27 February 2011

"Colonial situations are completely outdated" - U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon


Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

"Completing decolonization will require concerted efforts on the part of of all concerned."
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the opening of the 2011 session of the Special Committee on Decolonization, in New York, 24 February:

I am pleased to join the Special Committee as it begins its work for 2011.

This year marks the beginning of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.  Let us focus our attention on accomplishing concrete results with the involvement of all concerned:  the Special Committee, the administering Powers and the Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Last December, we commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, adopted by the General Assembly.  On that occasion, I appealed to the international community to realize the full spirit of the Declaration, which called for “the immediate and complete elimination of the colonial system in all its forms and manifestations”, in keeping with the principles of the United Nations Charter.  The Special Committee has a crucial role to play as the intergovernmental body exclusively devoted to advancing the United Nations decolonization agenda.

Today, 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remain on the list, awaiting constructive, results-oriented initiatives.  On a case-by-case basis, those Territories have to be given the opportunity to exercise their right to self-determination in order to take the interests of their peoples fully into account.  Colonial situations are completely outdated and must be addressed with renewed vigour and creativity.

Last year, in my report to the General Assembly on the “Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism”, I recalled that the Assembly had requested the Special Committee to continue to seek suitable means for the immediate and full implementation of the Decolonization Declaration.  In practice, this would mean that the Committee could assess its past work and achievements in order to chart a way forward, together with the administering Powers, for the ultimate benefit of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Your current work on devising a plan of action for the Third International Decade, and the forthcoming 2011 Caribbean Seminar on Decolonization, might prove instrumental in that regard.  It is my hope that difficulties encountered in the recent past will gradually be overcome, thereby strengthening the Committee’s determination to develop effective formal and informal modalities that would help it accomplish its mandate.

The completion of the process of decolonization will require the concerted efforts of all concerned:  first and foremost, the Special Committee, the administering Powers, and the peoples in the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Dialogue aimed at improving cooperation between the Special Committee and the administering Powers continues to be of utmost importance.

The Secretariat will spare no effort to assist the Committee in its work.  But this can be no substitute for the choices, decisions and actions expected of the Special Committee.

I wish you every success in your important endeavour.

Electing New Chair in Unprecedented Secret Ballot, U.N. Decolonisation Committee Members also Approve Timetable, Organization of Work

Addressing the first meeting of the 2011 substantive session of the Special Committee on Decolonization, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called today for “concrete results” in the quest for self-determination by the world’s 16 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Those results could only be achieved through the concerted efforts of all stakeholders, including the Special Committee, the administering Powers and the peoples of the Territories, he said.  “On a case-by-case basis, those Territories have to be given the opportunity to exercise their right to self-determination,” Mr. Ban added, emphasizing that dialogue aimed at improving cooperation between the Special Committee and the administering Powers continued to be “of utmost importance”.

In an unprecedented action this morning, the Special Committee (on Decolonisation) held a secret ballot to elect a new Chair.  Out of 25 recorded votes, Francisco Carrion-Mena ( Ecuador) received 15 to become the new Chair, replacing Donatus Keith St. Aimee ( Saint Lucia), who won 10 votes.

The Special Committee also elected, by acclamation, the following Bureau members:  Pedro Núñez Mosquera (Cuba) and Rupert Davies (Sierra Leone), Vice-Chairs; and Bashar Ja’afari (Syria), Rapporteur.

Speaking after the elections, Mr. Carrion-Mena called for “reinvigorated multilateralism” in global decolonization efforts.  “Decolonization is a tough challenge, but not one that should be impossible,” he said, noting that the United Nations membership had swelled by 93 Member States in the last 50 years.  Pledging to push for the decolonization of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, he described his election as a positive testament to the “liveliness” of the Special Committee and its search for a higher profile.

Delegations then took the floor in support of the Special Committee’s work, with Cuba’s representative emphasizing that Puerto Rico, which was not on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, also needed the Special Committee’s support.

Papua New Guinea’s representative said it was through the Special Committee that many nations had been born, something of which all its members could be proud.  However, the administering Powers could and should be more proactive in helping the Territories under their jurisdiction realize their rights, he added.

Syria’s representative, speaking in his national capacity, congratulated the new Chair, saying his election “breathed new life” into the Special Committee’s efforts.  Despite its good work in recent years, however, it was shameful that there was still a need to liberate non-self-governing peoples, he said, appealing for an end to that chapter of history.

The Special Committee also heard brief statements by representatives of India, Indonesia, Congo and Saint Lucia.

In other business, the Special Committee approved, by consensus as orally amended, resolutions and decisions relevant to its work, as contained in a note by the Secretary-General (document A/AC.109/2011/L.1); and the organization of its work, programme of work and timetable (document A/AC.109/2011/L.2).

It also invited the delegations of Argentina, Spain and Tajikistan to participate in its deliberations as observers.

The Special Committee, also known informally as the Committee of 24, is the focal point for the implementation of the Decolonization Declaration.  Its current 29 members are:  Antigua and Barbuda; Bolivia; Chile; China; Congo; Côte d’Ivoire; Cuba; Dominica; Ecuador; Ethiopia; Fiji; Grenada; India; Indonesia; Iran; Iraq; Mali; Nicaragua; Papua New Guinea; Russian Federation; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Sierra Leone; Syria; Timor-Leste; Tunisia; United Republic of Tanzania; and Venezuela.

Remaining on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories are Western Sahara, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Montserrat, St. Helena, Turks and Caicos, United States Virgin Islands, Gibraltar, American Samoa, Guam, New Caledonia, Pitcairn and Tokelau.

The Special Committee will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.