Continuing General Debate, Fourth Committee Speakers Urge Accelerated Action by Administering Powers, Spotlight Wide Range of Decolonization Concerns
Delegates addressing the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) today urged the administering Powers of the world’s 17 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories to complete the longstanding decolonization process, with speakers also citing a range of additional territorial disputes, as members continued their general debate.
Several delegates expressed support for Argentina’s sovereignty claim over the Malvinas Islands*, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, with Colombia’s representative stating that a negotiated peaceful settlement is the only way to resolve the dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom.
The representative of Argentina, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, recalled that the General Assembly has passed 10 resolutions on the issue, and echoed calls for negotiations towards a peaceful and lasting solution.
However, the United Kingdom’s representative cited a 2013 referendum on the islands, in which 99.8 per cent of votes were cast to maintain the status of Territory of the United Kingdom, sending a clear message that the people of the Islands do not want dialogue on sovereignty.
Turning to the question of Gibraltar, he recalled that, following the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, his Government — along with those of Gibraltar and Spain — agreed on a political framework on how a future agreement guiding those relationships would work. However, the United Kingdom will not enter into any arrangements in which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their democratically expressed wishes.
Meanwhile, Spain’s representative stated that the agreements negotiated with the United Kingdom on the question of Gibraltar, in the context of that country’s exit from the European Union, “augur well”. They were negotiated bilaterally without prejudice to the composition of each of the two national delegations, he said.
Pointing to some cases not related to Non-Self-Governing Territories that may still be in violation of the United Nations Charter, the representative of the United Arab Emirates stressed her country’s sovereign right over Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunb islands and called on Iran to renew efforts to resolve that dispute diplomatically through the international court system.
However, Iran’s representative reiterated his country’s sovereignty over those islands and stated that the United Arab Emirates’ claims constitute flagrant interference in Iran's domestic affairs.
The representative of Algeria addressed the situation in Western Sahara, recalling that the African Union was the co-guarantor of a 1988 settlement plan accepted by both Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front), which led to the deployment of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), with a mandate to oversee the ceasefire and organize the referendum. However, inaction on that front has led to a deteriorating situation on the ground, he said, stressing that the best course of action is to address the root causes of the conflict.
Morocco’s representative, responding in exercise of the right of reply, stated that Algeria was in fact the “root cause” of the dispute in Western Sahara, as the main party responsible for the perpetuation of the conflict. He accused Algeria of creating the POLISARIO Front, generously funding it and offering military training for forces that commit hateful crimes. The pursuit of a self-determination referendum is “dead and buried,” he said, outlining his country’s positive engagement in the region.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Paraguay, Viet Nam, Bahrain, Myanmar, Switzerland, Burkina Faso, the Russian Federation, Kuwait, Oman, Libya, Bolivia, Uganda and Yemen.
The permanent observer of the Holy See also delivered a statement.
The representatives of the United Kingdom, Iran, Morocco, Spain, Argentina, the United Arab Emirates and Algeria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 27 October, to continue its general debate.
ALBERTO ESTEBAN CABALLERO GENNARI (Paraguay), associating himself with Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said his country demonstrates its commitment to peacekeeping as a troop-contributing country and encouraged Member States to support missions in achieving their mandates. Noting that the personnel contributed by Paraguay have undergone intensive predeployment training, he emphasized the importance of women’s participation at every level of peacekeeping. To date, Paraguay has deployed three female officials and one women’s contingent from the police force. Voicing support for Argentina’s sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, he called for cooperation among stakeholders geared towards a resolution, in line with relevant United Nations resolutions. He went on to emphasize the importance of the Spanish language in United Nations outputs to ensure the effective participation of Spanish-speaking Member States.
HAI ANH PHAM (Viet Nam), associating himself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed his country’s steadfast support to the Non-Self-Governing Territories and their 2 million people, who have not been able to exercise their right to the self‑determination. He called on the administrating Powers to strengthen cooperation with the United Nations to expedite the decolonization process. On peacekeeping, he voiced support to the Action for Peacekeeping initiative, while noting that mandates should be clearly defined in light of the realities on the ground and available resources. Calling for greater representation of female peacekeepers, he drew attention to his country’s success in surpassing the Secretary-General's target of achieving 15 per cent women peacekeepers, in Viet Nam’s troops deployed to two missions. Noting that his country still experiences the negative effects of land mines, he welcomed assistance from States and the United Nations Mine Action Service in that regard, drawing attention to the impact of mines on civilians and peacekeeping personnel.
HAJER MOHAMED AMEEN (Bahrain) recalled that, while the United Nations has made great progress on its decolonization goals since the Organization’s founding, more remains to be done. Emphasizing that it is important to advance peace through dialogue and mutual respect, she expressed support for all efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East and to establish an independent Palestinian State. She went on to reiterate her country’s support for the right of the United Arab Emirates to restore sovereignty over Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunb islands, as well as for the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco for the Western Sahara.
KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar), recalling that his country has hosted five United Nations Special Envoys, voiced support for the current Special Envoy, Christine Schraner Burgener, in condemning the ongoing atrocities committed by the military, as well as in working with regional and international partners to restore democratic reforms in Myanmar. On the issue of information — a crucial lifeline for Myanmar — he detailed the military’s violations of journalists’ safety, as well as the right to access information, drawing particular attention to Internet shutdowns and limited access to medical information during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In that context, he stated that his Government remains committed to expanding access to free information and has steadily built up its information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure — critical for democratic progress and economic growth — which was damaged overnight by the military.
ADRIAN DOMINIK HAURI (Switzerland), addressing peacekeeping missions, said prevention, management and resolution of conflicts are effective only if all relevant actors are involved, including civil society and women. Adding that different facets of crises should be integrated to prevent and resolve them, he said risks associated with climate change could be considered in peace operations’ mandates, so they can analyse and report on them in their areas of deployment. Human rights should also be incorporated into their work, particularly in efforts to prevent conflicts, protect populations from violence and address the root causes of conflicts. Further, missions should have tailor-made mandates, adapted to the needs of the country concerned, while allowing for greater flexibility in rapidly responding to emerging risks and needs. Turning to outer space affairs, he welcomed finalization of the Space 2030 Agenda adopted this week by the General Assembly, which will promote the use of space technologies to support sustainable development — including in key areas such as climate change and global health.
SARAH ALAWADHI (United Arab Emirates) listed activities that threaten the viability of a two-State solution in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the building of settlements and the confiscation of property. It is also important to maintain the legal character of Jerusalem and to preserve the historic status of its holy sites. Noting that the United Arab Emirates continues to provide humanitarian aid to Palestine refugees, especially in light of COVID‑19, he cited its provision of 36.3 million tons of medical supplies and vaccines to date. He went on to express support for Morocco’s proposed autonomy plan in Western Sahara and called for the resumption of the political process under the auspices of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, noting that the United Arab Emirates recently opened a general consulate in the Territory. Pointing to some cases not related to Non-Self-Governing Territories that may still be in violation of the United Nations Charter, he stressed his country’s sovereign right over Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunb islands and called on Iran to renew efforts to resolve that dispute diplomatically through the international court system.
HALIDOU SAVADOGO (Burkina Faso) reiterated his country’s solidarity with the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, stating that the United Nations must redouble its efforts to support them in their struggle for self-determination. Noting that decolonization is a long-term process, he called upon all stakeholders to engage in sincere dialogue and constant consultation. On the issue of Western Sahara, he recalled progress achieved at the two round tables held in Geneva and encouraged the parties to engage in dialogue in the spirit of compromise and realism. Turning to the question of information, he hailed the use of new media, while underscoring that traditional channels remain key sources of information in many countries. Burkina Faso has contributed personnel to various United Nations peacekeeping missions, despite facing terrorist threats at home. In that context, he pointed to 1,200 soldiers deployed by his country to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
GLORIYA A. AGARONOVA (Russian Federation) said wide international cooperation is important for the peaceful use and research of space under the leadership of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and on the basis of internationally recognized space law. Turning to the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), she lauded the Agency’s balanced and unbiased activities, which should continue until a just solution to the Palestine refugees’ issues is found. On peacekeeping, she stressed that respect for sovereignty and capacity‑building of host countries is a priority, as are conflict‑prevention and post-conflict recovery. Decisions related to peacekeeping missions will be effective only if adopted by a consensus in relevant United Nations institutions and the Special Committee on Peacekeeping, she said. On decolonization, she noted that the process cannot be considered finalized until all the Territories, including Puerto Rico, achieve a final settlement of their status.
BADER A. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) said that despite UNRWA’s essential role, the Agency continues to be attacked and requires financial support to continue providing a lifeline to millions of Palestine refugees. Kuwait has never ceased its support, providing $1.5 million in funding for UNRWA’s health care programmes and $20 million more broadly in 2021-2022. Expressing support for the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report, he said the international community must bring pressure to bear on Israel to lift its 14-year-long siege of Gaza, end its settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, and cease its occupation of all Palestinian lands and the Syrian Golan. Turning to outer space matters, he recalled that Kuwait is party to the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, and is preparing to launch its first satellite in 2022. Highlighting the important role of special political missions, he cited the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), which must continue its research into Kuwaiti disappeared persons and help repatriate their remains.
SULTAN MOHAMMED THANI AL FAZARI (Oman) stressed that United Nations and Security Council resolutions must be implemented in the Occupied Palestinian Territory “sooner or later”. In that context, the international community must pressure Israel to stop pursuing its aggressive activities and return to the path of peace, based on international law and in the spirit of peaceful coexistence. Turning to outer space matters, he observed that many developing countries attach great importance to space technology to monitor climate change, mitigate natural disasters and pursue the Sustainable Development Goals. As such, there is a need for enhanced international cooperation to ensure developing countries can benefit from space technologies, he said, calling for practical steps to ensure knowledge exchange and technology transfer on that front. Expressing concern about the situation in the Western Sahara, he called on all parties to resume negotiations based on Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative, which has been described as “serious and credible” in relevant Security Council resolutions.
JAMES PAUL ROSCOE (United Kingdom) recalling that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, his country delivered vaccines and ensured none of its overseas Territories ran short of personal protective equipment or testing supplies. Highlighting recent democratic developments, he said the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands and Saint Helena carried out elections in 2021, with elections in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) scheduled for 4 November. Turning to Gibraltar, he recalled that, following the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, his Government — along with those of Gibraltar and Spain — agreed on a political framework on how a future agreement guiding those relationships would work. However, the United Kingdom will not enter arrangements in which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their democratically expressed wishes. As for the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), he cited a 2013 referendum in which 99.8 per cent of votes were cast to maintain the status of Territory of the United Kingdom, sending a clear message that the people of the Islands do not want dialogue on sovereignty. He also reiterated the United Kingdom’s sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory, noting that the region faces growing threats from State and non-State actors. The strategic location of the joint United Kingdom-United States defence facility makes a significant security contribution and helps to combat some of the most challenging threats in modern times, he said.
MARWAN A.T. ABUSREWEL (Libya) expressed support for a two-State solution in Palestine, noting that the peace process remains stalled with no viable prospects for implementation and drawing attention to the worsening situation on the ground, especially in Gaza and the West Bank. On the issue of mine action, he said mines and unexploded ordinance have been a source of concern for Libya since the country’s independence. Commending the role of the United Nations and its agencies in reducing mine risks and hazards, he welcomed their efforts to train local teams, pointing to support for his country’s 5+5 Joint Military Commission, as it cleared mines from the coastal road linking eastern Libya to the western parts of the country. Reaffirming his Government’s readiness to cooperate further in the process of demining contaminated areas, he highlighted the role of United Nations special political missions in achieving security and stability through preventive diplomacy, mediation and good offices.
GABRIELE CACCIA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, highlighting the work of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, underlined the need to move beyond energy sources that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. On the question of Palestine, he described the work of UNRWA as “a lifeline,” highlighting the Agency’s efforts to build a better future for children. Urging the global community to financially support UNRWA, he said relevant actors must not lose sight of the political track and negotiations should resume so that Israelis and Palestinians “may find the path of dialogue and forgiveness”. On the issue of peacekeeping, he noted the protection of civilians must continue during mission transitions or drawdown processes. In that context, he emphasized the importance of more respectful collaboration with local and national authorities, as well as with civil society groups.
DIEGO PARY RODRÍGUEZ (Bolivia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, CELAC and MERCOSUR, said global solidarity is needed to continue the process of decolonization, allowing the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to grapple with sustainable development challenges, especially in the wake of COVID-19. In that context, he called for the establishment of a process that would lead to the independence of Puerto Rico. Turning to Western Sahara, he welcomed the appointment of the Secretary-General’s new personal envoy, urging the parties to respect the ceasefire and work toward a realistic vision for the future. He went on to express support for Argentina’s sovereign right over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, calling on parties to resume negotiations to find a resolution that would return the islands to the Argentine people. Meanwhile, Palestinians continue to suffer because of Israel’s military force, he said, expressing regret over the United States’ recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He went on to say that outer space should be explored only for peaceful purposes and to the benefit to all humanity, rejecting any intentions to militarize space, and calling for a legally binding international mechanism that could prevent an arms race.
NOHRA MARIA QUINTERO CORREA (Colombia), associating herself with CELAC and MERCOSUR, stated that a negotiated peaceful settlement is the only way to resolve the dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands, and the surrounding maritime areas. On the Palestinian question, she noted her country’s support for a two-State solution in keeping with relevant United Nations resolutions, as well as for the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, and for Israel’s right to live in peace and security. On mine action, she noted Colombia’s achievements in implementing the United Nations Convention on the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines, noting that 77 per cent of Colombian territory is free from mines. However, the country continues to deal with the continued and indiscriminate use of mines by illegal armed groups and forces. Noting the importance of special political missions, she recalled her country’s request for a renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, an “unequivocal signal” of its undeniable commitment to the implementation of the 2016 Peace Agreement.
SOFIANE MIMOUNI (Algeria) stressed that the situation in Western Sahara is a protracted case of decolonization, requiring the international community’s contribution to achieve a just, lasting solution. It is not a regional conflict, a case of the restoration of territorial integrity or a matter of political bargains; it is a case of decolonization, recognized as such by the United Nations, whose resolution entails the holding of a self-determination referendum. He went on to recall that the African Union was the co-guarantor of the settlement plan accepted in 1988, which was also accepted by both Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) and endorsed as such by the Security Council. The plan led to the deployment of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) with a mandate to oversee the ceasefire and organize the referendum. However, little progress has been made on that front, and the inaction has led to a deteriorating situation on the ground. He went on to recall that Algeria has been hosting Sahrawi refugees for more than four decades, stressing that the best course of action must address the root causes of the conflict and that peace will only be achieved through direct negotiations between Morocco and the POLISARIO Front.
PHILIP OCHEN ANDREW ODIDA (Uganda), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said UNRWA remains essential for Palestine refugees, amid deteriorating socioeconomic and living conditions. On the issue of peacekeeping, he called for enhanced efforts to support such missions in the African region and stressed the need to strengthen both financial and material commitments by Member States. Turning to decolonization, he lamented that the recent International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism ended with the status of 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories still unresolved, and called for renewed engagement with relevant stakeholders. The international community should actively support the African Union’s efforts to reach a peaceful and lasting solution between the parties in the Western Sahara. That includes implementation of the United Nations-African Union peace plan, with a view to holding a self-determination referendum without delay, he said.
ABDULRAHMAN HASAN YAHYA AL-BARATI (Yemen), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country signed the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction in 1997 and eliminated all of its stocks. However, the Houthi militias, supported by Iran, have planted more than 2 million landmines in the country, causing the death and injury of thousands. He called on the global community to pressure the Houthis and Iran to comply with international resolutions, cease planting mines and provide detailed maps of their location. Noting the Palestinian issue remains a priority for the Arab and Muslim world, he said there can be no peace or normal relations with Israel without the end of its occupation, and no stability in the Middle East without a just and comprehensive solution. Citing efforts by Morocco to reach a just and lasting solution to the question of Western Sahara through compromise, he also reaffirmed the United Arab Emirates’ sovereignty over Abu Musa and the Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb islands.
Right of Reply
The representative of the United Kingdom, responding to the representatives of Paraguay, Bolivia and Colombia, noted that his country has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, nor about the right of the Falklanders to self-determination. He further noted that there can be no dialogue on sovereignty unless the Falklanders so wish.
The representative of Iran, responding to the statements by the representatives of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, described as “false and baseless” claims over Abu Musa and the Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb islands. He reiterated Iran’s sovereignty over the islands and stated that the United Arab Emirates’ claims constitute flagrant interference in Iran's domestic affairs. Iran has always pursued a policy of good neighbourliness, he said, expressing his country’s readiness to engage in bilateral talks with the United Arab Emirates to remove any misunderstanding that may exist between the two countries.
The representative of Morocco, responding to the statement made by the delegation of Algeria, stated that the latter was in fact the “root cause” of the dispute in Western Sahara, as the main party responsible for the perpetuation of the conflict. He accused Algeria of creating the POLISARIO Front, generously funding it and offering military training for forces that commit hateful crimes. As for the call for a self-determination referendum, he said the pursuit of such a referendum is “dead and buried” and urged the Algerian delegation to consider paragraph 78 of the recent Secretary General’s report, which mentions the appropriation of assistance for refugees on Algerian territory, as well as the extrajudicial executions of two Sahrawi refugees by Algerian forces.
The representative of Spain, responding to the statement by the United Kingdom’s delegate, stated that the agreements negotiated between that country and Spain on the question of Gibraltar, in the context of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, “augur well”. They were negotiated bilaterally without prejudice to the composition of each of the two national delegations.
The representative of Argentina, responding to the United Kingdom’s delegate, reiterated statements made by his country’s President and foreign minister, to the effect that the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas are an integral part of Argentina that are illegally occupied by the United Kingdom. The General Assembly has passed 10 resolutions on the issue, he noted, calling for negotiations towards a peaceful and lasting solution. Referring to a past vote on the issue, he described it a simple unilateral act by the United Kingdom which has no legal meaning and does not end the sovereignty dispute.
The representative of United Arab Emirates, responding to Iran’s delegate, said his country is not trying to pursue confrontation and will continue to invite Iran to respond positively to calls for a peaceful settlement on the three Emirati islands, while rejecting their continued occupation.
The representative of Algeria expressed his resolute rejection of the deceptive Moroccan narrative on Western Sahara and the whitewashing of the horrors of its colonial practices. Such comments evince a shameful disregard of a sovereign State’s right to express its position. Despite Morocco’s one-sided narrative, the Western Sahara issue has remained on the General Assembly’s agenda since 1963, and the European Court of Justice ruled that it must undergo a process of self-determination. Comments by Morocco are just another attempt to create a smokescreen, he stressed, adding that they obscure that Government’s lies and deception to cover its expansionist appetite and its history of torture, killings and plundering of national resources.
The representative of the United Kingdom reiterated that the 2013 referendum sent the message that the Falklanders do not want dialogue on sovereignty. Turning to Gibraltar, he reiterated his Government’s longstanding commitment to the people there that that they will not pass under the sovereignty of another State.
The representative of Iran reminded the representative of the United Arab Emirates that the three islands in question have been an integral part of Iran for thousands of years and will remain so. He further noted that by raising unfounded claims, which are not relevant to the work of this Committee, that delegation is abusing the process in order to advance its political interests in the Persian Gulf. Iran stands ready to continue its bilateral talks with the United Arab Emirates, he said, stressing his country’s readiness to remove any misunderstanding that may exist on the matter.
The representative of Morocco, responding to the representative of Algeria, stated the latter misled the Committee by referencing a 1972 meeting on the topic, because at that time the Moroccan Sahara was under Spanish occupation. He further stressed that there is not a single United Nations document which refers to Morocco as a colonizing country. Algeria is colonizing its own people, he stressed, rereferring to human rights violations on the territory of Algeria.
The representative of Argentina, responding to the statement by the representative of the United Kingdom, dismissed claims that the General Assembly’s resolutions on decolonization are not binding in nature. He recalled a decision of the International Court of Justice, which clarified the important role of the Assembly in the decolonization processes, by overseeing the fulfilment of obligations by the administrating Powers. It also clarified in which cases and how there should be an exercise of the right for self-determination. He further pointed to the obligation of States under the United Nations Charter to peacefully resolve disputes and negotiate in good faith. The only way to settle the sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas is to renew negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom, he stressed.
The representative of Spain, responding to the United Kingdom’s delegate, recalled General Assembly resolution 2353 of 1967, which affirmed that all colonial situations which partially or completely undermine the national unity and territorial integrity of a country are incompatible with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter. He further noted that the resolution specifies that the decolonization of Gibraltar should be governed by the principle of territorial integrity, while the General Assembly confirmed the right of the people of Gibraltar to self-determination.
The representative of Algeria noted that Morocco does not honour its obligations under the international human rights laws and continues its policy of threats in the Western Sahara, thus hindering the exercise of the right to self-determination. He further referred to Morocco’s policy of repression and its denials of requests to visit the occupied territory by civil society United Nations representatives, calling upon Morocco to put an end to that short-sighted strategy and engage in good faith.
* 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).