viet Nam, and Palau.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Spain, United Kingdom, Argentina, India, and Pakistan.

The representative of the European Union delivered a general statement ahead of action on the Western Sahara text.


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