Western Sahara, Gibraltar: UN Committee Reaffirms Inalienable Right To Self-Determination And Independence


Forwarding five consensus draft texts to the General Assembly, including on the questions of Western Sahara, Gibraltar, New Caledonia and Tokelau, the UN Fourth Committee reaffirmed the inalienable right of all people to self-determination and independence, as it concluded Monday its general debate on decolonization matters.

The Assembly expressed the strong conviction that the continuation and expansion of scholarship offers was essential in order to meet the increasing need of students from those Territories for educational and training assistance.

With regard to the question of Gibraltar, the Assembly urged the governments of Spain and the United Kingdom to “reach a definitive solution to the dispute”, and said it would welcome the continuing commitment to the trilateral Forum for Dialogue, including in the six additional areas of cooperation announced in 2009.

Before taking action on the texts, delegations during the wrap-up of the general debate praised the work of the Special Committee on Decolonization —known informally as the “C-24” — and called for increased dynamism and a redoubling of efforts with regard to completing the decolonization process of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories

Guinea’s representative said that, since its creation, the Special Committee’s accomplishments had enabled the United Nations to better understand the situation in colonial countries, giving irreversible impetus to the decolonization process.

Continuing in that vein, the representative of Pakistan stressed that the Special Committee was a focal point for engaging the United Nations bodies and agencies, as well as the peoples of the Territories and the administering Powers and the wider international community. However, he lamented that, due to a lack of political will, the problem of colonialism persisted, even at the end of the Second International Decade established by the world body to accelerate the eradication of that practice.

He went on to say that decolonization was an objective of such importance that it could not be limited to the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories alone, since the negation of the right to self-determination could ignite regional conflicts.

Along those lines, Timor-Leste’s representative said continuing with the status quo in Western Sahara was unacceptable and brought serious risks to that region’s stability. The struggle of the Western Sahara for self‑determination echoed Timor‑Leste’s own quest for independence, and there needed to be more progress on the core issues of the conflict, he said. In that light, he supported direct negotiations between the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguía el-Hamra y de Río de Oro (Frente Polisario) and Morocco under the United Nations auspices.

South Africa’s representative said that the United Nations remained “paralysed” when it came to Western Sahara. The referendum mandated by the Security Council three decades ago had yet to materialize, and the Saharans deserved to have all options open to them, rather than being subjected to the current attempts by Morocco to impose autonomy.

He called for an intensification of efforts to hold the referendum, and stressed the importance of United Nations site visits to the region, with on-the-ground updates provided through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Along those lines, Algeria’s representative said that the peoples of Western Sahara — “the last place of colonial rule in Africa” — must be given their full rights. He noted the global trend towards creating and consolidating major regional groups, which was all the more true when those groups were joined by a common destiny and history, as was the case in the Maghreb.

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