Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ opening remarks at the organizational meeting of the 2019 session of the Special Committee on Decolonization, in New York today:
Decolonization helped to transform the United Nations membership, propelling the Organization’s growth from 51 original members to 193 today.
Decolonization is one of the most significant chapters of the Organization’s history. But, this story is still being written, as 17 Non‑Self‑Governing Territories remain.
Each deserves attention. Each still waits to attain self-government, in accordance with Chapter [XI] of the United Nations Charter, the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and relevant United Nations resolutions.
In recent months, there has been notable movement on the question of New Caledonia. Last November, in a referendum, New Caledonians expressed their will on their future and on the status of the Territory. This was an important step forward in the decolonization process. The cooperation of France, the administering Power, throughout the referendum process, in accordance with the 1998 Nouméa Accord, was commendable. This Committee, for its part, assisted New Caledonia in the period leading up to the conduct of the referendum, dispatching two visiting missions to the Territory.
To achieve decolonization, the voices of the peoples of the Territories should be heard, as it was the case [in New Caledonia]. The cooperation of all concerned, including the administering Powers, is likewise vital. It is also paramount that the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories understand the options regarding their political status and the right to choose their future freely.
I applaud the Special Committee’s tireless efforts to uphold its mandate and to support the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to achieve self‑government. I also commend the Special Committee for maintaining dialogue and productive cooperation with the administering Powers and all concerned.
The United Nations decolonization successes across the decades can inspire us today. Let us uphold our duty to assist all the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories in bringing their decolonization process to a successful conclusion, according to their choice.
The Special Committee has accompanied many Territories in their journey since the beginning of the 1960s. As you begin working in the 2019 session, I wish you every success. The Secretariat will do all we can to support your very important work.