15 June 2016

United Nations Decolonisation Committee Resumes 2016 Session

13 JUNE 2016

Special Committee on Decolonization,

3rd Meeting (PM)

Opening its 2016 substantive session today, the Special Committee on decolonization, approved without a vote two draft resolutions on the dissemination of information with Non-Self-Governing Territories, and then commenced targeted discussions on the question of Gibraltar.

The first draft, approved annually for adoption by the General Assembly, would have the 193-member body reaffirm that administering Powers should continue to transmit information under Article 73 (e) of the Charter of the United Nations.

By its terms, the Special Committee — known formally as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence of Colonial Countries and Peoples — would have the Assembly request the administering Powers to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General statistical and other information on the economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories for which they were responsible.

The second draft, on dissemination of information on decolonization, would have the Assembly approve activities taken by the Department of Public Information and the Department of Political Affairs, encouraging updates to and wide dissemination of the 2006 “information leaflet” on what the United Nations could do to assist Non-Self-Governing Territories.

By other terms, the Assembly would request the Departments to develop ways to disseminate material on the issue of self-determination. In such work, they would explore collaboration with the decolonization focal points of territorial Governments, particularly in the Pacific and Caribbean regions, and encourage the involvement of non-governmental organizations and Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Turning to the question of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said the Special Committee was “failing spectacularly” in its mandate to protect and promote the interests of people in Non-Self Governing Territories. Having ceded Gibraltar through a treaty over 300 years ago, Spain now relied on a “pernicious” collaboration with the Special Committee to conspire against the interests of the people of Gibraltar. “That betrayal will not be allowed by us to pass unchallenged or unnoticed,” he said.

The representative of Spain said the colonial situation of Gibraltar undermined her country’s territorial integrity, a point made clear in General Assembly resolution 2353/22 of 19 December 1967. The reigning principle was not that of self-determination, but rather, of the restoration of Spanish territorial integrity. It was essential to restore territory that had been ceded under the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 and subsequently illegally occupied by the United Kingdom. 

Special Committee Chair Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela) made a brief statement on the annual Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories, which underlined the commitment end colonialism around the world. The Special Committee had put together a range of activities as recommended by General Assembly resolution 2911/27 of 2 November 1972, including an exhibition which would open immediately following the present meeting. Other activities included a conference on decolonization, a cultural activity, the screening of a decolonization-oriented movie and the exhibition of information materials.

In other business, the Special Committee briefly debated a request by Venezuela’s delegate not to consider an aid memoire on the participation of a person who was not a representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front), the sole group approved to speak on the question of Western Sahara, as doing so would contravene relevant General Assembly resolutions.

Morocco’s delegate, defending the request, said that the referred-to representative, Abba Mhamed, was not claiming to represent those in the camps or others inside the Sahara region. “You are interpreting this in a broad manner,” he said, “as if he [Mr. Abba] represented the entire Sahara. He is representing the Laâyoune.”

Also speaking today were Margaret Novicki, Acting Director of the Strategic Communications Division in the Department of Public Information, and Josiane Ambiehl, Chief of the Decolonization Unit of the Department of Political Affairs.

The representatives of Cuba, Chile Indonesia and Nicaragua also spoke, as well as Richard Buttigied of the Self-Determination for Gibraltar Group.

The Special Committee suspended its meeting until 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 14 June.