Special Committee on Decolonization
Decolonization - the Task Ahead, a book published by the U.N, April
Chapter XI of the Charter (Declaration regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories)
sets out the obligations of administering Powers for the Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Those States recognize that the interests of the inhabitants of the Territories are
paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost their
well-being. Under Article 73e of the Charter, they transmit to the Secretary-General
information on economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories for which
they are responsible.
To accelerate the process of decolonization, the General Assembly in 1960 adopted the
Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (Declaration
on decolonization) which proclaims that the subjection of people to alien subjugation,
domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights. It affirms
that all peoples have the right to self-determination.
The Declaration calls for immediate steps to be taken to transfer all powers to peoples
in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories or all other Territories that have not yet
attained independence, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire.
In 1961, the General Assembly established the Special Committee on the Situation with
regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to
Colonial Countries and Peoples (Special Committee on Decolonization) as the main United
Nations body concerned with the progress of all people under colonial rule towards
self-determination and independence.
- studies information submitted under Article 73e,
- regularly examines the application of the Declaration and makes recommendations to
facilitate its implementation,
- dispatches missions to Territories to obtain first-hand information,
- calls the attention of the Security Council to colonial situations it deems a threat to
international peace and security,
- receives communications and hears individuals or representatives of organizations and
- makes recommendations on dissemination of information on decolonization with a view to
mobilizing public opinion in support of the cause,
- reviews foreign economic and other interests operating in Territories, and military
activities and arrangements which may be impeding the process towards complete
- examines the assistance provided to the people of the Territories by specialized
agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system, and
- examines the items on its agenda in plenary meetings or assigns them to one of the two
sub-committees - the Sub-Committee on Small Territories and the Sub-Committee on
Petitions, Information and Assistance.
The work of the Special Committee is reviewed by the General Assembly at its plenary
meetings and through its Fourth Committee. The Fourth Committee's recommendations serve as
a basis for Assembly decisions on decolonization. The Special Committee consists of 25
Member States: Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Congo, Côte d'lvoire, Cuba,
Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Mali,
Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, Trinidad and Tobago,
Tunisia, USSR, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela and Yugoslavia.
It currently follows the application of the Declaration to 17 Non-Self-Governing
Territories - American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman
Islands, East Timor, the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Gibraltar, Guam, Montserrat, New
Caledonia, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Tokelau, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the United States
Virgin Islands and Western Sahara - as well as the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.
The Commit-tee annually reviews the list of Territories to which the Declaration is
The Special Committee has consistently reiterated the view that factors such as
territorial size, geographical location, size of population and limited natural resources
should not prevent the peoples of the remaining Territories from exercising their right to
self-determination, as it is ultimately for those peoples themselves to determine freely
their future political status in accordance with the relevant provisions of the United
Nations Charter and the Declaration, as well as other relevant United Nations resolutions.
In this connection, the Committee has also reaffirmed the importance of fostering an
awareness among the peoples of those Territories of all the possibilities open to them in
the exercise of their right to self-determination. Reiterating that it is the
administering Powers' responsibility to create conditions in the Territories to enable
their peoples to exercise freely that right, the Committee has called on those Powers,
taking into account the peoples' expressed wishes, to expedite the decolonization process.
It has noted efforts made towards training and placing citizens of the Territories in
public service positions and other sectors of society where contributions to development
could be made, with a view to running an independent country.
The Committee has also reaffirmed the importance it attaches to the co-operation of the
administering Powers. In that connection, it has called upon those Powers to participate
or continue to participate in the work of the Committee and to invite United Nations
visiting missions to the Territories under their administration.
The Special Committee held two regional seminars in 1990, one in the Pacific and the
other in the Caribbean region, in observance of the thirtieth anniversary of the
Declaration. The primary objectives of the two events were to provide the Special
Committee with the opportunity to discuss the specific problems of the remaining dependent
Territories, most of them small island Territories, their special needs and the challenges
posed by their geographical locations and other specific conditions and to draw up plans
for the rapid decolonization of those Territories, bearing in mind the provisions of the
General Assembly resolution calling for a complete decolonization by the year 2000.
Statements Presented to the United Nations Committee on
Decolonization by various organizations concerned with the treatment of East Timor
(June - July, 1998)
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