Secretary-General Urges Concrete Action to Advance Decolonization Agenda as Pacific Regional Seminar Convenes
Week of Solidarity with Non-Self-Governing Peoples, New Caledonia’s Upcoming Referendum, Western Sahara Representation Also Discussed
MANAGUA, 31 May — Opening the Pacific Regional Seminar on Decolonization today, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the focus on commitments and actions within the framework of the third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2011-2020).
The Seminar, he said, would provide a key opportunity for the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples — known informally as the Special Committee of 24 — to hear directly from representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories about their unique situations and problems. It would also facilitate informal exchanges between administering Powers, other stakeholders, Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Special Committee, experts, civil society organizations and regional organizations
Hosted for the second consecutive year by the Government of Nicaragua, the event is taking place during the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories. The Regional Seminar has been held annually since 1990.
“Let us seize this opportunity to identify concrete actions to advance the decolonization agenda,” Mr. Ban said in a message delivered by Rie Kadota, Senior Political Affairs Officer in the Decolonization Unit of the Department of Political Affairs. He noted that, according to the United Nations Charter and relevant General Assembly resolutions, a full measure of self-government could be achieved through independence, integration or free association with another State. The choice should be the result of the freely expressed will and desire of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. “I also count on the administering Powers to continue to fulfil the obligation to promote the well-being of the peoples under their administration,” he added.
Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela) Chair of the Special Committee, expressed solidarity with the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguía el-Hamra y de Río de Oro (Frente Polisario) on the death of Secretary General Mohamed Abdelaziz and thanked the Government of Nicaragua for organizing the Regional Seminar for the second consecutive year. The 2016 event was the sixth annual Seminar to be held during the Third International Decade, he noted, saying it would enable the Special Committee to redouble efforts to fulfil its mandate. The Seminar should be an instrument of change in favour of decolonization, he added.
“It is now or never,” he emphasized. “We must take action to ensure that self-determination of peoples is a reality,” he said, adding: “We are not impartial. We are in favour and support those that have not yet achieved self-determination. Our commitment is to promote the decolonization process and to put an end to the shame of colonialism around the world.” Expressing solidarity and commitment to strike down colonialism in all aspects, he continued: “We will not rest until all of those deprived of their sovereign and territorial integrity are liberated.”
Maria Rubiales de Chamorro, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and Permanent Representative to the United Nations of Nicaragua, said her country had fought for years to gain national liberation and faithfully supported the liberation struggles of peoples around the world. Nicaragua had always demonstrated solidarity with people under colonial rule fighting for independence and respected their right to self-determination. However, many tasks lay ahead in the third International Decade and following the seventieth anniversary of the United Nations, she emphasized, describing the decolonization process and the exercise of the right to self-determination by the 17 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories as an immediate priority. With more than half of the Non-Self-Governing Territories were in the Latin America and Caribbean region, including the special cases of Puerto Rico and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), she said Nicaragua was interested in contributing to the decolonization process by drawing upon its own experiences and aspirations, as well as the principles of peace, harmony, dialogue, unity and consensus. The fact that participants in the Seminar had travelled from afar enabled the country to share its experience of liberation with others pursuing the same path, she added.
Throughout the day, experts and representatives expressed support for the efforts of the United Nations decolonization machinery and stressed the need to carry them further since 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories remained.
An intense exchange occurred over whether to allow the recently elected representatives of two regions in Western Sahara to make statements during the meeting, with Morocco’s representative accusing the Special Committee’s Chair of demonstrating bias against their participation.
Participants also examined ways in which to bolster outreach activities during the annual Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories, and discussed the state of preparation for a referendum in New Caledonia in 2018.
At the meeting’s outset, participants observed a minute of silence in memory of the passing of Mohamed Abdelaziz, Secretary-General of Frente Polisario.
In other business, the Seminar adopted its provisional programme of work (document PRS/2016/CRP.2). The Chair appointed the representatives of Bolivia and the Russian Federation as Vice-Chairs of the Seminar, and the representative of Chile as Rapporteur.
Mr. RAMÍREZ (Venezuela), Special Committee Chair, opened discussion on the theme “Commitments and Actions for Decolonization in the Non-Self-Governing Territories — The Role of the Special Committee”, emphasizing the importance of carrying out the Special Committee’s work in Accordance with its mandate and rules of procedures. With resolution 1514 (XV) as the basis of its legitimacy, its working methods must be governed by transparency and non-selectivity, he said, adding that it could not be influenced by groups attempting to impose their own agendas. The Special Committee’s mandate was to execute relevant resolutions on a case-by-case basis, particularly with regard to sovereignty disputes, he said, emphasizing it was not prepared to accept the perpetuation of colonial rule.
He went on to reiterate that the Special Committee must continue to seek adequate means for implementation of the Declaration and the International Decade, ranging from negotiation to diplomacy. General Assembly resolution 70/231 of 23 December 2015 requested that the Special Committee carry out one visiting mission per year to the Non-Self-Governing Territories, which provided an opportunity to express the undeniable usefulness of such visits, including the visit to New Caledonia in 2014.
CARLYLE CORBIN, expert, said the role of the United Nations was divided into three historic periods: the early period leading to the adoption of the Declaration, from 1946 to 1960); the acceleration of decolonization, from 1960 to 1990; and the deceleration of decolonization, from 1990 to the present. During the first period, General Assembly resolutions on 11 small island Non-Self-Governing Territories had been consolidated into a single “omnibus” document as a compromise in response to proposals by administering Powers to replace the various texts with a statement of decolonization principles and to remove any specific reference to the situation in the Territories.
The critical Subcommittee on Small Territories, where the specific conditions of each of small territory were examined, had been eliminated, but never replaced despite several proposals, he continued. From 1946 to 1971, calls had continued for the implementation of General Assembly resolutions, but the participation of many Non-Self-Governing Territories had declined because they had seen no progress in implementation. Only Timor-Leste had achieved full self-government during the 25-year period from 1990, while French Polynesia had been re-inscribed on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, he said, adding that the Secretary-General’s report on the third International Decade shed scant light on implementation of the decolonization mandate. Substantive activities included in the plan of action for the three Decades had been ignored.
He went on to state that during the second Decade, Saint Lucia, then Chair of the Special Committee, had commissioned the Programme of Implementation of the Decolonization Mandate (document A/60/853-E/2006/75), which had been endorsed by the General Assembly. The plan of action was linked to decolonization resolutions of relevant United Nations implementing bodies, but it had never been carried out, he said, adding that the United Nations system’s inability to give effect to the decolonization mandate had led to a “repetition of processes” whereby resolutions were adopted without accountability and the process repeated itself with the adoption of nearly identical resolutions in each succeeding year.
Meanwhile, the situation in the Territories had become increasingly complex, requiring specific diagnostic tools to assess the nature of their political arrangements in accordance with, he said. Such an assessment had been instrumental in making the case for re-inscribing French Polynesia, he said, adding that indicators included the degree of awareness within the Territories of their options in choosing their own political status and overall self-determination process, the unilateral authority of the administering Powers to legislate for the Territories, and the evolution of internal governance capacity, among others.
He emphasized that the United Nations system must be creative and flexible to implement General Assembly resolutions, including by adjusting the Organization’s decolonization budget. Case-by-case assessments must be initiated for each Territory, with or without the participation of the respective administering Powers, which must be reminded that the decolonization process should not be unduly influenced by changes in the demographic composition of the Territories.
READ THE FULL REPORT ON DAY 1 HERE.
Speakers Urge Administering Powers to Address Impact of Nuclear Testing, Military Build-up in Pacific Territories, as Regional Decolonization Seminar Continues
Members Also Discuss Western Sahara, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
MANAGUA, 1 June — As the Pacific Regional Seminar on Decolonization entered its second day, delegates and experts and expressed concern about the effects of nuclear testing on the inhabitants of French Polynesia and the military build-up on Guam, calling on the administering Powers of both Non-Self-Governing Territories to address those issues.
Venezuela’s representative said France had exhibited a very condescending attitude and should fulfil its international obligations, particularly regarding its nuclear testing.
Cuba’s representative agreed, expressing support for a call by expert Richard Ariihau Tuheiava for the Secretary-General to publish, as a General Assembly document, the 2014 independent report prepared by renowned French scientists that comprehensively analysed the impact of nuclear testing, and for the Assembly to include a substantive reference to ownership of the island Territory’s natural resources in its 2016 resolution.
She also asked for more information on the militarization of Guam by the United States, while China’s representative emphasized the need for administering Powers to demilitarize Territories under their administration and to protect the right of local inhabitants to self-determination.
Since re-inscribing French Polynesia on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories in 2013, the General Assembly has adopted four resolutions asking France, the administering Power, to participate in and cooperate fully with the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, known informally as the Special Committee of 24.
Mr. Richard Tuheiava, (member of the Assembly of Ma'ohi Nui/French Polynesia) said France had refused to acknowledge the Territory’s re-inscription, choosing instead to vacate its seat whenever the issue was discussed in the Special Committee. The Government of France had a duty to advance the decolonization process, as it had already done with New Caledonia, he emphasized. It was also worrisome that the Secretary-General’s report on the consequences of France’s nuclear testing over a 30-year period ending in 1997 was far from comprehensive and failed to assess its effects on the health of thousands of French Polynesia’s Ma’ohi people, who were yet to receive reparatory justice.
A discussion also emerged about Western Sahara, with some Special Committee members siding with Morocco’s claim to the Territory, while others supported the holding of a referendum on its status. Algeria’s representative said the General Assembly should conduct a visiting mission to Western Sahara and expressed hope that the Special Committee could devote one session to the issue.
The case of Puerto Rico — an unincorporated Territory of the United States — was also discussed. The General Assembly had removed it from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories in 1953, with the proviso that the General Assembly could revisit the issue.
Wilma Reveron-Collazo, a member of the Bar Association of Puerto Rico, shed light on the Territory’s political and other developments on the Territory, saying that crippling public debt had fuelled its current fiscal crisis. However, the real aim of legislation on that issue under consideration in the United States Congress was to guarantee payment of the debt to bondholders on Wall Street, as the local population sank into deeper levels of unemployment and poverty, she said.
READ THE FULL REPORT ON DAY 2 HERE.
Tolerance, Productive Dialogue Essential to Advancing Self-Determination Process, Speakers Stress, as Pacific Regional Seminar on Decolonization Concludes
MANAGUA, 2 June — As the Pacific Regional Seminar on Decolonization concluded this afternoon, speakers stressed the need for productive dialogue and harmonious relations in order to advance the decolonization of the world’s 17 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories.
“Sometimes the tone has reflected the difficulties we face, but we must find ways to advance,” said Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela), Chair of the Special Committee on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, known informally as the Committee of 24. It was important to maintain tolerance and a willingness to participate in discussion, he said, emphasizing that “there is no room for harsh criticism. We must keep in mind the key theme of this Seminar and not divert attention away.”
Stressing the urgent need to free people from the yoke of colonialism as the third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2011-2020) approached its end, he said: “The commitment does not fall to a few; the international community must join efforts for an end to this colonial situation,” urging greater productivity and fresh impetus to improve the work of United Nations bodies tasked with decolonization matters. The Special Committee stood ready to review the Non-Self-Governing Territories on a case-by-case basis, taking into account each one’s specific situation on the ground, as well as its historical and cultural context.
While the decision of a Territory’s status must be determined freely by its own people, the administering Power of each Territory also had an important role in resolving disputes and facilitating the decolonization process, he noted. Welcoming France’s participation in the Seminar and calling on other administering Powers to follow suit, he stressed that they must all abide by the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.
Highlighting the themes addressed during the course of the three-day Seminar, he underlined that the management of natural resources must be carried out with full respect for the sovereignty of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. The International Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories, which had lost some lustre in recent years, must regain its original spirit, he said, calling on all to participate actively in the Special Committee’s next meeting, in New York on 13 June.
Visiting missions played a special role in helping understanding of the situation of the Territories and they should take place annually, he said, adding that the Special Committee would review the proposals made during the Seminar in relation to visits and see which ones were feasible. The practice of colonialism must cease, regardless of the form it took, he said, urging all parties to prevent the rise of new conflicts in areas already besieged by turmoil, such as the Middle East and North Africa. Recalling that more than 400,000 people had died during Venezuela’s struggle for independence, he pointed out that the people had eventually triumphed and helped to free five neighbouring countries, as well. Venezuela remained steadfast in its commitment to helping others achieve the same freedom.
María Rubiales de Chamorro, Nicaragua’s Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, also pledged her Government’s support for peoples struggling for liberation and agreed that progress had been made towards ending colonialism around the world. The commitment to advance the third International Decade demonstrated that dialogue and negotiation were possible when there was political will to implement United Nations resolutions.
Noting that discussions during the Seminar had been frank and straightforward, she said thanked France for participating and expressed hope that the other administering Powers would coordinate with the Special Committee in the future. “We trust in the political will of all,” to devise during the four years remaining in the International Decade specific measures to draft a road map so that people under the yoke of colonialism could finally be free, she said.
The Special Committee must do its part, by working to ensure implementation of the resolutions adopted, particularly those relating to the role of specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system, she emphasized. She welcomed the debate on how to bolster assistance to the Non-Self-Governing Territories and pledged Nicaragua’s commitment to further that discussion within the Special Committee.
Also today, participants approved the draft procedural report of the Seminar (document PRS/2016/CRP.5), which was presented by Jose Antonio Cousiño (Chile), Rapporteur of the Special Committee. It comprised three parts: organization of the Seminar; its proceedings; and conclusions and recommendations. The drafting of conclusions and recommendations had begun in Managua and would be finalized in New York.
In addition, participants approved a draft resolution, read out by Cuba’s representative, expressing appreciation to the Government and people of Nicaragua for hosting the Seminar.
The representative of Algeria also made closing remarks.
READ THE FULL REPORT ON DAY 3 HERE.