Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the organizational meeting of the 2020 session of the Special Committee on Decolonization in New York today:
It is for me an honour to open the 2020 session of the Special Committee in my capacity as President pro tempore.
When I addressed you last year, I spoke about my deep connection with the issue of decolonization, which is one of the defining mandates of our Organization. Indeed, I can never forget the fact that it was thanks to the liberation movements of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau and their struggle for independence that the Portuguese army conducted the April revolution that led to the democracy in my own country.
There was always a very strong link between the Portuguese democrats and the liberation movements of the former colonies. So I cannot stress enough my personal and sincere commitment to your work, which I continue to follow closely.
As we prepare to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations in October, we have an opportunity to look back at the achievements of this Organization. Decolonization is certainly one of the most significant chapters in the UN’s history and this Special Committee has played a key role.
In 1946, 72 Territories were placed on the original list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. Today, this number stands at 17. We can all be proud of this achievement. We must not forget that the peoples in those 17 Territories are still waiting for the promise of self-government to be fulfilled, 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.
This year also marks the last year of the Third International Decade to Eradicate Colonialism. This milestone is an important opportunity to take stock of our progress. Given that the last Non-Self-Governing Territory to conclude its decolonization process was Timor-Leste in 2002, it is reasonable to ask: has the decolonization agenda reached an impasse? The answer is no. Things are moving, albeit at a slow pace. In September, New Caledonia will hold its second referendum on independence, following a first referendum in 2018.
Moreover, this Special Committee continues to nurture and build new relationships with Territories and administering Powers. Last year, an unprecedented number of participants from Territories, administering Powers, C-24 members and other stakeholders attended your regional seminar. And this past December, a delegation of this Special Committee visited Montserrat to gather first-hand information on the political and socioeconomic situation in the Territory.
Decolonization is a process that has to be guided by the aspirations and needs of the communities living in the Territories. The concerns of the peoples of the Territories are varied, and it is our collective responsibility to amplify their voices. Many of them face real and pressing challenges.
The vast majority of the Territories are small islands on the frontlines of climate change. Many have faced devastating natural disasters. Others are struggling to build sustainable and self-sufficient economies. We must continue to serve as a forum for meaningful dialogue between Territories and administering Powers to enable the peoples of the Territories to make informed decisions about their future.
I will remain alongside you as you make another push to eradicate colonialism once and for all. I encourage you to be innovative and resolute in your work. We owe it to the peoples living in the Territories to complete this historic task.
I wish you every success for this 2020 session. We in the Secretariat will do all we can to support you in fulfilling this essential mission of our Organization.