12 October 2008

Caribbean Calls for Implementation of UN Decolonisation Mandate

In a powerful presentation to the United Nations Special Political and Decolonisation (Fourth) Committee on behalf of the fourteen UN member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Dominica Ambassador H.E. Crispen Gregoire forcefully called for the UN system to carry out its responsibilities to implement the longstanding decolonisation mandate.

The analytical assessment by CARICOM on the extent of UN performance in fulfilling its decolonisation obligations brought to light the significant deficiencies in implementation of the resolutions adopted annually by UN member states. The CARICOM statement comes seven years into the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. OTR will publish an analysis of the Fourth Committee session upon its conclusion. Meanwhile, the complete text of the CARICOM presentation, reprinted below, is is essential reading.

Statement by H.E. Mr. Crispin S. Gregoire
Permanent Representative of Dominica to the United Nations

on behalf of The Caribbean Community (CARICOM)

to the Special Political and Decolonisation Committee (Fourth Committee)

on the Implementation of the Decolonisation Declaration

63rd Session
United Nations General Assembly
New York
9 October 2008

Mr. Chairman,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and wish to congratulate you and the other members of the Bureau, on your election to lead the work of this Committee for the 63rd Session.

Mr. Chairman,

CARICOM states remain seized on promoting efforts to resolve the stalemate in the decolonisation process. This is especially the case for the small island territories in the Caribbean, as well as in the Pacific. It is disappointing that as we enter the final two years of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, we appear no closer to finding a comprehensive solution to this dilemma. The completion of the “unfinished business” of decolonisation continues to elude us thus far into the 21st Century.

It has been written that “justice delayed, is justice denied.” Yet, there is a clear and inordinate delay in the self-determination process for the people of the small territories who rely on the United Nations Charter, human rights conventions and customary international law as the underpinning for their achievement of a status with full political equality. To this end, annual statements of support are delivered annually in this Committee, and in other U.N. bodies, confirming the applicability of the principles of self-determination and decolonisation to these remaining territories, consistent with the United Nations Charter. It is, however, the lack of implementation of measures adopted by the General Assembly to give substance to these principles that remains the most fundamental impediment to the realisation of decolonisation.

Mr. Chairman,

A number of proposals have been made over the last two decades designed to invigorate the decolonisation process. If they had been implemented, we would be having a very different discussion on this issue today. Such proposals, originating from member States and from the territories themselves, were meant to address the critical need for innovative measures to give effect to decolonisation, as contained in resolutions emerging from this Fourth Committee. A few of these proposed activities are noteworthy:

• A proposal was adopted in decolonisation regional seminars as far back as the 1990s, and into the first half of this decade, for the establishment of an expert group to examine the conditions in the territories. This was not seriously considered.

• The plan of action of the First and Second International Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism required analytical studies on political and constitutional developments on the ground in the territories. This research has been stubbornly resisted for almost two decades, and only basic statistical and other general information is provided to member states upon which to deliberate.

• The General Assembly adopted in Resolution 61/130 a Plan of Implementation of the Decolonisation Mandate (A/60/853) which organized all of the actions already endorsed by the General Assembly to be undertaken by the wider U.N. system. The plan was also to establish Special Mechanisms designed to monitor U.N. system and member State compliance with the decolonisation mandate. Further, it was to present expert analysis on the small territories through an interactive format similar to the procedure used in the Third Committee on human rights issues. The Plan of Implementation was curiously resisted on budgetary grounds even as a PBI was never requested.

• A case-by-case analysis of each territory was adopted by the General Assembly, but has never been full operationalised.

Mr. Chairman,

These are but a sampling of innovative measures proposed over the years but never implemented, either because of lack of cooperation by administering powers or resistance from the United Nations Secretariat. Is it not surprising that the ability of member States to effect real decolonisation is limited to these annual expressions of support for decolonisation principles? This cannot be our only action, and adoption of repetitive resolutions without regard for whether they have been implemented merely serves to give credence to the perception of powerlessness.

In this regard, CARICOM reiterates its endorsement of Special Mechanisms, as contained in the Plan of Implementation, as suitable means to undertake important elements of the substantive work on decolonisation which has gone ignored far too long. We request that the potential budgetary implications of this aspect of the Plan of Implementation, already adopted by the General Assembly, be accurately assessed and the necessary adjustments made accordingly.

CARICOM also endorses the decisions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at its Seventh Session last May which recommended that an expert seminar be held to examine the impact of the United Nations decolonisation process on indigenous peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories with participation by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Special Committee on Decolonisation and relevant special rapporteurs.

The Permanent Forum also called for the United Nations Human Rights Council to designate a Special Rapporteur on the situation of indigenous peoples of the territories.

Mr. Chairman,

The intensity with which CARICOM regards this issue is precisely because the Caribbean territories are integral to our own wider regional integration process. Six of the seven non self-governing territories in the Caribbean are either associate or full members of CARICOM, and three are similarly a part of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). They all participate in institutions such as the Caribbean Development Bank, the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Caribbean Disaster Preparedness Response Agency (CDERA), among others. Several territories also share the Eastern Caribbean currency with independent states of the region. The people of these territories are in and of the Caribbean, and our interest in their political, economic and constitutional evolution is a logical consequence.

Accordingly, CARICOM has always sought to encourage the economic and social advancement of these territories as they proceed through the growing pains of colonial reform to the realisation of real self-government through absolute political equality. To this end, CARICOM has always sought to give substance to their concerns on the pace and nature of their political advancement, as they have expressed at the Special Committee on Decolonisation, the regional decolonisation seminars, the human rights bodies in Geneva and before this Fourth Committee. We take seriously their continued apprehension over the persistence of significant ‘democratic deficiencies’ which characterize the political dependency arrangements impeding them from exercising full self-government, and their concerns regarding the inconsistency of United Nations implementation of the mandates designed to foster their decolonisation.

In this connection, the Twenty-Ninth Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM held in Antigua and Barbuda last August “expressed their deep disappointment” for the denial of the request of the Government of Montserrat for an entrustment from its administering power, the United Kingdom, which would enable the territory to participate in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, and called for reconsideration of that denial.

CARICOM also takes note of the consideration of the Authority of the Organisation Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) which met in St. Lucia last May which considered an expert recommendation that “the most effective solution to the constitutional challenges facing the (Caribbean territories) would be constitutional advancement which would enable them to sign and ratify OECS Treaties on their own without having to depend on that authority being delegated” by the administering power.

CARICOM further takes into account the 46th Meeting of the Authority of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) held in my own country, Dominica, last January which “welcomed the information that approval has now been granted by the United States authorities for the establishment of the OECS Representation Office in Puerto Rico” that will help to advance cooperation in trade and investment, agriculture and fisheries, health, education, sports, tourism, information technology, security, disaster management and the environment.

Mr. Chairman,

Most of the Caribbean and Pacific territories are associate members of the regional economic commissions of the United Nations, and have participated in selected U.N. world conferences and special sessions of the General Assembly. This is a natural evolution of the self-determination process, and serves as a fundamental preparatory process for the attainment of full self-government. To this end, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) have welcomed initiatives to review possible inclusion of these territories in relevant technical programmes of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). CARICOM reiterates its endorsement of this approach, and welcomes the work already undertaken by a regional expert for the Caribbean Subregional Headquarters of ECLAC in identifying the areas of potential participation for these territories in the wider United Nations system.

CARICOM continues to commend the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for its inclusion of most of the Caribbean territories in UNDP regional programmes, and in having providing regional experts to special U.N. missions to several Caribbean territories.

Mr. Chairman,

CARICOM continues to reaffirm its support for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, which we believe is the only answer for the resolution of the situation in this last colonial territory on the African continent. We are concerned about the growing violations of human rights perpetrated against the Saharawi people and urge the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights(OHCHR) to publish its findings on these human rights violations against the Saharawi people as soon as possible.

CARICOM acknowledges the work of the Secretary General and his Personal Envoy in bringing Morocco and Frente Polisario together for substantive dialogue on the outstanding issues with the aim of finding a just and final settlement. CARICOM strongly supports the Manhasset negotiation process consistent with Security Council Resolution 1754 (2007) and encourages the Secretary-General to continue his efforts to advance the process leading to a political solution which guarantees the right of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara consistent with relevant United Nations resolutions and legal opinions of the International Court of Justice.

In closing, Mr. Chairman,

The Fourth Committee must redouble its efforts to ensure that the United Nations system carries out its responsibilities to implement the decolonisation mandate adopted by the General Assembly to ensure that the fundamental human right of self-determination, and subsequent decolonisation of the remaining territories is expeditiously achieved. The full measure of self-government, continually reaffirmed by the General Assembly as political independence, free association with an independent state, or integration with an independent state, is achievable and verifiable, but only if the political will of this body is carried out in earnest.

This unfinished business of the United Nations has been allowed to stagnate for far too long.

I thank you.

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