2024 Session,
1st Meeting (AM)

Special Committee on Decolonization Crucial for Successful Evolution, Development of Non-Self-Governing Territories, Secretary-General Says, Opening 2024 Session

As the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories continue to face current and future challenges — including the existential threat of climate change — United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stressed today that the Special Committee on Decolonization remains crucial to their successful evolution.

“The majority of the Territories are vulnerable small islands, all too often severely impacted by rising sea levels and natural disasters,” he stated.  In a message delivered by Miroslav Jenča, Assistant Secretary-General of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and the Department of Peace Operations, the Secretary-General opened the 2024 session of the 24-member body — known formally as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

He noted that many of the Territories rely heavily on imports for food and other essentials, while also lacking economic diversity, being dependent on tourism.  The Committee must therefore continue to strengthen its collaboration with them, as well as with the administering Powers and other stakeholders, specialized agencies and international institutions.  He emphasized the importance of redoubling efforts, including in helping the Territories achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), so that they are better poised to pursue decolonization during the current International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.

Menissa Rambally (Saint Lucia), upon being re-elected as Chair for the Special Committee’s 2024 session, said that the 2023 session had been very productive, with the Committee bringing the Pacific regional seminar back to the Pacific, thanking the Government of Indonesia for making that possible.  Held in Bali in May, the seminar informed the Committee’s deliberations during its June substantive session, during which it heard from a significant number of petitioners and representatives from the Territories.  She further noted that during the General Assembly’s seventy-eighth session, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) and the Assembly plenary successfully adopted the resolutions that the Special Committee had forwarded.

The Committee also approved the Government of Venezuela as host of the “2024 Caribbean regional seminar” from 14 to 16 May 2024 in Caracas, while noting that the seminar is traditionally held to coincide with the annual observance of the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories (25 to 31 May).

The representative of Venezuela, expressing his strong support for the struggles of the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories, particularly those from the Caribbean region, said his country was hosting the regional seminar for the first time and announced the establishment of a relevant organizational committee.  “We will become the capital of the world for discussions on progress achieved and challenges remaining in our common aim to bring an end to colonialism,” he said.

The representative of Nicaragua welcomed Venezuela’s hosting of the seminar, noting that it is a country with conviction, history and commitment to eradicating colonialism in all its forms and manifestations.

Ms. Rambally then recalled that on 7 December 2023, the Assembly had noted the renewed invitation extended by the Premier of the British Virgin Islands to the Special Committee to send a visiting mission, emphasizing the need for the Committee’s continued close monitoring of the situation in the Territory.  The Government of the United Kingdom had conveyed its agreement of a visiting mission to the British Virgin Islands in a letter dated 14 February 2024.  The Committee then decided to proceed with preparations for the visiting mission.

As Committee members made brief remarks, the representative of Indonesia expressed hope that the Committee’s programme of work on the 17 remaining non-self-governing Territories will avoid a “one-size-fits-all formula”.

The representative of Sierra Leone called on the Committee to identify ways to ensure that the Territories have the resources and support needed for their existence and in achieving the SDGs, creating a conducive space for dialogue and cooperation between them and the administering Powers.  This year’s regional seminar will be one of the most effective platforms to engage all the relevant stakeholders, he stressed, as the Committee addresses the varying dimensions of the obstacles towards decolonization on a case-by-case basis.

The representative of Papua New Guinea highlighted the question of sending visiting and special missions to the Territories as a crucial aspect of the Committee’s work.  Referring to General Assembly resolution A/RES/78/94 on New Caledonia, he mentioned the administering Power’s willingness to facilitate a new visiting mission.  For this reason, he inquired about the prospects of sending such a mission this year, taking into account the current liquidity situation of the United Nations.

The speaker for Cuba noted that despite significant progress made since the adoption of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples 60 years ago, there are still territories facing colonial domination.  In this regard, he called for the right to self-determination for Puerto Rico.

The delegate for Syria expressed hope that the Fourth International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism would be the last.

Also today, the Special Committee elected its Bureau by acclamation, electing Gerardo Peñalver Portal (Cuba), Arrmanatha Christiawan Nasir (Indonesia) and Michael Imran Kanu (Sierra Leone) as Vice-Chairs.  Koussay Aldahhak (Syria) was elected as Rapporteur.

Members also approved their “Organization of work:  relevant resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly” (document A/AC.109/2024/L.1) and tentative work programme and timetable (document A/AC.109/2024/L.2).

For information media. Not an official record.