Fourth Committee Approves 19 Draft Resolutions as It Concludes General Debate on Decolonization Questions

| October 10, 2017

Concluding its consideration of decolonization questions today, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved 19 draft resolutions for adoption by the General Assembly, 5 of them by recorded vote.

Taking up the draft resolution titled Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.114), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 107 in favour to 7 against (Australia, CAte d'Ivoire, Gabon, Israel, Morocco, United Kingdom, United States), with 40 abstentions.

By the terms of that draft, the General Assembly would urge administering Powers to effectively safeguard and guarantee the inalienable rights of the peoples of the Non Self Governing Territories to their natural resources, and to establish and maintain control over the future development of those resources. The Assembly would, by other terms, call upon the administering Powers concerned to terminate military activities and eliminate military bases in the Non Self Governing Territories under their administration, in compliance with the relevant resolutions.

The Committee also approved a draft resolution titled Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.42) by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (France, United Kingdom).

By that text, the General Assembly would request that the administering Powers concerned, in accordance with their Charter obligations, transmit or continue to transmit regularly to the Secretary General for information purposes, statistical and other information of a technical nature relating to the economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories under their respective responsibility, within a maximum period of six months following the expiration of the administrative year in those Territories.

Also requiring a recorded vote was a draft resolution titled Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.47). The Committee approved it by a recorded 104 votes in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 50 abstentions.

By its terms, the General Assembly would recommend that all States intensify their efforts, through United Nations specialized agencies and other entities, to ensure the full and effective implementation of the Declaration, contained in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), and other relevant resolutions. It would also urge specialized agencies and organizations that had not yet provided assistance to Non Self Governing Territories to do so as soon as possible. Further by the text, the Assembly would request that the Secretary General continue to assist those agencies and organizations in working out appropriate implementation measures for relevant United Nations resolutions, and to prepare for submission to the relevant bodies a report on the implementation action taken.

Also today, the Committee approved � by a recorded vote of 150 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 3 abstentions (France, Rwanda, Togo) � a draft resolution titled Dissemination of information on decolonization (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.112).

By that text, the General Assembly would � while stressing the importance of visiting missions of the Special Committee on Decolonization contributing substantially to the dissemination of information on decolonization � request that the Department of Public Information continue its efforts to update web based information on assistance programmes available to Non Self Governing Territories. It would also request that the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Public Information implement the recommendations of the Special Committee on Decolonization and continue their efforts through all available media.

Acting without a vote, the Committee also approved draft resolutions on the following individual Non Self Governing Territories: Gibraltar, American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, French Polynesia, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.

The Assembly also approved, without a vote, a draft on Western Sahara, by which it would call upon parties and States of the region to cooperate with the Secretary General and his Personal Envoy in efforts to resolve the dispute over that Territory. It would also welcome the parties' commitment to work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue, in order to enter into a more intensive phase of negotiations.

Acting again without a vote, the Committee approved a text on offers of study and training for inhabitants of Non Self Governing Territories.

In other business today, the Committee concluded its general debate on decolonization issues, hearing from representatives of Vanuatu, Botswana, Morocco and Algeria.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 11 October, to begin its consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

General Debate

ODO TEVI (Vanuatu) said the fate of Non Self Governing Territories remained unresolved and expressed hope that their aspirations would be realized in the near future. Concerning New Caledonia, he noted that the proposed referendum on that Territory's self determination under the Noumea Accord was scheduled to take place in 2018, but 20,000 New Caledonians remained excluded from the electoral roll. On French Polynesia, he said his delegation would like to see it remain on the list of Non Self Governing Territories. Regarding Western Sahara, he said Vanuatu was in full support of the ongoing political process, which was exclusively under the oversight of the United Nations Secretary General.

EDGAR SISA (Botswana) expressed regret that despite the Secretary General's efforts to resolve the Western Sahara question, the Sahrawi continued to be denied their inalienable right to self determination and independence. Emphasizing the importance of reviving the negotiation process and improving those people's living conditions, he encouraged all parties to approach the negotiations in a spirit of tolerance, compromise and good faith. He also urged the international community to continue supporting efforts to hold the self determination referendum in that Territory, including by creating an environment conducive to the vote.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) called for the General Assembly to stop examining the issue of Western Sahara, thereby allowing his country to conduct the negotiation process leading to a mutually acceptable solution. The question was not one of decolonization, he emphasized, explaining that Morocco's recovery of its territory from colonial Powers had been gradual and based on negotiated agreements. Recalling that the Frente Polisario had not existed in 1965, he said it thus could not claim any rights over Western Sahara. Algeria had only raised the principle of autonomy in order to prevent Morocco from recovering its territory, he said. General Assembly resolution 1541 stipulated that self determination could never apply to a part or region of a sovereign State, and usually applied only to a group that was ethnically and linguistically distinct from the administering State, he recalled. By contrast, Sahara was a geographic continuity of Morocco, Arabic was spoken there, Islam was practised, its culture and traditions were the same, and its tribes were aligned in allegiance to the Moroccan King.

He went on reiterate that Algeria had distorted the principle of self determination when it had insisted on a referendum in Western Sahara, pointing out that such a mechanism was not enshrined in General Assembly resolutions 1514 or 1541, and even less in resolution 2625, all of which constituted the cornerstones of that principle. The option of a referendum is definitively a non starter for Sahara, he emphasized, pointing out that for the past 17 years, the Security Council had decided that a political resolution through dialogue was preferable to a referendum. Regrettably, Morocco's good faith efforts at negotiations had been met with intransigence by Algeria, which was responsible for the failure of peace efforts to date, he said, adding that Algeria remained opposed to a census in the Tindouf camps. That country must resume its full responsibility and sit at the negotiating table, a view that was shared by several envoys of the Secretary General, he said. Contrary to the despair of people in the Tindouf camps, Morocco offered hope in the southern provinces, he added.

SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria) said that while his country's name had been mentioned more than 40 times in the preceding statement, he would speak only about Western Sahara and not Morocco. Citing the United Nations Charter, he said we tend to forget it, overlook it, in reference to the need to respect other nations, the right to self determination and the right of people to choose their own government. It was with bitterness and frustration that the international community was still debating colonialism in 2017, he said, adding that it was also truly appalling that there were still 17 Non Self Governing Territories.

There could be no discussion over the merits of colonialism and domination, he continued, expressing hope that there is some consciousness being built here. He asked: Are we going to celebrate colonialism in 50 years? Quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., he said: The time is always right to do something right. No difference of opinion on colonization could legitimately exist, he emphasized, urging the Fourth Committee and the General Assembly to speak up. Colonialism was a man made system that must be ended, he declared.

He went on to affirm that the dispute over Western Sahara was indeed a decolonization issue, describing it as the last unsolved question of colonialism in Africa, having been on the Committee's agenda for more than 54 years. The legal status of Western Sahara suffers no ambiguity, he said, recalling that the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice concluded that there were no legal ties between Western Sahara and the two concerned neighbouring countries. All United Nations resolutions adopted by both the General Assembly and the Security Council reaffirmed, continuously and constantly, the legal nature of the conflict, he stressed, also citing various other United Nations and African Union resolutions and decisions on Western Sahara.

Welcoming the appointment of the Secretary General's new Personal Envoy, he reaffirmed his country's steadfast support for his efforts in moving the negotiating process forward. The African Union remained engaged in efforts to find a solution to the dispute, mobilizing African and United Nations efforts on the negotiating process and stressing the urgent need to address the illegal exploitation of natural resources in Western Sahara. Algeria remained committed to resolving the dispute, he said, emphasizing that there was no alternative to the United Nations doctrine on decolonization. Quoting Jose Marti, he declared: We are free, but not to be evil, not to be indifferent to human suffering. Addressing the Chair, he added: I admire your fairness and commitment to treat everyone equally. He requested that those remarks of praise, made publicly and directly, be noted in the meeting, as the press communique had suggested otherwise. Our words are the ones you have heard and not the ones written, he said.

Action on Draft Resolutions

Taking up several draft resolutions, the Committee Chair began by noting that, considering recent natural disasters, especially hurricanes, there was concern that the Non Self Governing Territories in the Caribbean region were not receiving enough attention. He therefore proposed postponing consideration of the draft resolution Economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non Self Governing Territories (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.44), saying the Special Committee wished to discuss the inclusion of additional language to support those Territories given the extraordinary hurricane related events. There were no objections to that proposal.

Moving to take action on all 19 remaining draft resolutions, the Committee first approved a text on Information from Non Self Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.42) by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (France, United Kingdom).

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in explanation of position, said her country continued to meet its obligations to its overseas Territories but believed that the decision as to whether Non Self Governing Territories had reached sufficient development for self determination was for that Territory and its administering Power and not for the General Assembly.

Taking up the draft resolution Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.47), the Committee approved it by a recorded 104 votes in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 50 abstentions.

The representative of the United Kingdom reaffirmed her delegation's support for specialized agencies in the humanitarian, technology and other fields, but cautioned that the statutes of those agencies must be carefully respected. The United Kingdom had therefore abstained.

The representative of Argentina said the text should have been applied in accordance with the relevant decisions of the United Nations General Assembly, Security Council and Special Committee on Decolonization.

The Committee then took up the draft resolution Offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non Self Governing Territories (document A/C.4/72/L.6).

The representative of Cuba, making a general statement, pointed out that only 9 out of 193 Member States had informed the Committee about any of their contributions to the development of Non Self Governing Territories, a matter that Cuba insisted needed greater attention. In addition to its timely response to the request for information, Cuba had sent an update in August, reporting on the numbers of graduates from Western Sahara who had been studying public health and other subjects in the country. Cuba had provided 38 fellowships in various specialities during the current academic year, and in spite of the consequences of the criminal and unjust trade blockade imposed on the country by the United States, the Government was making efforts to contribute further, he said, reiterating the need for greater attention to that subject.

The Committee then approved that draft resolution without a vote.

The Committee then took up the agenda item Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, containing draft resolutions on each individual Non Self Governing Territory.

The representative of Estonia, speaking on behalf of the European Union on Western Sahara, welcomed the Secretary General's commitment to relaunching the negotiating process in accordance with Charter principles, as well as the appointment of his Personal Envoy and the adoption of Security Council resolution 2351 (2017) to relaunch the political process. The parties must demonstrate the political will to enter the new negotiations in good faith and without preconditions, she said, welcoming the return of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to full functionality and urging the international community to provide it with critical resources and funding.

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on the Gibraltar question, expressed great regret that the Special Committee on Decolonization continued its outdated approach, failing to take into account the ways in which the United Kingdom had modernized its relationship with its overseas Territories. Those living there had all freely chosen to retain their link with the United Kingdom, she emphasized.

The Committee then took up the draft resolutions relating to the following individual Territories: Western Sahara (document A/C.4/72/L.5*); Gibraltar (document A/C.4/72/L.7); American Samoa (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.52); Anguilla (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.57); Bermuda (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.61); British Virgin Islands (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.65); Cayman Islands (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.69); French Polynesia (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.73); Montserrat (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.81); Pitcairn (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.91); Saint Helena (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.95); Tokelau (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.99); Turks and Caicos Islands (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.102); and the United States Virgin Islands (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.107).

It approved them all without a vote.

The Chair noted that action on the New Caledonia and Guam draft resolutions had been postponed in order to add statements delivered during the hearing of petitioners, expressing hope that the task would be completed in a timely manner. Going through each draft resolution may seem repetitive, but it was a good method which must remain, he said.

The Committee then took up the draft Dissemination of information on decolonization (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.112), approving it by a recorded vote of 150 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 3 abstentions (France, Rwanda, Togo).

The representative of the United Kingdom, in explanation of position, said that placing the obligation to publish decolonization issues on the Secretariat represented an unacceptable drain on United Nations resources.

The representative of Argentina said that, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions, the text under consideration should be applied according to previous relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the Special Committee. All pronouncements on the Malvinas[1] qualified it as a special and particular situation, representing a sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom as the only parties. Therefore, the only way to resolve the dispute would be a renewal of bilateral negotiations to reach a fair solution, he emphasized.

Finally, the Committee took up the draft resolution Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (document A/72/23, chapter XIII, p.114).

The representative of Australia said his country was a strong supporter of the right of the peoples of Non Self Governing Territories to self determination and had consistently supported the draft in previous sessions. Regrettably, however, Australia would now vote against the text because its operative paragraph 14 called for terminating military activities and closing military bases and could not be accepted, he said. Such activities need not contradict the interests of peoples of the Territories, and in many cases they were beneficial, he said, citing the Pacific region, where France, Australia and New Zealand coordinated forces and fought transnational crime and illegal fishing. Australia looked forward to the removal of that language from future iterations of the draft resolution so that it could continue to vote in its favour.

The Committee then approved the text by a recorded vote of 107 in favour to 7 against (Australia, CAte d'Ivoire, Gabon, Israel, Morocco, United Kingdom, United States), with 40 abstentions.

The representative of the United Kingdom said her country continued to find some elements of the text unacceptable and had again voted against it. Despite that vote, however, the United Kingdom remained committed to modernizing its relationship with its overseas Territories.

The representative of Spain said her country had abstained, but that did not mean it did not support the principle of self determination. However, that was not the only relevant principle on decolonization issues, she said, noting that in the case of sovereignty disputes, such as Gibraltar, territorial integrity was also relevant. She added that visiting missions could only be sent to Territories to which the self determination principle applied, not where there were sovereignty disputes. Any such mission must be approved by the General Assembly, she stressed.

The representative of Argentina said that visiting missions only proceeded where free determination applied and where there was no dispute over sovereignty, emphasizing that the Special Committee was clear on that matter. Visiting missions must be considered on a case by case basis and take place in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions, he said, emphasizing that if a visiting mission were to take place, it must be approved by the General Assembly.

The representative of Belgium said her country was a strong supporter of the rights of the peoples of Non Self Governing Territories, and its abstention was due to its concern about operative paragraph 14 on military activities, which were especially important during natural catastrophes.

The representative of the United States spoke in explanation of position on several draft resolutions, saying her delegation was proud to support the right to self determination, but the texts under consideration placed too much weight on independence as a one size-fits-all option. The Territories could speak for themselves, he emphasized. In addition, operative paragraph 14 of the draft Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples included an outdated call for the termination of all military activities and bases in Non Self Governing Territories, she noted. The United States had a right to carry out such activities in its own interest and it was facile to assume that they were incompatible with the rights of the people of those Territories. The long standing view of the United States was that the right of self determination was to be exercised by the whole people of a Non Self Governing Territory, not just one part, she said, adding that that right must be consistent with human rights obligations and non discrimination as well as universal and equal suffrage.

[1] 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).

Source: United Nations

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