Members Hear Petitioners from Guam, Turks and Caicos, United States Virgin Islands
The Special Committee on Decolonization approved two draft resolutions for the General Assembly’s consideration today, as it heard petitioners on the questions of Guam, Turks and Caicos and the United States Virgin Islands.
By the text titled “Economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories”, approved without a vote, the Assembly would call on the administering Powers to ensure that the exploitation of the natural resources in the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories under their administration was not in violation of relevant United Nations resolutions, and did not adversely affect the interests of the peoples of those Territories.
The Assembly would, by other terms, urge the administering Powers concerned to take effective measures to safeguard and guarantee the inalienable right of those peoples to their natural resources. It would also call upon administering Powers to ensure that no discriminatory working conditions prevailed in the Territories under their administration. The Assembly would further call upon the administering Powers to provide assistance to the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories affected by hurricanes and other extreme weather events in order to alleviate the humanitarian needs in the affected communities, support recovery efforts and enhance capabilities for emergency preparedness.
Also by that text, the Assembly would affirm the value of foreign economic investment undertaken in collaboration with the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, while reaffirming the responsibility of the administering Powers to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories. It would further reaffirm its concern about any activities aimed at the exploitation of natural resources in the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, and the need to avoid any activities, including the use of the Territories for military activity, which would adversely affect the interests of their peoples.
By the terms of a text 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”, the Assembly would urge the United Nations to examine and review conditions for accelerating progress in the economic and social sectors of the Territories. It would also recommend that all States intensify their efforts to ensure the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples through United Nations specialized agencies and other organizations.
The Assembly would, by other terms, request that the administering Powers facilitate the participation of appointed and elected representatives of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories in relevant United Nations and international meetings. Further, it would recommend that all Governments intensify efforts to accord priority to the question of providing assistance to the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories through the specialized agencies of the United Nations.
As the Special Committee heard from petitioners on the question of Guam, a representative of Governor Eddie Baza Calvo noted that Guam’s decolonization situation remained unchanged, but the draft resolution before the Special Committee had undergone significant changes since the 2017 version, painting a very different picture of the situation on the ground. Emphasizing that there was no reason to alter the text, she said that by approving the 2017 version, the Special Committee had encouraged the United States to allow the people of Guam to exercise their right to self‑determination, whereas the current draft deleted that provision despite the fact that self‑determination had still not been achieved.
Echoing that point, Julia Faye Munoz of Independent Guahan said the proposed substantive changes to the draft resolution did not reflect the situation in the Territory, emphasizing that there was no substantive reason to delete certain paragraphs which accurately reflected the situation in Guam. She also expressed concern over Guam’s fiscal situation, noting that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 had cost the territorial Government $67 million in revenue in the course of 2018, thereby severely affecting Guam’s ability to educate its people on the importance of self‑determination.
Benjamin Roberts of the Turks and Caicos Forum said that the Government of the United Kingdom had unilaterally passed a decree requiring individuals and entities doing business in its Overseas Territories such as Turks and Caicos to disclose their “Register of Interests”, meaning they were no longer afforded the very important commodity of privacy for their valuable assets. Moreover, while the administering Power had allotted money in 2015 for hurricane relief, to date, barely 2 per cent of the pledged funds had been used for the stated purpose.
Also before the Special Committee were working papers on the following decolonization items: American Samoa (document A/AC.109/2018/1); Anguilla (document A/AC.109/2018/2); Bermuda (document A/AC.109/2018/3); British Virgin Islands (document A/AC.109/2018/4); Cayman Islands (document A/AC.109/2018/5); Pitcairn (document A/AC.109/2018/12); and Saint Helena (document A/AC.109/2018/13).
The Special Committee also heard the following petitioners: Pim Limtiaco of the Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice; Alpha Gibbs of the TC Heritage Communities; Russell Christopher of OWA‑AIVI; and Carlyle Corbin of the Dependency Studies Project.
Also participating was a representative of the Russian Federation.
The Special Committee will reconvene at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, 21 June.
Question of Guam
As the Special Committee took up the question of Guam, members had before them a working paper on that item (document A/AC.109/2018/9) and heard several petitioners.
AMANDA BLAS, speaking via videoconference on behalf of Governor Eddie Baza Calvo, said that Guam’s decolonization situation remained unchanged and it continued to face challenges as a Territory of the United States. However, the draft resolution before the Special Committee — to which significant changes had been made since the 2017 version — painted a very different picture. Emphasizing that there was no reason for those alterations to the text, she recalled that by approving the 2017 version, the Special Committee had encouraged the United States to allow the people of Guam to exercise their right to self‑determination. However, the current draft deleted that provision despite the fact that self‑determination had still not been achieved. It was more important than ever that the United States shoulder its responsibility in that regard, she stressed, noting that a critical paragraph relating to Guam’s position in the midst of regional tensions had been deleted. She urged the Special Committee to reject such substantive changes, which could negatively impact the pursuit of Guam’s decolonization process, and instead adopt a version of the text identical to that approved in 2017, with only technical changes.
PIM LIMTIACO, Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice, recalled that 16 petitioners from Guam, including herself, had appeared before the General Assembly’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) and called upon the United States to allow the indigenous Chamorro people to exercise their sacred and inalienable right to self‑determination. On 8 November 2017, the Committee had adopted the draft resolution on Guam by 80 votes in favour to 9 against. While the people of Guam had received significant support, it was no surprise that the United States and its allies had voted against the draft resolution, describing it as a “political attack” and its language as “problematic”. Additionally, the Government of the United States had halted a plebiscite on the island — which had been limited to the native peoples of Guam — following the filing of a case alleging racial discrimination against a retired United States Air Force officer and current Guam resident. Noting that indigenous peoples had the right — under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — to determine their own identity and membership in accordance with their customs and traditions, and to determine the structures of their institutions in accordance with their own procedures, she recommended that the United Nations use its influence to force engagement by the United States in Guam’s decolonization process in a such a way as to embody cooperation and implement the principles of decolonization in a manner consistent with international law, and that the United Nations adopt the language of General Assembly resolution 72/102 on the “Question of Guam” with solely technical updates.
JULIA FAYE MUNOZ, Independent Guahan, said that as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Guam’s Government was projected to lose $67 million in revenue in 2018. That significant loss of tax revenues was almost $20 million more than the initial estimates of $47.9 million and had created a serious financial impact. Local elected officials had attempted to mitigate that impact by implementing cost‑cutting measures, including by reducing the budget for the Guam Commission on Decolonization, she said, noting that each of that Commission’s task forces had seen a 60 per cent reduction in their outreach budget for 2018. That had greatly affected their ability to educate the people of Guam on the importance of self‑determination. She went on to express concern over the 18 per cent decrease in funding for United States territories and the additional proposed elimination of $3 million for the fiscal 2019 budget. She recommended that the Special Committee adopt the language of General Assembly resolution 72/102 on “The Question of Guam” with only technical updates, because it accurately reflected the situation on the ground. However, the proposed substantive changes to the current draft resolution did not reflect the situation in the Territory, she said, emphasizing that there was no substantive reason to delete certain paragraphs which accurately reflected the situation in Guam.
Question of Turks and Caicos
The Special Committee then took up the Question of Turks and Caicos, having before it a working paper on that item (document A/AC.109/2018/15) and hearing several petitioners.
BENJAMIN ROBERTS, Turks and Caicos Forum, said that the Government of the United Kingdom had unilaterally passed a decree on such Overseas Territories as the Turks and Caicos islands requiring disclosure of “Register of Interests” for individuals and entities doing business in those Territories. Simply put, it meant that those entities were no longer afforded the very important commodity of privacy for their valuable assets. Describing that “Register of Interests” as an atrocious, callous, hypocritical, discriminatory assault on income generation and a violation of agreed United Nations declarations and conventions, he said that instead of providing aid following the choking destruction of the 2017 hurricane season, the United Kingdom was scavenging and picking bones dry. That measure was hypocritical and discriminatory because the British territories of Jersey and the Isle of Man were not subject to the same treatment. With the latter’s populations being mostly white, and the targeted Overseas Territories being overwhelmingly black, could that be seen as anything other than racial discrimination? On other matters, he said the British had sat idly for decades as the Turks and Caicos islands were overrun by illegal migration. Moreover, they had allotted money for hurricane relief in 2015 but, to date, barely 2 per cent of the pledged funds had been used for the stated purpose.
ALPHA GIBBS, TC Heritage Communities, outlined continuing violations of the human rights of native‑born citizens of the Turks and Caicos islands at the hands of the administering Power, the United Kingdom. That country was neither accountable nor compliant with Article 73 of the United Nations Charter, she said, expressing extreme concern that despite its membership in the United Nations, its failures as an administering Power “seem to go unnoticed and without adverse consequences”. Currently, the Territory’s Governor was appointed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London without any input from the locally elected Government of Turks and Caicos or the peoples of the islands, she said. The Governor was exempt from all oversight, compliance or ethical codes of conduct as promulgated in the Turks and Caicos constitution, she added, noting that those codes were, however, applicable to all elected officials and civil servants. “In practice and conduct, the Governor operates above the law,” she stressed, adding that his performance in the area of police and defence had proven woefully inadequate, with migrants regularly breaching all border controls and entering the Territory at will.
She went on to state that the United Kingdom also continued to fail miserably in other areas, including ensuring that the economic activities of foreign entities and other interests were conducted in the interests of the Territory and did not impede implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. In fact, it was well known that foreign firms systematically excluded locals from their middle and upper management ranks. Noting that all administering Powers were required, under the United Nations Charter and the Declaration, to create economic, social and other conditions that would enable the Territories under their administration to achieve genuine independence and self‑reliance, she said that, instead, the United Kingdom continued to retard the growth of the Turks and Caicos and even accelerate its backward movement towards dependency and colonialism. In that context, she called upon the Special Committee to dispatch a visiting mission to the Turks and Caicos islands in order to further investigate human rights conditions there and assist in implementing relevant United Nations resolutions.
Question of the United States Virgin Islands
The Special Committee then took up the Question of the United States Virgin Islands, having before it a working paper on that item (document A/AC.109/2018/16) and hearing several petitioners.
RUSSELL CHRISTOPHER, OWA-AIVI, said he was appearing before the Special Committee on behalf of the native peoples of the United States Virgin Islands to attest to blatant violations of United Nations treaties by the United States. That country was in violation of several historical treaties, which had led to a system of corruption that ignored its own Constitution. “We have no recourse, we have no voice,” he said, describing land grabs and other crimes in which members of the United States Congress themselves were involved. Against that backdrop, natives of the United States Virgin Islands had no other recourse but to go to the United Nations, he said, noting that the administering Power had systematically dismantled the Territory’s education system, eradicated its agriculture sector and prohibited native peoples from accessing their own lands, in direct violation of their human rights. To date, complaints to the United Nations about those actions had been ignored, he said, urging the Special Committee to finally take action.
CARLYLE CORBIN, Dependency Studies Project, said the participation of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories in the United Nations was critical to the development of their readiness for self‑government. Citing several studies conducted by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), he said the most recent one explored the common development challenges that may impede economic and social development in Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, and mapped the strategic options for enhancing the level of their integration into regional and international organizations and development mechanisms. It also examined the level to which the Territories were included in the programmes of United Nations specialized agencies and identified a significant degree of integration into regional and intergovernmental organizations. The study further proposed a programme of work to address the principal development challenges facing those Territories, he said, emphasizing that consideration must be given to relevant General Assembly resolutions that called upon the Special Committee to develop programmes of collaboration with the wider United Nations system.
The representative of the Russian Federation stressed that his country’s Government had always taken a careful approach to the implementation of the Declaration by agencies of the United Nations system. The current mandate of the United Nations system must remain unchanged, he said, underscoring that all each agency already had a specific mandate, which the Declaration must not disrupt.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The Special Committee then approved, without a vote, 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/AC.109/2018/L.9).
Acting again without a vote, it then approved a draft resolution titled “Economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories” (document A/AC.109/2018/L.6).