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Subparticipants Also Reaffirm

Special Committee’s Role in Fostering Decolonization Process

(Received from a UN Information Officer)

CANOUAN ISLAND, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 19 May -- After carrying out a major mid-term review of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, the 2005 Caribbean Regional Seminar affirmed today the need for the Special Committee of 24 to embark on a public awareness campaign to foster an understanding among the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories of the self-determination options included in the relevant United Nations resolutions on decolonization, especially within the context of developing work programmes for specific Territories.

According to recommendations contained in the draft report adopted by acclamation at the conclusion of the three-day Seminar, United Nations information centres should be directed to disseminate information to the Territories and to the administering Powers.  Information centres, especially those in the Caribbean and Pacific regions, could play a significant role in disseminating information, promoting public awareness and mobilizing support and assistance for any consultation process to be held in a Non-Self-Governing Territory regarding any act of self-determination.

The Seminar also reaffirmed the Special Committee’s role as the primary vehicle for the fostering of the process and in expediting the Decade’s goals, stressing as well that its mandate remained a major political programme of the United Nations.  Participants recommended that the Special Committee continue its active participation in monitoring the evolution of the Non-Self-Governing Territories towards self-determination.  It recommended further that the Special Committee, the administering Powers and the Non-Self-Governing Territories engage in constructive discussions and innovative ways to expedite the implementation of the Decade’s goals.

Participants also concluded that any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of a country’s national unity and territorial integrity was incompatible with the purposes of the United Nations Charter, noting the need to ensure the participation of representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories in the development of work programmes for individual Territories in which there was no dispute over sovereignty.  Any work programme should include an information and education campaign for the peoples of those Territories, visiting missions of the Special Committee to ascertain the situation in them first hand, and a consultation process acceptable to those peoples leading to the exercise of their right to self-determination in accordance with United Nations resolutions.

Recognizing the vulnerability of small island Non-Self-Governing Territories and their need for special consideration and remedies, the Seminar also reiterated its support for the current participation of Non-Self-Governing Territories in the relevant United Nations regional commissions and in specialized agencies.  Participants called for the increased involvement of the Territories in programmes and activities of the United Nations system in furtherance of the decolonization process.  They commended the activities of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in assisting the Territories and encouraged it to further develop programmes specifically designed for them.

On constitutional and self-determination issues, the participants took note of the advances made and challenges faced by some Caribbean Territories that could contribute to a decision regarding their exercising the right to self-determination in the near future, while others were still facing difficulties in developing a process leading to their self-determination.  They also took note of the idea that a single decolonization standard should not be applied to every Non-Self-Governing Territory and expressed their willingness to support the choice of the people of American Samoa as determined through United Nations resolutions.

The Seminar reiterated that the Special Committee should continue to encourage the resumption of negotiations between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom wit the aim of finding a solution to the question of he Falklands Islands (Malvinas), taking into consideration the interests of that Territory’s people.

With regard to Western Sahara, the participants urged the parties to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which would provide for the self-determination of that Territory’s people in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter.

Welcoming the presence at the Seminar of the representative of France as an observer, the participants reiterated their call upon all administering Powers to engage the Special Committee in constructive dialogue in the future.  The Special Committee expressed its appreciation to Argentina, Algeria, Morocco and Spain, as well as to the representatives of the Organization of American States (OAS), and the African Union, for their participation.

A resolution contained in the draft report expressed the participants’ profound gratitude to the Government and people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for providing the Special Committee with the necessary facilities for the Seminar, for their outstanding contribution to its success and, in particular, for their warm and cordial reception, as well as their generous and kind hospitality, throughout the participants’ stay in Canouan.

In his closing statement, Special Committee Chairman Julian Hunte (Saint Lucia) said the Seminar had reaffirmed the importance of the wider United Nations system and regional institutions in assisting the Territories to develop the capacities necessary to make a smooth transition to autonomy in some cases and to full independence or integration in others.  A related issue expressed had been the importance of the Territories’ participation in the programmes and activities of such bodies as regional commissions and specialized agencies, as well as in the work of the Economic and Social Council.

He emphasized that while the Secretariat servicing the Special Committee did a formidable job in aspects of the decolonization process, the coordination of United Nations assistance to the Territories was first and foremost a function of other agencies equipped for that purpose.  The Special Committee’s role was to encourage those United Nations bodies equipped for that purpose to intensify their work in assisting the Territories.

The Special Committee had heard the specific concerns from governments and civil society, where unique situations warranted specific and individual attention on the part of the United Nations, he said.  It had, once again, heard the arguments for special treatment for Territories where there were sovereignty disputes.  The Special Committee had reinforced the role of the regional seminars as critical to the essential analysis of the actual situation in the Territories, while facilitating an exchange of views between and among a range of stakeholders.

Noting that the regional seminars had their own dynamic, he said it was not often that representatives of United Nations Member States sat with non-State actors around the table of consultation, dialogue and discussion.  Amid that scenario, it was perhaps inevitable that some heat might be generated, but heat could generate enlightenment, and all concerned were seeking clarity on complex issues.

He said that from all indications, the Seminar had been one of the most energetic in recent memory, following on nicely from the 2003 breakthrough event in Anguilla where the options of the political equality had been reintroduced to many of the Territories.  The issues involved were real, involving real people and requiring real situations.  The United Nations must provide the self-determination road map so that they could successfully and safely reach the destination of decolonization via the three legitimate routes of independence, free association or integration.

It was difficult, if not inconceivable, to think that an arrangement that did not provide political equality would be acceptable to the peoples of the Territories themselves, he said.  But they needed the information to make an informed decision, and it was up to the United Nations, including the administering Powers, to live up to those obligations pursuant to its Charter.  That point must remain crystal clear, and the unity of purpose emerging from the Seminar -- the Canouan Consensus -- should provide guidance during the implementation phase.

Delivering a statement on behalf of the host Government, Margaret Hughes Ferrari (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said that during the Seminar’s discussions on specific Territories, she had reflected on the following points:  the geographic isolation and diminishing population of St. Helena; the political aspirations of Bermuda and its mature decision to educate its people on the meaning of independence; the confidence and spirit of the Turks and Caicos Islands leadership -- both Government and opposition -- which was pursuing innovative means to address their self-determination process; the sustainable, yet vulnerable Territories of Anguilla and the Cayman Islands, whose proud peoples were seeking to modernize their constitutional status commensurate with a strong economy; the constitutional review soon to be debated in the British Virgin Islands; the strength and courage of the people of Montserrat in the face of the volcanic crisis that had reshaped the face of their Territory and fundamentally altered their lives; the complexities of the political status debate in Puerto Rico, whose Territory had been delisted from United Nations consideration long before the international community had devised the parameters of self-government; the plea from the United States Virgin Islands for accurate and comprehensive information on the fundamental distinction between colonial reform and decolonization; and the important discussions on Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands/Malvinas and Western Sahara, which demanded continued close attention and which were continually addressed in international forums.

Underscoring the need, now more than ever, for unity, she said that the family of nations must honour the global commitment to resolve those issues for the betterment of the peoples of the Territories.  Only the surface had been scratched, and much work remained, with little time to implement the goals adopted in the plan of action of the Second International Decade.  In Canouan, significant strides had been made to that end.

Introducing the draft report of the Seminar, Orlando Requeijo Gual (Cuba), Rapporteur of the Special Committee and Chairman of the Drafting Group, said it was of a preliminary nature and that after members had considered it, the report would become an official document of the Special Committee.  In many cases, the Drafting Group had taken ideas suggested during the Seminar and reformulated them while remaining faithful to their main ideas.

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For information media. Not an official record.