Saturday, March 7, 2009

United Nations Must Revitalize Commitment to "Unfinished" Decolonization Efforts: Indigenous People Need to be Part of Process

With 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories still remaining, the United Nations must step up its decolonization efforts, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, calling for greater cooperation between these areas and administering countries.

At the time of the UN’s establishment in 1945, 750 million people – almost one-third of the global population – lived in non-self-governing territories, compared to fewer than 2 million today.

“The United Nations can look back with a great sense of accomplishment at what has been achieved in the field of decolonization since the Organization’s founding,” Mr. Ban said in an address on 27 February at the start of this year’s session of the body formally known as the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Granting of the Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.
Non-Self-Governing Territories According to the United Nations
Decolonization “is an unfinished process that has been with the international community for too long,” he said in a message delivered by Muhammad Shaaban, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Management.

In the last two years of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, Mr. Ban called for the acceleration of the UN’s work to “achieve concrete results.”

He told the body, also known as the Special Committee of 24, to continue its support of the “legitimate aspirations of the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories so they can exercise their right to self-determination.”

But the Secretary-General also stressed the importance of cooperation between administering Powers and the Territories in promoting decolonization.

He cited the example of New Zealand and Tokelau. In 2007, after a UN-supervised referendum fell 16 votes short of attaining self-government, it was decided that the territory of Tokelau – three small and isolated atolls in the Pacific Ocean – would remain a territory of New Zealand.

“Under the [UN] Charter, the administering Powers have a special obligation to bring the territories under their administration to an appropriate level of self-government,” he added.

Current Non-Self-Governing Countries include: Western Sahara, Saint Helena, Bermuda, Falkland Islands, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States Virgin Islands, Gibraltar, American Samoa, Guam, New Caledonia, Pitcairn Islands, and Tokelau.

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