11 June 2013

U.N. Decolonization Committee discusses dissemination of information on decolonization

10 June 2013
General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Special Committee on Decolonization
3rd Meeting (AM)



Meeting in resumed session today, the Special Committee on Decolonization approved three draft resolutions on various aspects of information relating to the Non-Self-Governing Territories under its purview.

Approved without a vote, the drafts deal with general implementation of the decolonization Declaration in the areas of dissemination of information on decolonization; information from the Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73e of the United Nations Charter; and the question of sending visiting and special missions to the Territories.

Formally known as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial countries and Peoples, the 24-member body monitors implementation of the 1960 Declaration in the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories.  It is also known as the “Committee of 24”.

By the text on dissemination of information on decolonization (document A/AC.109/2013/L.4), the General Assembly would reiterate the importance of disseminating information as an instrument for furthering the aims of the decolonization Declaration, and remain mindful of the role of world public opinion in effectively assisting the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to achieve self-determination.  The draft would have the Assembly recognize the role of the Department of Public Information, through the United Nations information centres, in disseminating information on United Nations activities at the regional level. 
The draft on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73e of the Charter (document A/AC.109/2013/L.3), would have the General Assembly stress the importance of timely transmission by the administering Powers of adequate information, particularly in relation to the Secretariat’s preparation of working papers on the Territories.

By the text on sending visiting and special missions to the Territories, (document A/AC.109/2013/L.5), the General Assembly would stress the need to dispatch periodic missions to facilitate the full, speedy and effective implementation of the Declaration.  It would also call upon administering Powers that had not yet done so to facilitate United Nations visiting missions to the Territories.  The Assembly would also request the administering Powers to cooperate fully with the Special Committee in exploring the possibility of undertaking visiting or special missions in furtherance of the decolonization mandate.
In other matters today, the Special Committee adopted its agenda and updated its programme of work, previously adopted in February, to include the question of French Polynesia, pursuant to General Assembly resolution 67/265.

The Special Committee also decided to consider, on Monday, 17 June, an item on its decision of 18 June 2012 concerning the hearing of petitioners on the question of Puerto Rico.  Having received up to 30 requests for hearing from various organizations, the Special Committee decided that Tuesday, 11 June, would be the deadline for receiving and processing petitioners.

Further, the Special Committee decided to consider the questions of Gibraltar and Western Sahara on Wednesday, 12 June, and the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) on Thursday, 20 June.

Before taking action on the drafts resolutions, the Special Committee took note of two reports of the Secretary-General, the first on dissemination of information on decolonization during the period from April 2012 to March 2013 (document A/AC.109/2013/18); and the second on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73e of the United Nations Charter (document A/68/64).

Margaret Novicki, Chief of the Communications Campaign Service in the Strategic Communications Division of the Department of Public Information, introduced the report on the dissemination of information on decolonization, pointing to 45 press releases on decolonization produced in English and French.  They covered meetings, statements and hearings by various United Nations bodies.  Decolonization was integral to the Department’s radio, television and online news platforms, and the United Nations website on decolonization continued to provide coverage of the topic in the six official languages, as well as Portuguese and Kiswahili, she said.  The website had more than 250,000 page views, an increase of 46 per cent on the previous year.  The website for the International Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories (25-31 May) had also seen a 42 per cent growth in page views during the same period.

Emphasizing that educating the public about decolonization was a focus of the Department’s outreach activities, she said the topic was part of its guided and audio tours of United Nations Headquarters and other duty stations of the world body.  The Dag Hammarskjöld Library provided research and information services on decolonization and related issues, and the global network of United Nations information centres continued to raise awareness by disseminating information materials and promoting the Organization’s work on the issue.

Laura Vaccari, Chief of the Decolonization Unit in the Department of Political Affairs, described its preparation of Secretariat working papers on the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories, adding that it was responsible for the substantive organization, conduct and follow-up to the annual regional seminars on decolonization.  Statements delivered during the seminars were made available on the decolonization website, often contributing to more focused and substantive debates while reaching a wider audience.  The Unit also maintained a roster of contacts comprising experts, academics and non-governmental organizations dealing with decolonization to help widen its network of formal and informal links while promoting knowledge- and information-sharing.  In addition, the Unit continued its efforts to make the website a useful educational tool, working closely with the Department of Public Information to modernize it.

Following action, the representative of Papua New Guinea urged all concerned parties, particularly administering Powers to continue to disclose relevant information, including integrated data on the social and economic conditions of Non-Self-Governing Territories, and to support further strengthening measures to address outstanding issues in a timely manner.  Requesting the Department of Political Affairs to put the relevant information together before the Special Committee took up the question of New Caledonia, he said more information would help the Special Committee make the right decisions.  As for sending missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories, it was a vital means to establish and ascertain evolving issues, he said, expressing concern that the last visiting mission had occurred more than six years ago.

Diego Morejón ( Ecuador), Chair of the Special Committee, said visiting missions were critical not only in terms of hearing the concerns of the people in Non-Self-Governing Territories, but also in terms of arriving at informed conclusions through the collection of data.

Participating as Observers during the meeting were representatives of Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Guatemala, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Spain, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

The Special Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 12 June, to take up the questions of Gibraltar and Western Sahara.

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Disappointment on apology remaining forthcoming from the Netherlands

WILLEMSTAD — The foundation Ban Sembra Pas (BSP) is deeply disappointed that the government and Parliament of Curaçao haven’t demanded an official apology from the Netherlands for the 229 years during which a large percentage of the Curaçao people lived in slavery imposed by the Netherlands from 1634 to 1863.

On April 16th 2012 BSP made a public appeal to the Parliament and the Council of Minister to demand an apology from the Netherlands within the framework of celebrating the Year of Tula and commemorating 150 years of slavery abolition.

“An apology is entirely justified and necessary for a friendly and honest closing of the darkest chapter of the history of mankind. The Netherlands played a prominent role in this”, said BSP. “The people, who lived and worked as slaved on the plantations in Bándabou, led an inhuman life for over two centuries. The Netherlands is morally obligated to apologize for this.”
At the time BSP also appealed to other Curaçao organizations to raise their voice without fear and adopt a critical attitude, stating that patriotic Curaçao people are to boycott the commemoration of 150 years slavery abolition in the Netherlands if the latter doesn’t apologize. “Tula and the other sales deserve that Curaçao people defend them and commemorate their historic heritage. It will be a humiliation for Tula if patriotic Curaçao people raise glasses with the Dutch government on July 1st 2013 without an official apology from the latter for its slavery past”, said BSP.