18 August 2008

Non Aligned Movement Adopts 2008 Recommendations on Self-Determination

Some 118 Ministers of state or government of the Non Aligned Movement, at its 15th Ministerial Conference held in Tehran from 27-30 July 2008, adopted a final communiqué with specific portions directly relevant to overseas countries and territories, including indigenous peoples in those territories. In this connection, the relevant provisions are excerpted:


Relevant Decisions of 2008 Non Aligned Movement

Self-Determination and Decolonisation

38. The Ministers reaffirmed and underscored the validity and relevance of the Movement's principled positions concerning the right to self-determination of peoples under foreign occupation and colonial or alien domination, as follows:

38.1 The Movement stressed the fundamental and inalienable right of all peoples, including all non-self governing territories, as well as those territories under foreign occupation and colonial or alien domination, to self determination, the exercise of which, in the case of peoples under foreign occupation and colonial or alien domination, remains valid and essential to ensure the eradication of all these situations and to guarantee universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms;

38.2 The Movement reaffirmed the right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination and independence on the basis of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), and expressed its unwavering support to the resolutions on Puerto Rico adopted by the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation; and called for their immediate implementation.

38.3 The Movement remained concerned at the loss, destruction, removal, theft, pillage, illicit movement or misappropriation of and any acts of vandalism or damage, directed against cultural property in areas of armed conflict and territories that are occupied.

39. Consistent with and guided by the afore-mentioned principled positions and affirming the need to preserve, defend and promote these positions, the Ministers agreed to undertake the following measures, among others:

39.1 Strongly support the work and activities of the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation, and again urge the Administering Powers to grant their full support to the activities of the Committee and fully cooperate with this UN body;

39.2 Request the colonialist countries to pay full compensation for the economic, social and cultural consequences of their occupation, bearing in mind the right of all people who were or are still subjected to colonial rule or occupation to receive fair compensation for the human and material losses they suffered as a result of colonial rule or occupation;

39.3 Strongly condemn the ongoing brutal suppression of the legitimate aspirations to self-determination of peoples under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation in various regions of the world;

39.4 Urge UN Member States to fully implement the decisions and resolutions of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) concerning the return of cultural properties to the peoples who were or still under colonial rule or occupation, and in this regard, further urge UNESCO to identify the stolen or illegally exported cultural properties in accordance with the relevant conventions on the subject, and also urge the process of returning these properties to their countries of origin, in compliance with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly, be expedited, bearing in mind the right of the Non-Aligned Countries to maintain and conserve their national heritage as it constitutes the foundation of their cultural identity;

39.5 Renew its call to UN Member States to speed up the process of decolonisation towards the complete elimination of colonialism, and including by supporting the effective implementation of the Plan of Action of the Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2001-2010);

39.6 Work towards the full implementation of the principle of self-determination with respect to the remaining territories within the framework of the Programme of Action of the Special Committee on Decolonisation, in accordance with the wishes of the people consistent with the UN Charter and the relevant UN resolutions; 13

39.7 Oppose any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a State, which is incompatible with the UN Charter; and

39.8 Call on the Government of the United States to assume its responsibility to expedite a process that will allow the Puerto Rican people to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence, and urges the Government of the United States to return the occupied land and installations on Vieques Island and at the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station to the Puerto Rican people, who constitute a Latin American and Caribbean nation.

39.9 Work actively to have the U.N. General Assembly to consider in its 63rd Session the question of Puerto Rico in all its aspects;


154. The Ministers reiterated that democracy is a universal value based on the freely expressed will of the people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives. They reaffirmed that while all democracies share common features, there is no single model of democracy, that it does not belong to any country or region, and further reaffirmed the necessity of due respect for sovereignty and the right to self-determination. They expressed their conviction that international co-operation for the promotion of democracy, on the basis of respect for the principles enshrined in the UN Charter as well as those of transparency, impartiality, nonselectivity and inclusiveness, could contribute to the attainment of the goal of democracy consolidation at national and international levels.

155. The Ministers reaffirmed that democracy, development and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. The international community should support the strengthening and promotion of democracy, development and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the entire world, in compliance with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.

Chagos Archipelago

196. The Ministers reaffirmed that Chagos Archipelago, including Diego Garcia, is an integral part of the sovereign territory of the Republic of Mauritius. In this regard, they called on once again the former colonial power to pursue constructive dialogue expeditiously with Mauritius with a view to enable Mauritius to exercise its sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago.

Western Sahara

208. The Ministers reaffirmed the previous positions of the Non-Aligned Movement on the question of Western Sahara.

209. The Ministers reaffirmed all resolutions adopted by the General Assembly and the Security Council on Western Sahara. They reaffirmed UN General Assembly resolution 62/116, adopted without a vote, and reiterated that, in accordance with the said resolution, they continued to support strongly the efforts of the Secretary General and his Personal Envoy to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution which will provide self-determination for the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations and General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960 and other relevant resolutions. The Ministers recognized that all available options for self-determination are valid as long as they are in accordance with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned and in conformity with the clearly defined principles contained in General Assembly Resolutions.

210. Bearing in mind the above, the Ministers welcomed the four rounds of negotiation held under the auspices of the Secretary General and welcomed the commitment of the parties to continue to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue, in order to enter into a more intensive phase of negotiations, thus ensuring implementation of Security Council resolutions 1754, 1783 and 1813 and the success of negotiations. They took note of efforts and developments since 2006.

211. They called upon the parties and the States in the region to cooperate fully with the Secretary General and his Personal Envoy, and with each other, and reaffirmed the responsibility of the United Nations towards the people of Western Sahara. They further welcomed the commitment of the parties to continue the process of negotiations through United Nations sponsored talks.

Indigenous Peoples

361. The Ministers took note with deep appreciation of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples by the General Assembly. Likewise, they reiterated their support for the need to promote the economic, political and cultural rights of the indigenous peoples and their commitment to give special attention to the efforts made at the national and multilateral levels in order to improve their living conditions through civil participation. Likewise, in face of undue appropriation and use of the traditional indigenous knowledge, they agreed to promote the defence of the bio-cultural collective heritage to allow indigenous peoples to have appropriate legal instruments on intellectual property so that their
traditional knowledge is protected against unauthorized or inappropriate use by third

362. The Ministers also supported the need to promote within the UN system, in particular its agencies, funds and programmes, the rights of indigenous peoples, through a series of policies and programmes for the improvement of indigenous peoples’ well-being around the world and, where applicable, through the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

363. The Ministers took note with appreciation of the adoption of the Human Rights Council resolution 6/36 of 14 December 2007, that established the expert mechanism on
the rights of indigenous peoples to provide the Council with thematic expertise on the rights of indigenous peoples.

11 August 2008

UN Releases Report on Territories

The United Nations (UN) Special Committee on Decolonisation has issued its 2008 report following its two-week session to review the decolonisation process held last June. The report differs little in most sections from years past. It includes the decisions taken on a variety of subjects including dissemination of information on decolonisation, information transmitted to the UN on the territories by the administering powers, and the matter of sending UN missions to the territories to assess the situation first hand.

The report also includes decisions taken on Puerto Rico and the eleven Caribbean and Pacific small island territories, along with separate decisions on Tokelau, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Gibraltar, New Caledonia and Western Sahara. Also included are the text of committee resolutions on UN assistance to the territories, economic and other activities affecting the territories, and implementation of the Decolonisation Declaration.(Note: The resolution on military activities that might impede the decolonisation declaration was phased out years ago as an eventual casuality of the thawing of the Cold War - even as the issue still applies in places like Guam, for example).

The 2008 Special Committee Report also makes reference to a number of procedural decisions of the committee including the confirmation of holding meetings away from UN Headquarters, limitation of documentation, cooperation of administering powers (only New Zealand, presently) with the UN’s decolonisation work, along with the mandate of the participation of the territorial governments in the work of the Special Committee. On the latter, only a few of the 16 remaining non self-governing territories participated in the work of the committee in 2008, including Gibraltar which ironically takes the most critical of positions on the legitimacy of the UN in regards to the decolonisation process.

Tokelau was the only territorial government to participate in the Pacific regional seminar held in Indonesia last May, along with a representative of Western Sahara. The findings of that regional seminar are annexed to the 2008 Special Committee report.

A longstanding impediment to the committee’s work is the failure to inform the territorial Governments in the Caribbean and Pacific as to when the committee is holding its sessions,and the fact that financial resources are in the committee budget for the travel of one government representative to the committee meeting. Perhaps if they knew when the meetings were being held, they might consider coming. As the thinking goes within an overly-cautious Special Committee bureacracy,however, the UN supposedly has no authority to communicate to the territories directly. Meanwhile, most territories are associate members in the UN regional economic commissions, and receive information from those secretariats. Many territories are associate members or observers to UN specialised agencies and receive direct information from those secretariats, as well. The territories receive direct invitations from the UN Secretary-General himself to participate as observers in UN world conferences and special sessions of the General Assembly to which they are often invited. These precedents do not appear to be sufficiently convincing.

The Special Committee Report of 2008 also makes reference to its “relations with UN bodies, intergovernmental and non governmental organisations.” Such “relations,” however, do not rise to the level of actual engagement with these other UN bodies in furtherance of the decolonisation process, even as the General Assembly in annual resolutions has directed the committee, to no avail, to develop cooperation with specific UN bodies.

One interesting committee recommendation is that the General Assembly “continue to invite the administering power to allow representatives of the Territories concerned to participate in the discussions in the (UN Fourth Committee) and in the Special Committee on the items related to their territory.”This is a rather disturbing contention since the right of the territories to participate in the work of the UN Decolonisation process has never been seen to be dependent on the good graces of a given administering power. The territorial participation in the work of the UN in decolonisation is by “acquired right,” under which several territories have participated in the committee’s work for over three decades. There have been several attempts by various administering powers over the years to prevent the views of the territorial government from being expressed, most recently at the Fourth Committee in 2006. Such censorship has always been rejected by the member States which have always recognised the "acquired right." This troubling inclusion of language in the report appearing to circumvent the right of the government of a territory to address the UN on its own decolonisation should have neven been allowed in the text, and should be removed.

The Report of the Decolonisation Committee which will be taken up by the UN Special Political and Decolonisation (Fourth) Committee in October is available in PDF format from Overseas Territories Review, and should be posted on the UN Decolonisation website in due course.

10 August 2008

Guahan and Self-Determination

by Jonathan Blas Diaz
2008 Guam Congressional Delegate Candidate

Entertainment comes in many different forms and our political self determination process on Guahan shouldn't be reduced to such levels. It is clear that many before me have tried in vain to change political relationship (and they should be commended), but I am reminded constantly that people in leadership (both here and in the continent) shape our destiny. Where might you be in this script? What character do you play and whose line is up next?

Perhaps we might find that the self-determination process on Guam is complicated because those who have held office have not done enough or have become too jaded over the negotiations with our administering power. Perhaps we have been too apathetic to think that this is the way it has been for so long that we just don't want to see real change.

Yet in my mind, this is insufficient and further dictates our efforts to move forward and start anew if we are willing to share the load. I hope that I can share with you a story so that the message is loud and clear. It is a story filled with hopes and dreams about one who has been in the movement from the sidelines and now speaks to you today. Her name is Maria Nieves Materne and she is my auntie, my mentor, and my friend. It is through her that I understand what self-determination is and what it is not. Many people know this person and she deserves our attention today.

I first met Auntie Nieves last year around this time, although her family and my family went to school together over the years. She knew who my family was because some of her older siblings went to school with my mom and uncles. Auntie Nieves is my reminder of the good ole days when Uncle Angel Santos jerked our consciousness in the 1990's. I was in high school then, but was intently listening, reading and watching from the sidelines.

She was there, right beside our Uncles and Aunties who took a stand over the Chamorro right to own property in our homeland. I was an altar server at that time. I watched Uncle Angel line his kids in full formation at the Barrigada Church after I opened it at 5 a,m. (with the help of Tan Marian Siket) preparing for the 6 a.m. Mass. Uncle Angel was praying to a God that his mother and father, Tan Amanda and Tun Angel knew because it is what they were taught by their parents who lived during the hell years of World War II.

Uncle Angel's gaze was so penetrating that I grew to fear this man who eventually became our hero. He reminds us today to be strong and to push forward with our dream of self-determination. I grew to be afraid of this man that I only knew from a distance because he helped to move us in the right direction. Natural born leaders, like prophets, are feared because they speak the truth. Yet, Auntie Nieves knew him and stood by his side just like the many others who came to his aid.

Like Uncle Angel Santos, Auntie Nieves always gives of herself, no matter the cost to others and for the sake of the next generation. She has always said that to be Chamoru, you must be humble, self-less and never wanting the more. She is almost always by my side and I am very happy that she is now mentoring me to be the gentleman and steward of Guahan, the place that always has something to give even if we don't have it. It is with this kind of steadfast diplomacy that we must use to see to it that our dream of self-determination comes true. We owe it to the next generation of island children who are watching the adults intently at our next move. Auntie Nieves teaches me to be humble and to always remember that everything in life is about relationships – how we treat each other and how we react towards each other.

Self-determination today calls for drastic measures that can be accomplished if we all work together. If you are someone who comes from a different background, whether ethnic or racial, please stand with your Chamoru today who seeks a better life for ALL who call Guahan home. Rise my friends from the ashes of the past, forgive others, and let us move forward. We must educate everyone on this island that the Chamoru has been treated unfairly, unjustly, and unequivocally dehumanized throughout the centuries. Without adequate education or tolerance, our dreams can never come to fruition. If you wish to help, contact your leaders today and encourage them to collect more names on our registry and draft a plebiscite so that everyone can have their input into the process. Non-Chamorus should also help with constructing this plebiscite because Guam is home too.

I remain steadfast that our quest for self-determination is alive and well and will continue forward no matter the cost. We must be humble and determined that we will see a plebiscite drafted so that we can vote in the 2010 elections. We need everyone's cooperation during this process and it is with great hope that we determine what we have dreamed about for centuries. Our pride as individuals should take the back seat so that we can move forward together. Every script is written so that the next generation understands that peace can be achieved if we really want it. There is no more time to waste and with your help, all things can be achieved.

So let's work with our sisters and brothers from the continent so that greed and selfishness does not take precedence. Our very dignity as a collective multicultural community is dependent upon competent and capable servant leaders who can see this through to the very end. Stand in solidarity with your Chamoru sisters and brothers who have long awaited this dream of self-determination.

07 August 2008

U.N. Support to Territories Adopted

The United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on the final day of the 2008 Session ending in late July adopted its annual resolution on “Support to Non Self-Governing Territories by the Specialised Agencies and international organisations associated with the United Nations”– but not without the usual detractors.

The international mandate on assistance to the non self-governing territories from the UN system, as a means of advancing their progress towards full self-government, has provided these territories for decades with the opportunity to gain valuable experience through participation in international deliberations on relevant issues affecting them. If they are to assume the increasing responsibilities of full self-government, a role in the UN system makes perfect sense. This activity has been supported by longstanding resolutions of ECOSOC and the General Assembly. In June, the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation adopted its own annual resolution on the matter, along with a package of other resolutions addressing various aspects of the promotion of self-government.

Dissenting Views

The larger countries which administer territories, and a few other developed countries, continue to express misgivings by abstaining on the vote on the ECOSOC resolution on support to the territories, even as they have supported over the years the participation of these territories in UN activities through other UN votes. In recent years, a number of these countries have based their objection on the contention that that the rules of procedure governing the specific UN bodies should be respected. The reality is that the rules of many of these UN organisations have always been respected, since provisions for the participation of territories have been put in place with the concurrence of these same administering countries.

Examples include resolutions providing for the participation of these territories in the UN world conferences from 1992 through 2005, as well as provisions for associate membership or observer status in a number of UN specialised agencies. Why, then, this emphasis on the respect for rules of procedure, if they are already being respected?

In the 2008 ECOSOC session, the rationale for abstaining on the resolution came from the usual groups of countries, particularly the European Union (EU), the United States, Japan - and even the Russian Federation. The EU position on the issue is rather puzzling since France and the United Kingdom administer a considerable number of the remaining non self-governing territories, most of which are the beneficiaries of support from a variety of UN organisations including UNESCO, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the regional economic commissions among other UN bodies. EU-administered territories have also benefitted from participation in UN world conferences on environment, sustainable development, and small island developing states among others – consistent with the rules of procedure adopted by the UN with administering power concurrence.

Yet, speaking before the vote on behalf of the EU, France contended that “the subject in the resolution does not fall within the competence of ECOSOC.” But, since ECOSOC is the main UN body devoted to economic and social matters, and since the resolution addresses economic and social development assistance, how can the resolution be regarded as outside the competence of ECOSOC?

The US representative at the meeting expressed its own version of the issue. The US “agreed, in principle, that UN funds, programmes and specialised agencies can usefully provide support to territories that are not UN members, so long as the domestic laws and policies of a territory's administering power allow such UN support.” This is a statement of the obvious since the rules of the UN bodies require any request for territorial participation to be agreed by the administering country. So far, so good.

However, the US representative went on to “object to provisions in the resolution” that they somehow perceive to be an interference in the power of the administering country to decide “the nature, if any,” of territorial participation in UN programmes and activities. Since it is long established that the participation must be agreed by the administering powers, where’s the issue? The further contention that the prevailing arrangements for the US control of foreign affairs of the territories “has been accepted by the territories” belies the fact that the US territories have neither accepted not rejected their present status as non self-governing territories in the absence of a legitimate process of self-determination.

There are also numerous cases where the territories have not “accepted” such arrangements, after having been denied administering power approval to join such international bodies as the World Tourism Organisation, the Caribbean Community, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, the Association of Caribbean States or the Pacific Islands Forum, among others. Most recently, the Governor of American Samoa, for example, has objected to the lack of US concurrence for the territory to join the Pacific Islands Forum, whilst various US Virgin Islands governments have similarly objected to the obstacles placed in the way to gain permission to seek participation in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and other regional bodies. Similar blocking of Puerto Rico’s interest in engaging various Latin American and other international institutions is legendary.

The further contention that the ECOSOC resolution somehow “infringe(s) upon the relations between the U.S. federal government and the governments of its territories, as well as upon the internal constitutional arrangements of the United States” is unnecessarily alarmist, and only serves to re-state administering power unilateral authority over the territory. This argument is made even in the face of the existence and maintenance of all of the controls over the dependency. These annual re-statements of position by member states, deviating little from previous years, are in dire need of updating and substantive correction.

One administering power, the Pacific state of New Zealand which administers Tokelau in the Pacific, spoke in favour of the resolution and made note of the longstanding support historically provided by UNDP and other UN bodies in their socio-economic and constitutional evolution of that territory. Bolivia, Cuba and Syria also spoke in favour of the resolution which had over 20 co-sponsors.

The Russian Federation, on the other hand, made an extraordinary proposal to remove from the ECOSOC agenda what it termed the “political item” of support to the territories. No such proposal was made to remove other items with a far higher degree of political implication, such as the one on “economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people.” In reality, there is equal merit for both items to remain on the ECOSOC agenda, and the Russian position favouring one, but not the other, might be reconsidered using the same principle applied to its veto of the Zimbabwe sanctions resolution (along with China) in the UN Security Council a month ago. All of these issues are but variations on the contemporary colonial/post colonial dynamic requiring the support of the UN and its member states.

Information Lacking on UN Support

Through it all, the dearth of information on the actual support to the territories continues to limit the awareness of the governments on the role of the UN bodies reflecting in the statements in the general discussion. According to the ECOSOC resolutions on the matter, the UN Secretary-General provides a report on the implementation of support to the territories each year. Rather than an annual substantive analysis of UN support by the UN Secretariat, the Secretary-General sends a request for information to the various UN and other international bodies for information on their assistance programmes. A compilation of the replies to this request constitute the content of the report on implementation. The trouble is that only a small fraction of the UN bodies actually reply. This makes for a largely incomplete report, even devoid of information from agencies which have continued to provide assistance to the territories for years. There was no UNDP reply this year, even as that Programme is the main provider of UN assistance to the territories. There was no ECLAC reply, even as the Caribbean territories are integrated into their programmes and activities (with longstanding administering power concurrence), and even as the substantive research on the issue has been conducted in that commission. There is no reply from the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) which similarly integrates territories into their work programme.

Such an incomplete substantive Secretary General’s Report tends to reinforce the faulty assumption that the UN agencies are somehow resistant to providing support to the territories. The reality is that the territories participate in a wide array of UN programmes and activities. Apart from the insufficiency of replies, the information is available on the websites of these agencies. Those who prepare the Secretary-General’s Report on the issue could do more in-depth research, rather than rely on the fraction of replies from a few agencies.

The overall issue of participation of the territories in the UN system was the subject of a comprehensive study undertaken for the ECLAC entitled “Further Integration of Associate Members in the United Nations System,” and published in December, 2007. The study is regarded as the most comprehensive examination to date on the subject. This study could have been made a document for consideration of the members of ECOSOC this year to provide insight on the nature, extent and challenges of participation of the territories in the UN system. At the least, the study could have been referenced in the 2008 ECOSOC resolution. Ironically, the very research study which would have shed considerable light on the nature and scope of territorial participation in the wider UN system was not made available to ECOSOC or to the General Assembly. Perhaps the update to the study could be included in the official ECOSOC documentation for 2009, but only if a member state so requests. In any case, without a more comprehensive picture of the level of territorial participation in the UN system, the UN’s 2009 consideration of this issue promises to be “déjà vu all over again,” with the same re-statements from the same countries, with the same language in the resolution and the same limited information in the Secretary-General’s report. This does little to further the development process of the territories for which this exercise is designed to assist.

Hidden within this repetitiveness are significant omissions and deletions of important text from the ECOSOC resolution. One such omission was the reference to the 2004 ECLAC decision to examine possible territorial participation in technical programmes of ECOSOC, in areas such as statistics and sustainable development. Both ECLAC resolutions were referenced several years ago. Amazingly, reference to a virtually identical 1998 resolution was retained by ECOSOC, even as it is standard UN practice that older references are deleted in favour of newer ones.

In the final analysis, the die was cast at the outset of the 2008 ECOSOC discussion when the acting chairman announced that the resolution had "no programme budgetary implications.” If a resolution that is to provide support to the territories has no budgetary implications, then the territories are wondering what kind of support is being considered.

Conclusions of Decolonisation Committee

Aside from the companion resolution on UN assistance, the Decolonisation Committee one month earlier adopted its usual number of resolutions on political, constitutional and socio-economic development of the territories. Of particular note is the consolidated resolution with recommendations on the decolonisation and self-determination process of eleven small island territories, mostly in the Caribbean and Pacific. A bit of political sleight-of-hand is reflected in the subtle changes introduced, and subsequently agreed by the member governments. Several are noteworthy.

First, reference to the 2001 World Conference against Racism (WCAR) was removed from a footnote, as it was no longer deemed relevant to the paragraph. Never mind that the paragraph referenced “all UN world conferences in the economic and social sphere” in which the territories were eligible to participate, including the WCAR. Could this deletion have been a concession to those countries which disassociated from the conclusions of the racism conference, even as the rationale for that action was questionable?

Other issues conspicuously absent from the resolution include the concerns repeatedly expressed by the representatives of the territories at the regional seminars on decolonisation over the unilateral authority of the administering powers to legislate for the territories without their consent, and often against their will. A number of other key issues contained in the reports of these seminars are also never reflected in the resolution.

There was also no reference to the decision of the May, 2008 UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to hold an expert seminar on decolonisation, and the invitation for the Decolonisation Committee to participate in it. In fact, the UN resolution has repeated for years the request that the Decolonisation Committee develop a working relationship with both the Permanent Forum, as well as with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), but no action to date has been taken to develop such a natural linkage. Interestingly, the CERD has to write each year in its annual report, rather embarrassingly, that it cannot obtain from the Decolonisation Committee the requested information on racism issues in the territories.

On the sections of the resolution addressing the individual territories, a number of changes were made, with several most noteworthy. On American Samoa, reference was inexplicably deleted from the previous year to the request by the territory’s non-voting Congressional delegate requesting US clarification on the role of the UN in the political status development of the US territories. Rather than delete the language, it would have been better to add the rather interesting and widely reported US response to the delegate’s query.

On Anguilla, references were properly added to the fact that the territory’s new position was to seek full internal self-government. Regarding the British Virgin Islands, reference was also added which took note of the new constitution, but the revisions to the constitutional proposals in the Cayman Islands were not reflected.

In the case of Guam, despite impassioned pleas for UN review of the ongoing militarisation of the territory made by representatives of native Chamorro organisations at the 2008 decolonisation seminar and at its annual session in New York, the resolution only expressed the committee’s awareness “of deep concerns by civil society and others regarding the potential social and other impacts” of the situation.

Finally, on the US Virgin Islands, reference was made to the establishment of a constitutional convention, but nothing was said about the decline of the territory’s request for assistance from its administering power to conduct its public education programme on the constitution. Also, all reference was removed to the longstanding request of the territory for the delegation of authority to seek formal status with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, and the Association of Caribbean States. It would have been better to have added language on why the requests by successive territorial governments were either denied or ignored over the years.

A second key resolution adopted by the Decolonisation Committee renews the committee mandate each year, and had only cosmetic updates. Interestingly, this resolution contains a number of activities which are agreed by the governments year after year, but never implemented. These include reports on the implementation of such mandated activities as a constructive programme of work on a case-by-case basis for each territory, and the plan of action for the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. Yet, these two initiatives are cited in the resolution as “an important legislative authority for the attainment of self-government by the Non-Self-Governing Territories.” Deleted from the same resolution several years ago was the important third component, the Plan of Implementation (POI) of the Decolonisation Mandate, which provided the mechanism for the UN system to actually carry out its responsibility. Without the POI, everything else is just re statement of principles. It is rather like “spinning a top in mud.”

The United Nations is to be commended for its excellent work in a wide array of substantive areas in many parts of the world. It is inconsistent with the UN's demonstrated excellence that the necessary political will among the governments, and the substantive support necessary to carry out the activities approved by these very same governments, remains insufficient to implement the self-determination mandate only two years before the end of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. The contemporary self-determination process for the remaining territories must re-emerge as a significant political issue warranting the required degree of UN attention, human and financial resources if the mandate of the UN Charter is to be realised.