The United Nations (UN) General Assembly at year’s end last month adopted by consensus its annual resolution on the "Universal Realisation of the Right of Peoples to Self-Determination." The adoption followed the approval of the measure, without a vote, in the UN Third Committee last November. The resolution adds to the lengthy international legislative authority in promotion of self-determination for all non self-governing territories. The resolution is primarily seen, however, in the context of territories under occupation.
UN human rights bodies such as the Human Rights Council, the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), among others, have not sufficiently widened their focus to review other existing dependency arrangements as they examine issues of human rights. It should be recalled that self-determination and its resultant decolonisation are regarded by UN resolution as fundamental human rights by General Assembly resolution.
UN procedures appear to separate consideration of self-determination issues from decolonisation matters. Thus, decolonisation is discussed in the Fourth Committee whilst self-determination issues are addressed in the Third Committee. The system does not facilitate cooperation between the two committees on these obvious complementary issues. Past recommendations made by some member countries to consider the decolonisation and self-determination issues together have not been adopted. Interestingly, decolonisation is placed within the broad are of focus of "Peace and Security" rather than "Human Rights."
Since the 1990s, only one territory formally listed by the UN has been decolonised. Perhaps the prevailing compartmentalisation of these issues by the UN should be changed along the lines of the earlier year recommendations since human rights issues get far more attention than that of decolonisation these days.
United Nations Resolution on the Universal Realization of the Right of Peoples to Self-Determination
The General Assembly,
Reaffirming the importance, for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights, of the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and embodied in the International Covenants on Human Rights, as well as in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples contained in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960,
Welcoming the progressive exercise of the right to self-determination by peoples under colonial, foreign or alien occupation and their emergence into sovereign statehood and independence,
Deeply concerned at the continuation of acts or threats of foreign military intervention and occupation that are threatening to suppress, or have already suppressed, the right to self-determination of peoples and nations,
Expressing grave concern that, as a consequence of the persistence of such actions, millions of people have been and are being uprooted from their homes as refugees and displaced persons, and emphasizing the urgent need for concerted international action to alleviate their condition,
Recalling the relevant resolutions regarding the violation of the right of peoples to self-determination and other human rights as a result of foreign military intervention, aggression and occupation, adopted by the Commission on Human Rights at its sixty-first and previous sessions,
Reaffirming its previous resolutions on the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination, including resolution 63/163 of 18 December 2008,
Reaffirming also its resolution 55/2 of 8 September 2000, containing the United Nations Millennium Declaration, and recalling its resolution 60/1 of 16 September 2005, containing the 2005 World Summit Outcome, which, inter alia, upheld the right to self-determination of peoples under colonial domination and
Taking note of the report of the Secretary-General on the right of peoples to self-determination,
1. Reaffirms that the universal realization of the right of all peoples, including those under colonial, foreign and alien domination, to self-determination is a fundamental condition for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights and for the preservation and promotion of such rights;
2. Declares its firm opposition to acts of foreign military intervention, aggression and occupation, since these have resulted in the suppression of the right of peoples to self-determination and other human rights in certain parts of the world;
3. Calls upon those States responsible to cease immediately their military intervention in and occupation of foreign countries and territories and all acts of repression, discrimination, exploitation and maltreatment, in particular the brutal and inhuman methods reportedly employed for the execution of those acts against
the peoples concerned;
4. Deplores the plight of millions of refugees and displaced persons who have been uprooted as a result of the aforementioned acts, and reaffirms their right to return to their homes voluntarily in safety and honour;
5. Requests the Human Rights Council to continue to give special attention to the violation of human rights, especially the right to self-determination, resulting from foreign military intervention, aggression or occupation;
6. Requests the Secretary-General to report on the question to the General Assembly at its sixty-fifth session under the item entitled “Right of peoples to self-determination.”