26 May 2009

UN Conference on World Financial Crisis Postponed to 24-26 June 09

The United Nations Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development has been re-scheduled. The Conference will now convene from 24 - 26 June 2009. The venue, United Nations Headquarters in New York, will remain the same.

The Conference will be presided over by the President of the General Assembly, and will result in a concise outcome to be agreed by Member States.

21 May 2009

OCTs Eligible for UN Summit on Economic Crisis

The United Nations is convening a three-day summit of world leaders from 1 to 3 June 2009 at its New York Headquarters to assess the worst global economic downturn since the Great Depression. The aim is to identify emergency and long-term responses to mitigate the impact of the crisis, especially on vulnerable populations, and initiate a needed dialogue on the transformation of the international financial architecture, taking into account the needs and concerns of all Member States.

The United Nations summit of world leaders in June was mandated at the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development (ICFD), held in December 2008 in Doha, Qatar. Member States requested the General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann to organize the meeting “at the highest level”. The ICFD contained a provision for the participation of associate members of regional economic commissions at the 2008 Doha Conference, and in the original ICFD held in Monterrey, Mexico in 2002, in the capacity of observer. The June Summit has maintained that provision for the associate members.

As a matter of background, the utilisation of this category of participation for associate members of regional economic commissions in UN economic and social development conferences was first employed in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Brasil, and was the creation of the Working Group of Non-Independent Caribbean Countries of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) through its subsidiary body of the Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee (CDCC).

This category was later used to facilitate the direct participation of the associate Associate Member Countries (AMCs) of either ECLAC, or its counter part Economic Commission and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in most UN world conferences in the economic and social sphere since 1992. The level of participation of the Associate Member Countries (AMCs) has been mixed, however, given the insufficiency of available information to the governments of the AMCs.

These issues were analysed in a targeted 2004 study, and a broader follow-up analysis in 2007, carried out for ECLAC on the access of associate member countries to the UN world conferences, and to the programmes and activities of the United Nations system as a whole. These studies were carried out by Independent Governance Expert Dr. Carlyle Corbin, former Minister of State for External Affairs of the Virgin Islands Government, and founding chair of the ECLAC Working Group of Non-Independent Caribbean Countries - later changed to the Working Group of Associate Member Countries.

The 2004 study focused specifically on the inclusion of Associate Member Countries (AMCs) of the United Nations regional economic commissions in United Nations world conferences, and in United Nations special sessions and summits, in the economic and social sphere. The identification of issues of particular concern to these countries emanating from the outcome of these respective United Nations proceedings was an important phase of the research.

The 2007 analysis provided a comprehensive background of the longstanding mandate and legislative authority for the participation of AMCs in the wider United Nations system in furtherance of enhanced international organization participation of associate member and other non-independent countries. The study also formulated a comprehensive plan of action for the further integration of the AMCs in the United Nations process emanating from the findings. It was the first such comprehensive study of its kind aimed at the inclusion of the non-independent countries in the UN system. Efforts are underway to update the two studies and to design modalities to disseminate the information to the AMCs.

These studies are available on the website of the Subregional Headquarters of ECLAC at: http://www.eclac.cl/portofspain/default.asp?idioma=IN

According to Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, President of the 63rd Session of the General Assembly, "the UN Summit on the economic crisis in June will provide the international community with "an historic opportunity — and a collective responsibility — to bring new stability and sustainability to the international economic financial order."

The Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs), most of which are associate members of either ECLAC or ESCAP, have an important opportunity to benefit from the international deliberations at the Summit given the impact of the crisis on their respective economies. They should actively participate in the proceedings at the highest level.

Further information on the Summit is available on the UN website at: http://www.un.org/ga/econcrisissummit/.

Eligible Associate Members to the UN Conference

American Samoa
British Virgin Islands
Cayman Islands
Northern Mariana Islands
French Polynesia
Netherlands Antilles
New Caledonia
Puerto Rico
Turks and Caicos Islands
US Virgin Islands

19 May 2009

Virgin Islands Self-Determination – A Pan African Perspective

As the United Nations begins its 2009 consideration of the remaining, mostly small island, non self-governing territories under international consideration, Virgin Islands writer and activist K. Leba Ola-Niyi provides a Pan African perspective on the self-determination process of that Caribbean dependent territory.

by K. Leba Ola-Niyi,
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

In his book "America s` Virgin Islands," William Boyer wrote: "As an unincorporated territory, along with Guam, the Virgin Islands occupied the lowest rung of the American colonial ladder, a status that obligated the United States government to make yearly reports to the United Nations." An incon¬venient truth is that an unincor¬porated status is a colonial or non-self-governing territory. When we look at the UN list of 16 Non Self-Governing Territories, the U.S. Virgin Islands are one of such over¬seas territories that -have not yet been totally decolonized.

Let us be aware of the colonizers' policy of indirect rule. In his book "Virgin Islands," Gordon Lewis wrote: "Like all the Caribbean colonies, the Virgin Islands have been governed by the imported constitutional models of the respec¬tive metropolitan centers, first Copenhagen, then Washington. The governmental institutions of the present-day period are thus colonial replicas of those models with their legal-constitutional framework derived from the major metropolitan enabling acts - the Danish Colonial Law of 1906, the terms of the 1917 transfer, the 1917 Act of Congress passed by Congress to provide a temporary government, the first and second Organic Acts passed by Congress in 1936 and 1954, respectively, and most recently the Elective Gov¬ernor Act of 1968."

Thus, the administering power passed these legislations to effectively manage and control its possessions, both internally and externally. Local constitutional reforms are merely window dressing that retains the colonial paradigm and relationship between the federal government and its overseas territories. It will not transfer real power. Although the Danish rulers trans¬ferred these islands to the Ameri¬can colonialists for $25 million in gold coins, let us always recall and recommit ourselves to achieve the goals and principles of our libera¬tion struggle that began in 1672.

Our story tells many accounts of our struggle for freedom, self-determination, human rights, social justice, and dignity. History hon¬ors and respects the people and leaders who fight for their freedom by any means necessary. Our ancestors were determined to be the masters of their destiny rather than remain slaves or servants in this colonial territory.

The purchase of a people in 1917 was simply an act of U.S. imperialist adventure in the Caribbean. U.S. imperialism can be traced to the so-called Manifest Destiny and Monroe Doctrine. In other words, a white supremacist, capitalist, and expansionist element believed that they had the "divine" right and duty to conquer, control, colonize, and exploit the Caribbean, Central and South Americas. One of Washington's imperatives is to build a regional empire that includes colonial and neo-colonial territories.

This so-called Transfer was not about the liberation, freedom, self¬determination, democracy, and basic rights for the African inhabitants. Copenhagen transferred power and sovereignty to Washington. These islands served as a strategic military outpost to protect U.S. national interests in its so¬-called back yard. Consequently, an African freedom struggle led by Rothschild Francis and D. Hamil¬ton Jackson arose to address and end powerlessness, poverty, and prejudice under white naval autocracy.

Colonialismm is an enemy of all freedom-loving peoples. According to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, colonialism is Western policy by which the administering power controls and rules dire and national sovereignty to the people of the Virgin Islands. Self-determination is our human right, value, and objective that can¬not be negotiated or compromised. Since our ancestors had abol¬ished slavery and serfdom in the 18th century, our vocation is to eradicate colonialism -old and new manifestations - in this century. We must organize, centralize, educate and agitate to complete the process of decolonization.

The 1960 UN Declaration on Decolonization affirmed that "all peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development". In addition, Article 73(b) of the UN Charter demands that the administering powers must promote the policy and condition for full self-government in their overseas territories. The United Nations must renew its commitment, merit, implement the General Assembly's resolution of 1960, 1514 (XV), and complete its decolonization mandate for the eradication of colonialism in the remaining 16 peripheral territories.

The international community, along with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and African Union (AU) must extend solidarity and offer assistance to the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. Therefore, we must come together to achieve the goals of African liberation. The instinctive desires or aspirations of our people must be fulfilled.