Decolonization, part of the United Nations' founding mission, is a success story, albeit an unfinished one, said United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro at the opening of this year's annual meeting of the 24-member Special Commission on Decolonization at UN Headquarters in New York.
Ms Migiro said that, four decades after adoption of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the international community had a responsibility to bring about a speedy, successful and sustainable solution for the total eradication of colonialism. In order to close that chapter in human affairs, there was a need to focus on pragmatic steps. One of the most promising opportunities was the Pacific Territory of Tokelau, she said. A referendum last year on self-government in free association with New Zealand, the administering Power, had not resulted in the two-thirds majority required, but another referendum would be held in November. She hoped that the example of Tokelau would inspire other administering Powers and Territories to move towards self-determination for the people in the Territories concerned. She said cooperation of the administering powers would be crucial, as they must ensure that the views of the peoples of those territories were heard. They should take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions. Towards that end, she urged all administering Powers to adopt a constructive attitude. They should do their utmost to muster the political will necessary for implementing the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter which obligates them to bring the Territories under their administration to an appropriate level of self-government. In her opening remarks, Chairperson Margaret Hughes Ferrari of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said colonialism was not yet a relic of the past. The Special Committee had been the conduit through which the Organisation had accelerated its assistance to the people in the Non-Self-Governing Territories in determining their political future without external interference. The Special Committee must continue its work in a proactive, pragmatic, dynamic and innovative manner if it was to bring about concrete and meaningful outcomes. The representative of Saint Lucia said that her country had held the Committee's Chair for a number of years. In its "Plan of Implementation for the Decolonisation Mandate" it had provided a comprehensive blueprint for the United Nations system to further the decolonisation process, recognised by resolution 61/130 as "an important legislative authority for the attainment of self-government for the territories by the end of 2010". Yet, major elements of the Plan, in particular the studies and analyses on the evolution of self-government in each territory, had gone unimplemented. She said the development of the case-by-case work plan for each territory had been stalled, due to the backlog of Secretary-General's reports on the implementation of decolonisation resolutions. The United Nations system had not responded effectively to the mandate it had been given. It was not surprising that only Timor-Leste had been decolonised during the 16-year period since the first International Decade. Significant progress could only be made through innovative measures, since it had become clear that the standard method of work had not yielded significant results. Approving its tentative organisation and programme of work and timetable, the Special Committee decided that, during March or April, four meetings would be dedicated to the forthcoming Caribbean Regional Seminar. On 24 May, the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories would be celebrated. The annual seminar is traditionally held during that week. Meetings on matters before the Committee would be held during the periods 4 to 7 June and 18 to 29 June. At the time of the UN's creation in 1945, there were 72 Non-Self-Governing territories and since then, the Organization has helped more than 80 million people around the globe exercise their right of self-determination. There are currently 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories left on the United Nations decolonisation list.