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Seventy-sixth Session,
16th Meeting (AM)
GA/SPD/744

Fourth Committee Approves 15 Additional Resolutions, One Decision, Concluding Action during Streamlined Seventy-Sixth Session

Committee Chair Praises Interactive Sessions, Return of Decolonization Petitioners After COVID-19 Hiatus, in Closing Remarks

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) today approved 14 draft resolutions concerning decolonization, as well as another on assistance in mine action and a decision on the body’s future programme of work, as members completed their work for the main part of the General Assembly’s seventy‑sixth session.

Following the Committee’s first day of action on 9 November (see Press Release GA/SPD/743), today’s work brings the total number of resolutions approved during the main part of the session to 34, and the total number of decisions to three.  They will next be forwarded to the General Assembly for adoption.

Committee Chair Egriselda Aracely González López (El Salvador) said in closing remarks that the Committee’s agenda — which was once again streamlined amid the ongoing COVID‑19 pandemic — provided unique opportunities for delegations to consider items in an in‑depth manner.  The format of its interactive dialogues, especially question‑and‑answer sessions held with senior United Nations officials, continued to be useful and informative.  She also welcomed that the Committee was able to resume its longstanding hearing of petitioners from the world’s remaining Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, a practice which had to be curtailed in 2020 at the height of the pandemic.

Many of today’s drafts were approved without a vote.  The Committee first approved a consensus text titled “Assistance in mine action” (document A/C.4/76/L.15/Rev.1), which was introduced by the representative of Poland.  By the terms of the text, the Assembly would urge Member States, in particular those that have the capacity to do so, as well as the United Nations system, to provide assistance to mine‑affected States.  It also would encourage Member States and relevant organizations to ensure that mine action programmes take into account risk education and the rights, specific needs and requirements of victims and persons with disabilities.  By other terms, the Assembly would encourage States to support victims’ access to appropriate medical care, education and skills training and income‑earning opportunities.

The Committee then took up a series of texts under its decolonization cluster, which were contained in the 2020 Report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (document A/75/23).

Acting without a vote, members approved draft resolutions titled “Question of Bermuda” (draft resolution VI, chapter V, p.44); “Question of the British Virgin Islands” (draft resolution VII chapter V, p.48); “Question of the Cayman Islands” (draft resolution VIII, chapter V, p.52); “Question of French Polynesia” (draft resolution IX, chapter V, p.56); “Question of Guam” (draft resolution X, chapter V, p.60); “Question of Montserrat” (draft resolution XI, chapter V, p.66); “Question of New Caledonia” (draft resolution XII, chapter V, p.71).

They further approved drafts resolutions titled “Question of Pitcairn” (draft resolution XIII, chapter V, p.78); “Question of Saint Helena” (draft resolution XIV, chapter V, p.82); “Question of Tokelau” (draft resolution XV, chapter V, p.86); “Question of the Turks and Caicos Islands” (draft resolution XVI, chapter V, p.90); and “Question of the United States Virgin Islands” (draft resolution XVII, chapter V, p.95).

Taking up another draft resolution contained in the same report, titled “Dissemination of information on decolonization” (draft resolution XVIII, chapter V, p.120), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States) with 2 abstentions (France, Togo).  By its terms, the General Assembly would request that the Department of Global Communications continue its efforts to update web‑based information on the assistance programmes available to the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories.  It would also request that the Department, and the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, implement the recommendations of the Special Committee on Decolonization.

The Committee also approved another draft resolution in the same report, titled “Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples” (draft resolution XIX, chapter V, p.122), by a recorded vote of 120 votes in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 39 abstentions.  By its terms, the Assembly would call upon administering Powers to cooperate fully with the Special Committee to develop and finalize a constructive programme of work for the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories to facilitate implementation of the Special Committee’s mandate as well as relevant resolutions.  Moreover, it calls upon administering Powers to ensure that economic and other activities in the Territories do not adversely affect the interests of their peoples but instead promote development, and to terminate military activities and eliminate military bases in the Territories.

Acting without a vote, the Committee approved a draft decision titled “Proposed programme of work and timetable of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) for the seventy‑seventh session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.4/76/L.16).  On the agenda item titled “Programme planning,” Ms. González noted that two draft decisions submitted under that item had been withdrawn.

Delivering statements in explanation of position were representatives of Cuba, the United Kingdom and Argentina, while the representatives of Australia and Mexico delivered general statements.

Action on Draft Resolutions

At the outset, the Committee took up a draft resolution titled “Assistance in mine action” (document A/C.4/76/L.15/Rev.1).

It was introduced by the representative of Poland, who said the text is a result of informal and bilateral consultations with delegations.  Mine action is crucial for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and is at the nexus of peace, security and development.  The main goal of the resolution is to express support for mine action efforts, she said, noting that its strengthened language expresses particular concern about the impact of mines on children and improvised explosive devices on civilians and security forces.  It also condemns attacks against mine action personnel and emphasizes support for people with disabilities, she said.

The representative of Cuba spoke in explanation of position before the vote, saying that while his delegation approached negotiations on the draft resolution constructively, it remains concerned about the trend to include elements in the text that will compromise consensus.  There should be no reference in the draft to Security Council negotiations in which most Member States did not participate, nor should there be language from the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) on items that did not receive consensus.  Emphasizing that the imposition of a silence procedure will not contribute to the ultimate outcome, he urged the Committee to avoid putting forward a decision, on a consensus basis, which is not acceptable to everyone.  Cuba will go along with consensus on the current item but will continue to monitor the text moving forward.

The draft resolution was then approved without a vote.

Delivering a general statement on that item, the representative of Australia welcomed the Second Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2021, describing it as a valuable forum to consider progress made in implementing and universalizing that instrument.  For its part, the Australian Defence Force’s Operation RENDER SAFE continues to collaborate with regional partners to safely conduct threat assessments and disposals of explosive remnants of war in Pacific Island nations.  Recognizing that humanitarian mine action personnel provide critical services with lasting social and economic benefits, she went on to urge all actors to protect and respect humanitarian workers in accordance with international humanitarian law.

The Committee then took up a series of drafts on implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

Acting again without a vote, the Committee approved individual draft resolutions contained in the 2020 Report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (document A/75/23).

Those were titled as follows:  “Question of Bermuda” (draft resolution VI, chapter V, p.44); “Question of the British Virgin Islands” (draft resolution VII chapter V, p.48); “Question of the Cayman Islands” (draft resolution VIII, chapter V, p.52); “Question of French Polynesia” (draft resolution IX, chapter V, p.56); “Question of Guam” (draft resolution X, chapter V, p.60); “Question of Montserrat” (draft resolution XI, chapter V, p.66); “Question of New Caledonia” (draft resolution XII, chapter V, p.71); “Question of Pitcairn” (draft resolution XIII, chapter V, p.78); “Question of Saint Helena” (draft resolution XIV, chapter V, p.82); “Question of Tokelau” (draft resolution XV, chapter V, p.86); “Question of the Turks and Caicos Islands” (draft resolution XVI, chapter V, p.90); and “Question of the United States Virgin Islands” (draft resolution XVII, chapter V, p.95).

Taking up another draft resolution contained in the same report, titled “Dissemination of information on decolonization” (draft resolution XVIII, chapter V, p.120), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 2 abstentions (France, Togo).

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in explanation of his country’s position, said the obligation placed on the Secretariat to publicize decolonization issues places an unwarranted drain on the scarce resources of the United Nations, and as such the resolution is unacceptable.

Also explaining his country’s position, the representative of Argentina expressed his support for the right to self-determination of the peoples that continue to be subjected to colonial domination and foreign occupation, in accordance with resolutions 1514 (XX) and 2625 (XXV).  He further stated that the question of the Malvinas Islands*, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas is recognized in various United Nations resolutions as a sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom, and the only way to resolve it is by resuming bilateral negotiations.

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples”, also contained in the same report (draft resolution XIX, chapter V, p.122).  It approved that text by a recorded 120 votes in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 39 abstentions.

Speaking in explanation of position, the representative of the United Kingdom said his delegation voted against the resolution as some of its elements are unacceptable.  He further noted that the United Kingdom remains committed to modernizing its relationship with its overseas Territories while fully taking into account the views of their peoples.

The representative of Argentina, also speaking in explanation of position, recalled that United Nations visiting missions are carried out in Territories where the principle of self‑determination is applicable.  Moreover, such missions should consider situations on a case‑by‑case basis and take place upon approval of the General Assembly.

Finally, the Committee approved a draft decision on its programme of work for the General Assembly’s seventy‑seventh session — titled “Proposed programme of work and timetable of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) for the seventy‑seventh session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.4/76/L.16) — without a vote.  Presenting that text, Committee Chair Egriselda Aracely González López (El Salvador) announced her intention to consult with members of the Bureau on possible recommendations, with a view to convening an informal meeting of the Committee in early 2022 for a discussion on the revitalization of the working methods of the Committee.  With regard to the programme of work for the next year, she said the Bureau proposed a total of 27 meetings for the main part of the seventy‑seventh session.

Taking the floor on that matter, the representative of Mexico noted that in the present session the Committee conducted 16 meetings, which were sufficient to discuss all items on this Committee’s agenda thoroughly and adequately.  Therefore, he questioned the need to convene 27 meetings during the next session and called on the Committee to take on board lessons learned and make more effective use of its time.

Turning to the agenda item titled “Programme planning,” the Chair noted that two draft decisions submitted under that item had been withdrawn.

Delivering concluding remarks, Ms. González summarized the session’s proceedings, noting that the Committee adopted 34 draft resolutions and 3 draft decisions in total.  Despite constraints imposed by the ongoing COVID‑19 pandemic, the Committee held 16 formal meetings, 1 in‑person informal meeting and 1 virtual informal meeting.  Its agenda provided unique opportunities for delegations to consider items in an in‑depth manner, and the format of interactive dialogues — especially the use of question‑and‑answer periods — continued to be useful and informative.

Noting that the Committee once again held a joint general debate on all 14 substantive agenda items, on an exceptional basis due to COVID‑19 constraints, she said a total of 131 statements were delivered.  However, only 44 were delivered by female delegates, she said, underscoring the enormous potential of women’s contribution to diplomacy.  She also recalled that, during the present session, the Committee resumed its annual hearings of petitioners under the decolonization cluster of items — which had been curtailed in 2020 at the height of the COVID‑19 pandemic — and heard from four representatives and 70 petitioners from five Non‑Self‑Governing Territories.

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* 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).
For information media. Not an official record.