Speakers at Caribbean Regional Seminar Call for Effective Approaches in Fulfilling Decolonization Mandate, Urging United Nations to End Long Impasse
KINGSTOWN, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 17 May — The United Nations must break its long impasse and tailor effective approaches to self-determination that would lead swiftly to a future based on the aspirations of people living under colonial rule, delegates said today, as the Caribbean Regional Seminar on Decolonization entered its second day.
Echoing a common concern, Special Committee expert Judith Bourne said popular interest and involvement in any United Nations-based decolonization effort had lagged. “Without a drastic and thorough re-evaluation and restructuring of work of the Committee, without any diminution of its aims and ideals, this Third International Decade may simply morph into the fourth and fifth until the effort simply dies from neglect and inactivity,” she cautioned. “This would be a tragedy for the peoples of the remaining mostly small-island Territories on the list.”
With the last declaration of independence from colonial rule having been that of Timor-Leste in 2002, the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories remaining on the United Nations were still awaiting their turn to exercise their right to self-determination, speakers told the Regional Seminar, organized by 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.
If the Non-Self-Governing Territories continued to languish on the list, the very credibility of the Special Committee was as risk, speakers said during discussions related to the theme for the 2017 Seminar “Implementation of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism: the future for decolonization in the Non-Self-Governing Territories: what are the prospects?” Hosted by the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the event, held 16 to 18 May, was organized on the occasion of the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. Organized by the Special Committee, the Regional Seminar has been held annually since 1990. (For background, see Press Releases GA/COL/3306 and GA/COL/3307.)
During discussions on and with some of those Non-Self-Governing Territories, delegates explained their unique positions and identified challenges and grave concerns about their future, calling on the Special Committee to discharge its mandate. Part of what was needed was for the Special Committee to fine-tune its activities to bolster more success stories, speakers said.
Committee members shared some suggestions, including one from the representative of Papua New Guinea encouraging the Special Committee to hold additional meetings devoted to each listed Non-Self-Governing Territory with a view to identifying challenges such as institutional weaknesses and take steps to engage with administering Powers for improved and better understanding.
Some speakers said the Special Committee must do more to advance progress in all of the Non-Self-Governing Territories on its list: American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, French Polynesia, Gibraltar, Guam, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States Virgin Islands and Western Sahara. Some urged bolstered efforts to engage with the administering Powers: France, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States.
Similarly, the representative of Sierra Leone, noting the absence at the Seminar of many administering Powers, said trust must be built among all stakeholders. Enhanced cooperation by all parties would help to identify practical means to be pursued and to better evaluate the situation in the Non-Self-Governing Territories. “But, we need to have results,” he said, suggesting a closer examination of what help the Special Committee could give to those Non-Self-Governing Territories that were on the verge of declaring independence.
The representative of Chile said that while delegates were blaming the Special Committee, there were limitations that had been imposed on it. A one-size-fits-all approach did not work, as Non-Self-Governing Territories were different and unique solutions must be found.
Many speakers agreed that the people must lead the process. “A process of decolonization that must follow the rules of the colonizer is not decolonization: it is an extension of colonization,” expert Michael Lujan Bevacqua said.
Pointing to some examples, expert Carlyle Corbin said some references that had been made to “Constitutions” were in fact misnomers, adding that such instruments were predominantly constitutional orders. In the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, a recent constitutional order was one example, he said, adding that all British overseas territories must also submit their budgets to the administering Powers for approval, essentially being told how to spend their own money. Decolonization with absolute political equality had been clearly defined in a number of General Assembly resolutions, he stressed, emphasizing that colonialism by consent was still colonialism.
Sharing another perspective, a representative of Gibraltar stressed that Spain’s new proposal to become a joint administering Power with the United Kingdom was an attempt to prevent Gibraltar’s decolonization and perpetuate colonial rule. “The Committee’s role is not to concern itself with competing real estate claims, but with the rights of peoples who do not enjoy full self-government and to help them obtain this, in furtherance of their human rights,” he said. “We are one of the 17 such peoples and the Committee continues to fail to do its duty by us.”
Other speakers said the Special Committee must pay close attention to territories affected by the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. Expert Jessica Byron, who said United Nations organizations, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), other international groupings like the Commonwealth and regional groupings had a major responsibility to support the case of the territories during the difficult transition in their relationship with the European Union.
The Regional Seminar also held a discussion on “Strengthening cooperation with the administering Powers, the Non-Self-Governing Territories, concerned Member States and other stakeholders on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions, according to the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially its economic dimension, taking into account the indivisible nature of the Sustainable Development Goals: In the Caribbean region, Pacific region and other regions”.
Special Committee Chair Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela), in a statement delivered by Douglas Arcia Vivas, said the success of the 2030 Agenda depended on a global partnership, with attention focusing on those furthest behind. As the decolonization process remained pending, the world was calling for action and decisions must be made to finally put an end to colonialism. One of the conditions for implementing the Goals, he said, was that those living under colonial or foreign occupation were allowed for themselves to select the goals they wished to set with the full pursuit of independence as their first right, he said.
Representatives of the United Nations Development Programme and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean provided an overview of their activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories.
During the day-long meeting discussions were also held on the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, Gibraltar and Western Sahara.
The Regional Seminar will reconvene on Thursday, 18 May, to conclude its work.
Second Meeting (continued)
The Seminar then concluded its discussion on “Perspectives of the administering Powers, territorial Governments, concerned Member States and other stakeholders, as well as views of experts on the decolonization process: Political developments in the Non-Self-Governing Territories in the Caribbean region, Pacific region and other regions”.
MICHAEL VICTOR SUMMERS, Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, said the Territory, with a population of 3,400, had been economically self-sufficient since 1990, and a new constitution promulgated in 2009 had confirmed its post-colonial status. With full internal self-government except in foreign affairs and defence, the population had voted overwhelmingly in 2013 to remain an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, and there was no current wish to associate with “an aggressive and unfriendly Argentina”, he said. That country still claimed the Territory and had sought to colonize them and deny the Islanders’ right to self-determination.
Providing a snapshot of recent developments, he said the Governments of the United Kingdom and Argentina had issued a joint statement in 2016, agreeing to work for the reversal of restrictive measures on economic activities that were not conducive to improving relations. Yet, sanctions remained in place, he noted. The Special Committee had not done very much to benefit the people of the Islands, which remained on its list, he said. Pointing out that it had been established to protect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, encouraged all States to withhold support for Argentina’s wish for bilateral negotiations on sovereignty with the United Kingdom in all multilateral forums. He also urged Caribbean countries to consider the importance of self-determination in their own political development.
JOSEPH BOSSANO, Gibraltar, said Spain had taken the step of attempting to “bend our will, by use of blackmail”, contrary to the United Nations Charter. “We are the Gibraltarians and our rock, the six km2 lump of limestone that guards the entrance to the Mediterranean, is what we call home,” he declared. Spain’s case for denying Gibraltarians the right to self-determination was that they were squatters rather than indigenous to the Territory. However, Gibraltar’s constitutional relationship with the administering Power had come a long way since the 1967 referendum, but not yet sufficient for delisting, because there was only one delisting criterion the Special Committee would apply: the transfer of power from the administering Power to Gibraltar. Once that happened, “we shall be decolonized”, he said, emphasizing that the Special Committee was not empowered to determine whether a Territory should belong to one State or another. “Your role consists in monitoring the relationship with the State that you consider to be responsible for the Territory and the people of that Territory, to assess the people’s progress on the road to full self-government,” he said, adding: “That is all the decolonization resolutions require you to do.”
Turning to Spain’s new proposal, he said it sought to take advantage of Gibraltar’s intended departure from the European Union in 2019, and mirrored a previous attempt to establish joint Spanish-British sovereignty over the Territory. That proposal had already been rejected in the past through a referendum that had seen 98.5 per cent of the population voting against it, he said. The United Kingdom had said it would not discuss such a proposal without Gibraltar’s prior approval, he recalled, welcoming Spain’s proposal because it exposed the Spanish case for what it was — an attempt to prevent Gibraltar’s decolonization and perpetuate colonial rule. He called on the Seminar to reflect his analysis in its meeting records and to ensure that no step was taken to commit the Special Committee to supporting Spain’s proposal. “The Committee’s role is not to concern itself with competing real estate claims, but with the rights of peoples who do not enjoy full self-government, and to help them obtain this, in furtherance of their human rights,” he said. “We are one of the 17 such Territories and the Committee continues to fail to do its duty by us.”
AHMED BOUKHARI, Frente Polisario, said the issue of Western Sahara had been discussed and resolved by the United Nations and the African Union. In doing that, those international organizations had established principles based on decolonizing the continent’s last colony on the basis of the right to self-determination and the military character of Morocco’s illegal presence in Western Sahara. Noting that lessons of pragmatism and maturity had been learned with the referendum in Western Sahara, he said United Nations resolutions had declared Morocco’s presence illegal. In fact, Morocco had no mandate in administering Western Sahara and the European Court recognized in 2015 that Western Sahara was separate from Morocco, thus resolving the debate.
However, he said, what remained to be done must clear obstacles to self-determination. All stakeholders, including the Security Council, were involved in doing so. Meanwhile, in 2016, Morocco had expelled personnel in the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), had started to build a road in the buffer zone and continued to exploit Western Sahara’s natural resources, including phosphates, currently totalling more than $1 billion. Western Sahara was ready to hold a referendum on self-determination so it could start building a viable State that participated in international relations. For its part, Western Sahara had almost completely eliminated illiteracy and had doctrines of security and regional cooperation, but not the necessary resources States needed. The Special Committee was the target of an assault, with some wanting to be judge and jury. It would be risky, in terms of the Special Committee’s credibility, to reopen debates that had already been settled, he said. “We can achieve anything in a dignified way,” he said to his counterpart from Morocco. “We all have a right to exist.” To ensure progress, he said the next negotiations needed to start.
Delivering statements were experts Carlyle Corbin, Jessica Byron, Michael Lujan Bevacqua, Judith Bourne, Mickael Forrest and Stéphanie Graff.
Mr. CORBIN said there was distinction between colonial reform and decolonization. The modernization of arrangements without providing for political equality lent to guising self-government as what amounted to a continuation of colonialism. In French Polynesia, he said, a recent accord was a case in point. The re-inscription of French Polynesia on the Non-Self-Governing Territories list had been based on observations on powers controlled by the elected officials and by the administering Power. Decolonization with absolute political equality had been clearly defined in a number of General Assembly resolutions. Colonialism by consent was still colonialism, he said, emphasizing the difficulties in certain cases in defining self-government.
Some references that had been made to “Constitutions” were in fact misnomers, he said, saying such instruments were predominantly constitutional orders. In the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, a 2008 constitutional order was one example. The “nuclear option” had been used in the British Virgin Islands to override power with regard to issues of public safety. Those territories must also submit their budgets to the administering Powers for approval. That essentially meant that they were being told how to spend their own money. The United States territories had similar situations, with Congress making all rules unilaterally, and cases could be found in colonies administered by the Netherlands. Those issues must not be examined in isolation, but on a regional basis, he said.
Ms. BYRON explored the impact of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union on the political, social and economic opportunities available to British overseas territories in the Caribbean. As their populations were not members of the United Kingdom’s electorate, they could not vote in the 2016 referendum, even though they were severely affected by the consequences of decisions and developments on which they were minimally consulted and over which they have no control. Outlining their strong ties with the European Union, she said vulnerabilities and aspirations must be addressed. Apart from their status within the European Union, links with the Commonwealth and the United Nations, inclusion in the small island developing States and their participation in regional groupings, the territories had little access to international forums. For their part, the territories had been proactive in leveraging their networks and expertise to analyse the impact of Brexit and to seek to protect the benefits they enjoyed. However, they are severely challenged by their status as low-visibility third parties in the negotiations, by the protracted and highly political nature of the process and by the ongoing uncertainty for their economies.
Going forward, she recommended a range of actions. United Nations organizations, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), other international groupings like the Commonwealth and regional groupings had a major responsibility to support the case of the territories during the difficult transition in their relationship with the European Union. While the focus of analyses of Brexit repercussions for independent developing countries had been on the future relationship with the United Kingdom since their relationship with the European Union remained unchanged, it was the inverse for the territories’ predicament and less attention had been given to possible solutions to their dilemma. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) should be asked to set up a monitoring group on Brexit negotiations and to do a cost-benefit analysis of the future options available to the territories for a beneficial relationship with the European Union. In addition, UNDP and the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS) should pay special attention to the territories access to climate change mitigation financing. The territories’ decolonization efforts must also be addressed.
Mr. BEVACQUA, expert, presented recent developments in Guam’s quest for decolonization, saying local activities included education outreach campaigns focusing on illuminating the future possibilities for Guam should it become an independent country. Leading those efforts were the Independence for Guam Task Force and the Commission on Decolonization, the Government body tasked with efforts geared towards holding a self-determination plebiscite. The campaign had seen more than three dozen community meetings held and ongoing discussions were considering a decision to hold a plebiscite as early as 2018 or 2020. However, he said, a United States court decision in March 2017 on the case Arnold Davis v. the Guam Election Commission had ruled that such a referendum must be open to all residents and not just Guam’s Chamorro people, the island’s native inhabitants, who currently comprise 37 per cent of the population. In that case, Mr. Davis, a Caucasian man who had been a long-time resident of Guam, sued the Government of Guam in 2011 over a proposed self-determination plebiscite that was designed to ensure the voices of the island’s native inhabitants would be heard in terms of determining a future political status for the island, calling the referendum discriminatory and unconstitutional.
“A process of decolonization that must follow the rules of the colonizer is not decolonization: it is an extension of colonization,” he said. The plebiscite was not in fact race-based, but time-based; those who were native inhabitants and could vote were those who were residents of Guam, and their descendants, at a time when the United States Congress had recognized that Guam had a unique and definable “people” through the passage of its Organic Act for the island in 1950. The population at that time had comprised approximately 90 per cent of indigenous Chamorro people and 10 per cent other groups. In addition, the court had deemed a plebiscite was of the same character as regular elections. The decision had had a chilling effect, he said, further exacerbating the administering Power’s lack of concern for United Nations resolutions and increased military presence on the island. Weeks after the March 2017 court decision, Guam’s legislature had passed a bill defending the right of Guam’s native inhabitants to determine their destiny without overt or undue interference by the administering Power and Guam’s Attorney-General announced her intention to appeal the United States court decision. In closing, he shared the words of Ed Benavente, who had led the group Nasion Chamoru, who had passed away in 2016: “I may not see decolonization in my lifetime, but I can leave this world knowing that the next generation will continue to fight for the rights of our people.”
Ms. BOURNE, expert, provided an update on the situation in the Non-Self-Governing Territories administered by the United States — American Samoa, Guam and the United States Virgin Islands — saying that popular interest and involvement in any United Nations-based decolonization effort had lagged. In 2010, the delegates to the United States Congress from the three Non-Self-Governing Territories asked for a bill to be passed to provide funding for educational programmes on political status options. “The comprehensive programmes that were needed then are needed even more now,” she said. The centennial of Denmark’s transfer of the United States Virgin Islands to the United States, marked in March 2017, should have been an opportunity to reflect on the current situation. While the Government of the United States had funded one year of activities to address that, discussions had so far failed to find a way forward. “Without a drastic and thorough re-evaluation and restructuring of work of the Committee,” she said, “without any diminution of its aims and ideals, this Third International Decade may simply morph into the fourth and fifth until the effort simply dies from neglect and inactivity. This would be a tragedy for the people of the remaining mostly small island territories on the list.”
The generalized dwindling of interest in the concept and reality of self-determination amongst the people of the islands was neither natural nor inevitable, she said, underlining a lack of focused and targeted information linking those concepts and realities to the lives of the people. If the purpose of the Special Committee was to eradicate colonialism, she said, it could not simply sit, collect data and listen to repetitive or even disturbing reports from Non-Self-Governing Territories while politely asking the administering Powers to act in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter and resolutions. It must find ways to assist the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories with the tools needed to move forward, on a case-by-case basis, to freely determine the option they preferred and to move forward to implement that decision. Education and knowledge were key, she said, urging the establishment of a small expert group to evaluate the resources of the United Nations and its associated agencies and the needs and resources of the Non-Self-Governing Territories with regard to the issues addressed by the Special Committee. Such a group could also recommend how the former could beneficially interact with the latter to generate positive movement towards the goal of eradicating colonialism.
Mr. FORREST, expert, said the sole goal was independence in New Caledonia. A draft Constitution had outlined a vision for an independent Kanak nation. The Margarita Declaration had recognized the right to self-determination and the 2014 visiting mission had bolstered the synergy towards a referendum. What was needed now was a complete, transparency referendum list, he said, calling upon the Special Committee to send a mission to New Caledonia to help to prepare for the planned 2018 referendum. The situation on the ground was extremely tense and fragile because of mass immigration organized by France, and the Kanak people had little control over natural resources management.
Turning to events leading to independence, he said the Nouméa Agreement of 1998 had provided a blueprint for success. With that in mind alongside the United Nations decolonization mandate, he asked the Special Committee to support New Caledonia to achieve independence, which would be a win-win situation for even the administering Power, France. It would help France to “learn to decolonize”, freeing itself from the shackles of colonialism as a colonial Power, he said, calling on the Special Committee to help in that regard.
Ms. GRAFF, expert, said France had always been against the independence of the Kanak people and had adopted strategies to prevent that from happening. Even today, France was operating a system of expansion, with the newly elected President Emmanuel Macron unwilling to change that position. At the current crucial point at the last phase of the Nouméa Agreement, a referendum would be held in 2018 on New Caledonia’s independence.
Concerns remained, including that one quarter of voters were being denied that right. Pro-independence movements, she said, had demonstrated that France had tried to impose its rule on New Caledonia. Recently, the Special Committee had received two reports on electoral lists explaining the situation clearly. The representatives of France were trying to say there were no problems with the electoral lists. The administering Power must meet its obligations and to support a free, transparent referendum process. Independence must be gained through a vote and strategies to prevent that must be addressed, including refusing to provide information. The rise of popularity of the right-wing politicians, demonstrated by 47 per cent of New Caledonian voters supporting Marine Le Pen, was another concern that was rooted in France’s aggressive immigration strategy. Approaching the 2018 referendum, she asked the United Nations for assistance in ongoing efforts.
During the ensuing discussions, participants raised a number of concerns and offered examples of ways to advance the decolonization mandate.
The representative of Spain said decolonization was among the United Nations priorities and the end of the yoke of colonialism was almost over. However, the situation in Gibraltar was a concern. The Special Committee was playing a key role in that regard. With regard to Gibraltar, the dispute had stemmed from occupation in 1704, when the use of non-legitimate force had led to the expulsion of the Spanish people. Spain had never given the isthmus to the United Kingdom and its continued occupation was illegal. Since 1965, the General Assembly had requested the resolution of the dispute. It was a matter of decolonization. The original proposal, in 1964, had recommended bilateral negotiations between Spain and the United Kingdom. Subsequent General Assembly resolutions supported those views. Since the United Kingdom, the administering Power, had made a decision to leave the European Union, Spain had proposed to open negotiations on joint sovereignty. The interests of the inhabitants of Gibraltar should be taken into account, he said, adding that Spain had extended an invitation to negotiate to move forward in resolving the dispute of Gibraltar.
The representative of Argentina regretted to note that 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories still existed around the world. Sharing his view on the case of the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas*, he provided a brief history, noting that a peaceful solution had been sought. International organizations, including the United Nations and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, had urged the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to negotiate a solution, which was the only way to end the dispute. Unlike other cases of Non-Self-Governing Territories, the inhabitants of the Islands were not a victim of colonialism and the principle of self-determination did not apply. Argentina was ready to establish fruitful discussions with the United Kingdom that would address all topics of concern, including maritime and military activities.
Douglas Arcia Vivas (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Special Committee Chair, and expert Wilma Reveron-Collazo delivered statements on the theme “Strengthening cooperation with administer Powers, the Non-Self-Governing Territories, concerned Member States and other stakeholders on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions, according to the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, especially its economic dimension, taking into account the indivisible nature of the Sustainable Development Goals: In the Caribbean region, Pacific region and other regions”.
Mr. ARCIA VIVAS, on behalf of the Special Committee Chair Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño, said relevant United Nations Member States must protect the peoples of the Territories they administer and, whenever appropriate, to ensure that they could pursue economic and development aspirations. Turning to development-related issues, he said the Special Committee had recognized the impact of the global financial crisis and its effects on Non-Self-Governing Territories. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals aimed at leaving no one behind, including the people living in colonized territories. Those Goals must not lose sight of General Assembly resolution 1514, which stated that colonization undermined the right to self-determination, he said, emphasizing that the call to end colonization did not contradict the Sustainable Development Goals.
One of the conditions for implementing the Goals, he said, was that those living under colonial or foreign occupation were allowed for themselves to select the goals they wished to set with the full pursuit of independence as their first right. In many colonial situations, the mainland had stripped resources in the territories, preventing the people from managing those resources and efforts to protect the environment. The 2030 Agenda and its implementation must provide fair compensation to the peoples of territories who had had their natural resources exploited by administering Powers. The success of the 2030 Agenda depended on a global partnership, with attention focusing on those furthest behind. As the decolonization process remained pending, the world was calling for action and decisions must be made to finally put an end to colonialism.
Ms. REVERON-COLLAZO, expert, said Puerto Rico, like many other territories, had no control over its economic development. Colonialism had one goal: the exploitation of territories for the benefit of the administering Power. Prospects for the Non-Self-Governing Territories were directly tied to their economic development and rights to take decisions based on their specific needs. The right to self-determination would become a meaningless sound bite unless it was accompanied with other rights. The General Assembly had called on States to ensure respect for a range of human rights, she said, adding that administering Powers must allocate adequate funding in that regard. In Puerto Rico, she said, labour reforms had, since January 2017, curtailed a number of workers’ rights, the Criminal Code of Puerto Rico had criminalized the right to protest and the privatization of the electricity grid had been approved.
The Special Committee, she said, must adopt concrete measures to address financial crises with regard to administering Powers. Steps should include helping to establish models of self-governance. The United States was in flagrant violation of its obligations to the 2030 Agenda, including Sustainable Development Goals on reducing hunger, promoting well-being and guarantees to clean water. She made a number of suggestions on how the Special Committee could address that harsh reality, including by drafting an updated report on the economic situation in territories and request the Special Rapporteur on sustainable development to address the situation in Puerto Rico and other similar territories. It could also ask the General Assembly to demand compensation for damages that had been caused by the administering Powers due to their colonialist practices.
The Regional Seminar then opened a discussion on the “Role of the United Nations system in providing development assistance to Non-Self-Governing Territories taking into account the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, and in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions: presentations by the funds and programmes, specialized agencies, regional economic commissions and others”. Delivering statements were Stephen O’Malley, United Nations Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative for Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, and Dale Alexander, Focal Point for Associate Member Territories of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Subregional Headquarters in the Caribbean.
Mr. O’MALLEY, speaking on behalf of UNDP and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), presented an overview of the United Nations system’s role in providing development assistance to Non-Self-Governing Territories. With activities in Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos Islands alongside one Non-Self-Governing Territory in the Pacific, Tokelau, the United Nations agencies continued to collaborate with all, with the exception of the United States Virgin Islands, yet not every agency operated in every territory.
Sharing a range of examples of efforts being taken in the Caribbean region, he pointed out the United Nations recent Multi-country Sustainable Development Framework for the 2017-2021 period, covering 18 countries and territories. There were four main priorities areas: health; sustainability and resilience; safety and justice; and inclusiveness and prosperity. Projects addressed a range of issues, he said, including UNICEF programmes in Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos Islands and World Health Organization (WHO) projects in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. Other recent efforts had focused on Montserrat, including environmental remediation and protection and post-disaster needs assessment workshop. He also provided an overview of projects in the Pacific region.
Mr. ALEXANDER, Focal Point for Associate Member Territories of the ECLAC Subregional Headquarters in the Caribbean, delivered a presentation on its achievements during the 2015-2016 period. Among a range of activities, a comprehensive assessment had been taken of the international political developments that would likely impact the ability of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to exercise their rights to self-determination, including the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. Elaborating on the impact of that decision, he said early indications had shown that certain benefits could be jeopardized.
During the reporting period, he said, strategic interventions included promoting energy efficiency and capacity-building and sensitization initiatives on the Sustainable Development Goals. The Commission had also adopted a strategic and deliberate approach to supporting the Territories in mainstreaming the Goals into their own development planning processes. Activities included a December 2016 subregional consultation on the development of a set of core indicators for monitoring implementation of Sustainable Development Goals and the Samoa Pathway in Caribbean Small Island Developing States and a February 2017 Caribbean symposium on mainstreaming the Goals in national development planning.
The Regional Seminar then held discussions on the above-mentioned items, during which speakers offered their perspectives and suggestions on ways to advance decolonization goals. Some mentioned the absence of Caribbean Non-Self-Governing Territories at the Regional Seminar.
FE’ILOAKITAU KAHO TEVI, Melanesian Spearhead Group, said that as part of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, all its members had adopted an approach to governance, including constructive engagement with a view to addressing peoples’ political aspirations. The Group had taken a number of missions to examine the situation on the ground, including with the Kanak people of New Caledonia. The Nouméa Agreement had outlined the path and the result of the referendum must be transparent, he said, emphasizing that the United Nations keep abreast of the Agreement’s implementation. The Group had also visited Vanuatu and would make further visiting missions.
ALEJANDRO BETTS, expert, said the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)* was different than other decolonization cases as the act of force with which the United Kingdom had taken them from Argentina had been illegal in 1833 as it was today. Argentina had consistently claimed the restitution of the full exercise of its legitimate sovereignty over the occupied territory. Today’s inhabitants of the Islands were not distinguishable from the 65 million inhabitants in the United Kingdom. They were full British citizens, who lived in the archipelago under the administering Power’s laws and obeyed all its protocols with respect to flag, national anthem and public holidays. In addition, actions of building up military presence had been a threat to both Argentina and the region. This question, he said, was by no means a “typical” or “classic” decolonization case, but an interdisciplinary one that included aspects of international law that demanded that a powerful world State respected and gave way to the equality of rights of another less powerful State. In spite of Argentina’s reiterated, declared will to renew the sovereignty negotiations, London had indefinitely persisted in ignoring the question in open violation of multiple prevailing United Nations resolutions on decolonizing the occupied Islands and their surrounding maritime spaces.
The representative of Cuba said the next Special Committee session should examine the case of New Caledonia based on appeals that had been heard today. The Falkland Islands (Malvinas)* was a case involving the sovereignty dispute, she said, appealing to the Governments of Argentina and United Kingdom to continue a dialogue. Turning to Western Sahara, she noted that in 2016 the General Assembly had requested the Special Committee to continue examining the issue and had expressed support for negotiations to lead to self-determination of the Saharans, urging efforts to support those initiatives. With regard to Puerto Rico, it was not on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories due to a political farce launched half a century ago, but the Special Committee must pay special attention to the situation there, particularly with regarding to its current condition, including poverty, illiteracy and other effects of economic austerity plans.
The representative of France, noting that her country had fully cooperated with the Special Committee over the past two decades on New Caledonia, said information under Article 73 e of the Charter had been communicated and a report on the work of the United Nations electoral experts had been transmitted to the Special Committee. France supported the smooth functioning of a democratic process with a view to the population deciding their future. The Nouméa Agreement had led to a law of 1999, which had defined the purview of authorities in New Caledonia. France received a request for dispatching a visiting mission to the Territory which was currently being examined, she said, but New Caledonia should not be the only territory the Special Committee visited and such a visit should occur at an appropriate time.
The representative of Papua New Guinea, noting the absence of Caribbean Non-Self-Governing Territories at the Regional Seminar, offered several suggestions to reduce the number of Non-Self-Governing Territories. The Special Committee should, among other things, hold additional meetings devoted to each listed Non-Self-Governing Territory with a view to identifying challenges such as institutional weaknesses. It should also take steps to engage with administering Powers for improved and better understanding and could consider establishing a strategic approach to shrinking the list with special attention to be given to Non-Self-Governing Territories on the verge of the final stage of self-determination.
The representative of Chile said that at the end of the Third Decade on Decolonization, almost nothing had happened and the Special Committee played no role in the independence of Timor-Leste in 2002. While delegates were blaming the Special Committee, there were limitations that had been imposed on it. A one-size-fits-all approach did not work, he said. Non-Self-Governing Territories were different and unique solutions must be found, he said, expressing Chile’s longstanding commitment to decolonization. Turning to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, a dual sovereignty solution had been suggested by the United Kingdom in 1974 and perhaps that option could be reconsidered.
The representative of Zimbabwe, noting that his country had declared independence in 1980, raised concerns about Western Sahara, an issue that had remained unresolved for more than 25 years. Relevant Security Council resolutions must be implemented, he said, expressing hope that in the absence of an administering Power the United Nations could support Western Sahara and its people’s aspirations for self-determination. He suggested that the Special Committee plan a visiting mission to assess the situation itself.
The representative of Indonesia said rigorous efforts must be undertaken to ensure the full discharge of the Special Committee’s mandate. It must closely examine each Non-Self-Governing Territory to move the process along, as there was no one-size-fits-all model. Respecting the national position of members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, she said Indonesia had placed constructive engagement at the forefront. Yet, the Special Committee’s mandate was clear, and its dialogue must be focused, she said, rejecting any political discussions that fell outside its purview.
The representative of Sierra Leone said the Special Committee had a clear mandate. However, trust must be built among all stakeholders, he said, noting that many administering Powers were absent from the Regional Seminar. Enhanced cooperation by all parties would help to identify practical means to be pursued and to better evaluate the situation in the Non-Self-Governing Territories. “But, we need to have results,” he said, suggesting a closer examination of what help the Special Committee could give to those Non-Self-Governing Territories that were on the verge of declaring independence. Sierra Leone condemned all acts of colonialism, yet believed that peaceful means were the only options available, as the administering Powers were more powerful than the territories they held.
Mr. SUMMERS, Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, said history demonstrated that the British had claimed the Islands in 1776, prior to Argentina’s claim of an invasion, and the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom had signed an agreement in 1849. Negotiations were difficult and if all issues were to be put “on the table”, then self-determination should be one of them, he said, noting that many believed that the Islanders were not entitled to that right.
The representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis regretted to note the lack of participation of regional stakeholders. On Western Sahara, she expressed support for the work of the Secretary-General and the United Nations to seek a resolution of the dispute. The Moroccan autonomy initiative, which was in line with United Nations principles, was a good compromise solution, she said.
The representative of Timor-Leste said her country was the last territory that had been taken off the decolonization list and would soon turn 15, a testament of the Special Committee’s work. The Special Committee still had a crucial role to assist peoples in choosing their future, be it independence, integration or free association. Self-determination was an inalienable right of all people, she said. Turning to Western Sahara, she said the people had not exercised their inalienable right. Resumed negotiations would ensure the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions and a peaceful solution. Concluding, she said similar situations were possible in the listed Non-Self-Governing Territories, as it had been in Timor-Leste.
The representative of Dominica wondered whether there should be a refocus on Brexit implications and other development-related issues to identify actions that would benefit both Non-Self-Governing Territories and countries in the region. More broadly, he said the time had come to consider an integrated approach to ameliorating the situation of the 17 listed Non-Self-Governing Territories on a case-by-case basis.
Mr. BOSSANO, Gibraltar, said Gibraltar would be more affected by Brexit than other territories that were further away in distance. If there was a price to be paid for self-determination, “we would rather eat dry bread” and pay the price, he said. For the benefit of others, the Special Committee should pay attention to Brexit implications with regard to those on the road to self-determination.
The representative of Grenada expressed support for the Security Council-led process to achieve a peaceful solution to the situation in Western Sahara. The Moroccan initiative was a valid proposal to end the dispute, he said, noting that the Secretary-General had relaunched the political process to reach a solution in the spirit of compromise.
The representative of Argentina said negotiations required compromise and his country was ready to engage with the United Kingdom to find a solution.
The representative of Algeria said the Special Committee played a crucial role and the international community must continue to help it fulfil its mandate and eradicate colonization. Turning to the people of Western Sahara, who had continued to be subjected to occupation, he said biased solutions would not contribute to a peaceful future for the region. Morocco was not complying with resolutions. The Special Committee had always sought to allow the Saharan people to exercise the right to self-determination, he said, expressing support for Security Council efforts and actions that were being taken by the Secretary-General. Recalling decisions by courts that had recognized Western Sahara was not part of Morocco, he said the Special Committee must lend its support to achieve, with the African Union, a lasting solution to the problem, including by sending a visiting mission.
The representative of Morocco said Western Sahara had been placed on the decolonization list in 1963, years before the establishment in 1974 of the Frente Polisario, which had been set up by Algeria. For its part, Morocco’s proposed autonomy plan was a way to end the dispute. In the most recent elections in October 2016, voter turn out was “highest in the Sahara”, he said, adding that Morocco intended to turn the Sahara into a hub of education, transportation and maritime development to serve the region. By a Security Council resolution, he said, neighbouring States, Algeria and Mauritania, had been called upon to support the current negotiation process. Noting that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had called for registering the Tindouf refugee camp population, he wondered why Algeria was blocking that effort. Morocco had chosen a negotiated solution, he said. Turning to visiting missions, he said they should not be politicized. While Morocco had left the African Union because it had admitted a non-State entity, his country had returned to the organization. Morocco gave freedom, not colonization, he said, hoping the peace process would soon resume under the Secretary-General’s leadership. However, he said, there could be no solution without the direct involvement of Algeria.
The representative of Algeria said the Special Committee must address the issues of human rights and of occupation. There was only one occupation, which violated international law, he said, emphasizing that the case of Western Sahara must be examined, as Morocco had annexed part of that territory with expansionist aims. With regard to the referendum, there had been many references to such an activity in many United Nations resolutions. The people had a right to self-determination, he said, emphasizing that Algeria had never been a party to the conflict. Algeria was ready to make every possible effort to support a solution to the situation.
Mr. BOUKHARI, Frente Polisario, noting that there had been a gratuitous distortion of facts, provided a series of clarification. Morocco had blocked the proposed referendum, the Security Council had taken note of proposals from both Morocco and Frente Polisario and Western Sahara was in fact under military occupation, as written in two General Assembly resolutions. Morocco could not simultaneously be judge and jury, he said.
The representative of Morocco said his country had issued 18 standing invitations to various special rapporteurs and Algeria had discouraged them. Morocco was not afraid of human rights scrutiny, he said. He asked if Algeria, as an observer, was being neutral when it provided weapons to separatists. Urging engagement in addressing the issue, he said, noting that a solution would take place with or without Algeria.
The representative of Algeria said King Hassan II had suggested that the territory was shared. Morocco had already taken part of the territory and wished to swallow it up whole. Algeria had always stood ready to contribute to peace efforts through United Nations processes. Morocco had expelled many journalists and parliamentarians who asked certain questions. Amnesty International had reported on human rights abuses, including systematic torture and a crack-down on all individuals expressing support for a free Western Sahara.
The representative of Morocco appealed to the Special Committee to examine the situation of the Kabil people, who had lived for nine centuries under Algeria’s control.
Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Côte d’Ivoire, Venezuela, Ecuador and Antigua and Barbuda. Also participating was expert Ms. Bourne, Mr. O’Malley, of UNDP, and a representative of French Polynesia.
* A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).