30 October 2009

The Virgin Islands and the United Nations – What’s the Connection?



26 OCTOBER 2009

As President of the United Nations Association of the Virgin Islands, I welcome you to this, our first event on St. Croix, the largest and most populous of the Virgin Islands.

I regret that I cannot be with you in person, but I have chosen a jury today in the Superior Court on St. Thomas for a criminal trial which begins first thing tomorrow morning.

An appreciation of the relationship between the United Nations and the U.S. Virgin Islands, indeed, the very fact that there is such a relationship, is something that can be very helpful as we confront the circumstances and problems of our social, economic and political life. 

This relationship comes from a number of sources. One source is the Constitution of the United States: Article 6 lists treaties made under the authority of the United States as included in the “supreme Law of the Land” and the United States is a party to several relevant treaties, including the United Nations Charter itself, and the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

A second set of sources are the UN Charter and the Declaration themselves, together with certain resolutions adopted by the General Assembly of the UN pursuant to its Charter. And then there are principles of international law, which deal with the relationships among nations and between nations and other entities, such as non-self-governing territories or, as they used to be called, colonies. The United States has identified these Virgin Islands as such a non-self-governing territory which is subject to the principles of international law.

I mention these technical matters to show that the relationship between the UN and the US Virgin Islands is not a matter of opinion, it is a matter of law and of fact. Because it is a matter of law and of fact, information about it needs to be more widely known and its implications more clearly understood.

The identity of the US Virgin Islands as a non-self-governing territory has implications for, among other things, the writing of a constitution for the territory, a thorough analysis of the Diageo contract, the Virgin Islands Park system, support for the preservation and strengthening of Virgin Islands culture, and the limited manner in which these Virgin Islands are allowed to participate in various programs by the U.S. Congress.

But perhaps the most important reason why this information needs to be widely known and understood is for the impact that it is likely to have on the outlook and vision of the people of these Virgin Islands. In this regard, I have asked UNAVI’s Secretary General, Dr. Corbin, to make available copies of a presentation which I made as part of a panel organized by the V.I. Humanities Council in 2005, which speaks to issues of political consciousness, identity and self-esteem.

Once again, I welcome you to what I hope to be only the first of the contributions of UNAVI to increased knowledge and discussion on these topics on St. Croix.






In 1916, the Afro-Caribbean inhabitants of the Danish West Indies were not citizens of Denmark; they were subjects of the Danish Crown. When the USA purchased the islands in 1917, neither of the parties involved, which of course did not include these inhabitants, saw any reason to clarify their status.

The treaty of cession simply said that Congress would determine their status and civil rights, without stipulating when that would occur. Interestingly enough, although the treaty provided that Danish citizens residing in the islands who did not elect to preserve their Danish citizenship would become citizens of the USA, the executive branch of the USA government held that such persons became non-citizen U.S. nationals, and not citizens.

The question that I expect has leapt into many minds is - what in the world is a non-citizen US national? Either you are a citizen or you are an alien, right? Actually, no; that is not correct.

Colonial powers seldom gave their colonized populations a status equal to that of their home populations, and as of 1899, when the USA took ownership of Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines from Spain, it had become a colonial power. In modern monarchies, the distinction is often made as between citizens and subjects; in non-monarchical states, such as democracies.

The distinction is most often stated as citizens as opposed to non-citizen nationals. Both citizens and non-citizen nationals owe allegiance to the country which has sovereignty over them, but a citizen is entitled to full civil rights and a non-citizen national is not.

This was important in the first ten years of US ownership of the US Virgin Islands. Although persons born in a territory under US sovereignty had previously obtained US citizenship at birth, persons who were born in the US Virgin Islands of parents who were non-citizen nationals of the USA, did not obtain citizenship by birth; their status was restricted to that of their parents.

All of that changed in 1927, when federal law in essence made US citizens of all US Virgin Islanders who were US non-citizen nationals. However, that citizenship was akin to naturalization, in that it was a status awarded by law and not one acquired as of right. That citizenship became effective by law on 5 February 1927 and could have been eliminated by law for persons born after such a revocation. It was not until the Nationality Act of 1940 that persons born in the US Virgin Islands became US citizens at birth in the same way as persons born in the U.S. itself.

The Nationality Act accomplished this by defining the United States to include Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, but only for the purposes of nationality; it did not "incorporate" either territory into the US. In fact six years later, in 1946, the USA placed both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands on the UN list of non-self-governing territories - the list of colonies.


From the mid-1800s, after the sugar economy bottomed out and its economic heyday as a Danish colony had passed, the Danish West Indies became anxious to be associated with the rising economic power of the hemisphere - the United States of America. The USA was interested, but two possible sales had already fallen through when the possible German threat to the Panama Canal in what came to be known as World War 1 clinched the deal.

The impetus for the acquisition on the part of the US was military and economic, the fact that the territory was inhabited was an asset only in that it meant that labor was available if needed. The fact that the territory was not considered to be a future part of the US is clearly shown in the treaty provisions that both left it outside of the U.S. customs zone and exempted it from the Jones Act requirement that only US ships can carry passengers or freight between U.S. ports. With respect to these laws, the ports of the US Virgin Islands are not considered to be US ports.

Given the history and current status of the relationship between the USA and the USVI, the angst exhibited by many over the differences in the US treatment of the USVI and of its 50 constituent states is entirely misplaced. In my view, the analysis of those who decry the disparities is generally faulty:

Either they assume that the US Virgin Islands is a part of the USA, which it is not in either domestic or international law, or they mistake rights obtained through residence in one of the 50 states as rights of national citizenship,or they make both the false assumption and the mistake.


Probably because it began at an earlier time and developed within a monarchy, British colonial policy made the distinction between what we now call the Administering Power and the Non-Self Governing Territory (NSGT) clearer.

The population of its colonies did not become British citizens until quite recently and even then, their citizenship has never been the same as that of those born in the UK. There was never confusion concerning the differing status of those British citizens who settled in the colonies and their descendants on one hand and the people of the territory on the other. Those who lived outside of their country, expatriates, were different both from the people of the place in which they lived and the people of their own homeland and they did not expect to be equated with either.

At present, the people of most NSGTs other than the USVI see their identity as separate from that of their administering power. As Anguilla and Bermuda, to use current examples, debate how to exercise their right to self determination, they are actively evaluating what their options are and what each option will mean to their communities before they make a decision. 

Only then will they undertake definitive actions to accomplish a change. Unfortunately, what we hear in the US Virgin Islands are efforts to accomplish a change to political integration, such as obtaining the presidential vote, being treated as a state with respect to benefit programs, etc., without having a clear analysis of what our present status entitles us to and the overall effect of such political changes.

As a Non-Self Governing Territory, the U.S. Virgin Islands has an identity and status separate from the USA. As the administering power of the U.S. Virgin Islands, the USA has certain responsibilities to the territory and its people. These responsibilities include the promotion of the social and economic development and the preservation of the cultural identity of the territory.

These responsibilities are designed to encourage the elimination of dependency, which is as much a state of mind as an external condition, and to develop self reliance, which arises from a sense of self worth. With this in mind,

• Rather than justifications for the takeover of USVI park land and territorial waters on the grounds that the territory does not have the means to adequately protect and care for it, why don’t we hear demands that the administering power provide the education, training and resources to build the necessary capacity?

• Instead of allowing the territory to keep only those revenues which US law requires and doling out limited funds from programs designed for its constituent states, why doesn’t the administering power identify all of the sources of revenue derived from the territory, work in partnership with the territory and international agencies to identify the development needs of the territory as its own entity, and provide, at a minimum, the identified funds, together with appropriate education, training, expertise and additional funds that the territory may not be able to get from elsewhere.

• As it has acknowledged that it has international law obligations toward the territory, why doesn’t the USA discontinue the outdated and essentially deceitful method of dealing with the territory through the Interior Department and eliminate the ineffectual oddity of a territorial Delegate to Congress, and establish Congressional and Presidential offices to deal with territorial officials on a basis of mutual respect? 

The granting of US citizenship to the residents of the USVI in the same manner as obtained by residents of the USA proper has not only caused confusion in the legal and political spheres. Perhaps more important is the damage that it has done to the psyche of many Virgin Islanders. Am I the only person that finds it odd that the news of the country that insists in so many ways that the USVI is “unincorporated” i.e., not a part of it, is referred to in the territorial media as our “national” or “domestic” news?

Does anyone else find it anomalous that the Virgin Islands government demanded that the territory participate in the draft for the armed services of the USA in World War II, and then cites the past and continuing sacrifices of its young men, and now women, to “prove” the dedication of the territory to a country which insists on holding it at arms length while refusing to provide the information and resources needed for the territory to make an informed choice as to its future?

Why is it that past or present problems are considered proof that truly effective government by Virgin Islanders is impossible without the oversight of the US government when it is universally recognized that one’s true character is shown when you have to stand on your own, knowing that you will bear the consequences of your actions, a situation which no USVI government has faced since the late 1950s?

And why is there no outcry, not even a smattering of concern, about the fact that, although the USVI is a discrete entity, a Non-Self Governing Territory with its own Olympic teams, its own delegations to World conferences, and its own international identity, there is no legal status of U.S. Virgin Islands citizen?

It appears to have been implicitly believed, at least since US economy leapt into high gear in the middle of the last century, that the problems of the US Virgin Islands, which initially were seen as entirely economic, could be resolved by becoming a part of the American Prometheus which brought prosperity, comfort and happiness to all. There does not seem to have been a widespread recognition of the downside of the workings of that economic engine and the culture it spawns, of the positive value of many aspects of the Virgin Islands Caribbean culture, or of the dislocations likely to ensue when those two forces met in the limited theatre of these islands.

In 88 years, the Afro-Caribbean people of the U.S. Virgin Islands have traveled a road from an undefined status in a territory under the sovereignty of the USA to citizenship in a country which maintains that territory in a condition of uncertainty and instability. It is time to stop reacting to immediate difficulties as if they were ultimate issues, to look at the world as a whole, to analyze and evaluate the true range of possibilities for the USVI within that wider context, to make an informed choice, and to act on that choice with the dignity of a people sure of their identity and of their inherent worth.

I thank you for your attention.

24 October 2009

United Nations Day Panel in Virgin Islands

Press Release

United Nations Day Panel Discussion

The Virgin Islands and the United Nations – What’s the Connection? is the subject of a panel discussion and interactive dialogue to be held in commemoration of United Nations Day. The activity is scheduled for Monday October 26, 2009 from 6:30 PM -8:30 PM at the Fort Frederik Museum in Frederiksted, St. Croix.

United Nations Day is commemorated each year in recognition of the work of the world body, including economic, social and political development of countries and territories. The panel is being organized by the United Nations Association of the Virgin Islands (UNAVI), one of over 100 United Nations associations internationally.

The panelists will provide insights on their experiences of participating in United Nations activities related to the territory. They include Luz James II, President of the US Virgin Islands Fifth Constitutional Convention; Gerard Emanuel, former Director of the Virgin Islands Status Commission; Attorney Genevieve Whitaker of the Whitaker Consultant Group and Edward Browne, community activist. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Carlyle Corbin, former territorial Representative to the United Nations.

The United Nations Association for the Virgin Islands (UNAVI) was established in 1992 with the primary purpose of heightening the awareness of the people of the Virgin Islands of the programs and activities of the United Nations, and of the importance of its work to the development process.

UNAVI has hosted similar forums in previous years in collaboration with the University of the Virgin Islands and non-governmental organizations, and has participated in various United Nations world conferences.


12 October 2009

UN/US Assistance Requested for Constitutional Education Programme in the US Virgin Islands

Statement by Gerard Luz Amwur James II
Fifth Constitutional Convention of the U.S. Virgin Islands
to the
United Nations General Assembly
Fourth Committee

United Nations Headquarters
New York, N.Y.
October 6, 2009

Thank you, Mr. Chairman,

My name is Gerard Luz Anwur James II, and I am the President of the Fifth Constitutional Convention of the US Virgin Islands, elected by the people of the territory from all four islands. I have the honor to address this Committee on the adoption last May by our Convention of a draft constitution for consideration by the administering power.

This was the fifth attempt by the US Virgin Islands to draft a locally written constitution to replace the Revised Organic Act of 1954, written for the territory by the administering power, and which continues to be amended incrementally. The present draft constitution was submitted on May 31st of this year to the elected governor, who was to have forwarded said document to the administering power for review, with the authority to modify it or amend it, “in whole or in part.” The document would then be returned to the
territory for a referendum, similar to the process in 1980 where the final document was not approved by the voters at that time.

It is important to advise this august body that the present process has been short-circuited when the governor of the territory took the unilateral decision not to transmit the draft constitution to the administering power, according to the law, based on the contention that some of the provisions might not be consistent with how the US Constitution is
applied to the territory. The Fifth Constitutional Convention has filed suit in the Superior Court of the territory to mandate that the governor transfer the document, as specified by law. We must await the decision of the court before the resumption of the constitutional

It should be emphasized that the local constitutional process is not designed to alter the present non self-governing territorial status, but merely to “organize its internal governance arrangements” as accurately stated in General Assembly Resolution 63/108 of 5 December 2008. Thus, if our constitution is subsequently adopted in referendum, this does not serve as the basis for removing the territory from the UN list of non selfgoverning territories, since the status of the territory would not have changed.

The provisions in the draft constitution, including those which the governor has found objectionable, are best reviewed for US constitutional consistency by the administering power based on its determination of what is allowable under the present dependency status. The elected members of the Convention have placed in the document a structure of governance to which it is the responsibility of the administering power to review, and to respond. We look forward to this engagement.

In this connection, I wish to emphasize that the entering into force of a new constitution based on the present status, in the language of our draft constitution, “shall not preclude or prejudice the further exercise by the people of the (US) Virgin Islands of the right to self-determination regarding the attainment of a permanent political status.”

In this regard, several attempts were made between the 1980 and 1993 to decide on a permanent political status through successive governmental commissions and committees. Our only referendum on political status was held in 1993, but as indicated in relevant General Assembly resolutions, an insufficient percentage of voters participated for the result to be valid. The present non self-governing status, therefore, remained – and remains - unchanged.

Mr. Chairman,

It is important to reveal that the work of the present Constitutional Convention has been impeded by a lack of resources. This has caused several inordinate delays in the drafting process, as well as in the initiation of the critical public education phase of our work. A similar resource deficit existed for the 1993 political status referendum process, as explained to the Decolonization Seminar in St. Kitts last May by the international
political advisor to our Convention.

As this committee is aware, a 2008 request by our Constitutional Convention for assistance from the administering power was denied. In this connection, we welcomed the adoption of Resolution 63/108 last December which requested the administering power and relevant UN organizations to assist the territory’s public education program, consistent with Article 73(b) of the United Nations Charter which mandates such assistance. We trust that the commitment made in the resolution, which is also included
in the present draft resolution under your consideration, would be expeditiously implemented since the educational component is critical to the process. If the administering power is not forthcoming with the requested assistance in support of our constitutional evolution, we ask them to facilitate our access to United Nations electoral
assistance similar to that provided to other territories such as Tokelau, Sint Maarten the former Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands and others.

In any case, assistance from any quarter is vital given the degree of mis-interpretation in public discussion based on incomplete and sometimes misleading reports. The lack of
resources for our Convention prohibits us from mounting the required public education program to counter the mis-information. In this regard, the relevant provisions of the
draft constitution include:

• A bill of rights
• A structure of the various branches of internal government.
• The mandate for establishment of decentralization of government.
• Free and compulsory education, which “preserves the African history, culture and traditions of the people,” and which creates eligibility criteria for free tertiary education.

• The control of the natural resources by the people of the territory,including the marine resources and submerged lands, as well as the protection of the environment, pursuant to longstanding United Nations resolutions.

• The preservation of culture.

• A mechanism to make recommendations on the future political status of the territory based on the legitimate political status options of integration, free association and independence, consistent with General Assembly Resolution 1541.

Mr. Chairman,

A major area of public discussion on the draft constitution relates to the definition of a Virgin Islander. According to the 1917 treaty, through which the territory was purchased
by the United States from Denmark, the political rights and citizenship of the inhabitants of the territory at the time of transfer would be determined by the US Congress. The
citizenship of these persons at the time of the transfer who were mainly, but not exclusively, comprised of former enslaved Africans and their descendents, was not
determined until ten years later.

Thus, the provisions of the draft constitution defining Ancestral Native Virgin Islander was based on the laws of the administering power emerging from that period (See Section 306 INA (8 U.S.C. 1406). It is also consistent with the definition of native populations in the constitutions of other non self-governing territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific.

A second section of the draft constitution provides a broader definition of a Native Virgin Islander as having been born in the territory, or a descendent of a native born person. The importance of the reference to Native Virgin Islanders in the constitution is highlighted by the fact that the native-born population in the territory is on the decline, with the percentage in 2005 at about 51.3 % according to a 2007 University of the Virgin Islands
study. This decline has significant implications for the self-identity of the people.

The draft constitution also provides that only Ancestral or Native Virgin Islanders be eligible to serve as governor and lieutenant governor, and as members of a future political
status advisory commission. Additionally, a provision to exempt Ancestral Virgin Islanders from paying property tax has been inserted. This is due to the fact that significant externally motivated land speculation continues to result in the major loss of property by the native population. This provision of the draft constitution is consistent
with relevant General resolutions, most recently operative paragraph 9 of General Assembly Resolution 63/108, which calls for all necessary steps to be taken to protect the property rights of the peoples of the territories.

It is these and related provisions which appear to be objectionable to certain interests, but similar native rights' provisions are part of constitutions of other US-administered territories, such as American Samoa and the Northern Marianas, both of which have the
same unincorporated political status as the U.S. Virgin Islands. We would wish to know why such provisions would be applicable to some territories, but not to others.

To conclude, Mr. Chairman,

We are confident that, notwithstanding the present delay, the draft constitution will be ultimately forwarded to the administering power for assessment, as in the case of other
draft constitutions before it. In the end, we recognize that under our present political status the administering power alone will determine the final content of the document
based on its unilateral applicability of laws to our territory. Thus, the delay in the process is especially troubling, and prevents the people of the US Virgin Islands from gaining a better understanding of the parameters of the dependency status as defined in the 21st Century.

We are confident, however, that the political obstacles will be cleared from our path so that we can take this next step along the path towards a full measure of self-government.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

07 October 2009

CARICOM Appeals for UN Restructuring of Decolonisation Approach

The fourteen members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have called for a total restructuring of United Nations working methods in decolonisation in the wake of the chronic lack of implementation of the General Assembly mandate over almost two decades.

In a clear and forward-thinking statement on the contemporary decolonisation dilemma facing the international community including the Caribbean, St. Kitts and Nevis Ambassador Delano Bart QC, speaking on behalf of the fourteen independent State CARICOM members, indicated that "it is evident that the present working methods do not lend themselves to implementation of the General Assembly mandate on decolonisation (and) need to be fundamentally revamped."

To accomplish the restructuring, CARICOM, in its statement, called for the relevant sections of the UN budget to be carefully revised to include special mechanisms to bring to bear necessary expert assistance to analyse the contemporary colonial dynamic, and to review the present dependency arrangements in place against the international standards of democratic governance. Such restructuring would have to be accomplished during the ongoing review of the proposed budget for the biennium 2010-11 presently before the UN busgetary committees.

So whilst CARICOM presented an extraordinarily insightful analysis of the state-of-play in UN consideration of the decolonisation process, action must be taken in the UN budgetary process to give effect to this political analysis.

The full CARICOM statement follows:

Statement of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
to the Fourth Committee of the Unitd Nations

delivred by

H.E. Delano Bart QC
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Prmanent Mission of St. Kitts and Nevis
to the United Nations

5th October 2009

Mr. Chairman,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the fourteen members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). We congratulate you and your colleague members of the bureau on your election to lead the work of this committee. CARICOM offers you our full support as we deal collectively with the myriad of special political questions before us.

Mr. Chairman,

Our particular focus is to review the implementation of the decolonisation mandate, and to ascertain any progress made since the 63rd Session. Each year, the General Assembly adopts resolutions on the recommendations of this Committee, which contain concrete measures for advancing the decolonisation process, adding to the lengthy legislative authority already in place.

CARICOM wishes to reiterate its deep concern, that whilst certain internal reforms have been enacted in several territories, precious little progress has been made in actual decolonization, consistent with the recognised legitimate political status options of independence, free association and integration. In the absence of progress, CARICOM is concerned that decolonisation continues to slip further down on the list of United Nations priorities.

This is evidenced in the content of key United Nations reports. The annual Report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organisation, for example, has not made reference to decolonisation for a number of years. The first and only report on implementation of decolonisation resolutions that was to cover the period 1992 to the present (A/64/70) totals a mere five pages, and relies solely on replies from a few member states, whilst containing no information on United Nations system implementation. This is contrasted with detailed reports on other issues which seemingly have a higher priority.

Mr. Chairman,

Since the beginning of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, CARICOM has consistently brought this to the attention of this Committee:

In 2001, we pointed out that “the information deficit on decolonisation was made far worse by the lack of real, basic analysis…on the constitutional, political and economic situation in the territories,” even as such analyses have been called for in the plan of action throughout the first and second International Decades. Most elements of the plan of action have yet to be carried out.

• In 2006, a mid-term review of the second international decade, conducted by an eminent decolonisation expert, revealed little progress in implementation. Similar conclusions were drawn by representatives of the territories in the various United Nations decolonisation seminars. CARICOM noted in its 2006 statement that “the level of political and constitutional advancement in the non self-governing territories remained insufficient.” It is still insufficient.

• In 2007, CARICOM pointed to a report of the UN Office of Internal Oversight which had concluded that UN consideration of decolonisation had effectively “stalled.” We noted the disregard for the plan of implementation, even as it was endorsed by the General Assembly in 2006 that had identified eight action areas to be undertaken, consistent with system-wide coherence. We further noted the lack of progress in carrying out the mandated case-by-case analyses on each territory, and other achievable actions contained in General Assembly resolutions.

• In 2008, CARICOM emphasized that it was “the very lack of implementation of measures adopted by the General Assembly, which remains the most fundamental impediment to the realisation of decolonisation.” We noted that any innovative measures to re-start the process, such as the use of special mechanisms successfully utilised by other UN bodies, were “curiously resisted on budgetary grounds” even as no budgetary implications were identified.

This is the scenario in 2009, one year before the end of the second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. In this connection, CARICOM concurs with the view expressed by President of the 64rd Session of the General Assembly Dr. Ali Treki who recognised in his inaugural address that the work of the United Nations continues to be hampered by the “obstacle of being unable to implement or enforce its resolutions.”

This is consistent with our concerns, which have always been expressed in the true spirit of constructiveness, that the United Nations work on contemporary decolonisation process, remains in a state of virtual inertia. Unless fundamental action is taken, this world body is complicit in stymieing the legitimate aspirations of Peoples whose fullest human rights it was created to protect and foster.

The United Nations must also be a consistent and accountable check and balance for the Administrators of Territories which have not yet fully achieved decolonisation.’ Decolonisation has moved from the ‘unfinished agenda’ of the United Nations to the ‘un-attended agenda.’ The repetition of resolutions and process year after year, and the publication of reports satisfying bureaucratic deadlines but lacking in sufficient analysis, are not helpful.

Mr. Chairman,

Emerging from the vacuum created by this political environment is an attempt to redefine the non self-governing status as that of self-government. The aim appears to be the hurried removal of these territories from the United Nations list - even as they remain non self-governing. The international community cannot countenance such acts. The verifiable attainment of a full measure of self-government, based on the longstanding United Nations criteria which continues to be relevant today, is what determines whether a territory has achieved self-government and subject to removal from United Nations oversight. The present stalled decolonisation process, however, provides fertile ground for attempts at such “colonial legitimization.”

The United Nations has, thus, arrived at an historical crossroads. We as Member States consistently reaffirm support for the principles of self-determination and decolonisation in our statements, and in our resolutions. But these endorsements are not sufficient if the corresponding mandates are not operationalised. We must decide if we are going to remain true to the relevant provisions of the United Nations Charter governing self-determination and decolonization. If so, we have to re-start the dormant decolonisation process. If not, then we can capitulate to the dubious arguments that would give justification and political cover for the legitimization of contemporary colonialism, and simply declare decolonisation to be complete. In the process, of course, we would have abandoned the very people of the territories whose interests it is our Charter responsibility as Member States to protect.

Six of these territories are in the Caribbean, and are full or associate members of CARICOM and its affiliated institutions. The issue, therefore, is of special importance to us as this dormancy impedes regional integration. It was not so long ago that each of the fourteen CARICOM Member States, and numerous other states around this table, were listed as non self-governing. Many of us only achieved decolonisation through the active support and vigilance of the United Nations. This active support and vigilance has significantly declined, and it is evident that the present working methods do not lend themselves to implementation of the General Assembly mandate on decolonisation. These need to be fundamentally revamped. This restructuring should include the use of special mechanisms, as a matter of urgency, to undertake for the first time a comprehensive examination of the implementation of the decolonisation mandate in order to present a full picture of the present level of progress. It is only then that we may better ensure that the decolonisation mandate can be implemented in a third decade which will be clearly necessary, given the present state-of-play. To this end, the Strategic Framework on Decolonisation, and the proposed programme budget for 2010-2011 should be carefully revised with the aim of achieving real and concrete results.

CARICOM also is willing to work with interested delegations in the modernization of the decolonisation agenda as a whole, beginning with the simplification of the lengthy formal name of the Committee of 24, and the relevant agenda item on assistance to the territories from the United Nations system.

Mr. Chairman,

With respect to the political crisis in the Turks and Caicos Islands, CARICOM has expressed its “profound concern and deep disappointment over the decision of the administering power to dissolve the Government and legislature of the territory, as well as to suspend the right to trial by jury, and to replace the elected government with direct rule by the administering power. We reiterate our position that “the imposition of direct rule is a regrettable forced step backward” for the territory which is an associate member of CARICOM, and that the democratic process cannot be strengthened by removing representative democracy. We remain convinced that it would have been far more beneficial, and the results more sustainable, to involve the people of the territory through their elected representatives in the efforts required to strengthen good governance. Accordingly, CARICOM aligns itself with the position adopted at the 15th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Non Aligned Movement last July which “called for the urgent restoration of the constitutional government” of the territory.

Mr. Chairman,

CARICOM maintains its longstanding support for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. We take note of the appointment of a new Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General who has visited the region, and who has held consultations with the parties, neighbouring states and other interested countries, on ways to move the process of negotiations forward. CARICOM welcomes the humanitarian efforts of the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP), particularly in providing food aid in the refugee camps, but expresses our concern over the findings of the 2008 assessment that malnutrition remained a major problem. CARICOM concurs with Security Council Resolution 1871 in support of a “just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations.” In this connection, we concur with the recommendation of the Extraordinary Summit of the African Union last August which called for the intensification of efforts towards the holding of a referendum to enable the people of the Territory to choose between the option of independence and that of integration into the Kingdom of Morocco.

In closing, Mr. Chairman,

It is often the case that the price of staying the same is far greater than the price of change. We cannot afford to continue to pay the price of delirious repetition without concrete results when it comes to the decolonisation process. Critical change in approach and working methods is vital if the decolonisation mandate is to be realized.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

05 October 2009

UN Fourth Committee Meets on Decolonization

The United Nations (UN) Fourth Committee convened its 2009 session in New York on 5th October. Decolonization is its first item on the agenda of the Committee which is comprised of all 192 UN member states. At the first meeting, statements were made by various member states in their national capacity and on behalf of the respective regional groups.

Various perspectives on the self-determination and decolonization process were to expressed. Non governmental organizations, officials, experts, indigenous peoples groups and private citizens will address the Committee on 6-7 October. Unfortunately, territorial government officials – especially the small island territories - have been all too often absent from the process in recent years, either because of lack of awareness that the UN is meeting to discuss them, or because they are dissuaded from participating by mis-information that the UN is not relevant to their political development process. Either way, their perspective is sorely missed, and gives the impression that the territories are not concerned about their political development. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

Representatives of many of the UN member states will also present statements in their national capacity or on behalf of their respective regional groups. Most of the statements from member states reiterate support for the principles of self-determination and decolonization, and call on the UN and the administering powers – those nations which administer territories – to carry out their obligations to decolonize the territories based on the UN Charter and relevant UN resolutions.

On the other hand, the tact taken at the Fourth Committee by the administering powers has been to either attempt to justify their colonial stewardship in their statements (as in the case of the United Kingdom), or pretend that the agenda item does not exist and make no statement at all (as in the case of France and United States).

By the end of the debate at week’s end, the eight resolutions forwarded to the 192-member Fourth Committee by the Special Committee of 24 will be ultimately adopted based on a familiar voting pattern. There are upwards of 90 non UN-member speakers, the overwhelming majority on the issue of Western Sahara, along with several on the US Virgin Islands, Guam and New Caledonia. Since the content of the resolutions before the Fourth Committee are hopelessly repetitious, it is unsurprising that the voting pattern would be the same.

The draft resolutions before the Fourth Committee, as in years past, focus on a range of issues affecting the decolonization process including implementation of the Decolonization Declaration, economic and other activities affecting the interests of the people of the territories, dissemination of information on decolonization, information from non self-governing territories and assistance to the territories from the wider UN system. Separate resolutions adopted by the Committee of 24 on individual territories will also be reviewed and adopted by the Fourth Committee covering New Caledonia, Tokelau and Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

The Committee of 24 also annually addresses the territories of Gibraltar and Western Sahara, making no recommendations on them, leaving the task to the Fourth Committee to consider, and to adopt respective resolutions The opposition leader of Gibraltar is scheduled to speak. The real question is whether it is self-determination of the people in the territory, or the sovereignty dispute between the respective parties, that takes precedence. This is applicable to territories such as Gibraltar, Western Sahara and Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

Of course, there is the question of who constitutes ‘the people.’ Is the indigenous population who may have been forcibly relocated from their homeland considered ‘the people,’ or does this also (or instead) apply to the settlers and their descendants who may have replaced the indigenous population, or diluted their numbers? This is one of the arguments in relation to Falklands Islands/Malvinas, and an issue which has also complicated the situation in Western Sahara in relation to the inability to register ‘eligible’ voters for the long-postponed referendum, even as the International Court of Justice made a ruling on the issue in 1975.

An important resolution before the Fourth Committee is the ‘consolidated’ text which groups eleven small territories into one long resolution. This is contrasted with the eleven separate shorter resolutions which prevailed until the beginning of the 1990s in the immediate post - Cold War United Nations reform when decolonization was almost ‘reformed’ totally off the UN agenda. The consolidated resolution, thus, covers American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, St. Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the US Virgin Islands. It has long since been forgotten as to why these particular territories are grouped together in one resolution while others have their own separate resolutions.

The Committee of 24 also adopts a resolution on Puerto Rico each year. That territory is not formally on the UN list, but its non self-governing nature demands that it be discussed at the Committee of 24. It helps that Puerto Rico has some 4 million people with a politically astute populace, and vocal and highly organized political parties where options on political status are the basis of partisan affiliation. Inexplicably, the resolution adopted on Puerto Rico by the Committee of 24 is not forwarded to the Fourth Committee for adoption – even as the resolution itself “requests the General Assembly to consider the question of Puerto Rico in all its aspects.”

On the other hand, the ‘consolidated resolution’ of non self-governing territories that is forwarded to the Fourth Committee includes a general section with recommendations applicable to all the eleven territories. This is followed by individual sections on each territory. Both the general and individual sections are carefully drafted to refrain from the inclusion of any information to which the administering powers might object – after all, it is consensus adoption (without a vote) that is the most important result of this process, as opposed to the sufficiency of substance or the implementation of any of the recommendations.

There are also resolutions which routinely are voted upon, and it is unclear why some countries habitually vote against such issues as assistance to the territories from the UN system, or economic activities which might impede the decolonization process.

Theoretically, amendments can be offered to some resolutions in order to provide updates on new developments, but this is rarely done, and only if all member states agree beforehand, resulting in weak amendments. The resolutions in the Committee of 24 are dutifully adopted with little or no discussion from year to year, with the only change being that of the dates in the text (this serves to ‘update’ the resolution). This mind-numbing process reflects the over-emphasis on achieving consensus, almost at any cost – that is, the lowest common denominator. Thus, if the text of the resolution is adopted one year, it is easier to adopt the same text the next year (and the next year, and the next, and on, and on, and… like that…). Implementation of any of the resolutions, from year to year, doesn’t appear to be a consideration.

It is all reminiscent of the film “Groundhog Day” where each day is repeated, ad infinitum. In this case, the session ends with the adoption of the resolutions by the UN General Assembly in December, and the following January represents a new beginning as an exact repetition of the previous year (sort of a Star Trek Next Generation time loop). So it goes.

As the President of the 63rd Session of the UN General Assembly Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann said in his final statement in September, “the time of reform of the UN has passed,” and the institution needs to be “re-invented.” OTR fully endorses this view, especially as it relates to decolonization, and we have consistently expanded on this perspective over the last decade. Readers can research our archives under ‘decolonisation’ or ‘decolonization’ (depending on your preferred grammatical usage).

Since the UN process remains the same, any OTR analysis already included in our archives would explain the situation. Pick a year. We certainly do not wish to repeat ourselves.

As it has been written in regards to other issues in the international arena, how the United Nations deals with decolonization has become “a sterile exercise, a game of pretense played to avoid what is meant to be achieved." Nevertheless, OTR will cover the 2009 session of the Fourth Committee, not because we harbor any illusions that the process will change, but rather because our readership demands to be kept abreast.

02 October 2009

Caribbean - Puerto Rico Economic Relations Explored

CAGUAS, PUERTO RICO, OCTOBER 1ST 2009 (CUOPM) – St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas says a three-day exhibition and trade fair in the Puerto Rican city of Caguas signifies a new level of interaction that United States commonwealth and the member countries of the Eastern Caribbean states.

Addressing the` cream if the Caguas business community at a dinner in his honour Wednesday night at the Performing Arts Center, Prime Minister Douglas said the participation of the OECS in ExpoCaguas 2009, represents new efforts to develop practical and mutual relations between Puerto Rico and the Eastern Caribbean countries.

“I believe that in the short to medium terms such relations would facilitate enhanced trade, tourism and general business between our countries. Such has important implications for the further strengthening of the Caribbean, and specifically for Puerto Rico and the Eastern Caribbean states. ExpoCaguas 2009 can be perceived as the latest spark in the new building processes between us. Moreover, it gives reality to earlier and significant initiatives that were undertaken between Puerto Rico and the OECS including the establishment in 2006 of an OECS Office with consular attributes, here in Puerto Rico,” said Prime Minister Douglas, who earlier in the day attended the opening ceremony and visited the booths including several from St. Kitts and Nevis and OECS states.

Dr. Douglas, who is also the current Chairman of the OECS Authority, said Caguas and its many industries and services are an ideal point of contact for Eastern Caribbean business interests.

“It is potentially a point of contact for the mutual cooperation and exploration of a wide array of products, services, tourism and investment. Through events as ExpoCaguas, and other initiatives, we can safely say that we have begun a process that can only lead to the further improvement in the quality of life for people in our various countries. Our Caribbean islands have had a common historical background that was anchored in agricultural commodities such as sugar, bananas, coffee, cotton, tobacco and rum. Our trading relations in the late 20th Century reflected those bonds between the Caribbean, Europe and the United States,” he said.

He noted that the traditional economic ties today are being broken in an environment of trade liberalization and globalization. and small island economies, is both a potential benefit as well as a real challenge.

Prime Minister Douglas is of the view that the Caribbean can no longer afford to be inward looking but must solidly become an effective player on the global stage by maximizing advantages and effectively presenting them to the world.