UN’s support for self-determination remains source of pride, crucial pillar: UN chief

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UNITED NATIONS, Feb 22 (APP):United Nations’ support for the right to self-determination — while slower than it was at its historic peak in the 20th century — remains both a source of pride for the world body and a crucial pillar of its work going forward, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said.
Delivering his opening remarks to the Special Committee on Decolonization, which launched its 2020 session on Friday, he said that decolonization is one of the UN’s most significant historical chapters, recalling that the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories stood at 72 in 1946. Today, it is 17.
The 24-member body is known formally as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence of Colonial Countries and Peoples.
While that achievement is a source of pride, more work remains since the remaining 17 Territories are still waiting to realize the promise of self-government, the UN chief emphasized. He recalled that Timor-Leste was the last Territory removed from the list, in 2002, saying: “It is reasonable to ask: has the decolonization agenda reached an impasse?” The answer is no, he added, noting that the South Pacific Territory of New Caledonia will hold its second referendum on independence in September.
(On Dec. 18, the UN General Assembly adopted a Pakistan-sponsored resolution reaffirming the right of peoples to self-determination that in effect re-established the legitimacy of the Kashmiri people’s struggle for freedom from Indian occupation. Adopted by consensus, the resolution, co-sponsored by 81 countries, called on countries to immediately cease their foreign military intervention in and occupation of foreign countries and territories, as well as acts of repression, discrimination and maltreatment.)
In his remarks to the Special Committee on Decolonization, the secretary-general, while outlining recent successes, pointed out that an unprecedented number of participants from Non-Self-Governing Territories, administering Powers and other stakeholders attended the Special Committee’s regional seminar in 2019. In addition, a Special Committee delegation visited the Territory of Montserrat to gather first-hand information on its political and socioeconomic situation.
He went on to emphasize that decolonization is a process that must be guided by the aspirations and needs of the communities living in the Non-Self-Governing Territories, who face very real and pressing challenges. Many of the Territories are small islands on the front lines of climate change, facing devastating natural disasters or struggling to build sustainable and self-sufficient economies, he said, pledging to work alongside the Special Committee “as you make another push to eradicate colonialism once and for all”.
Newly-elected Chairperson Keisha McGuire of Grenada also delivered remarks, agreeing that decolonization is still in progress. Against the backdrop of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations and the impending close of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, she said, the Special Committee’s members must push forward the four priorities of her chairmanship: promoting the Special Committee’s mandate, collaboration, pragmatism, and agility.
“But we need to move faster,” she emphasized, calling upon Member States to accelerate the recent momentum. Recalling that the Special Committee’s 2019 visit to Montserrat was carried out through a creative mix of funding sources in light of the liquidity crisis plaguing the United Nations, she said visiting missions are among the body’s most valuable tools.
At the outset, Special Committee members elected their Bureau by acclamation, picking Ms. McGuire (Grenada) as Chairperson; Ana Silvia Rodriguez Abascal (Cuba), Alie Kabba (Sierra Leone) and Dian Triansyah Djani (Indonesia) as Vice-Chairpersons; and Bashar Ja’afari (Syria) as Rapporteur.
The Special Committee will reconvene on 13 March to begin its substantive work.