Special Committee on Granting Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples

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11-Jun-2018 02:22:33
Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. 3rd plenary meeting.

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Opening the substantive portion of its 2018 session today, the Special Committee on Decolonization took up the long‑standing questions of Gibraltar and Western Sahara, while also approving several annual resolutions relating to the dissemination of information about its work and the dispatching of visiting missions to the world’s 17 remaining Non‑Self‑Governing Territories.

The Special Committee — formally known 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 — first considered the question of Gibraltar, on Europe’s Iberian Peninsula, first listed as a Non‑Self‑Governing Territory in 1946. It postponed additional consideration of that item to a later date, then proceeded to consider the question of Western Sahara, hearing numerous delegations outline their positions on the more than 50‑year‑old dispute.

Algeria’s representative emphasized that the Special Committee’s mandate was clear — decolonization — and there could be no other calculations of any sort. The international community should not turn a blind eye to the exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources, he said, stressing that there was “no other choice” but for the Territory’s people to exercise their right to self‑determination.

Morocco’s delegate, on the other hand, stressed that the issue at hand was not decolonization but territorial integrity. Indeed, the Security Council considered the situation to be a regional dispute and treated it as such under Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter. The Moroccan Sahara would remain a part of Morocco until the end of time, he vowed, underlining that his country’s autonomy initiative was the only path towards resolving the dispute.

Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, described the impact of economic sanctions imposed on the Territory by Spain in recent years. Underlining the undeniable right of Gibraltar’s people to determine their own future, he said it had already been recognized by the General Assembly, and called upon members of the Special Committee to visit the Territory. Its people were ready to reach mutually beneficial agreements on establishing a constructive friendship with Spain, he added.

Spain’s representative, meanwhile, summarized the United Kingdom’s occupation of Gibraltar since 1704 and said that a final solution to the question would involve the return of territory covered by the Treaty of Utrecht and of illegally occupied areas. Gibraltar’s place on the decolonization list proved its colonial relationship with the United Kingdom, she said, appealing to the administering Power to do its part to honour the aspirations of the Territory’s people. Spain remained open to dialogue, she said.

Speaking on Western Sahara, Ethiopia’s delegate expressed concern that while the Special Committee had assisted more than 80 former colonies in gaining independence, the question of Western Sahara continued to linger. Calling for the prompt resumption of negotiations, he said it was encouraging that both parties to the dispute were working closely with the Secretary‑General’s new Special Envoy on the issue.

Namibia’s representative, however, said that ongoing tensions were hampering the Special Envoy’s efforts to realize a just and lasting political solution that would allow the people of Western Sahara to determine their own future. Expressing concern about the Security Council’s recent “short renewal” date of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), he said the Organization must continue to lead the negotiation process with full support from the African Union. He also voiced deep concern about the continued exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources.

South Africa’s delegate said that his country’s long‑standing solidarity with the people of Western Sahara was born of its own history of fighting apartheid as well as its firm belief in the right of people living under foreign or colonial occupation to self‑determination. “To think that there are people who were born in refugee camps and who are over 40 [years old] who have never tasted freedom is a strong indictment of all of us as an international community,” he emphasized, describing Western Sahara as Africa’s last colony.

Dominica’s representative was among the speakers expressing support for the Security Council’s most recent resolution on MINURSO and the question of Western Sahara — resolution 2414 (2018), adopted on 27 April — and for Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative. Resolving such disputes would strengthen security in the Saharan/Sahel region, which currently faced threats from terrorist groups, organized crime and other illegal activities, she said.

In other business today, the Special Committee approved, without a vote, an annual draft resolution titled, “Information from Non‑Self‑Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 (e) of the Charter of the United Nations”. By that text, the General Assembly would request that administering Powers respect their Charter obligations by transmitting information on economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories to the Secretary‑General, subject to such limitation as security and constitutional considerations might require.

Acting again without a vote, the Special Committee approved a draft resolution titled “Dissemination of information on decolonization” by which the Assembly would approve the decolonization‑related activities of the Department of Public Information and the Department of the Political Affairs, and request that they continue their efforts to make information on relevant United Nations efforts widely available. It also approved a draft resolution titled “Question of sending visiting and special missions to Territories”. By that text, the Assembly would request that the Special Committee develop, on a case‑by‑case basis, a plan for the conduct of visiting missions to the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories. It would also call upon the administering Powers to cooperate with the United Nations in that process if they had not yet done so.

The Special Committee also acceded to requests for hearings on the situations concerning Puerto Rico, the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, French Polynesia, Guam, Gibraltar, New Caledonia, Turks and Caicos, United States Virgin Islands and Western Sahara. It decided that it would hear petitioners from Puerto Rico on 18 June, and take up the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) on 21 June. It would consider the questions of French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Tokelau on 22 June.

Also speaking today were representatives of Cuba, Indonesia, Ecuador, Timor‑Leste, United Republic of Tanzania, Côte d’Ivoire, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Venezuela, Antigua and Barbuda, Nicaragua, Belize, Saint Lucia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Uruguay, Gabon, Guinea and Senegal, as well as representatives of the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Public Information. Several petitioners from Western Sahara also participated.

The Special Committee will reconvene its formal session at 10 a.m. on Monday, 18 June.
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