“No effort should be spared to fulfil the dream of all peoples to self-determination,” was the message to the Fourth Committee of the United Nations as it opened its annual debate on decolonisation.
However, the task of decolonisation was not yet complete, the Committee’s Chair, Simona Mirela Miculescu (Romania), told
delegations as Member States were urged to continue their common endeavour to bring an end to colonialism for the remaining 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories on the United Nations list.
Lesotho’s representative also called for an allocation of adequate financial resources for the Special Committee on Decolonization and appealed to that Committee to craft tailored solutions that took into account the varied circumstances involved.
Chile’s representative, on behalf of the Rio Group, urged resumption of negotiations regarding the Falkland Islands to find a peaceful and definitive solution as soon as possible to that dispute, as well as to the questions of sovereignty over South Georgia and South Sandwich islands. He further said that the actions of the United Kingdom in exploring and exploiting hydrocarbons in areas of the Argentine continental shelf ran counter to General Assembly resolution 31/49, which called on the parties to avoid unilateral modifications to the Territory before a resolution could be reached.
Argentina’s representative added that further delay of the application of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples was a continuing source of a lack of harmony, created “a dangerous situation” in various parts of the world, and posed a threat to international peace and security. The sovereignty dispute in the Falkland Islands was an impediment to the promotion of world peace and cooperation, he said.
In response, the United Kingdom’s representative said his country’s relationship with the Territories it administered was based on the choices of the people, and that it would not force populations into independence. Where they wished to keep the link, the British Government would assist the Territories with development and good governance, according to the specific conditions of each Territory. He stressed that good governance was the central theme in the United Kingdom’s engagement with Territories. Where Territories were felt to fail in that area, the issue would be addressed and occasionally intervention would take place, such as had been the case with the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Cuban representative, noted that this was the first year of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, he said that the decade’s plan of action established clear roles for the different stakeholders involved in the decolonization process. Timor-Leste had been the only territory decolonized since 1988 but, in the Second Decade, the two referendums held in Tokelau, through the close cooperation between the Committee and New Zealand, could set an example.
A number of opening statements followed from more than a dozen countries and the debate is scheduled to last for much of this week.