06 October 2010

Innovative Plan for International Decolonisation Proposed to UN

Proposal Presented to UN Special Political Committee

An innovative plan to complete the decolonisation process for the remaining small island non self-governing territories worldwide has been recommended to the United Nations. The plan of action for a new International Decade for the Completion of the Decolonisation Mandate, initially introduced to the UN Decolonisation Committee last June, was presented in a 5th October 2010 presentation to the United Nations Special Political and Decolonisation Committee (Fourth Committee) by Dr. Carlyle Corbin, international advisor on  governance and multilateral diplomacy. Corbin has served as an expert to United Nations Caribbean and Pacific regional seminars on decolonisation throughout since 1990. He is the former Minister of State for External Affairs of the US Virgin Islands Government. The full written statement follows:

Statement of Dr. Carlyle Corbin
International Advisor on Governance and Multilateral Diplomacy
to the United Nations Special Political and Decolonisation Committee
United Nations Headquarters, New York, N.Y.
5th  October 2010

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Permit me to extend my personal congratulations on your election to chair the Fourth Committee which deals with an interesting mix of political issues, not the least of which is the contemporary colonial question. The success of your country, Zimbabwe, in defeating colonialism, with wide international support, remains an important milestone in the history of the struggle for freedom and democratic governance in Africa and her diaspora.

As one of the independent experts participating in the Pacific Regional Seminar in Noumea last May, I join in expressing appreciation to President of New Caledonia, H.E. Philippe Gomes, for the excellent facilities and amenities provided for those important deliberations. I also congratulate President Gomes for his statement earlier this afternoon which provided an important perspective on the ongoing self-determination process in that territory.

Mr. Chairman,

The small island non self-governing territories in the Caribbean are, by and large, the remnants of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. These are countries of the African diaspora which have yet to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination. Contemporary colonialism is, therefore, very much alive in the Caribbean - as well as in the Pacific - even as these dependency arrangements have become increasingly complex, sophisticated and sometimes even devious.

The impact of globalisation, climate change, the global financial crisis, geo-strategic considerations, among other issues, have all served to slow the pace of decolonisation of these territories. These have often served as the basis for seeking to legitimise the dependency status through either creative interpretations of what constitutes self-government, or by simply ignoring the UN’s role in the process altogether.

But, make no mistake, the present dependency models, however sophisticated, are still in violation of the principle of self-determination, and are wholly inconsistent with democratic governance. Self-determination is a fundamental human right which has not been exercised by the people of these territories despite the UN Charter, General Assembly resolutions and human rights instruments which guarantee this right under international law. This should be borne in mind as the United Nations in 2010 observes its 50th anniversary of the Decolonisation Declaration, as Africa reflects on a half-century of independence, and as Asia and the Pacific commemorate their respective successes in the achievement of full self-government with the concerted attention of the United Nations.

Mr. Chairman,

This year marks the end of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, and provides the international community with an opportunity to take stock of how the decolonisation process has fared. To this end, I have conducted during several analyses on the implementation of the Declaration during the first and second International Decades at the request of various chairs of the Decolonisation Committee for consideration by member States.

The 2010 analysis reviewed the implementation of decolonisation resolutions, examined UN assistance to the territories, and assessed any collaboration which may have been initiated with relevant human rights bodies pursuant to the General Assembly. The analysis also examined activities of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues aimed at the self-determination of the indigenous peoples in the territories, particularly in the Pacific, and activities of civil society in trying to refocus international attention on decolonisation.

The results of these analyses were presented at the UN regional seminars, and at the regular sessions of the Special Committee on Decolonisation during the first and second International Decades. The conclusion of the 2010 review is that much remains to be done in fulfilling the decolonisation mandate. That only one territory (Timor Leste) has been decolonised since the independence of Namibia two decades ago is testament to this fact.

The 2010 analysis recommended an updated plan of action (attached) for the authorisation of a third International Decade, with primary focus on implementation of the actions called for by the Assembly. It was concluded that there is nothing wrong with the resolutions which have been finely tuned over the years. The role of member states of my own Caribbean region in devising these targeted actions is especially commended, and is a testament to the awareness of the ties which bind the people of the Caribbean irrespective of varying levels of political development Ands constitutional advancement.

But it is the implementation of these resolutions that very much remains the weak point. Clearly, the selective enforcement of UN resolutions is a consistent concern which hinders the international process, and especially works against developing countries. The non self-governing territories are similarly affected, and they have limited opportunity to express their concerns.

It was concluded that for implementation of the decolonization mandate to succeed, new methods of work, including special mechanisms such as those employed by the human rights bodies, should be introduced as a matter of urgency. The consistent adoption of the same resolutions year-after-year without implementation renders them less effective over time.

Mr. Chairman,

The 2010 analysis also concluded that self-governance indicators should be utilised in determining whether these territories have met the recognised threshold of self-government. The use of indicators was questioned at the Special Committee, but clarification was not possible under the Committee’s procedures. I will offer that clarification now.

Governance indicators are routinely used by UNDP to assess the extent of compliance with democratic governance practices. Other UN bodies also use such methods. Self-governance indicators which are being finalized by an expert group from Caribbean and Pacific territories which will serve to organise the existing decolonisation mandates, systematically, comprehensively and scientifically as a method of assessing whether the territories have met basic minimum standards of self-government long established in UN resolutions. Whilst each territory should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, there must be some standard against which such a review is made. Otherwise, the effectiveness of this approach would have limited meaning. These self-governance indictors will be made available to the relevant committees of the United Nations, as well as various regional organisations.

Mr. Chairman,

The 2010 analysis of the decolonisation process makes the following point:

“There appears to be a clear difference in perception as to what constitutes success. The adoption of resolutions (alone) and the de-listing of territories from UN review do 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 is not, and cannot be perceived, as the goal...Unless this gap of perception is closed, and actual implementation initiated in earnest, it is questionable whether actual decolonisation could win out over the legitimisation of colonial reform that would invariably place the UN stamp of approval on contemporary colonial governance (resulting in)… a premature end to the self-determination process, without (actually) achieving self-determination. Such a development would deleteriously affect millions of people in non self-governing territories worldwide.”

Accordingly, a new International Decade can only succeed if such innovative measures as those suggested in the 2010 Analysis, and other relevant procedures are instituted. I end with the conclusion of my report to the Special Committee on Decolonisation last June:

“…It was Martin King who said that “progress does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability.” For us to make real progress to achieve decolonisation, the United Nations system needs to adapt to incorporate new ideas, while remaining absolutely true to the principles of self-determination and subsequent decolonisation of the peoples of our remaining territories. The United Nations… needs to seriously examine whether its method of work is an impediment to that progress, as many of the territories have concluded (the short allotted time of four minutes for those who have travelled half-way across the world is illustrative).

"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” do not yield the desired result. Accordingly, a new decade with a revitalized 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."

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.



Proposed Plan of Action for International Decade for the Full Implementation
of the Decolonization Mandate (2011-2020)


1. The ultimate goal of the International Decade for the Full Implementation of the Decolonization Mandate should be the full implementation of the Decolonization Declaration through the exercise of the right to self-determination, including independence, consistent with Resolutions 1514 (XV) and Resolution 1541 (XV) through the exercise of the right to self-determination by the peoples of the remaining Non Self-Governing Territories in accordance with all relevant resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly, including the principles contained in the Declaration, in furtherance of the realization of democratic governance, and through a proactive approach to the full implementation of the actions called for in the present plan of action.


2. The international community, including administering Powers which administer Non Self-Governing Territories, other member States, the United Nations system of organizations, regional and other intergovernmental organizations, as well as and non-governmental organizations, should coordinate their efforts to assist the peoples of the Non Self-Governing Territories in their progress towards exercising their inalienable right to self-determination and full decolonization, and to this end, should actively participate in the implementation of the present Plan of Action.

3. The international community should ensure that its decisions in United Nations and other intergovernmental organisations are in furtherance of the actions called for in the international mandate on decolonization, including those contained in relevant United Nations resolutions, as well as those outlined in the present Plan of Action.

4. The international community should seek to enable the peoples of the Non Self-Governing Territories to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination, which is a fundamental human right, and to decide their future political status with complete knowledge and awareness of the full range of legitimate political options available to them, including independence. In that context, particular emphasis should be placed on the dissemination of information to the Non Self-Governing Territories on the functioning of contemporary models of full political equality.

5. The international community should ensure that all political exercises relating to self-determination are carried out in an atmosphere free from intimidation and external interference, and allow for the open expression of the interest and aspirations of the peoples of the remaining Non Self-Governing Territories irrespective of factors such as size, geographical location, size of population or availability of economic resources. In this connection, particular emphasis should be placed on providing the necessary assistance from the international community, as appropriate, to facilitate a successful exercise of self-determination.


6. The Member States of the United Nations, including those States which administer territories, as well as the United Nations system, should take all necessary steps to facilitate the exercise of self-determination in the Non Self-Governing Territories. In this connection, the United Nations, in consultation with the administering powers, should ensure that the peoples of the Non Self-Governing Territories are made fully aware of the political status options available to them through increased and sustained contact with the elected leaders, with educational institutions and civil society organizations in the territories, and with the peoples themselves.

7. The United Nations Department of Public Information should intensify its dissemination of information on the decolonization process, in conjunction with the political education programmes as outlined in paragraph 8, and should utilize civil society institutions, United Nations Information Centres, tertiary institutions in the territories, media outlets and government information services, as well as experts on decolonization, in the dissemination process.

8. The Electoral Affairs Division of the Department of Political Affairs in consultation with the Special Committee other relevant United Nations bodies, the territorial governments and the administering Powers, should develop adequate and unbiased political education programmes for the Territories in order to heighten the awareness among the people of the territories of their inalienable right to self-determination in conformity with the legitimate political status options consist with relevant resolutions of the United Nations. In this connection, these programmes should precede a genuine act of self-determination which should be exercised in each territory, conducted by or under observation of the United Nations, as appropriate, not later than 31 December 2020, in accordance with principles contained in the Decolonisation Declaration and all relevant resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly.

9. The relevant United Nations bodies, including its specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system, should examine and review conditions in each of the Non Self-Governing Territories so as to take appropriate measures to accelerate progress in the economic, social and governance sectors, consistent with relevant United Nations resolutions. In this connection, the United Nations should formulate programmes of assistance to the remaining Non Self-Governing Territories, and facilitate the participation of the territories in relevant programmes and activities of the United Nations system, as well as through membership, associate membership or observer status, within the framework of the mandates of the organization concerned, in order to enhance the economic and administrative capacity of the Non Self-Governing Territories.

10. The Secretary-General, or his Special Representative, should visit each of the Non Self-Governing Territories as early as possible during the Decade and report thereon to the General Assembly, and the Secretary-General should expand the reports on implementation of the decolonisation mandate, called for by the Assembly, with focus on the actions taken by the United Nations system.


11. Administering Powers should take the necessary measures to promote the political, economic, social, cultural and educational advancement of the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories thereby strengthening their capacity to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination, should provide the United Nations with comprehensive information in accordance with Article 73 (e) of the Charter; and should report annually to the General Assembly on all necessary measures taken to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions in accordance with Article 73 (b) of the Charter.

12. Administering Powers should ensure that the exercises of the right of self-determination for the peoples of the Non Self-Governing Territories is not affected by changes in the demographic composition of the Territories under their administration as a result of the displacement of the peoples of the Territories.

13. Administering Powers should implement measures aimed at ensuring the ownership and control of the natural resources of the Non Self-Governing territories, including marine and property resources, by the people of the territories, and should assist the territories in the development of mechanisms aimed at conserving those natural resources and preserving the environment of the territories.

14. Administering Powers should enact measures to assist the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories in achieving the maximum possible level of economic self-reliance, environmental protection, and social and educational development. In this connection, Administering Powers should facilitate the participation of the territories in relevant United Nations programmes in these respective spheres.

15. Administering Powers should consider, as a matter of urgency, the resumption of formal cooperation with the Special Committee through an interactive dialogue with the Member States of the Committee in formal and informal sessions, in order to provide the Special Committee with the opportunity to hear, first hand, the perspective of the Administering Powers on the self-determination process leading to the decolonisation of the Non Self-Governing Territories under their administration.

16. Administering Powers should facilitate, in accordance with all relevant resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly, and taking into account Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960 and resolution 1541 (XV) of 15 December 1960, the participation of Territories under their administration in the programmes and activities of the specialized agencies and other organizations within the United Nations system, as well as in United Nations bodies on decolonization including, in particular, the Special Committee on Decolonization, as well as regional and international organizations.

17. Administering Powers should facilitate the dispatch of United Nations visiting and special missions to each of the remaining non self-governing territories, at the request of, and in cooperation with, the Special Committee on Decolonisation, and in conjunction with the relevant United Nations bodies at regular intervals.

18. Administering Powers should refrain from military activities in Non Self-Governing territories which may adversely affect the rights and interests of the people concerned, and which may create health and environmental hazards.


19. The Special Committee on Decolonization should organize regional seminars on an annual basis, alternating between the Caribbean and Pacific regions, to review the progress achieved in the implementation of the plan of action, with the participation of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, their elected and appointed representatives, the administering Powers, Member States, regional organizations, specialized agencies, non-governmental organizations and regional and international experts. In this connection, the primary focus of the regional seminars should be to hear the views of the representatives of the territorial governments and institutions, as well as the regional experts.

20. The Special Committee should continue to examine the situation with regard to political, economic and social developments in all Non Self-Governing Territories. In this connection, the Decolonization Unit should enhance the Working Papers on each Non Self-Governing Territory, for the consideration of the Special Committee, to include a broader range of information sources, and to group the working papers according to their respective regions in order to facilitate more analysis of cross-cutting and thematic decolonization issues by member States, consistent with the recommendation of the 2007 Report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on the in-depth evaluation of political affairs.

21. The Special Committee shall establish a timetable for the dispatch of four visiting missions per year to Non Self-Governing Territories. In this connection, the Special Committee should seek, as a matter of priority, the full concurrence of the administering Powers with regard to the dispatch of the missions, and the participation and support of relevant United Nations agencies, in particular the United Nations Development Programme and the relevant United Nations regional commissions, in providing substantive support to the missions.

22. The Special Committee, with the cooperation of the administering Powers, should make every effort to facilitate and encourage the participation of representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories in the Special Committee itself, and in other United Nations bodies which deal with self-determination and decolonization, in particular the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee), the Third Committee and the relevant human rights bodies.

23. The Special Committee should begin a constructive work programme, on a case-by-case basis, to include an examination of the political and constitutional framework of each Territory including constitutional rights and sovereignty issues, and an assessment of the socio-economic situation to inform the political education programme in advance of the act of self-determination.

24. The Special Committee should develop a formal programme of collaboration with other United Nations bodies which also address self-determination and decolonization issues, in particular the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Human Rights Council and the Human Rights Committee, within the framework of their respective mandates with the aim of exchanging information, consistent with relevant United Nations resolutions.


25. The Independent Expert, as confirmed by the Special Committee on Decolonization, should conduct a critical analysis of the progress and extent of the achievement towards self-government in each of the Non Self-Governing Territories, and an independent assessment of the economic and social situation in the territories, with specific focus on the small island territories under review of the Special Committee.

26. The Independent Expert should finalize the Self-Governance Indicators for consideration in the assessment of the level of self-government in the remaining territories to identify where deficiencies exist in the present political arrangements, and to make appropriate recommendations for consideration of the Special Committee.

27. The Independent Expert should present an annual report to the Special Committee on Decolonization, and should engage in an interactive dialogue with member States at the beginning of the substantive session of the Special Committee each year on the self-determination and decolonisation processes in each of the remaining territories.

28. The Independent Expert should provide substantive support to the visiting missions of the Special Committee, and should conduct fact-finding missions to individual territories, as appropriate, subject to the availability of resources, including external resources.


29. The Special Committee, in consultation with the Department of Political Affairs and the Office of the Secretary-General should coordinate the plan of action of the International Decade to Implement the Decolonization Mandate.

30. The Special Committee should submit annually to the General Assembly an analytical report containing:

(a) A review and appraisal of the activities undertaken in connection with the Decade.

(b) Suggestions and recommendations.

31. The Secretary-General should submit to the General Assembly a comprehensive annual report on action taken, as well as on suggestions and trends that emerge from the implementation of the plan of action.

32. The Secretary-General should submit to the General Assembly at its 70th session a mid-term report on the implementation of the plan of action, and a final report on implementation of the International Decade at its 75th session.