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GA/SPD/721
22 October 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 6th Meeting (PM)

Delegates Urge Administering Powers to Fulfil Obligations Under Decolonization Declaration, as Fourth Committee Continues Joint General Debate

Speakers Stress Importance of Cooperation Between Host Countries, Peace Operations

As the as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its joint general debate today, some delegates called upon the administering Powers of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories to fulfil their responsibilities under the Declaration on Decolonization, while others emphasized the importance of cooperation between peace operations and host countries.

Timor‑Leste’s representative urged administering Powers to ensure the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development through integrated programmes that have a concrete impact on lives in the Territories under their administration.

In similar vein, Guyana’s representative underscored the importance of continued dialogue with administering Powers, which are obliged to promote the well‑being of the colonized peoples of the Territories.

However, Eritrea’s representative noted that the economic, political and cultural structures of the colonial era remain largely intact in many parts of the Global South.  “Decolonized nations in Africa are still chained by the predatory global economic structures that keep them poor while enriching others,” he said, adding, emphasizing that the task of decolonization will not be fulfilled without addressing the conditions that keep developing nations on the periphery, infringe on their sovereign right to chart their own path and stifle their views in multilateral forums.

Turning to United Nations peace operations, he pointed out that they are neither meant to be permanent nor an alternative to national efforts for peace and stability.  Therefore, peace operations must constructively cooperate with host countries as a crucial prerequisite for effectiveness, he said, adding that when a host country requests the exit of a United Nations mission because the situation allows the government to take the lead, the peace operation should do so in a speedy and responsible manner.

Agreeing, the representative of the Philippines emphasized the need to invest more in local solutions to conflicts, cautioning, however, that such solutions should be supported by peace operations, not supplanted by them.

Switzerland’s representative said that lasting peace can only be achieved by engaging with the broader spectrum of stakeholders, including non‑State actors and civil society.  Concerning the transition from the African Union‑United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) to the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), she said it demonstrates the importance of forward‑looking transitions for peace operations, including phased, progressive exit strategies.

Meanwhile, Cuba’s representative stressed that the primary responsibility for protecting civilians in post‑conflict countries hosting peacekeepers rests with the host Government, rejecting the manipulation of civilian‑protection and human rights to achieve political objectives and interfere in the internal affairs of States.

Representatives of Iran, United Kingdom, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Friday, 23 October, to continue its joint general debate.

General Debate

The representative of the Philippines emphasized that the success of missions depends on prioritizing the protection of civilians.  Calling for updated rules of engagement attuned to the realities on the ground, he noted that intergovernmental platforms enable States to share information and pursue strategic partnerships, while stressing that more must be invested in local solutions to conflicts.  Those solutions should be supported by peacekeeping operations, not supplanted by them, he added.  Noting that special political missions continue to serve as forward platforms for conflict prevention and are essential for sustaining peace, he said they must be funded through a special account providing them with their own budgetary solutions.  He went on to describe the Department of Global Communication as a reliable messenger of information about the United Nations, and urged cooperation by Member States and observer missions with civil actors, and the media to act responsibly in providing fact‑based information.

The representative of Timor-Leste, recalling that her country was once listed as a Non‑Self‑Governing Territory under consideration by the Special Committee on Decolonization, said the right to self‑determination is enshrined in its Constitution.  Hence, Timor‑Leste is committed to assist in the realization of fully independent States for the Sahrawi and Palestinian peoples.  The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) has been in the Territory for almost three decades but has yet to see satisfactory progress, she noted, calling for the full implementation of its mandate to hold a self‑referendum and the appointment of a new personal envoy.  Underscoring the important role of administering Powers, she called upon them to ensure the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda through integrated programmes that have a concrete impact on the lives of the peoples of the respective Territories under their administration.  Turning to peacekeeping, she pointed out the unique strengths of the United Nations, including legitimacy, burden sharing, and the ability to deploy troops and police from around the world and integrate them with civilian peacekeepers to address a range of mandates set by the Organization.  Even in the face of the COVID‑19 pandemic, peacekeeping personnel have still had to execute their mandate, she noted, underlining that their safety cannot be separated from issues of performance and accountability.

The representative of Bahrain said his country is working toward its own vision for peace and stability in the Near East by building relations in the interest of all the region’s States and peoples, including by finding a solution in Israel and Palestine.  In that effort, he said, Bahrain recently signed a historic agreement to establish diplomatic relations with Israel that will entail normalized cooperation in areas including trade, economic and communication.  He went on to express support for Morocco’s efforts to find a solution to the Western Sahara question, and reiterated the right of the United Arab Emirates over the three Emirati islands currently occupied by Iran.

The representative Yemen said relations between countries must be based on respect for human rights, without discrimination.  Noting that the Palestinian question impacts the peace and stability of the entire world, he emphasized that a resolution of the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict will not be achievable without a Palestinian State.  He went on to condemn Israel’s expansion of settlements and plans for annexation of parts of the West Bank, stressing also that attempts to annex the Syrian Golan are illegal.  Praising Morocco’s efforts for a lasting and just solution in Western Sahara, he welcomed the participation of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el‑Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front), Algeria and Mauretania in discussions.

The representative of Eritrea recalled that his country experienced a long and bitter struggle for national independence and, as such, “the right of people for self‑determination is deeply ingrained in the psyche of every Eritrean”.  For 50 years, calls for Eritrea’s self‑determination were ignored by the international community, he recalled.  “Our history taught us that no peace can be achieved and no progress can be sustained without respect for the sovereignty and political independence of every nation.”  However, the economic, political and cultural structures of the colonial era remain largely intact in many parts of the Global South, he said, pointing out:  “Decolonized nations in Africa are still chained by the predatory global economic structures that keep them poor while enriching others.”  He went on to underline that the task of decolonization will not be fulfilled without addressing the conditions that keep developing nations on the periphery, infringe on their sovereign right to chart their own path and stifle their views in multilateral forums, he pointed out.  Turning to United Nations peace operations, he said they are not meant to be permanent, nor are they an alternative to national efforts for peace and stability.  Therefore, peace operations must constructively cooperate with host countries as a crucial prerequisite for effectiveness, he said. Moreover, when the host country requests that a United Nations mission exit because the situation allows the Government to take the lead, the peace operation should do so in a speedy and responsible manner, he added.

The representative of Guyana said the Fourth Committee’s work must continue until all peoples of the 17 Non‑Self‑Governing Territories still under colonial rule are able to exercise this right.  Urging the administering Powers to cooperate fully with the United Nations in finalizing a constructive programme of work for implementation of the relevant resolutions on decolonization, she also underscored the importance of continued dialogue with the administering Powers, which are obliged to promote the well‑being of the Territories’ inhabitants.  Together, the main stakeholders must speedily eradicate colonialism, keeping the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories fully aware of the political status options available to them, she said.

The representative of Switzerland emphasized that lasting peace can only be achieved by engaging with the broader spectrum of stakeholders, including non‑State actors and civil society.  For example, in Libya, where Switzerland plays a facilitating role in peace discussions, such broader stakeholders have been included, she noted.  Peace operations must have the political and monetary means to carry out their mandates and the ability to adapt their actions to the context.  That requires tailor‑made mandates equipped to understand emerging issues like the effects of climate change and the role of new technologies in peacekeeping operations, she said.  Turning to the transition from UNAMID to UNITAMS, she said it demonstrates the importance of forward‑looking transitions for peace operations, including phased, progressive exit strategies with benchmarks.  She went on to call upon Member States to support the Peacekeeping Fund in order to ensure the coherence of all peace operations.

The representative of Cuba, noting the continuing existence of 17 colonial Territories 60 years after the General Assembly adopted the historic Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, called particularly on the United States, an administering Power, to stop ignoring invitations and from the Special Committee on Decolonization and join discussions with all stakeholders.  He noted that the colonial question of the United States and Puerto Rico has been considered for more than 43 years in the Special Committee, which has adopted 39 resolutions and decisions on that Territory’s status.   Cuba also upholds the right of Western Sahara’s people to self‑determination, he said, calling for a mutually acceptable political solution between the parties.  Also expressing support for Argentina’s legitimate right in the sovereignty dispute over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)[1], he called for a definitive negotiated solution to that question as soon as possible.  Turning to United Nations peace operations, he stressed that the primary responsibility for protecting civilians in post‑conflict countries hosting peacekeepers rests with the host Government.  He rejected the manipulation of civilian‑protection and human principles to achieve political objectives and interfere in the internal affairs of States.  On outer space, he opposed its militarization, emphasizing that the United States Armed Forces Space Command constitutes a serious threat to the security of all.  There is urgent need to strengthen the applicable legal framework by adopting a multilateral treaty to prevent and prohibit the placement of weapons in outer space, he reiterated.

The representative of Grenada, associating herself with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noted that while the decolonization process began with almost a third of the world’s population living in Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, 17 such Territories remain on the agenda today, with the decolonization of more than 80 of them illustrating the effectiveness of the Committee and the United Nations.  Although that process has slowed significantly, “all is not lost”, she affirmed, highlighting the recent second self‑determination referendum in New Caledonia.  Expressing support for the Secretary‑General’s efforts to advance the political process in Western Sahara — and for the round‑table meetings in 2018 and 2019 involving Morocco, Polisario, Algeria and Mauritania — she said a political solution to that long‑standing dispute would contribute to stability and security.   She went on to point out that most remaining Non‑Self‑Governing Territories are small islands in the Caribbean and Pacific regions, many sharing a vulnerability to natural disasters and increasingly violent storms due to climate change.

The representative of Libya applauded recent progress made by the Department of Global Communications, especially in the context of the COVID‑19 pandemic.  “We all need information and data which is reliable,” he said, noting that the Department can play a crucial role in that regard.  Turning to special political missions, he said their work must not contravene United Nations principles, especially with regard to sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Concerning the nomination of special envoys, he emphasized the need for the process to take linguistic and cultural aspects into account.  He went on to welcome the mandate extension of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) for another year, and called for centring the Mission in Tripoli for enhanced cooperation.  Expressing gratitude to Libya’s neighbours for their assistance to the Mission, he spotlighted Tunisia’s upcoming hosting of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum.

The representative of Syria, associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China as well as the Non‑Aligned Movement, noted that the population of the Syrian Golan is experiencing equipment and medication shortages in the context of COVID‑19.  She went on to state that Israel, the occupying Power, continues to violate United Nations resolutions and to exploit the Syrian Golan’s natural resources, noting that it has decided to establish wind energy facilities on Syrian territory.  That would limit the expansion of Syrian villages and break the relationship between the Syrian people and their land, she said, reporting that 5,000 people have signed a petition against that project.  Emphasizing her delegation’s rejection of the decision by the President of the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian Golan, she said it constitutes a violation of United Nations principles and resolutions.  The decision does not change the situation in the Golan — an occupied Syrian Territory based on international law, she stressed.  Turning to Palestine refugees, she noted that her country has offered them assistance and services.  Calling for the provision of further resources for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), she rejected any decision to curtail or change UNRWA’s services for refugees.

Right of Reply

The representative of Iran, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to the representatives of Yemen and Bahrain by stressing that the islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb are an inseparable part of Iran’s territory.

The representative of the United Kingdom, responding to Cuba’s delegate, said the United Kingdom has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and the surrounding maritime areas.  The residents of the islands freely pursue their economic and social development, he added, emphasizing that the United Kingdom remains fully committed to their right to sovereignty.  The Territory’s 2013 referendum made the people’s wishes clear, he said.

The representative of Argentina, responding to the United Kingdom, said the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands, South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas are an integral part of his country’s territory and are illegally occupied by the United Kingdom.  The sovereignty dispute is recognized by various international organizations, he noted, citing several related United Nations resolutions.  Emphasizing that the principle of self‑determination is inapplicable to the dispute, he said the vote that took place in 2013 constitutes a unilateral act by the United Kingdom and is without any legal value.  Therefore, the result does not affect Argentina’s legitimate rights, he stressed, pointing out that the International Court of Justice has indicated it is up to the General Assembly to pronounce on the formulation of questions submitted for referendum in Non‑Self‑Governing Territories.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates said the islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb are Emirati, adding that resolution of the issue will take place through direct negotiations or through the International Court of Justice.

The representative of the United Kingdom said none of the Assembly resolutions dilute the legally binding principle of self‑determination, stressing that his delegation remains committed to defending that principle for the people of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

The representative of Iran said his delegation rejects the claim by the representative of the United Arab Emirates with regard to the three islands, no matter how many times it is repeated.

The representative of Argentina said that, in its advisory opinion on the Chagos Archipelago, the International Court of Justice was emphatic about the crucial role played by the General Assembly and its advisory committee on the obligations of administering Powers to ensure that decolonization processes as well as the exercise of self‑determination are duly completed.  On the principle of territorial integrity, he noted that the Court also said self‑determination is not applicable in cases where those under consideration are not “peoples”.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates, expressing thanks for the support from the representatives of Bahrain and Yemen, reiterated his country’s sovereignty over the three islands.

Also speaking today were representatives of Equatorial Guinea, Togo, Barbados, Belize, Oman, Gabon, Eswatini, Cameroon, Portugal, Cambodia and Bhutan.

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[1]     A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

For information media. Not an official record.