Decolonization ‘close to my heart,’ Guterres says at opening of UN committee

22 February 2018

Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday opened the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly organ aiming to end colonialism, noting that decolonization was a central aspect of his previous political life in Portugal.

“As you know, the decolonization agenda is an area close to my heart and to which I reiterate my commitment,” he told the Special Committee on Decolonization.

Recalling his native country’s colonial past, Mr. Guterres recalled the “very strong feeling of solidarity” between Portuguese democrats and liberation movements in Angola, Guinea‑Bissau and Mozambique.

The Committee was created in 1961 by the General Assembly with the purpose of monitoring implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

In today’s meeting, the Committee elected by acclamation Walton Alfonso Webson of Antigua and Barbuda as its Chair and agreed to proceed with a visiting mission to New Caledonia in March, ahead of a referendum on self‑determination in that French‑administered territory.

Mr. Guterres expressed solidarity with those Non‑Self‑Governing Territories affected by hurricanes in the past year and saluted the Committee’s call on the concerned administering Powers, as well as UN entities, to continue to support aid and recovery efforts.

The General Assembly has consistently reaffirmed decolonization as a priority. 

“That remains the case today with the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories under the purview of the Special Committee,” the UN chief said.

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