Fourth Committee Completes Its Work on Decolonization with 16 More Texts, Reviews Work of Scientific Committee on Effects of Atomic Radiation
Concluding its consideration of decolonization, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) today approved 16 resolutions on that matter, including two by recorded votes, while also approving one resolution on atomic radiation.
By a recorded vote of 108 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 37 abstentions, the Committee approved a draft resolution titled “Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples”. Per the terms of that text, the Assembly would call upon the administering Powers to cooperate fully with the Special Committee to develop and finalize, as soon as possible, a constructive programme of work on a case-by-case basis for the Non-Self-Governing Territories to facilitate the implementation of the mandate of the Special Committee and the relevant resolutions on decolonization, including resolutions on specific Territories.
The Committee will also forward to the General Assembly a draft resolution titled "Dissemination of information on decolonization”, which was approved by a recorded vote of 143 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States) and 1 abstention (France). By its terms, the General Assembly would consider it important to continue and expand its efforts to ensure the widest possible dissemination of information on decolonization and request the Department of Global Communications to actively engage and seek new and innovative ways to disseminate material to the Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Acting without a recorded vote, the Committee also approved draft resolutions concerning the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands, respectively. All these texts are contained in the 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 for 2022, chapter XIII (document A/77/23).
Also today, the Committee approved, without a vote, a draft resolution titled “Effects of atomic radiation” (document A/C.4/77/L.5). By the terms of that text, the Assembly would commend the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) for the valuable contribution that it has been making since its inception to wider knowledge and understanding of the levels, effects and risks of exposure to ionizing radiation and for fulfilling its original mandate with scientific authority and independence of judgment.
Prior to the approval of that resolution, the Committee heard from Jing Chen, Chair of the Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, who updated delegates on its work. Inviting scientists from Member States of the United Nations to participate in the Committee’s expert groups, she emphasized the importance of independent radiation science for the utilization of ionizing radiation for peaceful purposes.
Jamil Ahmad, Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), also spoke to the Committee on the same topic.
In the general debate that followed, several speakers emphasized the importance of the Committee’s independence.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Canada, Iran, Iraq, Cuba, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and Japan, as well as the European Union and the Holy See in their capacities as observers.
Speaking in explanation of positions with respect to the draft resolutions were representatives of the United Kingdom, Argentina and Australia.
The representatives of Japan, Iran, United Kingdom and Argentina spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 19 October, to commence its consideration of questions relating to information.
Effects of atomic radiation
JING CHEN (Canada), Chair of the Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, introduced that body’s report (document A/77/46) as highlighting its mandate to evaluate the latest scientific data on levels, effects and risks of exposure to ionizing radiation from both natural and artificial sources. Discussing a project focusing on second primary cancer after radiotherapy, she said that it aims to raise awareness among scientific communities and national authorities about how successful cancer treatment by radiation may, in some patients, result in a second primary cancer several years later. An evaluation of public exposure to ionizing radiation began in 2020, she said, and an expert group for epidemiological studies of radiation and cancer has completed its literature search. At its last session, the Committee endorsed the timelines and structure of the evaluation, she said, adding that the report is expected to be approved in 2025.
Regarding the Committee’s long-term strategic directions, she said that at its sixty-ninth session, it prolonged the mandate of its ad hoc working group on effects and mechanisms. It also endorsed the data collection strategy of the ad hoc working group on sources and exposure. The Committee continues to invite scientists from other Member States to participate in the Committee’s evaluations as members of expert groups. Noting with concern the ongoing decline in regular budget allocated to engage expert consultants for performing the Committee’s scientific evaluations, she encouraged Member States to make voluntary contributions to the General Trust Fund. The Committee’s work is fundamental to international radiation safety, she said, emphasizing the importance of independent radiation science for the utilization of ionizing radiation for peaceful purposes.
The representative of Canada introduced the draft resolution titled “Effects of atomic radiation” (document A/C.4/77/L.5). He said that while Dr. Chen represents Canada on UNSCEAR she brings with her a truly global perspective, reflecting scientific excellence from around the world. Recalling the President of the General Assembly’s call on Member States to work on solutions through solidarity, sustainability and science, he highlighted that UNSCEAR has, since its establishment by the Assembly in 1955, collected scientific data on the levels of ionizing radiation and radioactivity, and its effects, as well as producing several detailed reports to help Member States pursue such solutions. The draft resolution reflects Member States’ shared commitment to the Scientific Committee and its work, he said.
The representative of Iran emphasized the Committee’s role in assessing radiation levels and effects, adding that its records are valuable to both the scientific community and policymakers. Nuclear energy remains a clean and sustainable energy source, she said, pointing to its uses in electricity production, health care, agriculture and food preservation as well as scientific and technological research. Acknowledging the vital need to protect people, workers and the environment from the harmful effects of radiation, she said that the Committee’s role in increasing awareness is of paramount importance. She welcomed consultations between Iranian scientists and the Committee and called on Member States to cooperate with that body.
The representative of Iraq, pointing to the destructive effects of radiation on humans and the environment, called on the international community to use it only for peaceful interests. Instead of using it for short-term interests, the international community must consider the effects of atomic radiation over extended periods. Welcoming the Committee’s efforts to increase awareness on this topic, he said it must continue implementing its mandate and reflect the latest developments in its reports to ensure that comprehensive information is available to all States. He emphasized the radiation effects caused by the recent wars in Iraq, saying they have resulted in a large number of cancers of all kinds and an increase in the number of babies born with birth defects.
The representative of Cuba said that the Scientific Committee’s studies could be used as a basis to formulate national and international norms for protecting people against the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. Its work can also demonstrate unplanned phenomena, such as the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in 1986 and the earthquake and tsunami in 2011 in Japan. He regretted that more than 75 years after atomic bombs fell over Nagasaki and Hiroshima, humans remain threatened by nuclear weapons. Completely eliminating such weapons is the only way to guarantee that mankind will never suffer again from their terrible impact, he said.
The representative of Pakistan said the Scientific Committee’s exploration of the potentially harmful effects of atomic radiation and the dissemination of its findings will help consolidate knowledge and improve understanding among global scientific communities. Pakistan has established national regulations for protection against ionizing radiation, which are aligned with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safety standards. Noting the radiation exposure of workers in nuclear/radiation facilities and of patients in cancer hospitals, he said that radiation levels around the facilities are assessed and exposure data kept for analysis and future reference. To reinforce public acceptance of nuclear technology, global efforts are needed to spotlight the beneficial aspects of atomic radiation, he added.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, drew attention to the Scientific Committee’s essential role in providing the international community with information about ionizing radiation and improving scientific understanding of the potential harmful effects on people and the environment. He also welcomed the Scientific Committee’s work on medical exposure to ionizing radiation, which represents the largest source of artificial radiation exposure. He went on to say that the European Commission’s PIANOFORTE Partnership will be the main driving force for research in the coming five years, consolidating a bloc-wide research and innovation community.
The representative of Argentina, highlighting the Scientific Committee’s scientific authority and independent judgment, expressed support for the draft resolution under consideration. He underscored Argentina’s in-kind contributions to that body and called for more such contributions by others, explaining that monetary contributions could harm the public view of the independence of the Committee’s judgments. That independence is one of the Scientific Committee’s most prized assets, he said, also highlighting its current work focused on malignancies resulting from unintended exposure during radiotherapy.
The representative of Bangladesh said that his country is constructing its first nuclear power plant with a view to generating safe, environmentally friendly and economically viable electricity, following IAEA standards, to support its development efforts. With that Agency’s support, Bangladesh is successfully implementing its nuclear energy programme, he said, pointing to a five-year framework agreement signed in 2018 that focuses on food, agriculture and water, among other areas. Under that framework, the country is improving food security, developing stress-tolerant crop varieties and managing cancer, all of which are benefiting people’s lives, he said.
The representative of China said that his country follows a rational, coordinated and balanced approach to nuclear safety, and utilizes and develops nuclear energy to help address the energy demand gap, climate change and dual-carbon goals. It is improving its nuclear-related legal and regulatory system, enhancing capacity on nuclear safety. Its nuclear power plants and research reactors are in good operating condition. Recalling that Japan unilaterally decided in April 2021 to discharge contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, he called on that country to respond seriously to the reasonable concerns of all parties and to earnestly fulfil its international obligations.
The representative of the Russian Federation, expressing satisfaction with the Scientific Committee’s major reports, noted that these documents are in demand in professional circles. Pointing to his country’s active participation in the work of the Scientific Committee, he stressed that the Committee should remain depoliticized and purely scientific. Welcoming Algeria, Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Norway to the membership of the Scientific Committee, he said that the involvement of countries with relevant scientific expertise in the effects of atomic radiation will continue to contribute to increasing the quality of its work.
The representative of Japan stressed the importance of the Committee’s evidence-based scientific research in providing assessments on the risk of exposure to ionizing radiation. Welcoming the recent publication of four substantive scientific reports, which include an annex on the levels and effects of radiation exposure due to the nuclear power station accident in Fukushima after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, she expressed appreciation for the Committee’s outreach efforts to the Japanese public. Noting that the report and its website were made available in both English and Japanese, she reaffirmed her country’s commitment to nuclear safety, especially following the accident.
The representative of the Holy See, in its capacity as observer, stressed the need for thorough and consistent monitoring, measurement and tracking of the long-term effects of radiation exposure, adding that the early monitoring in the Fukushima case prevented the ingestion of excess radiation. More resources need to be invested in the Scientific Committee’s important work, especially in conducting research in medical and occupational exposure to radiation. As more countries expand their use of nuclear energy, advanced technology is needed to best contain nuclear radiation and its negative effects, he said.
JAMIL AHMAD, Director, Intergovernmental Affairs, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), New York, said that the last few decades have seen a very significant increase in the use of ionizing radiation sources for medical and industrial purposes. The long-term impacts of nuclear accidents, meanwhile, continue to attract wide attention. Detailing the Scientific Committee’s extensive work in the past three years, he said that while the scope of work and engagement with Member States is significantly increasing, the regular budget, particularly for consultants, has been decreasing, prompting reliance on extrabudgetary funding. Timely implementation of the Scientific Committee’s mandate and programme of work depends on sufficient available resources. At a time when ionizing radiation use is growing in the medical field and Member States are considering their future energy options, the importance of independent science is as relevant as ever. He commended the increased involvement of experts and recognized the Scientific Committee’s need for data relating to underrepresented regions. It was essential to ensure measures strengthening the Scientific Committee and the ability of the Secretariat to deliver on its mandate, he said.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The Committee then took action on several draft resolutions.
First, it approved the draft resolution titled “Effects of atomic radiation” (document A/C.4/77/L.5) without a vote.
The representative of Israel, speaking in explanation of position, said that while his country supported the resolution, it disassociates itself from the notion of welcoming Iran as a member of the Scientific Committee, as that country has violated every possible nuclear-related commitment it has made and holds a negative track record in the nuclear domain. As such, Israel disassociates itself from preambular paragraph 16, he said.
Right of Reply
The representative of Japan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, and responding to the statement by the representative of China, said that the policy of her country’s Government is to discharge treated water whose concentrations of radioactive materials, due to dilution, will be far below the regulatory standard. Japan will meet all regulatory standards concerning this, she said.
The representative of Iran, expressing gratitude to those countries that welcomed his country to the Scientific Committee, said that it is crucial to avoid any attempts to politicize that body’s technical merits. Rejecting as unfounded the allegations made by the representative of Israel, he said that political pretexts should not be used to prevent interested countries, including Iran, from participating in the work of the Scientific Committee or benefiting from the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Action on draft resolutions
The Committee then resumed taking action on draft resolutions.
First, turning to the agenda item “Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples”, it approved without a vote individual draft resolutions contained in the 2022 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/77/23).
Those draft resolutions were titled: “Question of American Samoa”, “Question of Anguilla”, “Question of Bermuda”, “Question of the British Virgin Islands”, “Question of the Cayman Islands”, “Question of French Polynesia”, “Question of Guam”, “Question of Montserrat”, “Question of New Caledonia”, “Question of Pitcairn”, “Question of Saint Helena”, “Question of Tokelau”, “Question of the Turks and Caicos Islands” and “Question of the United States Virgin Islands”.
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in explanation of position with respect to “Question of Anguilla”, said that the Committee should recognize that the relationship between his country and its overseas territories is a modern one. The United Kingdom is always prepared to discuss any proposals for change from any overseas Territory, he said, adding that the Territories on the Committee’s list have a large measure of internal self-government.
Next, the Committee took up the draft resolution titled “Dissemination of information on decolonization”, contained in Chapter XIII of the Special Committee’s report.
It approved the text by a recorded vote of 143 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States) and 1 abstention (France).
The representative of the United Kingdom, in an explanation of position, said that the text was unacceptable as it would represent an unwarranted drain on the United Nations’ scarce resources.
The representative of Argentina, expressing support for the right to self-determination, said that the text should be interpreted in line with relevant Assembly resolutions. Highlighting the sovereignty dispute concerning the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas[*], he said it has been established that the only way to resolve that special and particular colonial situation is through bilateral negotiations.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples", also contained in Chapter XIII of the Special Committee’s report.
It approved the text by a recorded vote of 108 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 37 abstentions.
The representative of the United Kingdom said some elements of the text are unacceptable. He also expressed his country’s commitment to modernizing its relationship with its Territories.
The representative of Australia said that her delegation abstained due to the inclusion of operative paragraph 13, which would have the Assembly call on military powers to terminate military activities and eliminate military bases. France, Australia and New Zealand coordinated humanitarian and disaster responses in the Pacific region, using forces based in New Caledonia and French Polynesia, she said. Those same forces worked against illegal fishing and transnational crime. The language in operative paragraph 13 was unacceptable and should be removed from future versions, she said.
The representative of Argentina recalled that visiting missions only proceeded in territories where the United Nations had determined that the principle of self-determination was applicable. The doctrine of the Special Committee on Decolonization was clear, he underlined, noting that missions should not proceed when there is a United Nations-recognized sovereignty dispute. Moreover, sending visiting missions should be considered on a case-by-case basis and should be conducted in line with relevant resolutions.
Right of Reply
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that his country has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, nor about the rights of Falkland Islanders to self-determination. There can be no dialogue on sovereignty unless the Falkland Islanders so wish, he said.
The representative of Argentina said the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas are an integral part of Argentine territory, being illegally occupied by the United Kingdom and therefore subject to a sovereignty dispute between the two countries. Several General Assembly resolutions on the issue recognize the existence of that dispute and urge the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to resume negotiations in order to find, as soon as possible, a peaceful and lasting settlement to the dispute, he recalled.
[*] 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).