Delegates Call upon United Kingdom to Comply with Ruling by International Court of Justice that Chagos Archipelago’s Decolonization Was Never Lawfully Completed

Administering Power Has No Intention of Complying, Says Mauritius as Fourth Committee Continues Western Sahara Debate

Delegates called upon the United Kingdom to withdraw from the territory of Mauritius in accordance with a recent ruling by the International Court of Justice, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its general debate on decolonization questions today.

The representative of Mauritius recalled that the International Court of Justice concluded in February 2019 that the process of decolonizing his country was not lawfully completed in 1968 and the United Kingdom’s continuing administration of the Chagos Islands archipelago therefore constitutes a wrongful act.  On 22 May, the General Assembly adopted a resolution reaffirming the Court’s conclusions and demanding that the United Kingdom unconditionally withdraw its administration by 22 November, he recalled further.  However, “the response of the United Kingdom to these developments has been one of outright defiance,” he said, adding that the administering Power has made it clear that it does not intend to comply.

South Africa’s representative also addressed the matter, underlining that the complete decolonization of Mauritius must be undertaken in accordance with the Assembly resolution adopted in May.  That action sent a strong signal from the international community that control of the Chagos archipelago should return to Mauritius, he said.

However, the United Kingdom’s representative said her country is clear about its sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory, adding that it is designing a $50 million support package to improve livelihoods in the Chagos Islands.  Furthermore, the strategic location of the joint United Kingdom‑United States defence facility on the archipelago’s Diego García island makes a significant contribution to security and to combating challenging threats, she added.

Many delegates expressed appreciation for efforts by the Secretary‑General and his Personal Envoy to advance the political process and resolve the situation in Western Sahara.  Many described the two round‑table discussions held earlier in 2019 as particularly encouraging, with El Salvador’s representative noting that they were held in an atmosphere of mutual respect, making it possible to see the best ways in which to address the many challenges confronting the Territory.

Burkina Faso’s representative said Western Sahara’s decolonization can only be achieved through participation by all stakeholders, emphasizing the importance of involvement by all States in the Sahel region in the political process there.  As President of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel), Burkina Faso is in a good position to work towards ensuring security in the region, he noted.  He went on to express support for Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative for Western Sahara, explaining that it considers the Territory’s specificity.

Also speaking today were representatives of Guinea, Papua New Guinea (on behalf of the Melanesian Spearhead Group), Mexico, Peru, Cuba, Nepal, Côte d’Ivoire, Bangladesh, India, Ecuador, Gabon, Panama, Honduras, Saint Lucia, Nicaragua, Yemen, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Nigeria, Burundi, Cameroon and New Zealand.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Morocco, Mauritius, United Kingdom, Iran, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 16 October, to continue its debate on decolonization.

General Debate

FATOUMATA KABA (Guinea) expressed gratitude for the Secretary‑General’s efforts on the political process in Western Sahara, including the two round‑table discussions held earlier in 2019 on the basis of realism and compromise.  She emphasized the importance of neighbouring countries participating in such discussions and encouraged stakeholders to continue consultations.  Noting that the institutional economic reforms undertaken by Morocco resulted from broad consultations, she said the Government’s considerable investment will improve living conditions and the poverty index.  Guinea supports Morocco’s autonomy plan, she added, reiterating calls for stakeholders to continue discussions and capitalize on the political momentum to achieve lasting development in the Maghreb.

MAX HUFANEN RAI (Papua New Guinea), speaking on behalf of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, reaffirmed its support for the self‑determination of New Caledonia, highlighting the successful celebration of the second self‑determination referendum in November 2018, in which 56.4 per cent of voters favoured the status quo in a voter turnout of 81 per cent.  In another political milestone, the May 2019 provincial election delivered a majority pro‑independence territorial Government, he said, thanking the United Nations for having conducted two “highly successful” visiting missions to New Caledonia in 2014 and 2018.  He expressed concern, however, over the denial of voting rights for students living abroad in France and elsewhere, for prisoners, and over malfunctioning polling machines as well as issues with automatic registration of voters, among others.  He called for improvements in those areas ahead of the 2020 referendum.  While welcoming dialogue between the territorial Government and the administering Power, he noted that 21 years and six months have passed since the signing of the Nouméa Accord and expressed concern that the administering Power has transferred only 6 out of 12 powers to New Caledonia, such as employment, labour legislation, foreign trade, navigation and the exploration, exploitation and management of the Territory’s exclusive economic zone.  Primary and other education sectors are still managed from Paris, he added.  He went on to underline the importance of the link between the transfer of powers, building the capacity of the local Kanak people and training human resources, citing an action plan that offers capacity‑building and leadership training with a view to promoting skills and knowledge among the local Kanak population in New Caledonia and the rest of the Melanesian region.

JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) said the United Nations should remain involved in the search for solutions in the decolonization process.  Reiterating his delegation’s support for Argentina’s rights in the dispute over the Malvinas Islands[1], South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, he urged that country and the United Kingdom to come together in negotiations as soon as possible to find a peaceful solution to the lengthy controversy over the Territory.  On the question of Western Sahara, he paid tribute to the efforts of the Secretary‑General and his former Personal Envoy, calling for the appointment of a replacement for the latter so that the parties can move towards an acceptable solution.

HUMBERTO VELÁSQUEZ (Peru) called for firm political resolve and a case‑by‑case approach as fundamental to progress on the decolonization agenda, adding that administering Powers must cooperate with the Special Committee on Decolonization to speed up the process, he added.  On the Malvinas Islands, he said historical circumstances are excluding the Territory from progress towards self‑government.  Peru supports Argentina’s legitimate sovereignty rights in this regard on the basis of historical, geographical and legal criteria, he added, encouraging Argentina and the United Kingdom to resume negotiations towards a peaceful and lasting solution to the question.  Both parties should refrain from adopting decisions involving unilateral amendments, he emphasized.

XOLISA MABHONGO (South Africa) noted that many people have not yet realized the common aspiration to self‑government 74 years after the United Nations was founded, which severely impedes their right to development.  South Africa would not be represented within the Organization were it not for the Special Committee’s efforts, he pointed out.  Reaffirming his delegation’s support for the Palestinian people’s right to self‑determination, he said that, in the same vein, the struggle of Western Sahara’s people is a familiar one.  South Africa stands by the African Union’s position that their right to self‑determination and independence for Western Sahara is non‑negotiable, he emphasized.  He went on to stress that the complete decolonization of Mauritius must be undertaken in accordance with the General Assembly resolution on the issue adopted earlier in 2019.  That action sent a strong signal from the international community that control of the Chagos Islands archipelago should return to Mauritius, he added.

HUMBERTO RIVERO ROSARIO (Cuba), emphasizing the right of the people of Puerto Rico to self‑determination, described the situation in that Territory as a crude colonial reality in which the people lack sovereignty and are subjects of the United States.  As such, Puerto Rico should be a matter for consideration by the Special Committee, he said, stressing that Puerto Rico is of interest to both the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Non‑Aligned Movement.  Turning to Western Sahara, he expressed support for the efforts of the Secretary‑General and his former Personal Envoy.  Cuba also supports Argentina’s sovereignty claim over the Malvinas Islands, he added, calling for a negotiated and definitive solution to the dispute as soon as possible.  He went on to urge the Department of Global Communications to continue to expand its activities in order achieve the broadest possible dissemination of information on decolonization.

AMRIT BAHADUR RAI (Nepal), emphasizing that colonization and foreign domination under any pretext contravene the fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations, said it is unfortunate that even today nearly 2 million people are struggling for their independence.  How can the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development be achieved while leaving those people behind?  The international community must break the status quo and immediately move on to the complete eradication of decolonization, he said, stressing the need for the administering Powers to cooperate proactively with the Special Committee in pursuit of a path to decolonization.

GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) welcomed the two round‑table discussions held in December and March and the commitment of all participants to meet at a third round table.  A lasting solution to the Western Sahara question will strengthen cohesion among African countries in general, he said.  Noting Morocco’s efforts towards autonomy for the people of Western Sahara, he expressed support for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) and called upon all parties to cooperate with the Mission, expressing hope for a realistic solution based on compromise.

JAGDISH DHARAMCHAND KOONJUL (Mauritius), pointing out that his country’s territory remains partly under colonial control, recalled that the Mauritian residents of the Chagos archipelago were forcibly removed from their homes and are still systematically prevented from returning there.  General Assembly resolution 71/292 called for an advisory opinion on the matter from the International Court of Justice and, in February, the latter concluded that the process of decolonizing Mauritius was not lawfully completed in 1968.  As a result, the United Kingdom’s continuing administration of the Chagos archipelago constitutes a wrongful act, he emphasized.  On 22 May, the General Assembly adopted resolution 73/295, reaffirming the Court’s conclusions and demanding that the United Kingdom unconditionally withdraw its administration by 22 November, he recalled.  However, “the response of the United Kingdom to these developments has been one of outright defiance,” he said, adding that the administering Power has made it clear that it does not intend to comply.  Describing the United Kingdom’s position as disrespectful of the Court and the United Nations, he stressed:  “The time has come for the United Kingdom to comply with the international rule of law which it has so long championed.”  He went on to express disappointment at the administering Power’s attempts to distract attention by raising spurious concerns about security, pointing out that the Diego García military base on the Chagos archipelago remains operational.

ABDUL MAJID KHAN (Bangladesh), expressing solidarity with people still under colonial domination, said the United Nations must put forth sustained effort to complete the decolonization process, adding that the administering Powers must meet their obligations on reporting to the United Nations.  Expressing his country’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda, including its pledge to leave no one behind, he said Bangladesh appreciates offers by Member States of education opportunities for the people of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories and encouraged more of them, including administering Powers, to follow suit.  He went on to note that natural disasters and climate change have a disproportionate impact on many Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, and called upon the Special Committee to take such realities into consideration.

EGRISELDA ARACELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador) encouraged the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to engage in cooperative dialogue with a view to ending their dispute over the Malvinas Islands.  Regarding Western Sahara, she expressed support for the political process under way in the Territory under United Nations stewardship, noting that the two round‑table discussions were held in an atmosphere of mutual respect, which made it possible to see the best ways in which to address the many challenges conforming the Territory.

DEEPAK MISRA (India), noting that his country was once ruled by a colonial State and has always been at the forefront in the fight against colonialism and apartheid, outlined its participation in decolonization efforts around the world.  He went on to note that one delegation continues to make unwarranted remarks that are not pertinent to the matter at hand while spreading unsubstantiated and malevolent allegations.  The complex challenges facing the present world can only be met by coordinating efforts and channelling resources for the 17 Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, he said, emphasizing that India remains committed to decolonization and offers its support to further accelerate the process.

HENRY VIERA SALAZAR (Ecuador), associating himself with the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), reiterated his delegation’s support for colonized peoples, saying colonialism hampers social and economic development.  He went on to emphasize the need for administering Powers to demonstrate the requisite political resolve to advance the decolonization process.  Self‑determination is vital in cases such as Western Sahara and the State of Palestine, he stressed.  A solution to the deadlock over the Malvinas Islands question also remains to be found, he said, adding that the only way to resolve it is by resuming bilateral negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom.

YEMDAOGO ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso) said the process of decolonization is inherently political and can only be achieved through the participation of all stakeholders in a spirit of compromise.  Reiterating support for the political process under way in Western Sahara, he emphasized the importance of participation by all States in the Sahel region.  As President of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel), Burkina Faso is in a good position to work towards ensuring security in the region, he noted.  He went on to express support for Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative, explaining that it considers the specificity of Western Sahara.  The participation of two local elected officials from the Territory in the round‑table discussions was encouraging.  He went on to underline that all activities in the Tindouf refugee camps must be in accordance with international law.

FRANKLIN JOACHIM MAKANGA (Gabon) expressed hope that the Secretary‑General’s next Personal Envoy will preserve the progress achieved in Western Sahara and continue the work started by his predecessor.  Welcoming Morocco’s proposed autonomy plan, he said it offers an end to the current impasse as well as a credible, pragmatic political solution in accordance with international law.  Describing the participation of Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el‑Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front) in the round‑table discussions as a significant step forward, he said the involvement of all stakeholders will reduce the risk of destabilization in the Territory.  Morocco’s economic contribution has improved the lives of Western Sahara’s people, he added.

ISBETH LISBETH QUIEL MURCIA (Panama) said the decolonization process has enabled the emergence of a more inclusive and diverse United Nations.  Noting that the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism will conclude in 2020, she called for strengthening collective efforts to realize that goal.  She went on to express support for Argentina’s sovereignty claim over the Malvinas Islands, emphasizing that her delegation supports constructive dialogue as the only means to a resolution of the matter.

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said her country’s relationship with its overseas Territories is a modern one based on partnership, shared values and the right of their respective peoples to choose to remain British.  The United Kingdom has committed fully to involving the Territories, including Gibraltar, as it negotiates to leave the European Union, she added.  As such, the newly created United Kingdom‑Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council on European Union Negotiations met on 27 June, while a separate council on Gibraltar‑European Union negotiations has met nine times.  She went on to state that her delegation has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), South Georgia Islands, South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, emphasizing that there can be no dialogue on sovereignty unless the Territory’s people so wish.  The United Kingdom is also clear about its sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory, she continued, noting that it is designing a $50 million support package to improve livelihoods in the Chagos archipelago.  The strategic location of the joint United Kingdom‑United States defence facility on the Territory makes a significant contribution to security and to combating challenging threats, she added.

MARY ELIZABETH FLORES (Honduras) said decolonization requires ongoing dialogue involving all parties.  Concerning the Malvinas Islands, she stressed Argentina’s legitimate rights in the matter, urging the resumption of bilateral relations.  Calling upon all Member States to strengthen the work of the Special Committee on Decolonization, she emphasized that the principle of self‑determination is not absolute and should not be employed as a pretext to break up the territorial integrity of existing States.

COSMOS RICHARDSON (Saint Lucia) said there is still an unfulfilled mandate in Chapter XI of the United Nations Charter on fostering self‑government for the 17 remaining Non‑Self‑Governing Territories.  Most of them are small islands, seven of which are in the Caribbean Sea, he added.  Expressing regret that decolonization is unlikely to happen by 2020 — meaning the United Nations must contemplate a fourth international decade for the eradication of colonialism — he urged the Secretary‑General to prepare a comprehensive report on the actual execution of the decolonization process ahead of the seventy‑fifth session of the General Assembly.  Describing  self‑determination as a human right, he emphasized that internal constitutional reforms cannot substitute for a legitimate process leading to decolonization, including the options of political inequality, independence, free association and integration with full political rights.  Concerning Western Sahara, he encouraged Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and the Polisario Front to continue dialogue and convene another meeting with the hope of reaching “a just and mutually acceptable solution between the parties consistent with relevant resolutions of the Security Council”.

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua) said new actions must be taken to remove obstacles to the realization of self‑determination for people in the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories.  Noting that the existence of colonialism hampers implementation of the sustainable development agenda, he said the people of Western Sahara must be granted their right to self‑determination and encouraged the stakeholders to move forward with the next phase of negotiations.  He went on to describe Puerto Rico as a colonial enclave in the Caribbean region, emphasizing that it must not be exempt from the Special Committee’s agenda, while also stressing that the Malvinas Islands have always been and will always be Argentine.

INTISAR NASSER MOHAMMED ABDULLAH (Yemen) said colonialism impedes international development at all levels and all peoples have an inalienable right to enjoy sovereignty over their own territory.  Palestinians must be allowed to establish a State with East Jerusalem as its capital, he said, calling upon Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian lands and its construction of settlements on the Territory.  He went on to welcome the Secretary‑General’s efforts to reach a lasting solution in Western Sahara and to express support for the United Arab Emirates in its dispute with Iran over the Gulf islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb.

IBRAHIM MODIBBO UMAR (Nigeria) called upon occupying Powers to grant self‑determination to all Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, including the State of Palestine and Western Sahara.  As such, he expressed support for negotiations and peaceful settlement of all outstanding issues in that regard.  On the question of Palestine, he called for a viable and contiguous Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital and based on the pre‑1967 borders, affirming his delegation’s unwavering support for a two‑State solution.  He went on to point out that Western Sahara is the only self‑determination question remaining in Africa, emphasizing that it constitutes a key priority for the African Union.  As such, he encouraged all parties to work together in pursuit of a mutually acceptable agreement and to ensure self‑determination for the people of Western Sahara.

ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi) noted that increased instability in the Sahel indicates the need to resolve the question of Western Sahara.  As such, Burundi encourages the parties concerned to focus on true negotiations under the Secretary‑General’s auspices.  Each party must accept the fact that it will not be completely satisfied and must favour a practical and enduring solution, he emphasized.  Strengthening cooperation in the Arab Maghreb would contribute to the security of the Sahel, in turn enabling jobs and opportunities for all those in the region.  He went on to welcome the momentum gained from the round‑table meetings held in December and March, and the will of the parties involved to participate respectfully in the political process launched by the United Nations.  Neighbouring countries must also make an active contribution, he stressed.  He welcomed Morocco’s autonomy initiative.

MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon) said the road map agreed upon during round‑table discussions on Western Sahara should be pursued.  Expressing hope that the Secretary‑General will find a replacement of similar calibre to that of his former Personal Envoy to advance the negotiations, he said a resolution of the situation in that Territory is the linchpin of peace and stability in the Maghreb, stressing that agreement must be based on consensus.  Reiterating the dispute’s regional dimension, he recalled that Security Council resolutions on the matter acknowledge that a resolution of the Western Sahara dispute will contribute to stability in the Maghreb and unity on the continent in general.

CRAIG J. HAWKE (New Zealand) said his country and Tokelau enjoy a warm and respectful partnership underpinned by shared values and aspirations.  They are working together to construct the building blocks for self‑governance in a manner reflecting the best of Tokelau’s faith, culture and identity, he said.  Noting the Prime Minister’s visit to the three atolls this year, he said New Zealand continues to fund Tokelau’s development priorities, noting that the total value of development assistance has risen to NZ$ 94 million in response to evolving priorities.  He added that his delegation supports the Territory’s self‑governance in the critical areas of finances, human resources and offshore fisheries, adding that New Zealand and Tokelau are working together to strengthen education and health services.  Other projects include increasing the quality of shipping services, laying an Internet cable and expanding Tokelau’s generation of electricity.  New Zealand has stepped up support for Tokelau’s efforts in building resilience to disasters and extreme climate events, planning disaster management, water security and coastal‑resilience initiatives, he observed.

Right of Reply

The representative of Morocco, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that Namibia’s delegate exceeded the limits of respect and wisdom in his statement on 11 October.  Emphasizing that Western Sahara is in Morocco, he said it is developing while other vestiges of colonialism in Africa are ignored and people tortured.  Namibia’s representative would be well advised to apply self‑determination to the people of his own country, he said.

The representative of Mauritius, responding to the United Kingdom’s delegate, described the latter’s statement about sovereignty over the Chagos archipelago as misleading, pointing out that the International Court of Justice made very clear who has sovereignty.  Moreover, the Archipelago has always been an integral part of Mauritius, unlawfully excised before independence, he emphasized.  Recalling that the United Kingdom’s delegation also cited the Chagos archipelago’s importance for security purposes, he stressed that Mauritius has never challenged the continued existence of the military and security facilities in the Indian Ocean, pointing out that the Government of Mauritius has pledged to allow continued operation of the Diego García base once it has effective control over the Archipelago.  On his country’s biodiversity, he pledged that the marine protected area will continue to exist with some adjustments, adding that the Government is equally committed to protecting the environment.  That issue was brought before the International Court of Justice, which made clear the United Kingdom’s violations of certain conditions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  The marine protected area that the United Kingdom created is, therefore, no longer valid, he said, pointing out that following the leak of certain information, it has become clear that the marine protected area’s creation was not motivated by environmental protection, but rather, was intended to prevent the return of those forcibly displaced from the Chagos archipelago.

The representative of the United Kingdom said her country has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) nor the right of the Falklanders to self‑determination.  Emphasizing that there can be no dialogue on sovereignty unless the Falklanders so wish, she recalled that the referendum held on the Territory sent a clear message that its inhabitants do not want a conversation about sovereignty.  Argentina should respect that message, she stressed.

The representative of Iran, responding to the statement by Yemen’s delegate, said his country does not recognize a dispute with the United Arab Emirates over the islands in question since they form part of Iran’s territory.  They are and have always been an integral part of its national territory, he reiterated.

The representative of Argentina said the Malvinas Islands are an integral part of Argentine territory, illegally occupied by the United Kingdom and an object of dispute between the two countries.  The United Kingdom’s illegal occupation has led the United Nations to adopt multiple resolutions on the matter, affirming Argentina’s position, he added, noting that the Special Committee has repeatedly reasserted this, most recently in June 2019.  Underlining the inapplicability of the self‑determination argument to this matter, he pointed out that the vote held on the Malvinas was a unilateral British act, devoid of approval by the General Assembly and thus without legal value.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates said that the Arab Gulf islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb form part and parcel of her country’s territory.  She said her delegation rejects Iran’s continued occupation of those islands and any pretext for claiming ownership over them.  She called upon Iran to respond to her delegation’s sincere calls for a peaceful resolution of the situation through direct negotiations or by referring the issue to the International Court of Justice.

The representative of Iran reiterated that Abu Musa as well as Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb have been an integral part of his country for thousands of years.  The United Arab Emirates, created only some decades ago, is not in a position to challenge Iran’s sovereignty in that regard, he emphasized.  Moreover, the issue is not relevant to discussion in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), he added.

 

[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).

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