9 October 2012
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General AssemblyFourth Committee3rd Meeting (PM)
CONSEQUENCES OF PERSISTENT DEPENDENCY RELATIONS EXAMINED IN FOURTH COMMITTEE
AS PETITIONERS EXPRESS UNYIELDING POSITIONS OVER DISPUTED TERRITORIES
Situations in Western Sahara, Gibraltar,Turks and Caicos, New Caledonia, Guam Considered
As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met to hear petitioners on its annual draft of decolonization issues, many decried the violation of the human rights of Western Saharan refugees, including what some claimed was the exploitation of their natural resources by Morocco.
During the meeting, one petitioner, from the Algerian National Committee for Solidarity with the Saharan People, spoke about the dramatic situation of the Saharan population in the occupied territories of Western Sahara, and the “alarming dangers” they faced due, he said, to repression by the occupying Moroccan authorities. He described serious human rights violations, which had generated an atmosphere of terror and dissuaded people from reporting the atrocities.
In his view, the whole of Western Sahara was subjected to a military siege and a media blackout, as the Moroccan authorities had made it very difficult for non-governmental organizations, international media and observers to gain access. Both men and women of all social categories were subjected to serious human rights violations, which included forced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture, genocide, and internal forced displacement.
Speaking of the Saharans who lived in the refugee camps, another petitioner, from Not Forgotten International, praised their incredible patience, as they waited for the champions of freedom of the world to let them determine their own future as a nation and a shining example of democracy and commitment to peace. But their patience was wearing dangerously thin and there was growing sentiment that they would rather die fighting for their own country than be known as the longest-lasting refugees who died committed to a peaceful solution.
Attention was also drawn to what a petitioner called Morocco’s “shameful spoilage” of Western Sahara’s natural resources. Member States were urged not to be accomplices to crimes against Western Sahara’s future generations. Petitioners also argued that international aid was insufficient, amounting to less than 50 cents per day per person. Refugees were desperately short of everything, including food, health care, housing, water and education, they said.
However, some speakers countered that Morocco had served as a beneficial steward to Western Sahara and its people. According to a petitioner from the University of Delhi, Morocco had continued to complete its process of integration, which was happening in phases. Morocco had invested in many positive initiatives and guaranteed all Saharan people, both inside and outside the region, a participatory role without discrimination, he said.
Petitioners also argued that the new constitution proposed by Morocco was based on the principles of unity and inclusion, took into account the diversity of the region, and would provide for an adequate division of powers among state and regional and local authorities.
Another petitioner, of Depute Parlementaire de Laayoune, spoke about the despair and frustration that, in his view, resulted from the activities of the leaders of the Polisario Front. The people in the camps were hostages of “this fictitious Republic”, he said. Algeria must understand that there would be serious consequences for providing logistic support to the separatists and playing with the territorial integrity of their neighbours.
On the question of Gibraltar, that territory’s recently elected Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said that Spain was playing “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” with Gibraltar, preaching freedom and democracy to the world while denying Gibraltarians the right to have a say in their own future. The proposal by Spain to resume bilateral talks with the United Kingdom over the sovereignty of Gibraltar “ignored” the wishes of the people of Gibraltar. Gibraltar’s sovereignty was a bilateral issue only for the people of Gibraltar and the British Crown, he stated, and Spain must drop its claim to the land.
Emphasizing that the people of Gibraltar enjoyed a constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom, he added that despite the “intolerable” actions by the Spanish Government, the people of that Territory wished to continue their positive engagement with the Government and people of Spain over the issue of the Bay of Gibraltar. The threatening attitude of the Spanish Government, he said, resembled the attitude of General Franco, who had believed that Gibraltar would “fall like a ripe fruit” after the closure of the border between it and Spain. But Gibraltar remained steadfast and “unripe” as ever, he stated.
Also speaking on the question of Gibraltar, the representative of Spain stated that the principle of territorial integrity was of the essence. Gibraltar was very different from most Non-Self-Governing Territories and, therefore, solutions must also be different. There could be no doubt whatsoever regarding the validity of the Treaty of Utrecht, he stressed, which, as the United Kingdom had recalled on various occasions, made unfeasible the independence of Gibraltar without Spain’s consent.
Echoing sentiments expressed throughout the afternoon, a speaker from the Turks and Caicos Islands Human Rights Commission noted that despite all the efforts of the United Nations to rid the world of the curse of colonialism, it still reared its ugly head. Colonialism remained an indelible stain on the fabric of civilization, he said, and the international community must prevent its overreaching hand from eroding the authority of the elected governments and impinging on those people’s democratic rights.
The Committee also heard additional speakers on the questions of New Caledonia, Guam, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Western Sahara.
Exercising the right of reply were the representatives of the United Kingdom and Spain.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on 10 October to continue its consideration of decolonization issues.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to continue its consideration of decolonization issues, for which it is scheduled to hear from representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories and petitioners. (For background, see Press Release GA/SPD/504 of 8 October.)
FERNANDO ARIAS ( Spain) stated that the case of Gibraltar was very different from that of most of the Territories subjected to decolonization and therefore the applicable solutions had to be different as well. In the case of Gibraltar, the principle of territorial integrity was of the essence. The General Assembly had made that clear in successive resolutions urging both Spain and the United Kingdom to negotiate. For Spain, the solution entailed a restitution of the Territory, the one transferred by the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, as well as the land that was later occupied by the United Kingdom without any legal basis.
He said the United Kingdom, as the administering Power and the international responsible party for the Territory, was the one to attend to the needs of the inhabitants. On its side, the Government of Spain had stated on several occasions its readiness to establish mechanisms enabling local cooperation for the welfare and economic development of the inhabitants of the Campo de Gibraltar and Gibraltar. However, that did not imply the acceptance of a right to the self-determination in this case. Such a right was ascribed to the population of a colonized Territory, not to the settlers imposed by the occupying Powers in detriment of the native inhabitants.
He went on to say that there could be no doubt whatsoever regarding the validity of the Treaty of Utrecht, which, as the United Kingdom had recalled on various occasions, made unfeasible the independence of Gibraltar without Spain’s consent. He called on the United Kingdom to resume bilateral dialogue on the decolonization of Gibraltar in accordance with the United Nations mandate.
FABIAN PICARDO, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said that Spain was playing “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” with Gibraltar, preaching freedom and democracy to the world while denying Gibraltarians the right to have a say in their own future. The proposal by Spain to resume bilateral talks with the United Kingdom over the sovereignty of Gibraltar “ignored” the wishes of the people of Gibraltar and referred only to their “interests” being taken into account. He recalled that the United Kingdom had repeatedly said she would never enter into an arrangement whereby Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against the wishes of its people. The sovereignty of Gibraltar was a bilateral issue only for the people of Gibraltar and the British Crown. He referred to a recent statement by King Juan Carlos of Spain, who said that, in his view, it was not time for politicians in Spain to be chasing “pipe dreams” or “Chimeras”.
Mr. Picardo said that it was now 299 years since, under the Treaty of Utrecht, Spain had agreed to cede Gibraltar’s sovereignty to the United Kingdom, and there had now been 308 years of uninterrupted British sovereignty over it. The Treaty was now clearly defunct and overtaken by subsequent international treaties and texts, not least, the United Nations Charter and decolonisation resolutions. In short, there were too many arguments against Spain’s position to set them out in the current forum. The only way forward was to remove Gibraltar from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. Spain must drop its claim to the land.
The people of Gibraltar, he said, enjoyed a constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom, approved by referendum, in keeping with General Assembly resolution 2625 (1970). If not delisted on the basis of that relationship, the people of Gibraltar should be told how their present constitutional arrangements did not achieve the maximum possible level of self-government, short of independence, so that they might deal directly with the United Kingdom to resolve it. Nonetheless, he remained strongly committed to a trilateral process of dialogue. The United Kingdom had expressed its strong commitment as well.
The people of Gibraltar, despite the “intolerable” actions by the Spanish Government, also wished to continue their positive engagement with the Government and people of Spain over the issue of Bay of Gibraltar, he said. Illegal incursions by Spain into British territorial waters had been going on for several years, and while they had not yet resulted in any human injury, that risk existed every day that the incursions continued. Furthermore, there was much more that could be done to develop the economy of Gibraltar and the neighbouring Spanish towns if they were able to engage in meaningful cooperation with Spain. The sad fact was that the threatening attitude of the Spanish Government, including in the media, and attacks against their economy at every opportunity. That resembled the attitude taken in the 1960s by General Franco, who believed that Gibraltar would “fall like a ripe fruit” after the closure of the border between it and Spain. Yet there had been five different political administrations in Spain, and Gibraltar remained steadfast and “unripe” as ever. The Spanish “time warp” must end.
HAROLD MARTIN, President of the Government of New Caledonia, stated that recent election results in his country had prematurely launched the campaign for general election of May 2014, and as a result, the Government would have great difficulty in convincing ministers to vote for major initiatives to reduce social inequality. Briefing the Committee on socioeconomic development in the Territory, he said that New Caledonia had begun the new school year in good condition. The new civil society centre would soon be operational.
He reaffirmed that the timeline set forth by the Noumea Accord would be applied to the economic and social funds in spite of the global economic crisis. The situation remained satisfactory, with gross domestic product (GDP) growth and low unemployment. Budget credits allocated by the state would fuel business activity. The goals of economic and social rebalancing remained the Government’s first priority.
He highlighted, among other social improvements, a provision to provide men and women over the age of 60 with a decent monthly allocation. In other developments, New Caledonia’s relations with its neighbours were being scaled up, as were its bilateral cooperation activities, as it diversified cooperation through exchanges with Fiji, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands. The Territory also had participated in the recent meetings of the Pacific Islands Forum.
The representative of Papua New Guinea, encouraging all the parties to respect the rights and dignity of the Kanak people in accordance with the provisions of the Noumea Accord, asked if the New Caledonian President could inform the Committee how many Kanak people had been trained and would be trained in the professional areas? How many doctors and engineers and civil engineers and bureaucrats were being trained so they could participate in the civil society of New Caledonia?
Responding, Mr. MARTIN stated that the job offers were four times higher than the requests for jobs. Yet, 7,000 people were still out of work, owing to a lack of training. Great efforts were being taken to train the young Kanak people through a special provision called “400 Managers”. Further, the University of New Caledonia had special training sessions to enable youths to attend the great French schools. Young people also participated in training conventions held in other countries, such as Canada.
TIARA R. NAPUTI, Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice, said that in April, a joint statement released by the United States-Japan Security Consultative Committee confirmed that approximately 5,000 Marines and their dependents would be relocated to Guahan. Since the United States military already controlled one-third of the island, the indigenous Chamorro people were in danger of being pushed further to the margins by the threatened inundation of the island with thousands of military members and associated personnel. The island’s dependency status impeded the indigenous rights of the Chamorro and their ability to participate in the decisions that affected their culture, land, and lives.
On the subject of a lawsuit filed by Arnold “Dave” Davis against the definition of “native inhabitant of Guam” as a condition for the self-determination plebiscite, she added that the case demanded attention from the United Nations. While it outwardly appeared to be a reverse discrimination case, it had nothing to do with protecting civil rights or preventing race discrimination. Davis’ lawsuit demonstrated an attempt by a Guahan resident to invoke United States’ domestic and legal processes and preemptively deny the long-colonized peoples of Guahan the opportunity to exercise the inherent right of self-determination.
DANIEL MALCOLM, Turks and Caicos Islands Human Rights Commission, said that despite all the efforts of the United Nations to rid the world of the curse of colonialism, it still reared its ugly head. Colonialism remained an indelible stain on the fabric of civilization. Its overreaching hand eroded the authority of the elected governments of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, impinging on their democratic rights as they grappled with the effects of recession and financial crises. He called for a revival of the Trusteeship System, which had worked well in the past. Towards that end, he asked the Committee to vet a draft resolution that would give access to the Trusteeship System by both dependent Territories and any administering countries appointed by the United Nations as mentors of the Territories.
O’BRIEN FORBES, The TCI People’s Referendum, stated that the Turks and Caicos was not a Crown colony won in conflict or acquired by purchase. The British “overseership” was to be “conditioned by consent of the people of Turks and Caicos”. However, recent experience had shown that those officials had been incautious enough to insist on their judgment against the public. He was therefore in favour of Daniel Malcolm’s proposed resolution, and asked that the mechanism of a United Nations trusteeship be revived in the case of Turks and Caicos.
CARLYLE CORBIN, International Adviser on Governance, Saint Thomas Virgin Islands, stated that it had long been established by the General Assembly that self-determination was a fundamental human right. It was therefore to be recognized that the status quo dependency models, however complex, were inconsistent with that principle and contradictory to democratic governance. The status quo was the problem. It could not also, simultaneously, be the solution.
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