Speakers Weigh Actions of Administering Powers, Cite Sustainable Development, Democratic Aspirations, as Fourth Committee Continues General Debate
Delegates in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) today weighed the actions and responsibilities of the world’s remaining administering Powers, with some calling for stepped up efforts to support Non‑Self‑Governing Territories on their quest to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as members continued their annual general debate.
The representative of Saint Lucia encouraged administering Powers to provide the Committee with information on the status of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in their Territories. He observed that many Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, particularly those in the Caribbean and the Pacific, are at extreme risk from the impacts of climate change. A single hurricane or storm can lead to wide scale devastation, he stressed, acknowledging the support provided to the Territories by the specialized agencies and organizations of the United Nations.
France’s representative outlined recent developments in the two Territories it administers, reporting that New Caledonia is approaching the end of a political process begun in 1988, holding its third vote as part of an independence referendum in December. Turning to French Polynesia, he said that Territory’s placement on the list of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories is not in line with the democratic choices of the Polynesians themselves. French Polynesia has a democratically elected President, Government and Assembly, he said, asking the Committee to review its status to better reflect the will of the people and the situation on the ground.
On the question of the Western Sahara, Guinea‑Bissau’s representative described Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative as the most practical plan for a mutually acceptable solution to the dispute. Also noting Morocco’s efforts to bolster infrastructure, education, and health care systems in the region ‑ as well as to help the Territory cope with the pandemic - he said his country is pleased to have recently opened a Consulate General in the city of Dakhla.
Striking a similar tone, the representative of Liberia commended Morocco’s efforts to fight the COVID‑19 pandemic in the Western Sahara, including through a broad vaccination campaign that provided the population with access to COVID‑19 immunizations.
The representative of Kiribati reflected on his country’s own colonial journey, pointing to continued calls from groups of people whose right to self‑determination and political independence has not materialized for reasons beyond their making. “They wish to be free from the dark and inhuman forces of colonialism,” he stressed, noting that, following its independence, Kiribati was able to take charge of its own destiny and choose its own path to reach its goals.
Also speaking today were representatives of Peru, Tunisia, Benin, Equatorial Guinea, Burundi, Angola, Honduras, Slovakia, El Salvador, Cyprus, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Djibouti, and Sao Tome and Principe.
Speaking in the exercise of right of reply were representatives of the United Kingdom, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Argentina.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 3 November, to continue its general debate.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) reported on the situation in his country’s two overseas territories on the list of Non-Self‑Governing Territories, namely French Polynesia and New Caledonia, noting that the latter is approaching the end of a political process begun in 1988. Noting that the Territory will hold its third vote as part of an independence referendum in December, he outlined the recent release of an 18‑month transition period, during which the Territory will define how it will be organized politically. France will not request removing the Territory from the list of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories during that period, he said, noting that partition has been ruled out as a possible scenario. On the question of French Polynesia, he said the Territory’s placement on the list of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories is not in line with the democratic choices of the Polynesians themselves. Recalling the address by the President of French Polynesia to the Committee, when he presented the Statute of Autonomy of Territory within France, he noted that the Territory has a democratically elected president, a Government and an Assembly. As such, he asked the Committee to review the status of the Territory to better reflect the will of the people and the situation on the ground.
JOSÉ MANUEL RODRÍGUEZ CUADROS (Peru) said the case of the Malvinas Islands*, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas is a specific one in which the principle of self‑determination is not applicable. Recalling that the specificity of the case has been established in various United Nations resolutions, he expressed support for Argentina’s sovereignty over the islands and reiterated the need for both parties to resume negotiations and refrain from unilateral activities in Territory under dispute. As for Western Sahara, Peru has re‑established diplomatic relations with the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. However, that decision is independent of the friendly relations Peru continues to have with Morocco. Underlining the importance of the guiding principles of peacekeeping operations, including impartiality and consent of the host State, he went on to highlight Peru’s contributions to peace operations ‑ specifically to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) ‑ and said it will soon be the second‑largest troop‑contributing country in Latin America.
TAREK LADEB (Tunisia), referring to the work the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA), welcomed the support rendered to Palestine refugees, including through the resumption of funding previously cut by the United States. Voicing appreciation for UNWRA’s transparency reforms, he condemned attempts to question the Agency’s impartiality. Tunisia rejects Israeli practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the continued settlements and demolition of homes. Reiterating his country’s support for the Secretary‑General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative, he commended the work of peacekeepers in protecting civilians around the globe. Against that backdrop, he emphasized the need for clear mandates for peacekeeping missions and the increased participation of women, and highlighted Tunisia’s contributions to six special political missions. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, missions should support host countries as they work to contain the virus. On the question of information, he lauded the launch of the United Nations Verified initiative and urged the Organization to ensure the equitable use of all six United Nations languages.
MARC HERMANNE GNINADOOU ARABA (Benin) said a resolution to the conflict in Western Sahara will contribute to the stability of the region as well as the Territory’s integration into the African continent. He went on to express support for Morocco’s efforts to pursue a political solution there and its cooperation with the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). Welcoming the appointment of the Secretary‑General’s new Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, he noted that the latter will have to find a way to implement the conclusions reached at the round table discussions held in Geneva. However, sustained momentum for the political process will depend on the engagement of all the parties, he said.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Spanish, said his country fully supports the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, which is instrumental for achieving peaceful and lasting solutions to all decolonization issues. On the question of Western Sahara, he lauded Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative and its socioeconomic plan for the Territory, while welcoming the negotiation process led by the United Nations with the participation of all stakeholders. Turning to peacekeeping operations, he called for greater cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union as well as other regional and subregional organizations, as such groups possess valuable knowledge of the situations on the ground. He also encouraged the greater participation of women in peacekeeping operations.
ZÉPHYRIN MANIRATANGA (Burundi) said the rising tide of insecurity in the Western Sahara is hindering the integration of the Maghreb region into the African continent. He expressed support for Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative, noting that the Security Council has hailed the manifold efforts taken by Morocco to resolve the regional dispute. While the roundtable discussions held in Geneva injected new momentum into the political process, all stakeholders must remain committed and demonstrate a spirit of compromise. Noting that Burundi opened a consulate office in the Western Sahara and has witnessed Morocco’s development efforts in the region, he welcomed progress on the human rights front as well as the participation of locally elected representatives in various political meetings regarding the Territory. In addition, he commended Morocco on convening elections in Western Sahara, which enjoyed a high voter turnout.
JOÃO IAMBENO GIMOLIECA (Angola), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed concern for the Sahrawi people, who have been waiting for a referendum for roughly three decades, having trusted the United Nations and engaged constructively in the peace process, exercising patience, moderation and flexibility. Turning to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he observed that the recent escalation of violence there renewed the decades‑long conflict in the Middle East and threatened the ceasefire efforts reached in May 2021 following mediation efforts by Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and the United Nations. He went on to welcome any initiatives to establish peace and security in the Middle East, particularly the recent Ministerial Conference of Donors, an initiative by Jordan and Sweden, in collaboration with UNRWA to mobilize funds in support of Palestine refugees who remain exposed to conflict and poverty.
YOLANNIE CERRATO (Honduras), supporting Argentina’s legitimate claims over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, called Argentina and the United Kingdom to resume bilateral negotiations on that territorial dispute. Describing the University for Peace as an important resource for promoting the spirit of tolerance and peaceful coexistence, she detailed programmes run jointly by her country and the University to support transparent and peaceful elections in Honduras. On the question of information, she welcomed efforts by the Department of Global Communications to implement its Verified campaign and emphasized the importance of multilingualism in promoting the values of the United Nations. Noting that preparedness for emergencies such as the COVID‑19 crisis should be integrated into peacekeeping missions’ operations, she stressed the importance of predeployment training for the peacekeeping personnel.
MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union, said the COVID‑19 pandemic highlighted the necessity of comprehensive infrastructure to counter misinformation, in the context of peacekeeping missions. The role of credible, transparent and effective communications with media partners and local communities has become critical. Despite significant constraints caused by the pandemic, he welcomed efforts by the Department of Global Communications to expand the scope of its activities and increase its engagement with stakeholders, including civil society and young people. While noting that peacekeeping operations are often deployed in unwelcoming environments and tasked with a complex set of responsibilities, the United Nations still struggles with predeployment training, caveats and insufficient capacity. Slovakia has made a concerted effort to increase the number of women in its armed forces. Currently, servicewomen comprise nearly 12 per cent of its armed forces, and the country plans to integrate gender perspectives into such areas as operational planning, education, training and evaluation. He also spotlighted Slovakia’s troop and police contributions to a range of United Nations missions.
LILIANA VERÓNICA BAÑOS MÜLLER (El Salvador), associating herself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and the Group of Friends of Spanish, expressed support for the legitimate rights of Argentina over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas. In that context, she called for the resumption of negotiations between the United Kingdom and Argentina to find a resolution to the dispute, noting Argentina’s constructive attitude in that regard. As for Western Sahara, she voiced support for efforts undertaken by Morocco to find a political resolution to the dispute. Turning to peace operations, she observed that the dedication and bravery of United Nations deployed troops only increased during the COVID‑19 pandemic. In the context of growing instability, special political missions play an increasingly essential role in building and sustaining peace, she added.
POLLY IOANNOU (Cyprus), associating herself with the European Union, stated that the presence of United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) shall remain indispensable as long as part of Cyprus is under foreign occupation. Highlighting several areas needed to enhance the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations ‑ including being able to prevent or respond to violations of the sovereignty and sovereign rights of host States - she said missions must be able to prevent or respond to unilateral attempts for military gains on the ground, as well as to violations of the military status quo and the creation of facts that constitute illegal practices or entrench the conflict. As for special political missions, they must have in‑depth knowledge of local circumstances and the roots of a conflict. Furthermore, she said, they should be guided by parameters that guarantee sustainable dispute resolution, such as functional political solutions with high democratic standards that are nationally owned and exclude foreign interference.
KRZYSZTOF SZCZERSKI (Poland), associating himself with the European Union, noted that despite the efforts of the international community, mines, unexploded ordnance and explosive remnants of war still cause the deaths of thousands of people worldwide. Against that backdrop, Poland ‑ as the European Union facilitator of the biannual General Assembly resolution on mine action ‑ has been providing financial support to United Nations Mine Action Service’s programmes in the Gaza Strip. Pointing to the drop in international funding for mine action in the last years, he called for comprehensive clearance operations on the ground as a prerequisite for the effective protection of the civilians impacted by armed conflict. Underscoring the significance of conducting education campaigns, including on risk awareness, he said mine action is crucial for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and to assisting communities as they seek to regain safe and dignified lives.
HENRIQUE ADRIANO DA SILVA (Guinea-Bissau), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned-Movement, urged all parties to the conflict in Western Sahara to engage in a realistic political dialogue under the auspices of the United Nations and the leadership of the Secretary‑General’s Personal Envoy. In that context, he described Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative as the most practical plan for a mutually acceptable solution to the dispute. Also noting Morocco’s efforts to bolster infrastructure, education and health care systems in the region ‑ as well as to help the Territory cope with the pandemic ‑ he said his country is pleased to have recently opened a Consulate General in the city of Dakhla.
FRANCISCO DUARTE LOPES (Portugal), associating himself with the European Union, highlighted the presence of his country’s peacekeeping personnel in the Central African Republic, Mali, South Sudan and Colombia and reiterated Portugal’s full support for the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative, as well as its implementation strategy. Noting that longstanding peace requires an integrated approach, in which peacekeeping is intertwined with the sustainable development and respect for human rights, he underscored that peacekeeping operations are only able to perform effectively if provided with adequate material and financial resources. The protection of civilians requires efforts in two priority domains, namely, training and women’s participation. Turning to the question of information, he urged the Department of Global Communications to further expand the use of languages with global reach, such as Portuguese.
JELENA PLAKALOVIC (Serbia), aligning herself with the European Union, said her country is enhancing its participation in peacekeeping missions both qualitatively and quantitatively, citing the recent deployment of a Serbian military police squad in UNFICYP. Serbia is one of the most significant European contributors per capita to United Nations peacekeeping operations and, since 2002, almost 4,900 members of the Serbian army have been deployed in such efforts. Noting that her country dedicates special attention to military medical capacity in foreign environments, she spotlighted Serbia’s military hospital in MINUSCA. As a country that also hosts a United Nations mission, Serbia calls for consistent adherence to Council resolution 1244 (1999) and continued engagement for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) with the same level of presence and an unchanged mandate.
CARLTON RONNIE HENRY (Saint Lucia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and CELAC, recalled the role played by the United Nations in his country’s self‑determination. Underscoring the need for constructive engagement to put an end to the plight of the 17 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, he encouraged the Administering Powers to provide information on the status of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in those Territories. Welcoming the recent appointment of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, he said Non-Self-Governing Territories, particularly those in the Caribbean and the Pacific, are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. A single hurricane or storm can lead to wide scale devastation, he stressed, acknowledging the support provided to the Territories by the specialized agencies and organizations of the United Nations system.
YOUSSOUF ADEN MOUSSA (Djibouti), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Group of Francophone Ambassadors, observed that troop‑contributing countries have demonstrated solidarity and professionalism even during the COVID‑19 pandemic. Noting that Djibouti has contributed to efforts to stabilize the situation in the Horn of Africa, he then turned to the question of Western Sahara, welcoming the extension of MINURSO’s mandate and the appointment of the Secretary‑General’s new Personal Envoy. He went on to express support for Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative and the legislative elections that took place in the Territory. On the question of Palestine, he voiced concern over human rights violations that have been exacerbated by the COVID‑19 pandemic and called on the international community to step up its support to UNRWA.
ALCÍNIO CRAVID E SILVA (Sao Tome and Principe), voicing support for the political process underway in Western Sahara, hailed the engagement of all parties to the conflict ‑ Morocco, Algeria, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) and Mauritania ‑ in the Geneva round table discussions convened recently to reach a political solution. In that context, he detailed a range of economic reforms undertaken by Morocco in the Territory, which have improved the living conditions of people on the ground. Describing Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative as realistic, he urged all parties to the conflict to demonstrate a spirit of compromise and welcomed the appointment of Staffan de Mistura as the Secretary‑General’s new Personal Envoy for Western Sahara.
TEBURORO TITO (Kiribati) pointed to continued calls from groups of people whose right to self‑determination and political independence has not materialized for reasons beyond their making, stressing that “they wish to be free from the dark and inhuman forces of colonialism”. He went on to refer to his country’s own colonial journey and its freedom from the grip of an alien government system as one of the most glorious times in its history. Following its independence, Kiribati was then in charge of its own destiny, choosing its own path to reach its goals. His Government has always sympathized with the plight of others and will support the work of the United Nations to embrace and respond to calls for self‑determination in agreement with agreed‑upon principles. Against that backdrop, he called for timely action by the United Nations for each of the 17 groups of people seeking self‑determination.
CECILIA FORGBE MC GILL (Liberia) voiced concerns about the resumption of hostilities in the Western Sahara as well as the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on MINURSO’s operations. Commending Morocco’s efforts to fight the pandemic in the Territory, including its broad vaccination campaign that provided the population with access to COVID‑19 immunizations ‑ she added that a political solution to the longstanding conflict will enhance cooperation among the Maghreb Arab Union States. Against that backdrop, she welcomed the appointment of the SGSG’s new Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, the relaunch of the round table process facilitated by the United Nations and the extension of the mandate of MINURSO.
IBRAHIMA KOMARA (Guinea), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the issue of Western Sahara is important for all States that love peace and security. The conflict must be solved, he said, hailing the holding of two conferences in Geneva that brought together all stakeholders and the appointment of the Secretary‑General’s new Personal Envoy. Urging the Secretary‑General to maintain the momentum for the peace process, he said the solution involves facilitating dialogue and ensuring commitments. As such, he urged all stakeholders to fully commit to the process in a spirit of realism and compromise in order to ensure a happy conclusion.
Right of Reply
The representative of the United Kingdom, responding to the statements delivered by several delegates, recalled a 2013 referendum held in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), in which 99.8 per cent of voters opted to remain a territory of the United Kingdom. Describing the vote as a clear sign that the Falklanders do not want a dialogue on sovereignty, she pointed out that there was no indigenous or settled population on the Territory prior to 1833.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, commenting on the statement delivered by the representative of Israel during a previous meeting, categorically rejected allegations made against his country. Noting that States employed a variety of measures during the COVID‑19 pandemic to protect the lives and safety of their people, including lockdowns, he said such measures fall within the competence of States and pointed to the lack of COVID‑19 cases in his country. Israel is not entitled or qualified to talk about human rights situations in other States, he stressed, adding that such allegations were an attempt by Israel to divert the international community’s attention away from the crimes against humanity committed by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The representative of Argentina, responding to the statement made by the delegation of the United Kingdom, said the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas are an integral part of his country ‑ illegally occupied by the United Kingdom ‑ and are the subject of a sovereignty dispute between the two countries as recognized by various international organizations. Noting that the illegal occupation led to the adoption of 10 General Assembly resolutions, which recognize the existence of a sovereignty dispute, he regretted the erroneous interpretation of historical facts by the United Kingdom. Providing some historical background on the dispute, he said his country’s links to the Territory are based on juridical principle. The principle of free determination of peoples is not applicable to the dispute, he said, describing the vote referenced by the United Kingdom as a “unilateral British act”.
* 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).