The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation concluded its 2008 session with strong calls for a major re-vamping of the Committee’s methods of work, and the implementation by the United Nations system of the activities it has been directed by the General Assembly to carry out over the last two decades, but have inexplicably been permitted by the member states to ignore. The following excerpts from the United Nations press release provide some insight on the closing session. These excerpts are followed by the verbatim closing statement of the Representative of St. Lucia.
A political analysis of the results of the 2008 session including an assessment of the Pacific Regional Seminar held in Indonesia, and of the main resolutions adopted by the Special Committee is forthcoming.
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Special Committee on Decolonization
11th Meeting (AM)
Excerpts from United Nations Press Release
CONCLUDING SESSION, SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION APPROVES TWO TEXTS
ON NEW CALEDONIA, TOKELAU; HEARS APPEALS TO HEED CRITICISM OF ITS WORK
At the conclusion of the meeting, several speakers noted that the Special Committee had heard a number of criticisms from representatives and petitioners from Non-Self-Governing Territories. The representative of the Congo warned that the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2001–2010) would end without any substantial progress and that, while decolonization had been one of the Organization’s great success stories, the situation of the 16 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories could become the Achilles heel of that success.
The 2008 session had been an important wake-up call, Saint Lucia’s representative said, cautioning that the critics of the Committee’s work should be seriously taken into account. Unless the criticism was addressed in earnest, the very future of the decolonization process would be in jeopardy, and that was unacceptable.
In his closing remarks, Committee Chairman Marty M. Natalegawa of Indonesia said that the Special Committee’s work in the area of decolonization must focus on tangible results for the benefit of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. Various constructive feedback and even concerns expressed by many stakeholders should also be taken into account. Only two and a half years remained of the Second International Decade. That highlighted the urgency of giving all possible help to the Non-Self-Governing Territories in establishing conditions that would enable them to demonstrate their will on the issue of their respective status through a valid, internationally recognized act of self-determination.
If there was one conclusion one could draw from the session, he said, it was surely that the Special Committee had to strive to find new, more proactive ways of going about its important work -– through improved cooperation with administering Powers and in full recognition of the aspirations and interests of the people and Governments of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, on a case-by-case basis.
LUC JOSPEH OKIO (Congo) said he had been following the Committee’s work for some six years and had participated in seminars and visiting missions, during which he had had the chance to listen to and learn of the pain and despair of the people in non-self-governing territories, their expectations of the Committee and the United Nations, and sometimes their disappointment. For some time now, he had started to wonder about his responsibility, his country’s and the Committee’s, especially as representatives and petitioners from non-self-governing territories had stepped up their criticism of the Committee.
He said that the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2001–2010) would end without any substantial progress. While decolonization had been one of the great success stories, the situation of the 16 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories could become the Achilles heel of that success. He had not lost hope that the Special Committee, together with the administering Powers, would be able to come up with the necessary resources to fulfil its mandate. As long as the right to self-determination was considered a basic human right, colonialism would be considered an anachronism.
MICHELLE JOSEPH ( Saint Lucia) welcomed the achievements in Tokelau and expressed appreciation for the support of the administering Power. Her delegation was aware of the complexities of the Special Committee’s role and the difficulties it encountered, however, it appeared that the 2008 session had been an important wake-up call. The Committee had heard a number of criticisms over the lack of implementation of the decolonization mandate. Recognizing that the Committee could not do it alone, she had to say that there were specific activities that it had not carried out sufficiently since the First Decade to Eradicate Colonialism, which had begun in 1992. The critics of the Committee’s work should be seriously taken into account. Unless the criticism was addressed in earnest, the very future of the decolonization process would be in jeopardy, and that was unacceptable.
She said that the plan of the implementation of the decolonization mandate had been recognized by the General Assembly as an important legislative authority for the attainment of self-determination by the Non-Self-Governing Territories by 2010. However, the plan had gone largely ignored. Further, development of the case-by-case plan for each Territory had not been initiated. There was also a provision for special procedures through independent expertise to undertake analytical work, but based on the budgetary considerations, that work had also not been undertaken. Special procedures might be accommodated through existing resources, but no programme budget implication had been undertaken in that regard.
The present mechanism could not lead to implementation of the decolonization mandate and it appeared to be too inflexible, she said. The Special Committee needed to seriously examine that situation, with the aim of changing it. Decolonization was now at a critical stage, two short years before the end of the Second Decade. The time had come for the Committee to regroup along the lines that the General Assembly had provided.
Concluding the 2008 session, Chairman of the Special Committee, MARTY M. NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia), underlined his firm belief that the Special Committee’s work in the area of decolonization must focus on tangible results for the benefit of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. The Committee had a responsibility to do everything possible, with a view to achieving real progress towards complete eradication of colonialism in application of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, subsequent General Assembly resolutions and the principles and provisions of the Charter. Various constructive feedback, and the concerns expressed by many stakeholders, should also be taken into account. Only two and a half years remained of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. That highlighted the urgency of giving all possible help to Non-Self-Governing Territories in establishing conditions that would enable them to demonstrate their will on the issue of their respective status through a valid, internationally recognized act of self-determination.
The Special Committee, for its part, through the so-called “omnibus” resolution dealing with 11 of the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories, had asked the Secretary-General to report to the Assembly’s sixty-fourth session on the implementation of the decolonization resolutions adopted in connection with the First and Second Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism. In contributing to that report, Member States would have the occasion to take stock of the support given to Non-Self-Governing Territories in their quest for decolonization. That exercise would afford the opportunity to review those efforts and chart the way forward. In that connection, he also noted the efforts by the Special Committee in its work on the omnibus resolution this year, which had been crafted to encourage an action-oriented approach on each of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, with a view to facilitating a comparative understanding of where each of the Territories stood on the path to decolonization. Additionally, throughout the session, the Committee had endorsed 10 other resolutions, three reports and would submit all relevant information and documents to the Assembly for its consideration through the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization).
Much preparatory work had laid the foundation for the Committee’s 2008 substantive session, he added. He would particularly like to express the Committee’s gratitude for the working papers prepared by the Secretariat, as well as the efforts that had gone into the Pacific regional seminar in Bandung, Indonesia, in May. If there was one conclusion one could draw from the session, it would surely be that the Special Committee had to strive to find new, more proactive ways of going about its important work -– through improved cooperation with administering Powers and in full recognition of the aspirations and interests of the people and Governments of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, on a case-by-case basis.
The Statement of the Representative of St. Lucia summed up the concerns which had been increasingly expressed for a number of years by territorial governments, several member states and non governmental organisations over the lack of implementation of the decolonisation mandate of the United Nations. The St. Lucia statement is re-printed below:
Statement at the Closing of the 2008 Session
of the Special Committee on Decolonisation
I wish to express my delegation’s appreciation for your efforts during this 2008 session of the Special Committee on Decolonization. As former chairman of this committee on two separate occasions, my delegation is well acquainted with the complexities of the Committee’s role in decolonization process, and the difficulties routinely encountered in agreeing to proactive solutions to the matters before us.
In this connection, it appears that the 2008 session has provided us with an important “wake up call.” We have heard detailed critiques of our method of work made by a number of territorial governmental and non-governmental representatives which have repeated long-held criticisms over the lack of implementation of the decolonization mandate. While we recognize that this committee cannot do it all alone, it nevertheless has very specific activities given it by the General Assembly which it has not carried out sufficiently since the first International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism which began in 1992.
The distinguished representative of the Congo made the point that the critiques of the work of this committee should seriously be taken into account in our future work. St. Lucia would argue further that unless these criticisms are actually addressed, in earnest, the very future of the decolonization process is in jeopardy. As a member state which itself emerged from colonialism, this is unacceptable.
At the Organizational Session of this Committee last February, my delegation recalled that the Plan of Implementation for the Decolonisation Mandate introduced several years ago was recognised by the General Assembly as “an important legislative authority for the attainment of self-government for the territories by the end of 2010.” We pointed out, however, that this Plan had gone largely ignored, especially the studies and analyses on the evolution of self-government in each territory.
Further, the development of the case-by-case work plan for each territory has not been initiated, whilst we still await the backlog of reports on the implementation of decolonisation resolutions mandated by the General Assembly each year.
The POI also made provision for the use of special procedures through independent expertise to undertake the analytical work which had been neglected for over a decade. These special procedures were not undertaken, reportedly based on budgetary considerations. As in the case of many new proposals in the UN system, however, special procedures may be accommodated within existing resources. But since no PBI was requested, the true budgetary implications, if any, were never determined, and the proposal died.
We wish to be clear. Time has shown that the present mechanisms servicing this committee cannot implement the decolonisation mandate, and appear too in-flexible to engage internal and external assistance. Thus, this committee needs to seriously re-examine these mechanisms, and give effect to the required changes contained in the Plan of Implementation and the other innovative measures which have been introduced, and in some cases, adopted by the General Assembly.
We are at a critical stage in the process, two short years before the end of the Second Decade on the Eradication of Colonialism. We no longer have the luxury of time and delay. The repetition of process has not yielded significant results. It is time for this committee to re-group along the lines which the General Assembly has provided it.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.