Saturday, May 21, 2005

Heated debate as Seminar notes distinct approach to disputed Territories

UN decolonization committee

Canouan Island, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines where the decolonisation seminar, organised by the UN Committee of 24 took place appears to have been the scene of heated exchanges this week.

Joe Bossano, Opposition Leader is known to have made a submission to the session but details of this have not emerged so far. However, Spain was represented there and it appears that the conclusions, not for the first time, make a distinction between the listed territories that have a sovereignty dispute and those that do not.

Official UN reports on the session state that participants concluded that “any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of a country’s national unity and territorial integrity was incompatible with the purposes of the United Nations Charter, noting the need to ensure the participation of representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories in the development of work programmes for individual Territories in which there was no dispute over sovereignty.”

They also concluded that any work programme should include an information and education campaign “for the peoples of those Territories”, visiting missions of the Special Committee to ascertain the situation in them first hand, and a consultation process acceptable to those peoples leading to the exercise of their right to self-determination in accordance with United Nations resolutions.

The report said that after carrying out a major mid-term review of the Second International Decade for the eradication of colonialism, the 2005 Caribbean Regional Seminar affirmed the need for the Special Committee of 24 to embark on a public awareness campaign to foster an understanding among the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories of the self-determination options included in the relevant United Nations resolutions on decolonisation, especially within the context of developing work programmes for specific territories.

Participants, it said, recommended that the Special Committee continue its active participation in monitoring the evolution of the Non-Self-Governing Territories towards self-determination.

It recommended further that the Special Committee, the administering Powers and the Non-Self-Governing Territories engage in constructive discussions and innovative ways to expedite the implementation of the Decade’s goals.

The seminar also reiterated that the Special Committee should continue to encourage the resumption of negotiations between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom with the aim of finding a solution to the question of the Falklands Islands, taking into consideration the interests of that Territory’s people.

In his closing statement, Special Committee Chairman Julian Hunte (Saint Lucia) said the seminar had reaffirmed the importance of the wider United Nations system and regional institutions in assisting the territories to develop the capacities necessary to make a smooth transition to autonomy in some cases and to full independence or integration in others.

A related issue expressed had been the importance of the Territories’ participation in the programmes and activities of such bodies as regional commissions and specialised agencies, as well as in the work of the Economic and Social Council.

Noting that the regional seminars had their own dynamic, he said it was not often that representatives of United Nations Member States sat with non-State actors around the table of consultation, dialogue and discussion. Amid that scenario, it was perhaps inevitable that some heat might be generated, but heat could generate enlightenment, and all concerned were seeking clarity on complex issues. He said that from all indications, the seminar had been one of the most energetic in recent memory, following on nicely from the 2003 breakthrough event in Anguilla where the options of the political equality had been reintroduced to many of the territories. The issues involved were real, involving real people and requiring real situations. The United Nations must provide the self-determination road map so that they could successfully and safely reach the destination of decolonisation via the three legitimate routes of independence, free association or integration. It was difficult, if not inconceivable, to think that an arrangement that did not provide political equality would be acceptable to the peoples of the territories themselves, he said.

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