The United Nations’ strategy on decolonization “is not working”, Dr Joseph Garcia said on Monday as he outlined efforts by successive Gibraltarian governments spanning five decades to convince the UN to remove the Rock from its list of colonies.
Addressing the UN’s Fourth Committee on decolonization in New York, the Deputy Chief Minister said the UN had failed to engage with the UK and Gibraltar despite modern constitutional arrangements that gave Gibraltarians more self government than ever before.
Not only that, he said, the UN had also failed to explain what it required in order to remove Gibraltar from the list of non self-governing territories.
Speaking against the backdrop of ongoing complex and sensitive discussions about the Rock’s post-Brexit future, Dr Garcia said the Gibraltar Government continued to seek positive relations with Spain.
But he made clear that Gibraltar would not bend on sovereignty or its belief, firmly supported by the UK Government, that only the Gibraltarians could determine their future.
He said that despite early successes on decolonization in the aftermath of World War II, only one territory had been removed from the UN list in nearly 30 years.
“Mr Chairman, something somewhere is not working,” Dr Garcia said, addressing the Fourth Committee’s recently appointed Liberian chairman, Dee Maxwell Saah Kemayah Sr.
“The process of decolonization has now almost ground to a halt,” he added.
Dr Garcia is no stranger to the UN, having attended many sessions of the Fourth Committee and the Committee of 24 both as part of Gibraltar's government and in opposition.
But this was his first address to the UN, stepping in for Chief Minister Fabian Picardo who pulled out of the UN trip – the first time in 15 years that he has not attended – to participate in meetings on Brexit and Gibraltar’s withdrawal from the EU.
Gibraltar, the UK and Spain have all signaled publicly their belief that a constructive agreement can be reached to protect the interests of communities on both sides of the border once Gibraltar leaves the EU alongside the UK.
As of Monday though, there was little confirmation of how the discussions were progressing or what shape a deal might take. All sides concede that the devil will be in the detail.