10 June 2009

Annual UN Decolonisation Review Begins

The convening of the 2009 session of the Special Committee on Decolonisation in June marked the beginning of the United Nations annual review of the sixteen territories formally listed as non self-governing. The Decolonisation Committee adopts recommendations for submission to the General Assembly. The committee also reviews the un-listed territory of Puerto Rico, and adopts a resolution on that territory which is not submitted to the General Assembly.

The UN began its substantive work with the convening of a Caribbean Regional Seminar on decolonisation held in St. Kitts and Nevis in May, 2009. The seminar was opened by the distinguished Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis Mrs. Astona Browne who delivered a dynamic statement on the'state of play' in the decolonisation process, with specific emphasis on the non-independent Caribbean. A press report on the opening statement of the Permanent Secretary is published below.

OTR will analyse the final report of the seminar following its adoption and release by the Special Committee. It should be noted that the rules governing the seminars in recent years have closed the attendance to only a select list of invitees, and have excluded observers, UN-accredited press (including OTR) and other interested parties. The rules also provide that the drafting of the final report be done only by the members of the Special Committee without direct input from the other participants in the seminar. A UN official declined to comment on the restrictiveness of the seminar guidelines.

To provide further analysis on the issues raised and the expert recommendations offered, OTR will publish relevant papers presented at that session by distinguished experts and other participants. An extensive interview with one of the experts at the St, Kitts Seminar will also be published shortly.

Upon the completion of the 2009 Special Committee session at the end of June will provide an analysis of the 2009 Committee recommendations, and will examine the prospects for progress.


Implementation Remains Key to Decolonisation

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS (CUOPM) – A senior foreign ministry official in St. Kitts and Nevis says the twin-island Federation regards the Caribbean Regional Seminar on Decolonization “as a mechanism to devise recommendations on the way forward to ensure that this right to self-determination, as a fundamental human right, is realised by the people of all of the remaining non self-governing territories so that their people can achieve full political equality consistent with recognised international standards.”

Speaking at the Opening Ceremony on the Caribbean Regional Seminar on Decolonization convened under the auspices of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the issue of decolonisation continues to engage the interest of the eminent scholars of the region.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Astona Browne said Sir Fred Phillips, Dr. Carlyle Corbin, Sir Howard Fergus and others continue to work towards bringing clarity to the dynamic of the “new millennium colonialism” that is being witnessed today.

“Their critical analysis of the options of political equality available to the remaining small island territories is especially valuable to how the international community moves the decolonisation process forward. The invited experts to this seminar should shed considerable light on these issues over the next few days,” she told the opening ceremony Tuesday of the Caribbean Regional Seminar on Decolonization convened under the auspices of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

Mrs. Browne said given the geographical proximity and cultural ties of the people of the Caribbean, it should not be surprising that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) continues to regard the decolonisation process of the remaining territories as fundamental to Caribbean regional integration.

“Indeed, seven of the remaining sixteen (16) listed non self governing-territories are in the Caribbean, and the people of the CARICOM region recall the decolonisation exercise they underwent not that long ago. In fact, St. Kitts and Nevis achieved its independence in 1983, and this was the last territory in the region to do so,” she noted, adding:

“Our membership on the Special Committee on Decolonisation, together with sister countries of the OECS, signals our understanding of the process. As we reflect upon our own experience, as former island territories, the elements of the free associated statehood model which obtained between the West Indies Associated States and the United Kingdom was of particular value to us.”

Mrs. Browne said CARICOM has also endeavoured to include the non self-governing territories in its regional institutions.

“Three territories are members or associate members of the OECS, one is a full member and five are associate members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Additionally, five territories are members of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), while the official currency of Anguilla and Montserrat is the same Eastern Caribbean currency used by their independent neighbours.

Further, six listed territories are associate members of the United Nations Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee, and a number of the territories enjoy formal status with United Nations bodies such as UNESCO, ECLAC, FAO, UNDP and others. This continued integration of the territories in regional and international institutions serves to further inform their decision on self-determination, and the discussion at this seminar on this item of territorial participation in international institutions should be most revealing,” said Mrs. Browne, who is also the Permanent Secretary for National Security and Immigration.

She told delegates that the thrust of their discussions will no doubt be guided by the mandate of the Committee and notwithstanding the perception that the process of decolonization is not progressing at the desired pace.

We take note of the internal reforms enacted for several Caribbean territories which have sought to modernise aspects of their respective dependency arrangements, and we also acknowledge that these reforms were not intended to bring the dependency status to an end. Thus, it is the attainment of full self-determination for these territories which will remain in sharp focus according to the mandate of the General Assembly resolutions,” said Mrs. Browne.

“It has been opined that the issue of implementation continues to be the “Achilles heel” of the decolonisation process, especially in light of the Caribbean-inspired Plan of Implementation of the Decolonisation Mandate, endorsed by the General Assembly in 2006, but which has not been fully operationalised. I have no doubt that the expert analyses and robust work plans, in addition to seminar like the one hosted here this week, will guide the steady advancement of the work at hand and ultimately give rise to the desired outcome,” the Permanent Secretary said.