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UN decolonization efforts bearing fruit, Assembly panel told as it opens session

UN decolonization efforts bearing fruit, Assembly panel told as it opens session

Opening the annual session of the United Nations decolonization committee, UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette today hailed the forthcoming independence in East Timor as a milestone accomplishment.

“In May, East Timor will join the ranks of sovereign States, ending a long period of suffering and marking another major achievement of the decolonization movement, which brought about one of the signal transformations of the twentieth century,” she told the panel, known as the Special Committee of 24, which monitors implementation of the General Assembly’s 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

“I hope that in this new century, it will be possible to close, once and for all, and in accordance with the principle of the 1960 Declaration and all relevant resolutions, a chapter that truly belongs to a previous era,” said Ms. Fréchette.

Including East Timor, which is now administered by the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), there are currently 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories: American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Gibraltar, Guam, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States Virgin Islands, and Western Sahara.

The current administering Powers are France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) is currently engaged in organizing a referendum in that Non-Self-Governing Territory.

The Deputy Secretary-General expressed hope that the administering Powers would work to find constructive ways to address the long-standing issue of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. She urged those Powers to move forward in finding appropriate arrangements with the full participation of the people of each Territory. “This is an opportunity that should not be missed,” she said.