Morocco Seeks to Have Two Names Removed from List of Petitioners on Western Sahara
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved today its work programme for the seventy‑fourth session of the General Assembly, covering the decolonization of the 17 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, peacekeeping operations, the plight of Palestine refugees, and Israel’s illegal practices in the occupied Palestinian and other Arab territories, among several other agenda items.
According to its work programme (documents A/C.4/74/1 and A/C.4/74/L.1), the Committee will first consider decolonization issues during a general debate to be held between 7 and 16 October. Committee Chair Mohammed Hussein Bahr Aluloom (Iraq) said he has received an aide‑mémoire containing 180 requests for hearings on the Territories of French Polynesia, Gibraltar, Guam, New Caledonia and Western Sahara.
He went on to state that the aide‑mémoire has been circulated to delegations by email, adding that the President of French Polynesia as well as Gibraltar’s Deputy Chief Minister and Guam’s Lieutenant Governor are expected to address the Committee.
Omar Hilale (Morocco) said that whereas his delegation has never previously opposed a request for a hearing, two prospective petitioners do not intend to address the issue at hand and under which they are subscribed, but instead plan to speak about other political matters. They intend to take advantage of the Committee’s web platform, he added, citing an increasing tendency to exploit the petitioners’ segment of the session for domestic and other political purposes.
François Abou Soumah (Guinea) agreed that the Committee’s hearings must not be derailed, expressing support for Morocco’s proposal to remove the petitioners in question.
Mohammed Bessedik (Algeria) noted that the names on the list of petitioners should be accompanied by a request to the Secretariat, noting that it appears such requests are no longer being submitted. He sought clarification regarding the basis for the procedural change, while emphasizing that although his delegation is opposed to the procedure for petitioners, it does not oppose the proposal to remove the two prospective petitioners from the list. The new process makes it impossible for the Committee to be aware of the true intentions of potential petitioners, he said, adding that delegates were not informed of the procedural change. They must be informed of such changes in advance, he emphasized.
Sangeeta Sharma, Committee Secretary, clarified that the procedural change to the request process was implemented to make it more efficient. Previously, requests were made by mail, but the current process is electronic, so the physical letter to the Secretariat is no longer required, she explained, pointing out that the change was made in consultation with the Secretariat and the Fourth Committee Bureau.
For the rest of the session, the Committee will hold a general debate on questions relating to information from 17 to 21 October and take up assistance in mine action on 23 October. It will consider the effects of atomic radiation on 24 October.
From 29 October to 1 November, the Committee will hold four meetings on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. As in previous sessions, members agreed to establish a working group of the whole on outer space, to be chaired by the delegation of Brazil.
The Committee will hold a four-day comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects, beginning on 4 November until 7 November, followed by a review of special political missions on 8 November.
Between 11 and 15 November, the Committee will consider aspects of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). From 13 November until 15 November, it will take up the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.
Also on 15 November, the Committee is expected to take action on all proposals and outstanding agenda items.
At the outset, Committee Chair Bahr Aluloom (Iraq) introduced the rest of the Bureau: Vice-Chairs Andrea Bacher (Austria), Amadou Ahidjo (Cameroon) and Peter Pindják (Slovakia), as well as Juan Antonio Benard Estrada (Guatemala), who will serve as Rapporteur.
With its overall work expected to conclude by 15 November, the Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 7 October, to begin its consideration of decolonization issues.