The world’s 16 remaining territories that still do not govern themselves must have complete freedom in deciding their future status, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a forum on decolonization today.
“Our common challenge remains the full implementation of the Declaration,” he told the three-day Seminar in Noumea, New Caledonia, referring to the General Assembly’ landmark Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, which this year marks its 50th anniversary.
“I urge all involved to undertake fresh and creative efforts toward this end. In particular, I encourage the administering Powers to work with the [UN’s] Special Committee [on decolonization] and the people in the Territories under their administration towards a genuine and action-oriented dialogue,” he said in a message delivered by Laura Vaccari of the UN Department of Political Affairs.
“It is essential for the people concerned to understand the options regarding their political status and to be able to exercise their right to freely choose their future.”
The seminar is only the second such event to be held in a Non-Self-Governing-Territory, highlighting the importance the Committee ascribes to hearing directly from their representatives about the issues they face.
Committee Chairman Donatus St. Aimee from St. Lucia noted that New Caledonia is going through a challenging and complex process of determining its political future in close cooperation with the administering Power, France.
“The Special Committee regards the hosting of the Seminar as a significant manifestation of the improved cooperation between the administering Power and the Committee in advancing the decolonization process in general and in the Pacific region in particular,” he said.
The fact that 16 Territories remain 50 years after the Declaration, and after two Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism, suggests the need for “creative thinking” to move forward, he added. The forum, formally called the Pacific Regional Seminar on Implementation of the Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, marks the completion of the Second Decade.
“At this seminar we are going to assess the socio-economic and political developments in the Territories with a view to working out, in cooperation with the administering Powers and representatives of the Territories, a realistic, action-oriented programme of work on a case-by-case basis for the way forward in advancing the decolonization process,” he declared.
French High Commissioner Yves Dassonville said the support provided by France for the seminar highlighted its commitment to the UN in the area of decolonization. He voiced the hope that the visit would help the Committee to measure the socio-economic progress in New Caledonia, and the willingness of the community to build a common destiny based on shared values.
Today’s meetings focussed on resolving the remaining challenges for Non-Self-Governing-Territories in the Pacific, which include American Samoa, Guam, New Caledonia, Pitcairn and Tokelau.