29 June 2010

US House Mandates US Virgin Islands Constitutional Convention to Reconsider Autonomous Proposals


The US House of Representatives on 29th June 2010 adopted Senate Joint Resolution 33 which calls on the Fifth Constitutional Convention of the US Virgin Islands to reconvene to consider US Justice Department objections regarding certain autonomous provisions contained in the proposal. The Department considered the provisions as inconsistent with the applicability of the US Constitution (as it applies to the dependency territory). This is the latest development in the constitutional process of the territory where a proposed constitution was adopted in May 2009 by the required 2/3 of the 30 member Convention delegates.

The elected governor of the territory, John P. de Jongh, initially expressed opposition to a number of aspects contained in the text, and had declined to transmit the proposed constitution to the US Congress upon its receipt in May, 2009. He was later ordered by the territory’s court in December, 2009 to forward the text for US consideration.

Confident that the proposed constitution would ultimately be forwarded to Washington, Convention President Gerard Luz James addressed the Fourth Committee of the United Nations in October, 2009 where he explained the rationale for the respective provisions of the proposal based on the Convention’s own legal analysis. The US Virgin Islands is one of sixteen non self-governing territories listed by the United Nations under Chapter 11 (Article 73) of its Charter.

Following the transmittal of the proposal to the White House in December 2009, the process resumed in earnest. Convention President James and three additional members of the Convention defended the document before a US Congressional hearing of the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife of the Natural Resources Committee in March, 2010. Governor de Jongh also testified on the measure, along with a US Justice Department representative. Both expressed dissent on provisions of the text, with  the Justice Department representative outlining objections to certain provisions intended to provide certain powers of autonomous governance to the territory, including those favouring the native population, the ownership of natural resources and voter eligibility.

President James, along with the territory’s non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives Donna Christian Christensen, and a US Justice Department official, later testified before the US Senate Natural Resources Committee in June 2010, explaining their respective positions. Several weeks later, James provided the UN with an update on the progress underway in formal testimony to the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation. The United Nations Committee subsequently adopted its resolution on the territory which “welcome(ed) the proposal of a draft constitution emanating from the territory in 2009, as a result of the work of the Fifth Constitutional Convention, for review by the administering Power (US), and requests the administering Power to assist the territorial Government in achieving…the successful conclusion of the ongoing internal Constitutional Convention exercise.”

The United Nations Committee also requested the US Government “to facilitate the process for approval of the proposed territorial constitution in the United States Congress, and its implementation, once agreed in the territory.” (The full text of the UN committee resolution on the US Virgin Islands and other non self-governing territories will be published in due course).

The US House of Representatives has now adopted the resolution calling on the US Virgin Islands Fifth Constitutional Convention to re-convene, confirming the US Senate action a little over a week later. The measure now goes to US President Barack Obama for final adoption. S.J. Resolution 33 follows:

2d Session
S. J. RES. 33


To provide for the reconsideration and revision of the proposed constitution of the United States Virgin Islands to correct provisions inconsistent with the Constitution and Federal law.

Whereas Congress, recognizing the basic democratic principle of government by the consent of the governed, enacted Public Law 94-584 (94 Stat. 2899) authorizing the people of the United States Virgin Islands to organize a government pursuant to a constitution of their own adoption;

Whereas a proposed constitution to provide for local self-government for the people of the United States Virgin Islands was submitted by the President to Congress on March 1, 2010, pursuant to Public Law 94-584;

Whereas Congress, pursuant to Public Law 94-584, after receiving a proposed United States Virgin Islands constitution from the President may approve, amend, or modify the constitution by joint resolution, but the constitution `shall be deemed to have been approved' if Congress takes no action within `sixty legislative days (not interrupted by an adjournment sine die of the Congress) after its submission by the President';

Whereas in carrying out Public Law 94-584, the President asked the Department of Justice, in consultation with the Department of the Interior, to provide views on the proposed constitution;

Whereas the Department of Justice concluded that several features of the proposed constitution warrant analysis and comment, including--

(1) the absence of an express recognition of United States sovereignty and the supremacy of Federal law;

(2) provisions for a special election on the territorial status of the United States Virgin Islands;

(3) provisions conferring legal advantages on certain groups defined by place and timing of birth, timing of residency, or ancestry;

(4) residence requirements for certain offices;

(5) provisions guaranteeing legislative representation of certain geographic areas;

(6) provisions addressing territorial waters and marine resources;

(7) imprecise language in certain provisions of the bill of rights of the proposed constitution;

(8) the possible need to repeal certain Federal laws if the proposed constitution of the United States Virgin Islands is adopted; and

(9) the effect of congressional action or inaction on the proposed constitution; and

Whereas Congress shares the concerns expressed by the executive branch of the Federal Government on certain features of the proposed constitution of the United States Virgin Islands and shares the view that consideration should be given to revising those features: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


It is the sense of Congress that Congress--

(1) recognizes the commitment and efforts of the Fifth Constitutional Convention of the United States Virgin Islands to develop a proposed constitution; and

(2) urges the Fifth Constitutional Convention of the United States Virgin Islands to reconvene for the purpose of reconsidering and revising the proposed constitution in response to the views of the executive branch of the Federal Government.


Section 5 of Public Law 94-584 (90 Stat. 2900) is amended--

(1) by designating the first, second, third, and fourth sentences as subsections (a), (b), (d), and (e), respectively;

(2) in subsection (b) (as so designated)--

(A) by striking `within' and all that follows through `after' and inserting `within 60 legislative days after'; and

(B) by inserting `or has urged the constitutional convention to reconvene,' after `in whole or in part,';

(3) by inserting after subsection (b) (as so designated) the following:

`(c) Revision of Proposed Constitution-

`(1) IN GENERAL- If a convention reconvenes and revises the proposed constitution, the convention shall resubmit the revised proposed constitution simultaneously to the Governor of the Virgin Islands and the President.

`(2) COMMENTS OF PRESIDENT- Not later than 60 calendar days after the date of receipt of the revised proposed constitution, the President shall--

`(A) notify the convention, the Governor, and Congress of the comments of the President on the revised proposed constitution; and

`(B) publish the comments in the Federal Register.'; and

(4) in subsection (d) (as so designated), by inserting `under subsection (b) (or, if revised pursuant to subsection (c), on publication of the comments of the President in the Federal Register)' after `or modified'.

Passed the Senate June 17, 2010.

2d Session

28 June 2010

UN Decolonisation Cmt. Calls for Negotiations on Falkland Islands (Malvinas)

United Nations Press Release
Meeting extended over a two-day period

After hearing petitioners on the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) as well as a statement by the Foreign Minister of Argentina, the Special Committee on Decolonization recommended today that the General Assembly reiterate its call for direct negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom over that Non-Self-Governing Territory.

According to a draft resolution that the Special Committee approved by consensus, a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom was the only way to end the special and particular colonial situation of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). The Assembly would therefore take note of the views expressed by the President of Argentina and express regret that the implementation of resolutions on the Falklands Islands (Malvinas) had not yet started. Also by that text, the Assembly would request that both Governments consolidate the current process of dialogue and cooperation.

By other terms of the draft resolution, the Assembly would acknowledging the special and particular colonial situation of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), which differed from others in light of the sovereignty dispute. Presenting the text, Chile’s representative said it reflected the main elements of the doctrine formulated by the United Nations over the years with regard to the Falklands (Malvinas) question.

He expressed support for Argentina’s sovereignty rights, citing the position of Latin American and Caribbean countries that the issue must be resolved definitively. Highlighting a special communiqué on the Malvinas question by the Nineteenth Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government at the end of 2009, he stressed that “the upholding of colonial situations well into the twenty-first century is an anachronism that must end.”

Addressing the Special Committee prior to its action on the draft, Héctor Timerman, Argentina’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship, reiterated his country’s “inalienable and imprescriptible rights” over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, as well as surrounding maritime islands. He recalled the forcible expulsion of the Territory’s Argentine population by the United Kingdom in 1833, and efforts to prevent their return, emphasizing that the current population had not been subjected to a colonial Power and therefore could not possess the right to self-determination.

Considering both Argentina’s willingness to negotiate and the United Kingdom’s refusal to do so, he said the administering Power considered itself beyond the opinion of the international community and the United Nations. Even more worrisome was the United Kingdom’s standing as a permanent member of the Security Council, he said, stressing that “its arguments in favour of a peaceful solution are far from credible if it refuses to assume its own international obligations”. Given that, he noted that his country attached great importance to the role of the Secretary-General in encouraging resumed negotiations.

As the Special Committee took up the hearing of petitioners, Emma Edwards, a Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), called upon Argentina to recognize and adhere to previously signed agreements, saying the Territory’s people were willing to discuss several important issues, but not sovereignty. She called into question the Special Committee’s classification of the Territory as a “special and particular colonial situation”, citing “politics” as a major impediment to the defence of Islanders’ rights.

She said Argentina’s clear desire to claim the Territory was supported by several members of the Special Committee. However, given that the Islanders had repeatedly stated their opposition to becoming part of Argentina, the Special Committee would be going against the purpose, spirit and principles of General Assembly resolution 1514 if its members supported the draft resolution before them.

Gavin Short, another Member of the Legislative Assembly, emphasized that the Islands were an overseas Territory of the United Kingdom by choice. While self-governing in all sectors except defence and foreign affairs, the Falklands (Malvinas) were still the target of aggressive and bullying action from Argentina. As for the negotiations called for in the draft resolution, he said Argentina interpreted such discussions as a means to “take over my home and turn it into what would be to all intents and purposes a colony of Argentina.”

He stressed that Argentina’s claims of having inherited the Falklands (Malvinas) from Spain were historically and factually incorrect, as were its claims that Argentine nationals were not allowed into the Territory. Following Argentina’s 1982 invasion, peaceful coexistence had been re-established and agreements had been signed on the conservation of fisheries, hydrocarbons, and information sharing on preserving fish stocks in the South-West Atlantic. However, Argentina had later dismissed those agreements and issued a decree which contravened internationally binding treaties, he said.

Uruguay’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), reaffirmed the bloc’s support for Argentina’s legitimate rights in the sovereignty dispute. Underscoring the necessity of resumed bilateral negotiations, he urged the United Kingdom to comply with the relevant resolutions and cooperate with the already-willing Argentina.

Other petitioners addressing the Special Committee today were Guillermo Raimundo Clifton, Alejandro Beatts and Nelson Daniel Gleadell.

Also delivering statements were representatives of China, Cuba, Syria, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Mali, Tunisia, Mexico (as host country for the First Latin America and Caribbean Unity Summit), Brazil and Guatemala.


The Special Committee on (Decolonisation) met this morning to hear petitioners on the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). Before members was a working paper prepared by the Secretariat (document A/AC.109/2010/15) outlining constitutional and political developments, as well as progress on mine clearance, economic and social conditions, and the Territory’s future status, among other things.

A new constitution was approved in 2008, entering into force on 1 January 2009, the working paper says. According to the administering Power, the new document, as compared with the 1985 Constitution, enhances local democracy, establishes a greater degree of internal self-government and provides more transparency and accountability. By its terms, the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly, may make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Territory, but full power to make laws is reserved for the British Crown.

On 6 November 2008, the paper states, the Government of Argentina protested against a “unilateral act” by the United Kingdom “whereby it claims to have adopted a new ‘constitution’ for the Malvinas Islands”, in disregard of General Assembly and Special Committee resolutions, and in “violation of the spirit of the provisional understandings under the sovereign formula” reached by Argentina and the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom responded by rejecting those assertions on 3 December 2008, the paper states, adding that both Governments reiterated their respective positions during 2009 and 2010.

The paper says that on 28 November 2008, the Ninth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction — better known as the Ottawa Convention — decided by consensus to grant the United Kingdom an extension, until 1 March 2019, to complete mine clearance. Subsequently, the United Kingdom decided to clear four mined areas. In October 2009, it signed a contract with a private company, making arrangements to set up a demining project office to carry out quality control and assurance checks so as to ensure that the land was cleared safely and to the required depth. That work had already begun and was slated for completion by April 2010.

In its final report, adopted on 4 December 2009, the Convention’s Second Review Conference granted Argentina’s request for an extension of its deadline for destroying anti-personnel mines in the affected areas, until 1 January 2020, according to the working paper. The representative of the United Kingdom noted, in a letter to the General Assembly President dated 25 September 2008, that the Falkland Islands are not a colonial enclave, and that their inhabitants have chosen to retain their link with the United Kingdom. There can be no negotiations on the Territory’s sovereignty unless the islanders wish to do so. In his New Year’s message to the Territory for 2010, Prime Minister Gordon Brown restated his commitment to the islanders’ right to self-determination, saying he had expressed those sentiments in two meetings with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina in 2009.

According to the paper, President Fernández, in her address to the General Assembly on 23 September 2008, referred to the situation where a “colonial enclave, our Malvinas Islands” persisted without the possibility of addressing the question of sovereignty with the United Kingdom, as called for in many Assembly resolutions. She said that, following a humanitarian request, the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom had agreed that family members with loved ones buried on the islands would be permitted to visit in order to pay tribute to those who had fought for their homeland. At a meeting of the Special Committee on 18 June 2009, Jorge Taiana, Argentina’s Foreign Minister, reiterated his country’s inalienable rights over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands and surrounding maritime areas, unlawfully occupied by the United Kingdom through an act of force.

By the terms of the draft resolution before the Special Committee (document A/AC.109/2010/L.15), the General Assembly would reiterate that the way to end the special and particular colonial situation of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) is through a peaceful negotiated settlement of the sovereignty dispute between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom. It would take note of the views expressed by the President of Argentina, and express regret that implementation of resolutions on the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) question has not yet started, in spite of widespread international support for negotiations between the two Governments. Further by that text, the Assembly would request that the two Governments consolidate the current process of dialogue and cooperation by resuming negotiations in order to find a peaceful solution as soon as possible.


EMMA EDWARDS, Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), said the Territory enjoyed a healthy democracy and the role of the United Kingdom-appointed Governor had recently been limited to advising on issues of good governance, foreign affairs and defence. Argentina had undertaken many efforts to hinder the development of the Territory’s economy, she said, calling on that country to recognize and adhere to previously signed agreements. The Islanders were willing to discuss important issues with Argentina, but against talks on sovereignty.

Calling into question the Special Committee’s classification of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) as a “special and particular colonial situation”, she said politics was a major impediment to the defence of the Islanders’ rights. In that regard, she urged the Special Committee to make an important distinction between upholding politics and defending human rights, noting that Argentina had spoken many times on the international stage about the liberty, equality, and self-determination of its own people, yet did not afford the Islanders the same rights.

It was clear that Argentina wished to claim the Territory against its people’s wishes, she said, noting that several members of the Special Committee supported that claim, which went against what it stood for. Recalling that the people of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) had stated clearly, within the Special Committee, that they did not wish to be part of Argentina, she said that, by pursuing its sovereignty claim over the Territory, Argentina sought to colonize its people. In supporting the current draft resolution, which did not reflect a need to respect the Islanders’ right to self-determination, the Special Committee, would be going against the purpose, spirit and principles of General Assembly resolution 1514, she concluded.

GAVIN SHORT, Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), described himself as a sixth generation Islander, and emphasized that the Islands, far from being colonized, were an overseas Territory of the United Kingdom by choice, and had even been encouraged by the United Kingdom to become ever more independent internally. The Islands were self-governing in all aspects, except defence and foreign affairs, although they were free to negotiate and trade with whomever they wished, he said. However, the Islands were being targeted by an aggressive, bullying neighbour — Argentina.

The draft resolution referred to negotiating a solution to the sovereignty problem, he said. “For me there is no ‘problem’ to find a solution to. For Argentina, on the other hand, the word ‘negotiation’ has only one meaning: that they take over my home and turn it into what would be to all intents and purposes a colony of Argentina,” he said, asking the United Nations to respect the Islanders’ right to self-determination. He also criticized Argentina’s representative for having quoted resolution 31/49 (1097) to further his country’s unfounded claims and limit the Islanders’ ability to develop their economy, while paying no attention to the fact that in 1982 Argentina had invaded and subjected the Islanders to 74 days of oppression, and at times brutality, prior to the restoration of their freedom.

He said one myth around the dispute was that the Islands, formerly part of Spain, had been inherited by Argentina and, therefore, the principle of territorial integrity should apply. That was historically and factually incorrect, he said, noting that prior to 1883, France, the United Kingdom, Spain and Argentina had all claimed sovereignty over the Islands. Another myth was that Argentine nationals were not allowed into the Islands, yet there was no provision in the Territory’s immigration ordinance preventing them from going there. In the past two years, more than 5,000 Argentines had visited the Islands from cruise ships and more than 600 by air, he said, adding that they had all been granted visitors’ entry permits.

The Islanders had formed their own identity over the last 177 years and would “like nothing better than to have a peaceful coexistence with Argentina”, he said. After Argentina’s 1982 invasion, a peaceful coexistence had been established and agreements had been signed on the conservation of fisheries, hydrocarbons, and information sharing to preserve fish stocks in the South-West Atlantic. However, pragmatism had later been flung aside and the aggressive posturing had returned, he said. Argentina had torn up those agreements, opting instead to issue a decree, which, if enforced, would interfere with shipping to and from the Islands through international waters, and which contravened internationally binding treaties.

GUILLERMO RAIMUNDO CLIFTON, addressing the Special Committee as the grandson of a person born in the Malvinas Islands, noted that problems in the production sector of Argentina’s Patagonia region — deteriorating natural resources, increasing production costs and lack of markets, among others — were similar to those experienced in the Malvinas and could be solved in cooperation. Furthermore, the concerns of the Territory’s inhabitants could be addressed if the United Kingdom complied with United Nations resolutions with regard to sovereignty over the Malvinas, South Georgia and he South Sandwich Islands, he said, noting that the draft resolution before the Special Committee today urged the United Kingdom and Argentina to resume bilateral negotiations.

The expulsion of the Argentine population by the United Kingdom in 1833 meant that the current inhabitants of the Malvinas were not a native population with a lawful relationship to the Territory, he said. In that regard, the current inhabitants were “beneficiaries” of colonialism uninterested in resolving the issue though bilateral negotiations. Citing the basis of Argentina’s claim, he said Spain’s sovereignty had derived from the papal concession and occupation of territories in the Southern Atlantic, which the United Kingdom had recognized via several treaties and actions.

Spain had been in possession of the Malvinas from 1764 to 1811 and had placed the Territory under the jurisdiction of the Province of Buenos Aires in 1776, he recalled. Argentina, in taking up the rights and obligations inherited from Spain, had peacefully and exclusively occupied the Territory until its expulsion by the United Kingdom in 1833. The United Kingdom could, therefore, not invoke the right of first occupant, he said, stressing that its “brief, clandestine occupation” in 1766 and its use of force in 1833 could only be presented as a “plain exercise of British imperialism.”

ALEJANDRO BEATTS said that, as a native of the Malvinas, he disagreed with the views expressed by the speakers from the Legislative Assembly, adding that the colonial administration did not accept the existence of political parties or diverging views. It was merely a spokesperson for the London-based administration. The current Legislative Assembly had 13 members, including 5 from the Malvinas.

Pointing out that 60 per cent of the Territory’s 2,900 inhabitants were native-born, he said people born elsewhere should not be able to decide unilaterally what they wanted. Legal documents showed that Argentina’s historical claim to sovereignty was legitimate and that of the United Kingdom was not. To date, the islands were used to train the British troops that had intervened in Afghanistan and other countries. The current generation of Islanders must not be burdened with an unsolved issue, he said, emphasizing that, as the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2001-2010) came to end, there must be direct action to resolve the issue.

NELSON DANIEL GLEADELL, after outlining his family’s history, urged the Special Committee to continue to encourage dialogue between Argentina and the United Kingdom, which should be undertaken with a view to finding a “fair and lasting solution” to the sovereignty dispute, the persistence of which was not consistent with the seamless links between the islands and Patagonia. He called on the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to cooperate.


The representative of Chile introduced the draft resolution “Question of the Falklands Islands (Malvinas)” (document A/AC.109/2010/L.15), saying it reflected the main elements of the doctrine formulated by the United Nations over the years with regard to that question. The text acknowledged the special and particular colonial situation, which differed from others due to the existence of a sovereignty dispute between the Argentine Republic and the United Kingdom.

He said the text also specified that the only way to end that dispute was a negotiated settlement, expressing regret that, despite the time spent and numerous resolutions adopted to date, direct diplomatic negotiations had not begun. Expressing support for Argentina’s sovereignty rights over the islands, he said that, for Latin America, the issue must be resolved definitively. That sentiment had been expressed in the December 2009 meeting of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and at the February 2010 Latin America and Caribbean Unity Summit.

Additionally, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, held in Lima on 8 June, had adopted resolution AG/DEC.65, “Declaration on the Question of the Malvinas Islands”, he said. The XIX Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Ibero-American Community, held at the end of 2009, had issued a special communiqué on the Malvinas question. “The upholding of colonial situations well into the twenty-first century is an anachronism that must end,” he said, reiterating that “there are no valid reasons to delay the resolution of the Malvinas question” and appealing to the concerned parties promptly to resume effective negotiations.

HÉCTOR TIMERMAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina, reiterated once more his country’s “inalienable and imprescriptible rights” over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, as well as surrounding maritime islands. The Territory had been unlawfully and forcibly occupied by the United Kingdom since 1833, he said, noting that it had expelled the Islands’ Argentine inhabitants, who had peacefully exercised the rights they had inherited from Spain. That forceful act was “further reflection of the imperialistic policy developed by the great Powers” of the nineteenth century, he said.

Argentina had never consented to that action, he emphasized, noting that, while the United Kingdom had prevented Argentines from settling on or owning their lands in a discriminatory and systematic manner, his own country had always encouraged an open-door policy. Since the Territory’s current “transplanted British population” could not be considered victims of colonial power, they could not have a right to self-determination, he said, cautioning that it would be dangerous to accept a precedent whereby a time lapse could assign rights to an administering Power despite protests by deprived peoples.

He said that when the United Kingdom refused to negotiate with Argentina — invoking the self-determination principle of resolution 1514 (XV) and alleging that it would not do so if its occupiers did not wish it — it sought to take advantage of the resolution to perpetuate an anachronistic colonial situation. He recalled that, in 1985, following two attempts by the administering Power to invoke the principle of self-determination, the international community had ratified the inapplicability of that principle. Further, the United Nations had consistently reiterated since 1965 its appeal for both parties to negotiate.

Underscoring the Argentine Government’s willingness to negotiate the dispute and to cooperate with the United Kingdom on the situation in the South Atlantic, he said the administering Power considered itself beyond the opinion of the international community, as well as that of the United Nations. Such an attitude was even more worrisome when expressed by a permanent member of the Security Council, which was responsible for maintaining international peace and security. “Its arguments in favour of a peaceful solution are far from credible if it refuses to assume its own international obligations,” he added.

In that regard, Argentina attached great importance to the role that the Secretary-General could play in bringing both parties back to negotiations, he said, noting that his country actively considered the interests of the Territory’s current population. As for the situation in the South Atlantic, he pointed to the United Kingdom’s “unilateral and unlawful” decision to exploit the non-renewable resources of the Argentine continental shelf in waters surrounding the Malvinas Islands. Expressing concern about the United Kingdom’s illegal military base in the Territory, he urged the Special Committee to support a call for resumed negotiations.

The representative of China, stressing the consistency of his country’s position, said the settlement of territorial disputes through peaceful negotiations was in line with the United Nations Charter and must be promoted by the international community. China hoped that the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom would continue their negotiations to find a peaceful solution at an early date. He supported the draft resolution before the Special Committee.

The representative of Cuba, expressing support for the Argentine Minister’s statement, pointed out that the Special Committee had approved 44 draft resolutions, 11 of which had subsequently been adopted by the General Assembly. The issue must be resolved, he stressed, adding that he admired the way in which Argentina had pursued its just claim. It was ready to recover the Islands through negotiations, in accordance with the resolutions of the Special Committee and the Assembly. However, despite repeated appeals, the two sides were not close to a definitive solution.

Reiterating his country’s unrestricted support for Argentina’s legitimate right of sovereignty over the Territory, he said: “The Malvinas Islands are and will continue to be Argentine.” Cuba called for a fair, effective solution that respected Argentina’s territorial integrity, as well as the interests of the Islanders, and on the United Kingdom to respond positively to Argentina’s request for the reactivation of substantive bilateral talks to resolve the matter in a just, peaceful and definitive way as soon as possible. Meanwhile, there should be no unilateral acts that could alter the situation on the Islands, he said.

The representative of Syria, welcoming Minister Timerman, hailed the historic and close ties between his own country and Argentina, saying that the Minister’s participation in the discussion underscored that country’s sincere and serious efforts to reach a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute. His presence also showed the importance that Argentina attached to the Special Committee’s work and the need to respect international sovereignty rights and achieve greater democracy.

Emphasizing that Argentina’s position was in keeping with that of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, he said the Government of Syria, therefore, supported the Minister’s presentation, as well as the draft resolution before the Special Committee. Approving it by consensus would assert the international community’s role in resolving the situation through peaceful means, he said, stressing that the pursuit of dialogue between Argentina and the United Kingdom would lead to an appropriate settlement and guarantee territorial integrity.

The representative of the Russian Federation said her Government supported the draft resolution and hoped it would be adopted without a vote, adding that there was a need for a just, mutually acceptable solution in the context of bilateral negotiations.

The representative of Indonesia stressed that uniform criteria could not be applied to every colonial situation since each was unique. While the positions of Argentina and the United Kingdom clearly differed, both Governments should resume accelerated negotiations for an agreement in the best interest of the Territory’s people, he said.

He emphasized his country’s full acknowledgement of the growing relationship between Argentina and the United Kingdom, calling on them to return to negotiations, in line with the relevant resolutions, as soon as possible. Indonesia supported the draft resolution and hoped it would be approved by consensus, he added.

The representative of Venezuela reiterated his full support for and solidarity with Argentina’s just demand for sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, as well as surrounding maritime areas. Resuming bilateral negotiations was the appropriate way to achieve a peaceful, just and lasting solution to the dispute over Argentina’s sovereignty rights and the United Kingdom’s violation of them, thereby resolving an anachronistic colonial situation. The Special Committee was dealing with a “special and particular” decolonization case, he reiterated, noting that President Hugo Chávez had expressed in various statements his strong, determined and fraternal support for Argentina’s legitimate rights.

He pointed to other forums that had urged a speedy resolution to the dispute in support of Argentina’s position, including the Union of South American Nations, the Summit of South American and Arab Countries, and the Summit of South American and African Countries, among others. Heads of State at the 2009 Ibero-American Summit had reaffirmed the need for the two Governments concerned to resume negotiations as soon as possible in order to find an early solution to the dispute. Venezuela encouraged the Secretary-General to continue to use his good offices to bring the two parties together and expressed hope that the draft resolution before the Special Committee would be approved by consensus.

The representative of Bolivia, endorsing the statement to be made on behalf MERCOSUR, said the United Kingdom had invaded the Malvinas in 1883, and one could not invoke the principle of self-determination in that case. One must invoke the principle of sovereignty. The dispute reaffirmed that multilateralism was becoming a driving force in matters concerning the integrity of States, he said, describing the matter as one of regional importance, as recalled during the recent MERCOSUR meeting in Montevideo. A solution must be found as soon as possible, he reiterated, stressing the importance of preventing obstructionism and overcoming divisions. Bolivia had co-sponsored the draft resolution, which warranted the support of all members of the Special Committee, he said, calling for its unanimous approval.

The representative of Ecuador, expressing support for the draft resolution, noted with regret that negotiations to resolve the sovereignty dispute had not taken place. Ecuador supported Argentina’s legitimate right to sovereignty over the Malvinas, he said, underscoring that country’s readiness to negotiate a peaceful solution. All relevant Assembly resolutions must be implemented because they recognized the Territory’s unique colonial situation, he said, adding that since calls for the United Kingdom to participate in bilateral negotiations had gone unheeded for 45 years, it was to be hoped that it would soon respond to such appeals and work towards negotiating a peaceful and lasting solution.

The representative of Nicaragua, describing Argentina’s sovereignty over the Territory as “unquestionable”, stressed that the colonial situation must end. The United Kingdom, having usurped the Malvinas by force in 1833, had expelled its Argentine inhabitants and blocked their return. Nicaragua shared the view of other Latin American countries, as well as that of the international community, that negotiations were the only way to reach a peaceful solution to the dispute. Highlighting Argentina’s consistent readiness to undertake negotiations, he said the United Kingdom’s illegal actions to exploit the Territory’s natural resources contributed nothing to resolving the dispute. Reaffirming his country’s unconditional support of Argentina’s legitimate right, he urged the United Kingdom to resume negotiations for an early, fair, just and equitable solution.

The representative of Sierra Leone affirmed her country’s commitment to its long-held position that the sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom should be resolved through a peaceful, negotiated settlement. Urging an early resumption of bilateral negotiations on the matter, she recalled that, in Assembly resolution 637 (VII), Member States collectively decided to uphold the self-determination of all peoples, and committed to recognizing that principle as a prerequisite for the realization of fundamental human rights.

She cautioned, however, that any solution that failed to embrace the Islanders’ aspirations would be inconsistent with paragraph 2, Article 1, as well as Article 73 (b) of the United Nations Charter. In that context, and as the world prepared for the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, set to begin in 2011, Sierra Leone reiterated its support for the Islanders’ basic human right to self-determination. Subjecting people to foreign domination was a denial of their fundamental human rights and violated their fight to determine freely their political, economic, social and cultural status, she said.

The representative of Mali said his country enjoyed excellent relations with Argentina and the United Kingdom, and expressed regret that their dispute had yet to be resolved. Calling on both parties to create conditions conducive to the resumption of negotiations, he said he fully supported the draft resolution and hoped it would be approved by consensus.

The representative of Tunisia expressed his country’s hope that the draft resolution before the Special Committee would win unanimous approval, and that Argentina and the United Kingdom would resume negotiations for a solution was in keeping with the relevant Assembly resolutions.

The representative of Uruguay, speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said the bloc and its associated States reaffirmed their support for Argentina’s legitimate rights in the sovereignty dispute, the same position expressed in the Declaration of MERCOSUR Presidents in 1996 and 1999, as well as in successive joint communiqués adopted during its meetings. More recently, the bloc had renewed its commitment to Argentina’s position in a joint communiqué adopted on 8 December 2009.

While recognizing and supporting the Organization’s decolonization process, he noted that decolonization and self-determination were not synonymous. The only way to end the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas Islands was to resume negotiations between both parties, he said, highlighting Argentina’s “permanent” willingness to do so, and urging United Kingdom to comply with the relevant resolutions calling for such negotiations.

The representative of Mexico (as host country for the First Latin American and Caribbean Unity Summit) read out the Declaration on the Question of the Malvinas Islands, adopted by Heads of State and Government at the Latin America and Caribbean Unity Summit last February, in which the region’s leaders reaffirmed their support for Argentina’s legitimate rights in its sovereignty dispute with the United Kingdom. Both Governments should resume negotiations in order to reach, as soon as possible, a just, peaceful and definitive solution to the dispute. With regarding to the Treaty of Lisbon modifying the Treaty of the European Union and the Constitutive Treaty of the European Community, she said the inclusion of the Malvinas in the “Association of Overseas Countries and Territories” regime was incompatible with Argentina’s legitimate rights and with the sovereignty dispute over the archipelagos.

The representative of Brazil, supporting Argentina’s legitimate rights in the sovereignty dispute, said she regretted the lack of progress in restarting negotiations on all aspects of the Islands’ future. Brazil recognized the constructive attitude of the Argentine Government and reaffirmed its interest in a prompt resumption of negotiations. She supported the good offices of the Secretary-General on the matter. She underlined the Declaration adopted by the Union of South American Nations, in which Heads of State and Government rejected the United Kingdom’s exploration for non-renewable natural resources on the Argentine continental shelf, in open opposition to Assembly resolution 31/49, which called on the two parties not to unilaterally alter the Islands while the process recommended by the Assembly was taking place.

The representative of Guatemala said the colonial situation in the Malvinas was defined as “special and particular” because it bore characteristics largely distinguishing it from classical cases of decolonization. Taking that into account, the United Nations had brushed aside the application of the principle of self-determination, and it was to be hoped that the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom would renew bilateral negotiations as soon as possible.

Argentina had always shown a desire to resolve the dispute in line with United Nations resolutions, he said, expressing hope that the United Kingdom would do the same, with a view to arriving at a peaceful solution of benefit to both parties. Concerned about the unilateral actions carried out by the United Kingdom in areas of the Argentine continental shelf and in violation of the stipulations contained in Assembly resolution 31/49, he said that concern had been reaffirmed in February by Heads of State and Government during the Latin America and Caribbean Summit. Hopefully the Special Committee’s new call for a peaceful, negotiated solution to the dispute would contribute to the clear goal held by the United Nations on the matter since 1965.

Urging Argentina and the United Kingdom to strengthen their efforts to resolve their prolonged sovereignty dispute over the Territory were the representatives of Paraguay and Peru — who associated themselves with the statement made yesterday on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) — as well as those of El Salvador and Papua New Guinea. The representatives of Paraguay, Peru and El Salvador stressed that Argentina’s rights in the matter must be taken into proper account, while Papua New Guinea’s delegate called for proper and fair consideration of the interests of both Governments.
Committee Decision
The Special Committee then decided by consensus to authorize Bashar Ja'afari (Syria), its Rapporteur, to submit a report on the session directly to the General Assembly for approval.

24 June 2010

Governance Expert Analyses Implementation of Decolonisation Decade


Dr. Carlyle Corbin
Independent Advisor on Governance
Statement to the Special Committee on Decolonisation
United Nations Headquarters
New York, N.Y.
23rd June 2010

on agenda items:
• Implementation of the (Decolonisation) Declaration

• Implementation of the (Decolonisation) Declaration by the Specialised Agencies and International Institutions Associated with the United Nations


Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the Special Committee on Decolonisation, I appreciate this opportunity to address you on issues related to the implementation of the Decolonisation mandate during the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2001-2010).  

I. Implementation of Decolonisation Resolutions

Mr. Chairman,

At the regional seminar in Noumea, I presented a paper on the "Implementation of the Declaration Mandate during the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism," and proposed some future strategies for the completion of the mandate. I had presented previous independent analyses of the first International Decade which ended in 2000 at the Pacific Regional Seminar in Majuro, Marshall Islands; and a mid-term review of the second IDEC at the Caribbean Regional Seminar in Canouan, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The 2010 analysis examined the decolonisation resolutions of the General Assembly during the decade, as well as the recommendations of the Caribbean and Pacific regional seminars which emerged as the most successful exercise during the decade. The analysis explored the level of implementation of the actions called for by the wider United Nations system, including the Special Committee, the administering Powers and relevant intergovernmental organisations, consistent with recognised international standards.  I would like to highlight some of the key issues identified in the analysis covering the period 2001-2010:

• The UN General Assembly called for the intensification of information on decolonisation to the territories, including through the UNICs, the need for political education programmes in the territories, and UN supervision or observation of self-determination processes in the territories. Only Tokelau was supported by a UN information programme during the period, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Electoral Affairs Unit.

• The Assembly reiterated its longstanding call to examine the compliance with the inalienable right of the people of the non self-governing territories to ownership, permanent sovereignty, control and disposal of their natural resources, including land and marine resources, and their rights to the exclusive economic zones. In cases such as Guam and the US Virgin Islands, it is clear that the mandate on the ownership of the natural resources is not sufficiently taken into account.

• Administering Power cooperation with the Special Committee was a continuing feature. New Zealand continued its exemplary cooperation with the Special Committee vis a vis Tokelau. The United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US), which withdrew their formal cooperation decades ago, have not returned  formally to the Committee sessions, although both countries were present at the most recent Caribbean Regional Seminar in St. Kitts & Nevis in 2009. The UK also participated in the 2010 Pacific Regional Seminar in New Caledonia.

• To its credit, the UK facilitated the Special Committee’s Caribbean Regional Seminar to Anguilla in 2003, and subsequent visiting missions to Bermuda, and the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), in 2005 and 2006, respectively, providing the committee with much needed first-hand knowledge of the situation on the ground. I had the honour to have served as the UNDP Independent Expert on the Bermuda and TCI missions. France has cooperated both with the Committee, as well as with regional organisations such as the Pacific Islands Forum and the Melanesian Spearhead Group on missions to New Caledonia.

• During the Second International Decade (IDEC), the former Bush Administration declined requests of the elected governments of Guam and the US Virgin Islands to host visiting missions and regional seminars, and in 2008 announced that the territories under their administration were ‘domestic matters,’ and therefore outside of the purview of the Special Committee. This announcement appeared not to have elicited a discernible reaction from the Special Committee. Requests are pending from American Samoa, and it is hopeful that the new administration in Washington would recognise the international legal dimension of the non self-governing territories under its administration, and resume cooperation with the Special Committee, and in the process, facilitate visiting missions to those territories.

• During the period, the General Assembly began to recognise self-determination as a fundamental human right in regards to the decolonisation process of the territories, but its repeated mandated actions for programmes of collaboration between the Special Committee and institutions such as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Human Rights Committee, CARICOM, African Union, among others, have never materialised. The Secretary General reports on implementation of the decolonisation mandate make no reference to any collaboration with these bodies other than reference that the Special Committee “takes note of,” or “continues to follow” their work. The CERD Reports throughout the Second IDEC lament the fact that repeated requests to the Special Committee for information on racial discrimination illicit copies of the annual working papers on each territory which contain no information on racial discrimination. This is identified as a tangible concern.

• To this end, the Assembly called for an annual review on the implementation of decolonisation resolutions during the first and second IDECs. For most of the period, these reports did not materialise. In 2009, a report was issued which represented the replies from three member States to requests for information from the UN Secretary-General, but no information on the compliance by the UN system. In fact, throughout the Second IDEC, there was a consistent reliance on compilations of replies from member states, or from several UN agencies, to form Secretary General  reports on implementation, as compared to implementation reports on other agenda items which were detailed, analytical and comprehensive. Member States, in particular those of the Caribbean Comunity (CARICOM), have repeatedly expressed the view to the Fourth Committee that the Secretary General reports on implementation of the decolonisation mandate were insufficient.

• Initiatives of the plan of action of the first and second IDECs, in particular, two critical analyses on the constitutional, political and economic development of the territories were not undertaken. Concern for this omission of analysis was consistently expressed in statements of CARICOM to the Fourth Committee dating to the 1990s and throughout the second IDEC. A proposal for an Independent Expert to undertake the required studies, contained in a Programme of Implementation endorsed by the General Assembly, was deferred and never implemented.

• The initiation of a case-by-case approach to the examination of each territory was successfully being initiated with Tokelau, and was begun with American Samoa, but not continued.

II. Recommendations of the Regional Seminars

There were a number of new initiatives called for in the various regional seminars, but which did not make their way into the resolutions. Nevertheless, they are still considered part of the decolonisation mandate. Several  such initiatives included:

• The formation of an expert group from the non self-governing territories to advise the Secretary-General and the Special Committee on concrete measures to achieve full decolonisation. Such a group was formed, but operated outside of the UN framework.

• An annual joint meeting between the Special Committee and the UN Economic and Social Council  (ECOSOC) on the agenda item of assistance to the territories given that both bodies have almost identical resolutions. Also re/ ECOSOC, the extension of observer status for the territories in several of the relevant functional commissions such as the Commission on Sustainable Development, the Commission on Social Development, and the Statistical Commission. This was dismissed as a “constitutional” violation by one administering Power, even as the territories have observer status in UN General Assembly proceedings, endorsed by the administering Powers,  in the same functional areas – apparently, not a constitutional violation.

III. Participation of Non Self-Governing Territories in the UN System

The mandate of the second IDEC contained a consistency of advocacy of the practice of UN assistance to non self-governing territories from the UN system. This is found in resolutions of the UN General Assembly, as well as ECOSOC. I had the honour of presenting a paper on this issue at the seminar in New Caledonia last Month, and will highlight a few points:

• The regional commissions are the most active in relation to the direct participation of the territories as associate members, particularly in the case of ECLAC and ESCAP. Similar provisions exist in various UN specialised agencies (UNESCO, FAO, WHO et al).

• UNDP is the primary coordinator of assistance to the territories from the UN system. In both case of direct participation as associate members or observers, or as recipients of assistance, the terms of reference of the institution are respected, and in addition, the administering Power must agree to the type of participation or assistance concerned. Nevertheless, abstentions persisted during the second IDEC on the resolutions in the UN General Assembly and ECOSOC on this agenda item based on the need for respect for the rules of procedure of the respective bodies. These rules are already being respected, but the abstentions continue, nevertheless.

• The participation of those territories in the world conferences and the special sessions of the UN General Assembly on meetings in the economic and social sphere was a main highlight in the first and second IDEC. This approach emanated from the Working Group of Associate Member Countries of the Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee, a subsidiary body of ECLAC, which I had the honour to serve as chair during my ministerial tenure. Reports of the Working Group should be in the archives of the Special Committee dating back to the 1990s. The reports are available on the website of the Caribbean Subregional Headquarters of the Economic Comnmission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

A number of recommendations were also made to assisting the territories in engaging the international process. These include:

• The recommendation that the name of the agenda item should be changed from the lengthy reference to “Implementation of the (Decolonisation) Declaration by the Specialised Agencies and the International Institutions Associated with the United Nations” to simply, “Support to the Non Self-Governing Territories from the United Nations system.”

The name of the resolution in ECOSOC was so-changed several years ago, but the name of the agenda item remained. The study concluded that both the Special Committee and ECOSOC should change the name of the agenda item. No amount of UN General Assembly or ECOSOC resolutions will apparently influence UN economic and technical agencies to act simply because they do not recognise their responsibility to implement the Decolonisation Declaration. There is apparently nothing the Special Committee can do to change this objective reality. They might provide information on how these agencies are “providing support” to the territories as many of the agencies are active in this regard. This would require a change in the letter of request from the Secretary General to the agencies to this effect.

This is part of the reason why the SG Report on implementation of this resolution contains precious few agencies which responded to requests for information on how they are implementing the Decolonisation mandate, even as the same agency might actually be providing technical and other assistance to the territories. UNESCO, ESCAP, et al are cases in point.

• The UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) conducted an evaluation published in 2007 on aspects of how the decolonisation agenda is serviced by the UN system (E/AC.51/2007/2/Add. 3). It should be required reading for members of the Special Committee. Some of the findings included:

* The conclusion by the UN that the decolonisation mandate could be implemented in the near future.

* The need for an assessment of the relevancy, quality and utility of decolonisation documents before the Special Committee, including the Working Papers which are the main documents produced comprising 73 % of work time.

* The “significant risk” of loss of expertise given “the absence of systems for capturing knowledge about Special Committee and Decolonisation matters.”

Perhaps some of the concerns of the OIOS Report have been addressed since its publication in 2007, but as far can be determined, there have been no discussions – at least in formal session of the Special Committee – on the OIOS findings. The recent enhancements to the Department of Political Affairs, with new resources, did not include any identifiable resources for its Decolonisation Unit which services the Special Committee.

IV. Conclusion

Mr. Chairman,

It has long been established by the General Assembly that self-determination is a fundamental human right. It is therefore consistent to recognise that the contemporary colonial models, however sophisticated, are still inconsistent with this principle, do not meet the minimum standards of political equality, and are inconsistent with democratic governance.

It is from this perspective that the analysis of the implementation of the decolonisation mandate during the Second IDEC has shown a degree of increased attention to the necessity of alleviating the democratic deficiencies inherent in the present dependency arrangements through the implementation of the international decolonisation mandate as set forth in the United Nations Charter and resolutions of the General Assembly, as well as in the international human rights conventions.

In this context, the members States of the Special Committee have proposed action-oriented recommendations to the General Assembly which has adopted these resolutions by consensus, or at the very least, by overwhelming margins. Where the process has thus far not achieved its desired result is in the actual implementation phase where initiatives proposed, have not become initiatives undertaken. Most of the administering Powers appear to dismiss the important actions called for, and merely join in the consensus to re-affirm the decolonisation principles. Several have attempted to portray colonial reform as legitimate initiatives of decolonisation, suggesting that the territories under their administration are self-governing, after all. This sort of re-definition, however, has no basis in fact.

Some degree of implementation of the mandate, in the meantime, has come from a number of UN agencies which have begun to accelerate integration of many of the territories in their work programmes. Further work needs to be done in this area, however.

Dissemination of information on decolonisation to the territories and to the UN system as a whole, must be done by active means (publications, thematic seminars), rather than by the passive modality of informing that there is a website. A far more proactive approach is required utilising the considerable, but underutilized, tools of the wider UN system.

In the final analysis, there appears to be a clear difference in perception as to what constitutes success. The adoption of resolutions, and the de-listing of territories from UN review to reduce the numbers on the list, does not constitute success. The actual achievement of full self-government by the peoples of the territories is the real success. The de-listing is the afterthought. It should not be considered as the goal, and should not be perceived as such.

The intent of the analysis was not to be overly critical, but rather to provide a sober assessment of the objective reality of how the United Nations decolonisation process actually is handled at the UN, and most importantly, how the process actually impacts the people of the territories who look to the UN as a guarantor of their future. The intent is to promote progress. But as Martin King said, "progress does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability.

For the member States and the UN machinery to make progress in decolonisation, it needs to adapt to incorporate new ideas - many of which have already been introduced during the first and second IDECs -while remaining absolutely true to the principles of self-determination and subsequent decolonisation of the peoples of our remaining territories. The Special Committee needs to seriously examine whether its method of work is an impediment to that progress, as many of the territories have concluded.

As it has been said, the price of doing the same thing, year after year, is far greater than the price of change. This is so if the results of the “repetition of process” does not yield the desired result. Accordingly, a new decade with a revitalised plan of action is vital in this regard, with specific focus on implementation of the existing mandate through innovative means. The present method of work has not succeeded in the implementation of the mandate which remains as valid today as it has been over the twenty-year period of the two international decades for the eradication of colonialism.

Dr. Corbin is an expert on decolonisation who formerly served as Minister of State for External Affairs in the Government of the US Virgin Islands. He presented the position of the territorial government before the Special Comittee on Decolonisation, and the UN General Assembly Fourth Committee,  for over twenty years. He also served as an Independent Expert to UN regional seminars of the Special Comittee on Decolonisation, delivering papers on decolonisation issues in small territories throughout the First and Second International Decade(s) for the Eradication of Colonialism, most recently in St. Kitts and Nevis in 2009, and in New Caledonia in 2010. He previously served as the Independent Expert to the UN Visiting Missions to Bermuda, and to the Turks @ Caicos Islands, in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

23 June 2010

Speakers at United Nations Address Self-Determination, Militarisation Issues In Island Territories

General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Special Committee on Decolonization

7th Meeting (AM)

Special Committee on Decolonisation Urged toVisit Guam as Petitioners Deplore Militarisation of Non Self-Governing Territory

 US Virgin Islands Constitutional Convention President Updates Committee on US Response to Proposed Constitution for the Territory

Turks & Caicos Islands Speakers Express Urge Constitutional Restoration

Speaking out against the militarization of Guam by the United States, several petitioners today called upon members of the Special Committee on Decolonization to visit the Non-Self-Governing Territory and see the situation for themselves as soon as possible.

Many called attention to the release of an 11,000-page draft environmental impact statement by the United States, which the people of Guam had been given 90 days to study and comment on. Hope A. Cristobal Psy.D of the Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice urged the Special Committee to study the document, which was “in direct violation of various international human rights instruments, including United Nations resolutions and declarations”.

Rima Ilarishigh Peter Miles, speaking on behalf of Women for Genuine Security, noted that United States Navy activities carried out on the island had gravely impacted the environment, human health and the welfare of the territorial government. Considering such challenges, she stressed the position that “the United States does not care what it destroys as long as no one knows about it”.

Asserting that the United Nations must not allow negative impacts to further block the process of decolonization, many petitioners requested that the Special Committee declare the militarization of Guam to be a major impediment to Guam’s exercise of its right to self-determination. They also requested that the Special Committee ensure that United States congressional appropriations and other United States military projects be put on hold until past injustices were remedied, current adverse impacts were negated and the potential for future adverse impacts completely removed.

The Special Committee — known also as the Special Committee of 24...also heard petitioners on the Non-Self-Governing Territories of Western Sahara, New Caledonia, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.

On the question of New Caledonia, Caroline Machoro-Reignier of Front de libération nationale kanak socialiste underscored major challenges that remained despite progress made in the wake of the landmark 1998 Nouméa Accord. Those included serious economic and social imbalances between the Territory’s Northern and Southern Provinces. Emphasizing the inevitably of New Caledonia’s independence, she called for United Nations support, particularly legal assistance in developing a constitution.

As the Special Committee turned to the question of the Turks and Caicos Islands, two petitioners voiced deep concern about the process by which a new territorial constitution was to be created. Wendal Swann, Chairman of the All-Party Commission on the Constitution and Electoral Reform, said that the Government of the United Kingdom had appointed a constitutional consultant to catalogue the views of the Territory’s people — after deciding to suspend specific portions of the current charter.

Benjamin Roberts of the Turks and Caicos Forum said the appointment had incited fears among the Territory’s people that their interests would not truly be heard, and that the United Kingdom would impose a decree on the islands if they ratified a constitution that did not reflect the administering Power’s views.

The President of the US Virgin Islands Fifth Constitutional Convention Luz Anwar James updated the Special Committee on Decolonization on the process of  administering Power review of the proposed constitution for the territory (OTR)

Also taking part in today’s proceedings were representatives of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Chile, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

The Special Committee reconvened at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 23 June, to hear a statement presented by an Independent Expert who had consducted an analysis of  the implementation mandate during the Second International Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism. 


The Special Committee on Decolonization met today to hear petitioners on the questions of Western Sahara, New Caledonia, Guam, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands.

Question of Western Sahara

PEDRO NUÑEZ MOSQUERA (Cuba) said that in light of the Saharan people’s struggles over 40 years to gain independence, the conflict in the Territory should be included on the General Assembly’s agenda as a direct responsibility of the United Nations. The Special Committee had a key role to play in fulfilling that aim, he said, noting that the people of Western Sahara were the only ones who could choose their future freely and without pressure or conditions. The United Nations had adopted more than 40 resolutions since 1963, when Western Sahara had been added to the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, and several rounds of discussion had taken place on the issue, he said, emphasizing that all parties involved must step up their determination to continue their efforts.

The self-determination of the Saharan people must be guaranteed within the framework of the United Nations Charter and resolution 1514 (XV), he said, stressing further that they needed the support of the entire international community. To that end, Cuba had contributed as much as possible to the development of the Saharan people, particularly in the area of education, he said, affirming that his country would continue to support the development of a just and definitive solution to the situation of Western Sahara, whose people would always be able to count on Cuba.

JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO (Venezuela), stressing his country’s solidarity with and commitment to the self-determination efforts of Western Sahara, said his country’s Constitution enshrined the principles of respect for the inalienable rights to independence, territorial integrity and self-determination, to which strict adherence must be exercised. On the basis of those principles, Venezuela had extended diplomatic recognition to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, and therefore reiterated its request for similar United Nations support.

He called for the strict implementation of resolution 1514 (XV) and urged the Special Committee to consider the situation with more determination, taking into account the need to promote justice and the human rights for the Saharan people. Expressing hope that negotiations would ensure the implementation of relevant appropriate resolutions, he said they could only succeed if carried out within the framework of the Charter and resolution 1514 (XV). In addition, Venezuela reaffirmed, as per resolution 1514 (XV), the necessity of eliminating colonialism, racial discrimination and human rights violations, and called upon administering Powers to take the necessary action to ensure the exercise of self-determination.

AHMED BOUKHARI, Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front), said 18 years had passed since the United Nations had endorsed, in 1991, the plan for a self-determination referendum in Western Sahara, which was still to be held. The process had been deterred by Morocco on the basis of friendships it had forged in the Security Council, particularly with France, which would provide it with impunity to continue its destructive efforts. Morocco still believed that it could involve the Council in gravely altering the Saharan people’s fundamental basic right to self-determination. None of the endeavours carried out, from the 1997 Houston Agreement to the 2003 Baker Plan, to efforts by Christopher Ross, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, had managed to overcome the intransigence of the occupying Power, he said.

Morocco had incorporated new arguments and pretexts to create new alliances within the Council in exchange for hopes of realizing the final annexation of Western Sahara, he continued. That would signify the introduction of a new and curious doctrine that would enable all those participating in it to annex neighbouring territories, he warned. That pseudo-solution of “autonomy of Moroccan sovereignty”, which Morocco had formulated in 2007 and set as a precondition for advancing the current negotiations, implied forcing the Saharan people to renounce the option of independence and integrate into the occupying Power. It would not be difficult for members of the Special Committee to consider that pseudo-solution as a grave rejection of the principle of self-determination, established by the United Nations in resolution 1514 (XV) and defined in resolution 1541 (XV).

Morocco continued to negate the 1991 United Nations decision, he said, adding that it also continued illegally to exploit Western Sahara’s natural resources and to violate the Saharan people’s human rights under the eyes and ears of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). There was no indication that Morocco would change its position in the near future, he said, noting that the United Nations would fail to address the situation of the last African territory on the Special Committee’s agenda. The Moroccan case could have represented success on decolonization, but instead, it had become a symbol of protracted failure. No one could resign themselves to a fait accompli predicated on false and territorial appetites, he stressed.

He said Morocco was continuing the expansionist policies of Mohamed Allal al Fassi, leader of the Istiqlal Party, who had sought, since independence in 1956, to forge a “Greater Morocco” extending into Senegal and swallowing up all of Western Sahara, Mauritania and parts of Algeria and Mali. The region had seen no peace since 1975, and had even moved further away from it due to Morocco’s decision to base its demands on ancient history. Failure to follow the road to peace, as instructed by the United Nations, should not be permitted, he said, adding that the Special Committee could play a large role in replacing injury and violence with a complete process for the peaceful decolonization of the last African colony on its agenda.

More than ever, the Special Committee had the chance to find out for itself what was happening in the Territory, he said, recalling that its last visit to Western Sahara had taken place 35 years ago. There was no valid or convincing reason to object to a second visit until the question of decolonization was resolved. The Special Committee had a right to request and receive true and appropriate information about the situation in the Territory, but Morocco was refusing to provide it, claiming that it had no colonies, only “provinces”. Sooner or later international law would prevail in Western Sahara, he said.

Calling for a pooling of efforts to convince Morocco to cooperate with the United Nations on ending the unsustainable colonial situation that had handicapped the future of the entire region, bringing instability and insecurity, he said all countries of the region had been subjected to European colonization, and had subsequently spent years building their own independent futures. “We cannot be an exception to the general rule,” he emphasized, denouncing Morocco for trying to return to times of injury, violence and territorial bullying based on ancient history. The only way forward was through a democratic solution in which the Saharan people would be masters of their own destiny, he said.

When asked by the representative of Bolivia about a solution to the conflict, Mr. BOUKHARI said all the parties concerned had agreed on a solution “a long time”. The consensus had been that the Saharan people could decide whether they preferred to remain part of Morocco or to become independent. However, there had been a deviation from that process towards attempts to legitimize an unacceptable situation, he said, noting that, during informal negotiations, Morocco had taken “a step back”. In light of that, Mr. Ross hoped to consider a new negotiating round in efforts to move forward. The only solution was to apply the already agreed-upon principle of self-determination for Western Sahara, he said, noting that any other method could lead to “a dead end”.

Responding to a question by the representative of Nicaragua about the Special Committee’s role, he said that, as long as the decolonization process continued in the Territory, the Special Committee would remain involved and use all the means at its disposal. He said he did not understand the rationale behind objections to the Special Committee visiting Western Sahara in order for members to view the situation for themselves. It should visit, since preventing such a visit would not help to strengthen the competence of its work.

Asked by the representative of Venezuela about the difficulties of the decolonization process, he said the current situation in Western Sahara was the result of destruction that had begun in 2009. Considering the risk that a lack of action could become a shield for the status quo, he urged the United Nations to take another look at the situation in Western Sahara so as to avoid a tragedy that would take place in the Organization’s name.

DONATUS KEITH ST. AIMEE (Saint Lucia), Chair of the Special Committee, said it was not possible to have two separate solutions, adding that he would seek to move the process forward through talks between the parties concerned. He expressed concern that the approaches taken thus far had not produced results and he would work towards a different approach, if needed.

The representative of Chile said it was important to keep the matter on the agenda in the interest of the right to self-determination. The Special Committee must also raise the question of beginning a third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.

The representative of Nicaragua supported Chile’s proposal.

Question of New Caledonia

CAROLINE MACHORO-REIGNIER, Front de lib é ration nationale kanak socialiste, said the Kanak people were on the path towards achieving their destiny. While it had been difficult and bloody in light of revolts, war and assassinations, the Kanak people had also experienced victories, noting that New Caledonia was becoming financially autonomous and economically viable. The 1998 Nouméa Accord towards a transfer of power from France to New Caledonia had led to a territorial government based on solidarity and dialogue, she said.

Despite the positive progress made, however, major issues remained, she said, highlighting the substantial economic and social imbalances that had led to the overdevelopment of the Southern Province and the underdevelopment of the Northern Province. Moreover, high unemployment rates had begun to attract private interests that could potentially call into question certain policies aimed at emancipating the Territory’s indigenous people, she said, noting that considerable migration, primarily of people from Europe, could lead to social destabilization. Such issues could have a negative impact, particularly on the transfer of competencies and the related training, and on the establishment of the people’s citizenship and employment priorities.

Expressing concern that the Nouméa process was not moving as rapidly as expected, she underscored the Territory’s willingness to confront all challenges, including the need for regular evaluation of public policies conducted within the Nouméa framework. An independent New Caledonia was inevitable, she stressed, expressing hope that the United Nations would continue to support the Territory and to help it achieve its goals. She requested legal assistance from the Special Committee to help the Territory develop a constitution.

Responding to a question from the representative of Cuba concerning economic and social imbalances, she cited several examples, noting that 85 per cent of total mining revenue was generated in the South. In that social context, 85 per cent of households in the south had access to running water, as compared to 65 per cent in the north, she said, adding that efforts were being made to reduce those serious geographical imbalances.

Also making statements on the question of New Caledonia were the representatives of Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

Question of Guam

RIMA ILARISHIGH PETER MILES, Women for Genuine Security, called for immediate United Nations action to advance the protection and fulfilment of the right to self-determination of Guam’s Chamoru people. That right was currently under threat in light of the continuing avoidance of the issue on the part of the United States, as well as recent actions which contradicted the terms of that administering Power’s obligation to the Chamoru people.

She said the presence of the United States Navy in Guam had brought about extremely negative impacts, including environmental deterioration, the drying up of major freshwater sources and a population boom of 80,000, which had created a financial burden for the territorial government. Such challenges warranted the Special Committee’s support in demanding that the United States take no further action in militarizing the Mariana Islands, she said.

“The United States does not care what it destroys as long as no one knows about it,” she stressed, noting that the militarization of Guam was a direct impediment to the right of self-determination. As for the severe health implications of militarization for the Chamoru people, she tearfully called upon the United Nations to send a visiting mission to survey the situation and to challenge protocol in such matters when the administering Power was non-cooperative. It was critical, to protect Guam’s land and resources, and to help the Territory achieve the highest possible level of economic self-reliance, environmental protection, as well as social and educational development, she said.

HOPE A. CRISTOBAL, Psy.D. Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice, said Guam’s indigenous people continued to suffer social, cultural and environmental annihilation at the hands of their United States oppressors. The Chamorro people were dying and suffering at disproportionate rates in comparison with their United States counterparts, she said, noting that their health concerns were similar to those in New Caledonia, which suffered “an overrepresentation” of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug use, and violence. Guam had some of the world’s highest suicide rates, and the hyper-militarization plans of the United States would exacerbate those problems. As the administering Power for more than six decades, the United States must bear responsibility for Guam’s tragic invisibility, which had resulted in inadequate public-health resources.

She recalled that, in 2005, the people of Guam had been notified through the media that some 7,000 United States marines were being transferred to the Territory from Okinawa, Japan. The United States Department of Defense had refused to give any further information on the matter, citing its plans as “tentative” until the release of a draft environmental impact statement. The people of Guam had been given only 90 days to study and comment on the 11,000-page document, she said. Six months after its release, the territorial government was struggling to get United States funding to deal with the anticipated impact on water, power and sewer infrastructure, as well as seaport facilities contained in the plans.

Emphasizing that it behoved the Special Committee to study the document, which was in direct violation of various international human rights instruments, including United Nations resolutions and declarations, she said the United States was making plans to dredge 287,327 square metres of coral reefs in Apra Harbour, Guam’s only natural deep-water harbour, which already contained high traces of arsenic, lead, copper, mercury and tin, among other harmful chemicals.

She went on to say that traditional lands comprising a recently designated national historic preservation site and sacred areas near Mount LamLam had been scheduled for land takeovers through coercive procedures or outright purchase. There was no indication that the United States would adhere to its responsibilities under United Nations resolutions and treaties, and Guam’s people would suffer irreparable damage as a result, she added.

She asked the Special Committee to declare, unequivocally, that the militarization of Guam was a major impediment to the Decolonization Declaration, and that Guam’s separate and distinct status under the United Nations Charter should exist until the Chamorro people had exercised their right to self-determination, without external interference. She asked the Special Committee to request a United Nations visiting mission to Guam as soon as possible.

JULIE GILGOFF, a Guam journalist, read out a statement on behalf of Senator Vicente Cabrera Pangelinan, saying that the people of Guam wanted to resolve their political relationship with the United States before ceding any more control of their lands and oceans, or the rights of the people. The Special Committee must advance the self-determination process immediately, because recent decisions by the administering Power diluted that right daily. The decision to increase the population base in Guam, a Non-Self-Governing Territory, contravened the principles of decolonization, and was being carried out in a disingenuous, secretive manner. In the United States own words, the planned increased military presence was the most massive military undertaking in the movement of military personnel since the Second World War.

She said that, in the past couple of years, the Senator’s office had been registering native inhabitants and their descendants. In an effort to increase the number of eligible voters for a decolonization plebiscite, the Senator had sponsored legislation and public law 30-102 to accept the registration rolls of participants in the land trust programme, which had the same eligibility criteria as the decolonization registry. Guam was seeking financial and technical resources from the administering authority to implement an education campaign to adequately inform the Chamorro about the plebiscite vote, she added.

Calling on the United Nations to give the petition to Member States, particularly the United States, and to demand the administering Power’s compliance with it, she said Guam’s inalienable right to self-determination must be upheld in the face of the threat posed by military expansion. The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) must immediately seek the full support of its Members and the international community. It must be allowed to send a visiting mission to Guam to affirm the wishes of the Chamorro people for a decolonization plebiscite and attest to the urgency of those wishes.

TRESSA DIAZ, Fuetsan Famalao’an, expressed concern about the impact of militarization on the island’s social infrastructure and the livelihood of its women and children. The United States Department of Defense was working behind closed doors to prepare a final impact statement, with view to adopt it at the end of August. Congress had refused to hold an open hearing to air the concerns of people whose lives would be affected forever by the military expansion, she said.

Emphasizing that the United States military had long since displaced generations of Chamorro families and replaced much of their agricultural, hunting and ranching activities with Government and military employment, she said many local people were unaware that Guam’s land, water and food were still contaminated. Mustard gas, PCBs and radiation continued to plague the area and its food supply, especially the waters off Orote Point in southern Guam and the surrounding Cocos Islands, due to military dumping. She urged the Special Committee to conduct a hearing on Guam to see the substandard living conditions of the island’s people. The United Nations must not allow more negative impacts to precede determination of the island’s political status.

Congressional appropriations and more military projects should be put on hold until past injustices were remedied, current adverse impacts were negated and the potential for future adverse impacts completely removed, she stressed, calling on the Special Committee to give top priority to the Chamorro people’s right to self-determination. It should investigate the administering Power’s compliance or non-compliance with its Charter obligations under Article 73 to promote the socio-economic development and preserve the cultural identity of Non-Self-Governing Territories. She also asked the Special Committee to recommend that the General Assembly pass a resolution authorizing a United Nations visiting mission to examine the impact of the military on the Special Committee’s work, as well as a resolution reaffirming that the Question of Guam was one of decolonization that remained to be completed.

ANDREA SANTOS, We Are Guahan, said her organization was deeply alarmed by the injustices proposed under United States militarization plans. The Guam Environmental Protection Agency had given the military’s impact statement its lowest possible rating, calling it the most poorly constructed impact statement it had ever evaluated. Noting that United States plans had rendered the people of Guam powerless over their destiny, she said: “The political freedom, environmental safety and cultural legacy we leave to future generations is one that is ultimately decided by those who view their home as nothing more than a gas station or military training ground in the Pacific.”

The basic necessities for maintaining or creating a self-sustaining, empowered, healthy population were threatened by the United States plans, she said, adding that militarization would create a water shortfall of 2.3 million gallons per day for people living outside the properties controlled by the Department of Defense. The island’s already underfunded and understaffed education system would not be able to absorb the projected influx of 8,000 students.

According to local economists, United States projections of economic gains due to militarization had been inflated by more than 118 per cent, she said. Projected tax revenues would not be enough to support the 80,000 new residents who would arrive in 2014. Moreover, already low living standards would deteriorate further, and the predicted housing shortage through 2014 would drive up house prices while increasing homelessness and overcrowding. The impact on the coral reefs protecting the island from storms and earthquakes would be impacted in an unprecedented way, she said, adding that noise and pollution would also increase. The decolonization of Guam should take place without the administering Power and with the cooperation of the United Nations, she stressed, calling for an investigation into the administering Power’s compliance with the Charter.

The representative of Bolivia asked the extent to which the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People was known among Guam’s population.

Ms. CRISTOBAL said only a few people were aware of it, and for decades Guam’s residents had had a “colonial mindset”. They had only become aware of their island’s true status when the United States had announced plans for hyper-militarization, she said, emphasizing that it was imperative that the United Nations establish a presence in Guam and show its people that there was international concern to decolonize the Territory.

Mr. ST. AIMEE (Saint Lucia), Special Committee Chair, said United Nations agencies could disseminate information on the Declaration, adding that they had a mandate to provide assistance to local populations, such as the inhabitants of Guam.

Question of Turks and Caicos Islands

BENJAMIN ROBERTS, Turks and Caicos Forum, noted that, while the islands had experienced unprecedented growth in the last 40 years, rapid development had led to increased crime, social ills and corruption. Financial challenges had been caused by a lack of accountability on the part of elected officials and civil servants, as well as “horrendous oversight by the British”, he said, noting that since the administering Power’s installation of an interim territorial government, more people had experienced financial hardship and felt disempowered.

However, the United Kingdom was not entirely to blame, he stressed, pointing out that the administering Power had taken the necessary actions to remedy the Territory’s situation, as it had initially proposed. Recently, the interim territorial government had contracted a constitutional consultant to catalogue the people’s ideas for constitutional reform. The resulting document would be a constitution that would in turn become the law of the land prior to the end of the two-year interim government period, making way for fresh elections, he said.

He said major concerns had emerged about the United Kingdom’s use of a constitutional consultant, with many fearing that she would answer only to her employer rather than champion the islanders’ interests. The United Kingdom could then simply decree the document, which would be a blatant violation of the people’s human rights. The document must not become law until it had been ratified by the elected territorial government, ensuring the consent of the people, he stressed.

WENDAL SWANN, Chairman of the All-Party Commission on the Constitution and Electoral Reform, Turks and Caicos Islands, said certain challenges facing the islanders were a result of the current constitutional state of affairs. The Governor was considered a “constitutional dictator”, holding all authority on the basis of a decision by the United Kingdom. By the same decision, parts of the Turks and Caicos constitution had been suspended, he said, adding that Robin Auld — a former Chief Justice appointed by the administering Power to conduct a Commission of Inquiry into possible ministerial corruption — had recommended the suspension without citing any perceived constitutional failures.

Following that recommendation, the United Kingdom had appointed Kate Sullivan to run consultations with the people, he continued. Referring to certain provisions of the constitution that would definitely be changed, Ms. Sullivan had excluded the media from her meetings, thus proving the process of consultation to be “more a sham than anything reliable”. He stressed that, unless such a process was challenged, its acceptance by the administering Power as a legitimate consultation with the people would nullify their voices. To prevent that, the Territory’s political leaders had appointed an independent commission to reflect the views of the people. The Governor did not and could not represent the interests of the people, he emphasized, pointing out that the suspension of the constitution had only served to make the people leaderless.

When asked how elections could be held without a constitution, Mr. Swann reiterated that public consultations were being held, and it was to be hoped that afterwards, the United Kingdom would consider the independent Commission’s report as well as Ms. Sullivan’s. Noting that the current constitution was simply an order in Council, he said he hoped all parties involved could eventually accept a new one. With regard to the elections, he called on the Special Committee to provide the Territory with assistance to ensure that the new constitution was ratified by the people. The Special Committee’s support in that matter could help prevent an undesired decree by the United Kingdom, he said.

Question of United States Virgin Islands

GERARD LUZ AMWUR JAMES, President of the Fifth Constitutional Convention of the United States Virgin Islands, updated the Special Committee on the Territory’s constitution-making efforts, saying it was making its fifth attempt to draft a locally written charter to replace the 1954 Revised Organic Act, which had been written by the administering Power and served as the governing document in lieu of a constitution. The proposed constitution had been adopted by the Fifth Constitutional Convention last May following extensive fact gathering in public meetings throughout the Territory.

The proposed constitution had been adopted by the required two-thirds majority vote, and had been forwarded in December to the administering Power, he said. Written under the present non self-governing territorial status, the document was not intended to alter that status, but rather to organize “internal governance arrangements”, he said, adding that he had recently led a delegation to Washington, D.C., to present the document to two congressional committees, followed by a presentation of the administering Power’s views. Congress had asked the Convention to reconvene and consider the administering Power’s objections, he said.

He recalled that, during his statement to the United States Senate’s Energy and Natural Resource Committee, he had noted that the proposed constitution had been drafted by and for the people of the United States Virgin Islands, and was not a proposal to govern other people. Several negative comments had been made about certain provisions of the document, he noted, by people who had not “worn the shoes” of those who had suffered the indignity of being externally governed. They had not examined the evidence that had led the Convention to adopt the necessary provisions to maintain generations of local people working hard to own property that would provide life for themselves and their descendants.

The critics had not reviewed the evidence that showed that those with Virgin Islands ancestry, primarily people of African descent, had been devastated by the administering Power’s lack of support, he continued. For example, half of the local population had left the Territory, an exodus that must stop, he said, stressing that the extinction of the native people was not an acceptable option. Young people were leaving because their parents could not afford to pass on to them homes and businesses that had been in the family for decades. Home values had increased exponentially due to external factors, causing tax hikes well beyond the ability of local families to pay.

One of the objections to the proposed constitution had been over any meaningful reference to the native population, he recalled. However, such recognition should not cause suspicion or be challenged as improper, since it was the administering Power that had recognized and defined the native population, pursuant to the 1917 treaty transferring the Territory from Denmark to the United States. Subsequent citizenship and nationality laws of the administering Power imposed in 1927 and 1940 confirmed that recognition, he said, adding that the provisions of the proposed constitution granting certain benefits to the native population were consistent with policies, agreements and treaties executed by the administering Power. The document went further, however, by embracing all those born in the Territory, including the children of people born elsewhere who had made the Virgin Islands their home.

A key area of difference between the Convention and the administering Power had been over the local people’s ownership of the Territory’s marine resources, he recalled, noting that the administering Power regarded the islands’ natural resources as its own. That was inconsistent with relevant General Assembly resolutions and with the Law of the Sea, which had affirmed for decades that the ownership, control and disposal of natural resources, including marine resources, lay with the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territory in question. That inconsistency must be reconciled as a matter of priority in the United Nations.