25 August 2009

Re-Colonising the Colony

Direct British Rule in the Turks & Caicos Islands

The international community is coming to grips with the “colonial coup d’ état” perpetuated by the United Kingdom in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), one of six British-administered colonies in the Atlantic/ Caribbean. The United Kingdom Order in Council, issued in March and brought into force in August, suspends parts of the constitution of the territory for two years. But what is being termed a ‘partial suspension’ actually abolishes the Cabinet and House of Assembly, as well as trial by jury, and transfers a range of other areas of authority to the UK Government through its un-elected governor who now has unbridled power to govern at will. There is hardly anything left of substance that has not been “suspended.”

The introduction of an advisory council to ‘advise’ the British governor hardly serves as a substitute for democratic governance, since the governor does not have to accept the advice. Still, some seek to project this scenario as a palatable and necessary alternative. Ironically, the very fact that constitutional order can be abolished in this manner by reverting to one-man, unelected rule should thoroughly negate any suggestion by colonial apologists and accommodationists that the territories should be considered self-governing, and therefore removed from the United Nations list of non self-governing territories.

The key lesson to be learned in all of this, perhaps, lies in the broader picture. Colonial governance, even by delegation of authority to an elected legislature, remains colonialism nevertheless. Thus, the evolution of elected government in a dependency can always be reversed – for whatever reason - as evidenced by what has taken place in the TCI, even as alleged financial transgressions are just cause for scrutiny. The point to be made is that elected dependency governance still provides for the overriding authority of an administering power acting through its un-elected governor to disallow any legislation adopted by the elected legislative body. This only serves to confirm the colonial nature of the arrangement. The veto power of the un-elected Governor renders the dependency political arrangement anything but democratic, and the removal of the governance structures in the Turks and Caicos, e.g. House of Assembly, Cabinet, etc. simply exposes the colonial arrangement for all to witness.

The reaction to these events has been steady. Following the announcement of the order in council last March, former Premier Michael Misick expressed that “it is wrong in the 21st Century to have an entire population re-colonised in this fashion…” and called on “both political parties to put all political differences aside and come together to protect the rights, interest and aspirations of all of our people.” Apparently, the opposition didn’t support this approach, and continued to blame the ruling party for the political crisis. A government of national unity could have been a constitutional way out. Misick made the point that the people’s right to self-determination under international law were being violated, and waged a battle in the UK High Court of Justice on this point citing the European Convention on Human Rights which the UK has made applicable to the TCI. The UK subsequently informed the High Court that it would soon issue a reservation to the Convention removing its applicability to the TCI. Amazing. (They can do that? wow… and they call it a democracy?) The matter may well end up in the European Court of Human Rights, or another international human rights review body.

Misick’s successor Premier Galmo Williams also called for political unity between the two political parties, but was also rebuffed by the opposition. His Cockburn Town Declaration on ongoing and proposed initiatives to address the issues raised in the Report of the UK Commission of Inquiry (funded from the TCI treasury) was subsequently rejected by the UK. Williams later explained the ongoing crisis to the United Nations Caribbean Regional Seminar on Decolonisation which convened in St. Kitts in May where he announced his call for new elections, and where he asked the UN to continue monitor the situation. Shortly thereafter, Williams formally requested the British governor to dissolve the House of Assembly pursuant to the constitution, and set new elections for October. In the swiftest of replies, the Governor summarily rejected the Premier’s request to resolve the issues through democratic means. On the eve of the suspension of elected government, Williams observed that the action “puts (the UK) on the wrong side of history…and was not done because it was the right thing to do nor because it was necessary, but rather it is being taken because they are able to do such things in a country of our size and status.”

International Response

Response to the action from Caribbean leaders and the regional media was immediate. The Jamaica Gleaner in a March editorial opined that the “overthrow” of the TCI constitution “represents the most regressive constitutional action by the British in the Caribbean since their 1968 intervention in Anguilla…” The Stabroek News of Guyana in an August editorial following the takeover commented that the UK “should have consulted with CARICOM governments on ways acceptable, not simply to the British and North Atlantic governments, but also to the citizens and governments of the region itself…” For its part, the Economist of London published an August article on the issue under the headline “A Very British Coup.”

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham of The Bahamas, a close neighbor of the TCI, proposed in a session of his country’s parliament that separate Caribbean country representations be made to the British Government.” The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in a statement last March expressed concern that the proposed actions “threaten(ed) the democratic process in the TCI…in effect, thwarting the will of the people.” The March CARICOM statement went on to emphasise that “…good governance, the rule of law and representative democracy can(not) be ensured or strengthened by constitutional suspension in the TCI and a return to direct rule by the colonial power through its governor.” Following the coup, CARICOM issued a second statement in August expressing that “the imposition of direct rule by the Governor is a regrettable forced step backwards,” and that “it would have been far more beneficial, and the results more sustainable, to involve the people of the territory through their elected representatives, in the efforts required to strengthen the good governance and public administrative processes of the Turks and Caicos Islands, which is the stated ultimate goal of the British Government.”

Some Caribbean scholars have suggested an immediate suspension of the territory’s associate membership in CARICOM until democracy is restored, a la the suspension of Honduras from the Organisation of American States following the suspension of democracy in that country. Such a move would be in the best interest of the territory, as well as CARICOM, since the spectre of a representative of the un-elected ‘government’ in the TCI seeking entry into meetings of the CARICOM ministerial council should be actively avoided.

Meanwhile, former Bahamian Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell took the tack that “Britain as the colonial power in the Turks and Caicos Islands has the responsibility not only for the economic development and well being of the territory, but also its political development,” and that the situation “speaks not only to the failure of the internal mechanisms of governance, but also to failures on the part of the colonial power.” He noted that even the UK itself had recently seen a crisis in governance as a result of corruption, but this did not require the suspension of democracy.

Response from other UK-administered territories was also forthcoming. Chief Minister Lowell Lewis of Montserrat said that the TCI “did not deserve to have their democratic rights suspended.” Bermuda Premier Ewart Brown was the first to comment on the initial order in council last March expressing deep disappointment with the situation. Bermuda Senator C. Walton Brown most recently described the UK action as “clearly excessive,” and a huge overreaction which has taken away the democratic rights of the TCI.

Emerging United Nations Response

All of this places the United Nations in an interesting position, especially given the adoption on 30th June by the United Nations General Assembly of a unanimous resolution on the “Situation in Honduras: democracy in breakdown.” The resolution expressed “grave concern” for the “breakdown in the constitutional and democratic order and the legitimate exercise of power in Honduras.” The resolution went on to “condemn the coup d’état in the Republic of Honduras that has interrupted the democratic and constitutional order of the legitimate exercise of power…,” and demand(ed) the immediate and unconstitutional restoration of the legitimate and constitutional government…and of the legally constituted authority…”

It was always understood that these principles of democratic governance are supposed to apply to non self-governing territories that do not exercise sovereignty, as well as to sovereign countries. In fact, such principles are even more critical to those territories which ‘govern’ only on the basis of a reversible delegation of power from an administering authority thousands of miles away. Whether there will be a UN resolution on the suspension of democracy in the TCI at the 64th Session of the General Assembly in September similar to the resolution on Honduras remains to be seen. Yet, the Ministerial Meeting of the Non Aligned Movement Coordinating Bureau at its 2009 meeting in Havana last April provided the clearest position on the matter in calling for “the urgent restoration of the constitutional government in the TCI.” Shall we expect a draft resolution introduced by NAM to the General Assembly in September calling for constitutional restoration in the TCI?

Thus far, the United Nations has had several opportunities to make their views known on the political crisis in the TCI - a territory squarely under its purview. Thus far, however, the silence has been deafening, leaving the UK with a politically free hand to act with impunity. In the meantime, the emerging political crisis in the TCI has saddened advocates of contemporary decolonisation for the remaining non self-governing including Bermuda, Cayman Islands, the British and United States Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Anguilla in the Caribbean; along with Guam, American Samoa and New Caledonia in the Pacific. All exist under similar democratically deficient arrangements as the Turks and Caicos Islands, and are all subject to the same unilateral authority by an “administering power.”

At the 2009 UN Regional Seminar in St. Kitts and Nevis last May, TCI Premier Williams took great pains to explain the crisis and the proposed remedies of his elected government. Yet, the final report of the session made no mention of the crisis in the territory nor the position of the elected Premier. One month later in June, the Special Committee on Decolonisation apparently entertained the inclusion of language in its resolution on the TCI which referred to the UK decision to replace the democratic process, the position of the Premier as expressed in the Caribbean regional seminar of the same committee, and the positions of CARICOM and the Non Aligned Movement, while ultimately calling for the reversal of the decision to abolish the territorial government. This would, of course, have reflected the objective reality in a territory where the promotion of self-government is supposed toi be the primary role of the UN committee. However, the proposed language was not included in the resolution, and what remained was a mere restatement of previous resolutions on the TCI – as if nothing was going on there (amazing).

The UK, thus, had sufficient ‘political cover’ to act in the manner it did knowing that the UN response from the Decolonisation Committee would be weak. Decades ago, the announcement of the impending suspension of constitutional order in a non self-governing under the watchful eyes of the Decolonisation Committee would have elicited an immediate emergency meeting of the Committee with a strong resolution on the issue. In the present day, what is seen is a form of reverse decolonisation via committee efforts to prevent such a proactive approach whilst seeking to legitimise colonialism and remove the territories from UN review. No wonder only one territory has achieved self-government over the last several decades. Perhaps it is left to the General Assembly to speak loudly on the issue given the cautious timidity of its Decolonisation Committee. The 64th Session could be most interesting on this matter, but only if the governments make the issue a priority.

United Nations Charter
Chapter XI:
Declaration regarding Non Self-Governing Territories

Article 73:

Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognise the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories, and, to this end:


b. to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Entered into force: 23 March 1976

Part I, Article 1.

1. 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.

18 August 2009

Deposed Premier Addresses Colonial Coup in Turks & Caicos Islands

Deposed Premier Galmo Williams of the Turks and Caicos Islands made his final address to the people of the territory on 14th August 2009 in anticipation of the impending unilateral suspension of the constitution by the United Kingdom, the administering power of the territory. The announcement of the suspension of democratic governance was subsequently made on 16th August 2009. Overseas Territories Report, our sister publication, has released its analysis of the crisis of democracy in its article "Re-colonising the Colony," which is available from overseasreport@gmail.com. The statement of the deposed Premier follows:

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands; Friday, August 14th, 2009 – “My fellow Turks and Caicos Islanders, my days in office as your Premier and as the Representative in Parliament for all the people of Long Bay Hills are almost over, as I have every reason to believe that the much talked about coup that the Government of the United Kingdom has been planning for the Turks and Caicos Islands is about to be executed, but I assure you that my days of service to my country, will never be over.

In my life time I will never hold a position higher or take an oath more sacred than that of your Premier, but know too, that there is no title I will wear more proudly than that of citizen of these our Turks and Caicos Islands.

Let me at the outset publicly thank both my Cabinet and my Parliamentary colleagues(on both sides of the isle) and the hundreds of civil servants and political appointees and others with whom I have served over the last several years and in particular since I became your Premier last March, for the dedication and competence they have brought to the service of our country. But let me however express my deepest gratitude and thanks to the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands (particularly the people of Long Bay Hills), because it was you who gave me this great opportunity to serve.

During my time as Premier we have faced great challenges together, and we know that there will be greater challenges in our future, but I am convinced now more than ever that the Turks and Caicos Islands will successfully meet whatever challenge and uncertainty the future might bring, for as the grand children of slaves, left abandoned on these barren shores centuries ago, we, together with those who came later on, have turned these Islands into something that we can all be proud of, and indeed something that our once delinquent masters, have stated that they will do anything (“except a return to slavery”) to repossess.

Our government has brought more development to Turks and Caicos over the last six years than at any other time in our history. We have educated more of our people at university level than at any other time in our history. We have made more provisions for the health care and welfare of our people than at any other time in our history, and we have created for our country one of the most respected brands in the tourism industry the world over.

Despite these many accomplishments, however, this last year has been a challenging one for our country, one filled with set backs, but rather than cause me to loose heart, these setbacks over the last year has made me more certain than ever of the inner strength, the ingenuity and decency of our people, for, in this last year, we have watched our economy take tremendous body blows as the economy of the United States to which it is linked, and indeed the world economy was brought to its knees. As we all know, these economic challenges could not have come at a worst time for of country, coming as it did at a time when our country was hit by two back to back devastating hurricanes, Hanna and Ike, in less than one week and coupled with this, we have also had to simultaneously withstand the negative impacts of a commission of inquiry.

And now, today, our country is being invaded and re-colonized by the United Kingdom, dismantling a duly elected government and legislature and replacing it with a one man dictatorship, akin to that of the old Red China, all in the name of good governance.

As the legitimately and duly elected leader of this country, I strongly object to the recommendations outlined in the Report of the Commission that the Governor now seeks to bring into force. I do not support permitting non-Belongers the right to vote, and I wish to go on record as stating that I am opposed to the recommendation of trial by judge alone rather then a trial by a jury of your peers. My government and I also object to the removal of the House of Assembly, thereby leaving the people of these Islands voiceless and without representation.

But I am convinced that this coup d'état committed against the legitimate government of our Turks and Caicos Islands by the United Kingdom puts them on the wrong side of history, for I can assure you that this action which they have taken against us was not done because it is the right thing to do nor because it is necessary, but rather it is being taken because they are able to do such things in a country of our size and status.

We as a people however, should be comforted by the thought expressed by Abraham Lincoln when he said that government of the people, for the people and by the people shall never perish from this earth, for I am comforted in the knowledge that our little Turks and Caicos, under God, shall indeed have a new birth of freedom.

As a people we must reunite on the basis of democratic principles, so that it could be said of us both in dark nites and in bright days that we have found and have kept our faith.

To all those with whom I have worked over the last several years I say go forth in the knowledge that we have done a lot of good, and to those who will come behind us I say the work must go on, because the cause that drew so many before you to public service still endures and the dream must never be allowed to die.

I will continue to keep a watchful eye over our non-elected Governor and his non- elected cabinet as they go about their unknown agenda. I implore all Turks and Caicos Islanders to hold them accountable for their actions.

We must all play our part in our communities to move ahead together as one nation. Together we work and together we progress. I thank God for this opportunity to serve my country at this time. May God continue to bless you all and may he continue to bless our beautiful Turks and Caicos Islands.”

Hon. Galmo Williams
Premier and MP for Long Bay

13 August 2009

Former Turks & Caicos Premier Will Fight On

Turks and Caicos Sun

Thursday, Aug 13, 2009

Former Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands says he will continue to fight on to clear his name and to agitate for the human rights and human dignity of the the people. Responding to the dismissal of his case by the Court of Appeal in London on Wednesday, Hon. Misick said: “There was a miscarriage of justice that took place for the people of the Turks and Caicos in particular and all the people of remaining colonies in general.”

He noted that one of the Lordships that heard the appeal today in the Court of Appeal was the original judge that denied the appeal from the Divisional Court, namely Lord Justice Laws, adding that this can not be right or fair. He further noted that one of their Lordships stated that the British Government can do anything it wants to its Colonies regardless of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act other than re-introduce slavery.

“It is unfortunate that the thinking in London has not change in 200 years. As a result of today’s ruling and what I believe to be a rigged hearing by the English court and the FCO, it is evident that they intend to rig a criminal trial and conviction against me and my former Ministers,” the former Premier stated.

“In spite all of this, I intend to continue the fight to clear my name and to fight for the Human Rights and Human Dignity of all our people.”

Hon. Misick had challenged the legality of The Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution (Interim Amendment) Order 2009” [“the Order in Council”], which was laid before the UK Parliament on 25th March 2009.

The Order was made following the publication of Sir Robin Auld’s interim report relating to the Commission of Inquiry set up to inquire into possible corruption or other serious dishonesty in recent years of past and present elected members of the legislature. The Order in Council, when brought into force, will suspend parts of the Turks and Caicos Islands’ Constitution.

In summary, it will abolish the right to jury trial and it will suspend representative government by dissolving the House of Assembly and removing all elected officials, for a period of at least two years.

In the place of representative government will be a system of administration by the Governor, subject only to advice from an Advisory Council and to disallowance by the Secretary of State.


However, the former premier who has been credited with the unprecedented growth that the country experienced over the past five years before its sudden halt claimed that the move breaches human rights laws. According to Hon. Misick, if allowed to take place, the Order would essentially deny the people of the country of elected parliamentary representation, noting also that it would take away the rights of persons being tried in a court of law.

Such scrapping of fundamental rights, according to the ex-premier, is worthy of fighting for, and as a result has embarked on a legal campaign to block such move by the United Kingdom Government.

Hon. Misick, who catapulted to the head of the country’s leadership in 2003, after triumphing in two by-elections, evolved from Chief Minister status to Premier in 2006, after successfully arguing his United Kingdom counterparts for modernisation of the country’s constitutional periphery.

With the country’s constitutional advancement also came two additional electoral boundaries and the changing of the parliamentary title from the Legislative Council (Legco) to the House of Assembly.

He believes that should the United Kingdom gain full control once again of the Turks and Caicos Islands, those achievements would be eroded, and as a result, expressed his determination to fight the Order.

03 August 2009

St. Kitts and Nevis Leads UN Effort

St. Kitts and Nevis took the lead at the 2009 session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council by introducing the annual resolution on Support to the Non Self-Governing Territories from the United Nations System The session convened in Geneva and adopted a series of resolutions on various issues in the economic and social development sphere. St. Kitts and Nevis Representative Carlisle L. Richardson, who introduced the resolution, also spearheaded the consultations with the aim of future modernisation of the resolution.

St. Kitts and Nevis had previously hosted the UN 2009 Caribbean Regional Seminar last May where a range of political and socio-economic development issues were discussed by governments, representatives of civil society, experts and UN agency officials.

The statement in introduction of the resolution follows:

Statement by Mr. Carlisle L. Richardson
Representative of the Delegation of Saint Kitts and Nevis

Introducing the draft resolution entitled “Support to Non-Self-Governing Territories by the specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations” (E/2009/L. 26)

Geneva, 28 July 2009

Mr. President,
Distinguished Delegates,

I have the honor to present to the distinguished members of ECOSOC a draft resolution entitled "Support to Non-Self-Governing Territories by the specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations" contained in document E/2009/L 26. In addition to the countries mentioned in the document, St. Lucia has joined the list of cosponsors.

Mr. President,

The United Nations mandate to provide support to Non Self-Governing territories in their development process is longstanding, and has been adopted in several Resolutions of ECOSOC and the General Assembly for decades. The authority for this support is contained in the work plan of many of the UN agencies.

Since ECOSOC is the main UN body devoted to economic and social matters, and as the resolution addresses economic and social assistance, we feel that this is the appropriate forum to address the issue.

The Special Committee is concerned primarily with providing assistance to Non Self Governing territories within the UN system and with the cooperation of the administering powers. This should be viewed therefore as a collaborative approach. The global financial crisis has shown the interconnectedness of the international community, and brought to the forefront the rationale for a partnership approach to development assistance.

Additionally, issues such as global health permeate all countries, all territories, and every facet of society. The UN’s role is to assist all people, working in consultation with the governments of those people, and in the case of the Non Self Governing territories, with the administering powers. This is what this Resolution aims to ensure.

Furthermore, Mr. President, these Non Self Governing territories are very vulnerable to natural disasters. The small island territories are exposed to the rigors of hurricanes, cyclones, sea level rising, and volcanic eruptions. The UN Specialized agencies are there to work alongside the administering powers in providing a helping hand to those displaced and impacted by these natural disasters.

Mr. President,

The draft resolution expresses appreciation to those specialized agencies and organizations of the United Nations system that have continued to implement the relevant resolutions of the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly related to the assistance to the Territories, and urges those specialized agencies and organizations of the United Nations system that have not yet provided assistance to Non-Self-Governing Territories to do so as soon as possible. In addition, the draft resolution requests that the United Nations information leaflet on assistance programmes available to the Non-Self-Governing Territories be disseminated as widely as possible.

The draft resolution also welcomes the continuing efforts made by the United Nations Development Programme in maintaining close liaison among the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system, including the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific; it requests the administering Powers concerned to facilitate the participation of Non-Self-Governing Territories in the relevant meetings and conferences of the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system, so that the Territories may benefit from the related activities of those agencies and organizations; and it recommends that all Governments intensify their efforts in the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system of which they are members to accord priority to the question of providing assistance to the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Distinguished Delegates,

As in previous years, the draft resolution requests the President of the Council to continue to maintain close contact on these matters with the Chairman of the Special Committee on Decolonization and to report thereon to the Council, and requests the Secretary-General to follow up on the implementation of the present resolution.

These are but some of the issues that this resolution addresses, and it is why the cosponsors of this resolution feel it necessary to bring this matter before the Economic and Social Council.

I therefore invite all members of this august body to adopt the draft resolution before them, by consensus.

Thank you.

Support to Territories from UN System

Action on Resolution on Support to Non-Self-Governing Territories by the specialised agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations

Excerpts from UN Press Release
1st August 2009

In a resolution on Support to Non-Self-Governing Territories by the specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations (E/2009/L.26), adopted by a vote of 25 in favour, none against, and 22 abstentions, the Council recommends that:

All States intensify their efforts within the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system of which they are members to ensure the full and effective implementation of the (Decolonization) Declaration contained in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), and other relevant resolutions of the United Nations;

Requests the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system and international and regional organizations to examine and review conditions in each Non-Self-Governing Territory so that they may take appropriate measures to accelerate progress in the economic and social sectors of those Territories;

Urges those specialized agencies and organizations of the United Nations system that have not yet provided assistance to Non-Self-Governing Territories to do so as soon as possible;

Requests the specialized agencies and other organizations and bodies of the United Nations system and regional organizations to strengthen existing measures of support and to formulate appropriate programmes of assistance to the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, within the framework of their respective mandates, in order to accelerate progress in the economic and social sectors of those Territories;

Requests the administering Powers concerned to facilitate, when appropriate, the participation of appointed and elected representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories in the relevant meetings and conferences of the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system, in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions and decisions, including the resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly and the Special Committee, on specific Territories, so that they may benefit from the related activities of those agencies and organizations.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (25): Algeria, Barbados, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, China, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Against (0):

Abstentions (22): Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malawi, Morocco, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States.

JOHN SAMMIS (United States) said with regard to the resolution before the Council, he said this was essentially the same one that had been considered several times in the past by the Council. Each time it had come up, the United States had called for a vote and abstained, as have a number of other countries. They would do so again today. They found themselves in this position despite agreeing in principle that the UN funds, programmes and specialized agencies could usefully provide support to territories that were not United Nations members, so long as the domestic laws and policies of a territory’s administering power allowed such UN support. It was the responsibility of the administering power to decide the nature of the participation in the United Nations, if any, of its territories. Under the Constitution of the United States, the federal Government had sole responsibility for the conduct of United States foreign relations, which included the foreign relations of United States territories. They were concerned that the proposed language of this resolution infringed upon these internal constitutional arrangements of the United States, and therefore could not support the resolution as it stood now.

JAKOB STROM (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union also called for a vote on resolution L.26. The United Nations system provided support to Non-Self-Governing Territories. Regrettably, the resolution was loaded with political content, and diverted attention from the noble objective. The European Union would abstain from the resolution, as it did not fall within the purview of the Council. Time had not allowed a collective reformulation of the resolution at this session, but the spirit of the meeting would inform consultations when time permitted.

TONY FAUTUA (New Zealand) said New Zealand had first hand experience with specialized agencies as related to non-self governing territories. New Zealand was pleased to recognize the Taukalow peoples, and the achievements made thus far, and in this regard they would support the draft resolution.

ALEXANDER PANKIN (Russian Federation) said the Russian Federation would abstain on voting for this resolution. Russia had consistently supported deleting this agenda item on the granting of independence to colonial territories and peoples. Economic questions to do with helping vulnerable peoples should be considered in another context. Politicisation of the Council's work would not help with its main function, which was coordinating United Nations activities in economic and social spheres.

DONATUS ST AIMEE (Saint Lucia) said a couple of issues had been raised in the discussion, including sovereignty. Saint Lucia felt that self-determination did not imply independence. The question of whenever (Resolution) 1514 was mentioned did not in itself mean that the Council was advocating this, and this was the difficulty that some delegations had. The very title of the resolution probably gave the impression that independence was the focus of the resolution - and this was incorrect, the focus was encouraging administrative powers to collaborate with the United Nations, and to encourage the non-self-governing territories to ask for help from the United Nations system. Saint Lucia would vote in favour of the resolution. It was unfortunate that a vote was required, but hopefully this would be remedied next year.


Needed: Modernisation of Resolutions

Overseas Territories Review Commentary

The adoption by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the resolution on support to the non self-governing territories by the wider UN system is one of the most important areas of UN focus on the territories because it is intended to build their technical capacity as they evolve toward full self-government. The resolution in 2009 was introduced by the Representative of St. Kitts and Nevis, a member of ECOSOC.

If the territories are not prepared for self-government, it is less likely that they would be able to assume the powers necessary to run their own affairs, and more likely that they would remain in the political periphery of non self-governing status. A similar resolution is adopted by the General Assembly, with the voting pattern virtually identical. It is sad that these resolutions do not enjoy unanimity, and it remains puzzling why the member states have not been able to arrive at a consensus on the language.

It is clear that modernisation of the language of this resolution on support to the non self-governing territories from the UN system would go a long way in addressing the concerns of those member states which do not appear to object to the principle of UN support to the territories, but disagree with the political nature of some of the language in the text, causing them to abstain year after year.

An approach to modernising the resolution has been repeatedly recommended to the relevant UN committees and seminars by independent experts for well over a decade. These and other expert recommendations are welcomed by member states at the time they are made, but are subsequently overlooked behind closed doors when the text of the resolution is being prepared. Thus, the default position of retaining the previous year’s language, over and over again, with the same voting pattern, continues to prevail. Further, the actions called for in the resolution are effectively ignored by the very UN agencies who are to provide the relevant support.

This scenario is a classic example of bureaucratic reluctance to implement proposed solutions which could have solved this problem years ago. It is not surprising, and certainly should be embarrassing, that when ECOSOC takes up the issue, none of the specialised agencies and other UN institutions make presentations on such an agenda item which deals directly with their work. It is sad that, year after year, only a small fraction of the UN agencies respond to the request by the UN Secretary-General for information on their assistance programmes for the territories. Even agencies which provide assistance to the territories are reluctant to reply to the request for information because of the perceived political nature of the text.

The Need for Modernisation

The objections of the various member states to the resolution on assistance to the territories from the UN system are virtually identical to their objections for over a decade. Thus, the US representative continues to articulate to ECOSOC that any assistance to, or participation in, UN programmes for the non self-governing territories must be confirmed by the UN member State which controls the foreign relations of the territories concerned. This is a but a re-statement of the practice which is already in place, and has always been a requirement of the rules of procedure of any UN agency which provides for assistance or participation for these territories. The resolution, even in its present form, makes this clear.

A second objection by the US representative suggests that the resolution somehow “infringes upon” the internal constitutional arrangements of the United States. Yet, the longstanding US practice provides the delegation of authority to the territories, on a case by case basis, to participate in international organisations and activities.

In virtually all cases, it is only the state which controls the international relations of the territory which can make a request for the affiliation of the territory in any given UN body. If the delegation of authority is freely given by the administering power to the territory to participate in a given international organisation or activity, how can it be, at the same time, an infringement on the administering power’s control?

The arguments of the European Union and the Russian Federation have substantive merit as these states have always objected to the inclusion of language deemed political in nature in resolutions focused on economic and social development. Their respective positions could be similarly addressed in a proper consultation aimed at a consensus. This was called for by the St. Lucian Ambassador following the vote on the resolution, and it is hoped that the Caribbean and Pacific member states – the two regions to which the majority of the territories belong – would support this strategy at the upcoming session of the UN Fourth Committee where the same agenda item will be addressed.

It is recalled that this “repetition of process” which characterises UN consideration of support to the non self-governing territories was reviewed one year ago by OTR. The same conclusion applies now, as it did then: (http://overseasreview.blogspot.com/2008_08_01_archive.html)

“…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.”

However, there may be grounds for some optimism. Several strategic recommendations emerging from the Caribbean Group may provide the necessary environment for consultation and compromise, and ultimate consensus on the resolution related to support to the non self-governing territories from the UN system.

OTR will continue to follow the issue during the next session of the UN General Assembly which convenes in September.