16 October 2013

Caribbean Community regards decolonisation as a "core interest"

Calls for U.N. to utilise self-governance indicators developed in the region to assess level of decolonisation implementation

"CARICOM regards the natural political evolution of the Caribbean non self-governing territories as part of its core interests. It is fundamental to redressing the effects of artificial borders in our region established on the whims of colonial arrangements with roots in the Trans Atlantic slave trade." 




H.E. Rodney Charles

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Representative 
of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

On behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)

on Decolonisation Issues 
in the Fourth Committee

of the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

October 10, 2013
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the 14 member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). We wish to congratulate you and the other members of the bureau on being elected to lead the important work of this committee for the 68th Session. CARICOM wishes to associate itself with the statement made by the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM).

Mr. Chairman,

Issues of self-determination and decolonisation resonate deeply with CARICOM States as we acknowledge the historic role played by the United Nations in the self-determination process of our region. Thus, we take note that decolonisation remains un-finished business of the United Nations in this second decade of the 21st Century, and the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. The obligations to develop full self-government for these territories are clearly set forth in Chapter XI of the U.N. Charter, and decolonisation resolutions provide an essential roadmap in carrying out this statutory mandate.  

Mr. Chairman,

This Committee hears the petitions before it each year regarding ‘democratic deficiencies’ of present dependency arrangements, as we seek ways and means to implement the mandate for full and complete decolonisation for the remaining 17 non self-governing territories. We recognise that full self-government would be significantly advanced through the resumption of formal cooperation between the administering powers and the Special Committee on Decolonisation. It is time for the existent informal dialogue evolves into a formal, open and transparent discussion among the parties. The five CARICOM Member States on the Special Committee on Decolonisation are therefore prepared to facilitate such a resumed dialogue especially as it relates to the territories of our region.

Additionally, CARICOM maintains its principled support for the right of the people of Western Sahara, as with all peoples in non-self-governing territories, to self-determination and commends the efforts being undertaken by the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General in this area.

Mr. Chairman, experience must now also be brought to bear on our legislative and policy frameworks for solutions to this lingering challenge to the fullest enjoyment of human rights. Decades of decolonization point to irrefutable lessons. The United Nations, given its pivotal, leadership and preparatory roles, must refine approaches as well as facilitate and supportive mechanisms, to minimize persisting negative historic legacies of colonialism, such as ethnic tensions, artificial borders, and economic and other exploitation. In other words, such strategic responses must be an essential part of the self-determination ‘delivery package’.

Adequate follow-up by the United Nations system is equally vital to facilitating decolonisation implementation rather than the "repetition of process" which has characterised the consideration of this agenda item. To this end, the method of work of the relevant decolonisation committees should be re-examined with the aim of having a more interactive dialogue.  Requisite political analysis of the dependency arrangements is also critical, but longstanding calls for analytical studies and case-by-case assessments of the territories, as contained in General Assembly resolutions, have not been completed. Yet, this could significantly advance the awareness of member States about the challenges to the contemporary self-determination process.

CARICOM has long maintained that a Special Rapporteur or Independent Expert on decolonisation would be most useful in this necessary substantive analysis, along with an active programme of collaboration between the U.N. system and relevant regional institutions. In this connection, the development of Self-Governance Indicators for the small island non self-governing territories, presented at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica in 2011, has become a useful tool in assessing the level of self-government in small island territories in the Caribbean and Pacific.  The ongoing collaboration with the U.N. regional commissions and some specialised agencies has proven especially useful for the capacity building of the territories which are part of the scope of work of a number of U.N. bodies. Decolonisation requires such innovative measures if we are to avoid the "repetition of process" which finds the General Assembly adopting decolonisation resolutions year after year with insufficient implementation.

Mr. Chairman,

CARICOM regards the natural political evolution of the Caribbean non self-governing territories as part of its core interests. It is fundamental to redressing the effects of artificial borders in our region established on the whims of colonial arrangements with roots in the Trans Atlantic slave trade. The GRULAC (Latin American and Caribbean Group) statement to the General Assembly last March on the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade reminded that "emancipation ushered in the era of colonialism which, in many respects, merely perpetuated a refined form of what had formerly prevailed." Thus, we repeat: the decolonisation process is by no means complete.

Accordingly, CARICOM member states continue to include most of the Caribbean territories in the regional integration process through the extension of associate membership. A similar status is provided in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) for those territories in that part of our region. Several territories share the Eastern Caribbean currency with neighboring independent states. Most are members of the Caribbean Development Bank, the University of the West Indies system and other CARICOM institutions. All of this is indicative of the strong ties which bind the people of our region. These ties strengthen our resolve to work assiduously to ensure that the Caribbean territories and others similarly situated achieve the full measure of self-governance pursuant to international law.

In a similar context, CARICOM actively supports the participation of the territories in  relevant U.N. bodies as provided for in the rules of procedure of those bodies. We commend UN-ECLAC, ESCAP, UNESCO and others for their flexibility in this regard. We commend ECLAC through its Subregional Headquarters in Trinidad and Tobago for its pioneering work in  this area, and encourage the intensification of their efforts. We also express our appreciation to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for providing technical assistance and expertise to these territories.

Mr. Chairman,

The political crisis precipitated by the three-year suspension of elected government in the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2009 has been the subject of particular concern to CARICOM at the highest political level. At its 24th Inter-sessional Meeting last February, CARICOM Heads of Government "noted with grave concern that, though the elections of November 2012 had led to the restoration of representative government, the overall state of political affairs remained less than desirable..."  [1] The Heads of Government also expressed further concern that the 2011 constitutional order was viewed in the territory "as a mere by-law for the continuance of direct rule under the pretext of representative democracy." [2]

At the subsequent Sixteenth meeting of the CARICOM Council of Foreign and Community Relations in Trinidad and Tobago last May, the decision was taken to field a Ministerial Fact-Finding Mission to the Turks and Caicos Islands to gain a first-hand appreciation of the current situation. The Mission, undertaken last June, was led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Bahamas and comprised the Minister of Foreign Affairs of St. Kitts and Nevis, and the Special Envoy of the President of Haiti. Its report was presented to the Thirty-fourth Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government last July.

The report examined issues in the Turks and Caicos related to the Constitution and governance, the judicial system, and the economic and social situation. Among the recommendations were the conduct of a referendum for the people to express their views on the present dependency arrangement, and an investigation on the implications of the previous period of Direct Rule and present dependency constitutional arrangements. The report affirmed that it was the responsibility of the administering Power "to provide the means for full self-determination," and to ensure that "the same standards of democracy that obtain in the United Kingdom" should be extended in the territory.  The findings of the report were endorsed by the Thirty-Fourth Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM held in Trinidad and Tobago last July, and it is our intention to have this report published as an official document of the General Assembly for the information of member States.

Mr. Chairman,

It has long been established by the General Assembly that self-determination is a fundamental human right. The status quo dependency models in the small island dependencies, however complex or ‘modernised,’ have proven inconsistent with the principle of self-determination, and contradictory to democratic governance. The continuation of colonialism in any form in the 21st Century is anachronistic. While CARICOM welcomes internal constitutional modernisation undertaken by the administering powers in some territories, such reforms do not address the fundamental need for a legitimate process of self-determination and subsequent decolonisation through the options of political equality, namely independence, free association and integration with full political rights consistent with Resolution 1541 (XV).

CARICOM states will continue their efforts through the Decolonisation Committee, through regional institutions, and in consultation with the relevant administering Powers, to address the challenges of the contemporary colonial dynamic, and to work together to bring about absolute political equality to the people of the remaining territories.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[1] Communique issued at the conclusion of the Twenty-fourth Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, 18-19 February 2013.