Special Committee on Decolonization Approves 3 Draft Resolutions, as It Opens Substantive Part of 2018 Session

Opening the substantive portion of its 2018 session today, the Special Committee on Decolonization took up the long standing questions of Gibraltar and Western Sahara, while also approving several annual resolutions relating to the dissemination of information about its work and the dispatching of visiting missions to the world's 17 remaining Non Self Governing Territories.

The Special Committee � formally known as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples � first considered the question of Gibraltar, on Europe's Iberian Peninsula, first listed as a Non Self Governing Territory in 1946. It postponed additional consideration of that item to a later date, then proceeded to consider the question of Western Sahara, hearing numerous delegations outline their positions on the more than 50 year old dispute.

Algeria's representative emphasized that the Special Committee's mandate was clear � decolonization � and there could be no other calculations of any sort. The international community should not turn a blind eye to the exploitation of Western Sahara's natural resources, he said, stressing that there was no other choice but for the Territory's people to exercise their right to self determination.

Morocco's delegate, on the other hand, stressed that the issue at hand was not decolonization but territorial integrity. Indeed, the Security Council considered the situation to be a regional dispute and treated it as such under Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter. The Moroccan Sahara would remain a part of Morocco until the end of time, he vowed, underlining that his country's autonomy initiative was the only path towards resolving the dispute.

Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar's Chief Minister, described the impact of economic sanctions imposed on the Territory by Spain in recent years. Underlining the undeniable right of Gibraltar's people to determine their own future, he said it had already been recognized by the General Assembly, and called upon members of the Special Committee to visit the Territory. Its people were ready to reach mutually beneficial agreements on establishing a constructive friendship with Spain, he added.

Spain's representative, meanwhile, summarized the United Kingdom's occupation of Gibraltar since 1704 and said that a final solution to the question would involve the return of territory covered by the Treaty of Utrecht and of illegally occupied areas. Gibraltar's place on the decolonization list proved its colonial relationship with the United Kingdom, she said, appealing to the administering Power to do its part to honour the aspirations of the Territory's people. Spain remained open to dialogue, she said.

Speaking on Western Sahara, Ethiopia's delegate expressed concern that while the Special Committee had assisted more than 80 former colonies in gaining independence, the question of Western Sahara continued to linger. Calling for the prompt resumption of negotiations, he said it was encouraging that both parties to the dispute were working closely with the Secretary General's new Special Envoy on the issue.

Namibia's representative, however, said that ongoing tensions were hampering the Special Envoy's efforts to realize a just and lasting political solution that would allow the people of Western Sahara to determine their own future. Expressing concern about the Security Council's recent short renewal date of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), he said the Organization must continue to lead the negotiation process with full support from the African Union. He also voiced deep concern about the continued exploitation of Western Sahara's natural resources.

South Africa's delegate said that his country's long standing solidarity with the people of Western Sahara was born of its own history of fighting apartheid as well as its firm belief in the right of people living under foreign or colonial occupation to self determination. To think that there are people who were born in refugee camps and who are over 40 [years old] who have never tasted freedom is a strong indictment of all of us as an international community, he emphasized, describing Western Sahara as Africa's last colony.

Dominica's representative was among the speakers expressing support for the Security Council's most recent resolution on MINURSO and the question of Western Sahara � resolution 2414 (2018), adopted on 27 April � and for Morocco's proposed autonomy initiative. Resolving such disputes would strengthen security in the Saharan/Sahel region, which currently faced threats from terrorist groups, organized crime and other illegal activities, she said.

In other business today, the Special Committee approved, without a vote, an annual draft resolution titled, Information from Non Self Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 (e) of the Charter of the United Nations. By that text, the General Assembly would request that administering Powers respect their Charter obligations by transmitting information on economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories to the Secretary General, subject to such limitation as security and constitutional considerations might require.

Acting again without a vote, the Special Committee approved a draft resolution titled Dissemination of information on decolonization by which the Assembly would approve the decolonization related activities of the Department of Public Information and the Department of the Political Affairs, and request that they continue their efforts to make information on relevant United Nations efforts widely available. It also approved a draft resolution titled Question of sending visiting and special missions to Territories. By that text, the Assembly would request that the Special Committee develop, on a case by case basis, a plan for the conduct of visiting missions to the Non Self Governing Territories. It would also call upon the administering Powers to cooperate with the United Nations in that process if they had not yet done so.

The Special Committee also acceded to requests for hearings on the situations concerning Puerto Rico, the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, French Polynesia, Guam, Gibraltar, New Caledonia, Turks and Caicos, United States Virgin Islands and Western Sahara. It decided that it would hear petitioners from Puerto Rico on 18 June, and take up the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) on 21 June. It would consider the questions of French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Tokelau on 22 June.

Also speaking today were representatives of Cuba, Indonesia, Ecuador, Timor Leste, United Republic of Tanzania, CAte d'Ivoire, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Venezuela, Antigua and Barbuda, Nicaragua, Belize, Saint Lucia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Uruguay, Gabon, Guinea and Senegal, as well as representatives of the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Public Information. Several petitioners from Western Sahara also participated.

The Special Committee will reconvene its formal session at 10 a.m. on Monday, 18 June.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Special Committee took up an annual resolution titled Information from Non Self Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 (e) of the Charter of the United Nations. By its terms, the General Assembly would request the administering Powers concerned to respect their Charter obligations by transmitting information to the Secretary General on issues related to the relevant Territories' economic, social and educational conditions, subject to such limitations as security and constitutional considerations might require. For its consideration of that item, the Special Committee had before it the most recent document containing information submitted (document A/73/64).

Speaking on that item, the representative of Cuba said Member States administering Non Self Governing Territories were required to submit useful and essential information related to the situations in the relevant Territories. That information should be current and updated, she said, expressing concern that in the latest report covering 2017, some administering Powers had not submitted information. Urging them to submit the omitted information, she added that it would also be useful if the administering Powers would attend meetings of the Special Committee as well as its regional seminars, which they currently failed to do on a regular basis.

NANETTE BRAUN, Officer in Charge, Strategic Commissions Division, Department of Public Information, introduced the Secretary General's annual report covering the period April 2017 to March 2018 on the Department's efforts to disseminate information on decolonization. She said that during the reporting period, the Department had completed a range of activities promoting related issues, including the issuance of 30 press releases on decolonization and the deployment of a press officer from the Department's Meetings Coverage Section to cover the 2017 and 2018 regional decolonization seminars, in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada, respectively. In addition, the Department's dedicated website continued to highlight meetings and decolonization issues, while its social media accounts directed users to the decolonization website, which had seen a 106 per cent increase in traffic compared with the previous year.

JOSIANE AMBIEHL, Chief, Decolonization Unit, Department of Political Affairs, said the Unit regularly updated the United Nations Decolonization website to reflect its work as well as those of the Special Committee, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) and other relevant bodies. Information submitted from the Non Self Governing Territories was complemented by information from other sources, she said, adding that, in accordance with its mandate on dissemination of information, the Unit was working to modernize the current website and make it more modern and user friendly.

The representative of Cuba, urging the departments to continue to provide crucial information on United Nations decolonization efforts, expressed regret that 17 Non Self Governing Territories continued to exist more than seven decades after the founding of the United Nations. The Organization must continue to provide the peoples of those Territories with information on their options, using all available media and means, she said, stressing that any reforms of the Secretariat must not impact the dissemination of that critical information.

The representative of Algeria said the issue of dissemination was of great importance, adding that her delegation had prepared a statement on the matter and would provide it directly to the Secretariat for circulation.

The representative of Indonesia said the eradication of colonialism remained one of the core priorities of the United Nations. Expressing alarm that the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism would soon end, he said our work is far from over, emphasizing that the Special Committee must continue to carefully study the situations in each of the remaining 17 Non Self Governing Territories. The dissemination efforts of the Department of Public Information and the Department of Public Affairs must continue despite any resource challenges, he stressed.

The Special Committee also approved, without a vote, a draft resolution titled Dissemination of information on decolonization (document A/AC.109/2018/L.4), by which the General Assembly would approve the decolonization related activities of the Department of Public Information and the Department of the Political Affairs, and request that they continue their efforts to make information on the Organization's decolonization work widely available.

The Special Committee then approved the draft resolution Question of sending visiting and special missions to Territories (document A/AC.109/2018/L.5). By that text, the General Assembly would request that the Chair and Bureau of the Special Committee develop a plan, on a case by case basis, for conducting visiting missions to the Non Self Governing Territories. It would also call upon the administering Powers to cooperate with the United Nations in that process if they had not yet done so, while taking note with satisfaction the Special Committee's March 2018 visiting mission to New Caledonia.

Question of Gibraltar

FABIAN PICARDO, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said that some of the worst economic sanctions imposed by Spain had affected the Territory in recent years in that country's attempt to break down relationships with Spanish businesses and with people on a human level. However, the people of Gibraltar had an undeniable right to determine their own future, which had already been recognized by the General Assembly. As such, administering Powers and all concerned parties must abide by the United Nations Charter and the findings of the International Court of Justice, he said, describing Spain's attempt to carve out an exception as legally unconvincing. Our right to self determination is clearly established, he emphasized, adding that moves had been made towards self governance. However, the Special Committee had yet to provide feedback on queries about the next steps, he said, calling on members to visit Gibraltar and to provide guidance. Stressing his readiness to reach mutually beneficial agreements on establishing a constructive friendship with Spain, he said that the ball was now in their court.

The representative of Spain, providing a summary of Gibraltar's occupation since 1704, said her country believed that a final solution would involve the return of territory covered by the Treaty of Utrecht and of illegally occupied areas. Gibraltar's place on the decolonization list had proven its colonial relationship with the United Kingdom. Citing several relevant General Assembly resolutions, she highlighted resolution 2429 (1968), which states that the administering Power must end its occupation by 1969. She recalled that the Assembly had adopted annual resolutions calling for a negotiated solution, and appealed to the United Kingdom to do its part to honour the aspirations of the people of Gibraltar. Spain had repeatedly invited that country to comply with General Assembly resolutions and remained open to dialogue, she said, adding that it was committed to the Special Committee's outstanding work.

Question of Western Sahara

Taking up its next agenda item, the Special Committee first considered a working paper by the Secretariat (document A/AC.109/2018/17) as several delegations delivered general statements.

The representative of Ecuador expressed concern that colonialism continued to impede the development of international cooperation, noting that the Special Committee had long worked to eradicate colonialism while bearing in mind the principles of territorial integrity and self determination on a case by case basis. Such efforts required the full cooperation of administering Powers, he said, calling for the recognition of the proper names of Non Self Governing Territories as well as efforts to clean up the list of Territories in order to advance the Special Committee's work. Thirty years of work on decolonization � without a full resolution of the issue � was unacceptable, he stressed, noting that the situations of Western Sahara and Palestine were clear cases for the exercise of self determination. It was the Special Committees' obligation to ensure the realization of that right, he said, emphasizing that the R in the acronym for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) stood for referendum.

The representative of Timor-Leste also called for accelerated efforts to support the estimated 2 million inhabitants of the 17 remaining Non Self Governing Territories. Reiterating her delegation's support for the proposal that the Special Committee draw up a plan of action for visiting missions on a case by case basis to the listed Territories � and urging the relevant administering Powers to cooperate fully on that plan � he said such missions would be able to obtain first hand information about each situation on the ground with regard to the aspirations of the Territories' peoples as well as their progress towards decolonization. He further welcomed the referendum to be held in New Caledonia in 2018, a milestone year, and recognized the Frente Polisario as the legitimate representative of the people of Western Sahara, as per General Assembly resolutions 34/37 and 35/19. Timor Leste recognized the sovereignty of the Sahrawi Arab Republic and had established diplomatic relations with the Saharan people, he added.

The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, reaffirming his country's support for efforts to help people living under colonial rule to exercise the right to self determination, said that Morocco's recent return to the African Union had allowed that country to become fully involved in talks on the question of Western Sahara. The United Republic of Tanzania supported reinvigorated efforts to find a durable solution acceptable to the key protagonists in accordance with all relevant United Nations resolutions.

The representative of CAte d'Ivoire said that ending colonization hinged on all stakeholders agreeing to real progress. Welcoming the Secretary General's commitment in that regard, he said efforts being made to resolve the case of Western Sahara were clear. Security Council resolution 2414 (2018) had extended MINURSO's mandate, which would in turn allow concrete gains to be made towards the holding of a referendum. Commending that new positive momentum, he said that his delegation supported negotiations leading towards a lasting political solution.

The representative of Dominica expressed her delegation's support for the ongoing United Nations led process, resolution 2414 (2018) and Morocco's autonomy initiative. Resolving such disputes would strengthen security in the Saharan/Sahel region, which currently faced threats from terrorist groups, organized crime and other illegal activities, she said.

The representative of Grenada said a political solution based on the relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions was the way forward, while underscoring the importance of paying close attention to conditions in refugee camps to ensure full respect for human rights.

The representative of Papua New Guinea, noting that the last page of the Secretariat's working paper referred to the Security Council's work, expressed regret that it did not include the Council's most recent resolution on the question of Western Sahara � namely, the adoption on 27 April 2018 of resolution 2414 (2018) � an important component of that work. Voicing full support for the work of the Secretary General and his Special Envoy aimed at reaching a mutually negotiated, lasting solution to the question of Western Sahara, he said the Council's most recent resolution emphasized the need for progress towards that goal based on compromise. Resolution 2414 (2018) further recognized the credible efforts of the parties to identify a way forward, he said, commending Morocco for its substantial investment in Western Sahara, including providing employment opportunities. Urging the Special Committee to bear in mind case by case consideration of visiting missions, he recalled that the question of Western Sahara fell under Chapter IV of the United Nations Charter, by which the General Assembly was prohibited from making any recommendations on situations under consideration by the Security Council unless the Security Council so requests.

The representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis recalled that the Security Council had welcomed Morocco's efforts on the question of Western Sahara, and expressed her delegation's support for that country's proposed autonomy initiative.

The representative of Ethiopia, recalling that the Special Committee had assisted more than 80 former colonies in achieving independence, nevertheless expressed concern that the question of Western Sahara continued to linger. Calling for the prompt resumption of negotiations, he said it was encouraging that both parties were working closely with the Secretary General's new Special Envoy. Ethiopia would continue to support the Special Committee's efforts in its consideration of the question of Western Sahara, he said.

The representative of Venezuela, commending Charter guided efforts led by the Secretary General and his Special Envoy, said the fourth and subsequent rounds of negotiations were valuable initiatives that must be supported, with a view to reaching a just and lasting solution. The international community's cooperation could help to mitigate the situation, including by providing assistance to populations in need. Calling on all parties to abide by the provisions of the relevant General Assembly resolutions, he emphasized that the administering Power must safeguard and guarantee the inalienable right of the people in occupied areas to their natural resources.

The representative of Antigua and Barbuda underlined the importance of reaching agreement on the situation in Western Sahara on the basis of compromise.

The representative of Nicaragua said a lasting solution must be found, as the situation had languished for far too long. Expressing support for all Non Self Governing Territories, he voiced hope that Morocco and the people of Western Sahara could come to an agreement on terms for a resolution of the situation.

The representative of Namibia said ongoing tensions were hampering Special Envoy Horst KAlhler's efforts to realize a just, lasting political solution that would allow the people of Western Sahara to determine their own future. Raising concerns about the short renewal date of MINURSO, he said the United Nations must continue to lead the negotiation process with full support from the African Union. However, it seemed unlikely that a referendum would occur within six months, he said. He went on to voice his delegation's deep concern about the continued exploitation of Western Sahara's natural resources and called upon the Security Council to live up to its responsibility by implementing its own resolutions.

The representative of Belize said Western Sahara was the last territory in Africa slated for decolonization, but remained embroiled in conflict with a neighbouring country. The General Assembly had full responsibility to complete the decolonization process, she said, recalling that the Security Council had adopted resolution 2414 (2018) in April, extending MINURSO's mandate for six months. The short renewal period represented a clear and strong message to those concerned, she said, expressing hope that the Special Envoy would recommend that the General Assembly establish a date for the referendum.

The representative of Cuba recalled that the Special Committee had declared Western Sahara a Non Self Governing Territory 55 years ago, and since then, numerous General Assembly and other resolutions had endorsed the right of its people to self determination. In 2017, the Assembly had further requested that the Special Committee consider the situation in Western Sahara and report back to it, yet despite all those efforts, the situation had nevertheless remained deadlocked for more than four decades with little progress made. Cuba supported the right of the people of Western Sahara to self determination � as well as the recent decision by the Heads of State of the African Union calling upon the two sides to commit to negotiations without preconditions, leading to the holding of a referendum. The people of Western Sahara needed the international community's support, she said, noting that her country had long supported education efforts in the Territory, and that Cuban medical brigades had worked in the refugee camps for years.

The representative of South Africa said his country's long standing solidarity with the people of Western Sahara was born out of its own history of fighting apartheid as well as its firm belief in the right to self determination of people living under foreign or colonial occupation. South Africa was concerned that Western Sahara remained the last colony on the African continent despite the General Assembly's consistent recognition of the inalienable right of its people to self determination and independence. To think that there are people who were born in refugee camps and who are over 40 [years old] who have never tasted freedom is a strong indictment of all of us as an international community, he emphasized.

Aspiring to self determination was not unreasonable, he continued, underlining the critical principles of multilateralism and international legality as well as the centrality of the African Union and the United Nations � including the former's Constitutive Act. South Africa urged respect for international human rights law in occupied territories, for international humanitarian law, for predictable, sustainable and timely assistance to the Territory's refugees, and for an end to the illegal exploration and exploitation of Western Sahara's resources. South Africa and other members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) expected to hold a solidarity conference on the matter in the course of 2018, he added.

The representative of Algeria noted that the Special Committee's mandate was to monitor implementation of the General Assembly's cornerstone resolution 1514 with respect of the 17 Non Self Governing Territories. So it is clear; your mandate is decolonization, not any other topic or principle, he said, emphasizing that the Special Committee was therefore obliged to put to an end all situations of colonization in accordance with the principles of peace, freedom and common sense. There could be no calculations of any sort, he said, stressing that the free will of all peoples must be encouraged. The situation of Western Sahara was on both the Special Committee's agenda as well as that of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization). Western Sahara shared borders with Algeria, which had sheltered hundreds of thousands of refugees for more than 40 years. All international opinions, including those of the General Assembly, reflected the conclusion that the people of Western Sahara should be able to exercise their right to self determination, he said, calling upon the Secretariat to post that conclusion on the United Nations decolonization website.

The situation in Western Sahara was also an African issue, he continued, recalling the 1991 agreement brokered by the African Union and endorsed by the Security Council. Reiterating his delegation's full support for the African Union's High Representative for Western Sahara, he called upon the United Nations to ensure the immediate return of observers to MINURSO. The Frente Polisario's representation of the people of Western Sahara could not be questioned, he said, pointing out that while the long standing fight for national liberation was no longer an armed conflict, Polisario was instead now taking it forward in a peaceful way. Nobody should take advantage of that peaceful resolve, he cautioned, adding that, at the same time, the international community could not turn a blind eye to the exploitation of Western Sahara's natural resources. Urging the Special Committee to consider sending a visiting mission to the Territory as soon as possible, he said there was no other choice but for the people of Western Sahara to exercise their right to self determination. He also paid tribute to the late Ahmed Boukhari, the Polisario representative who had often spoken before the Special Committee, who passed away in April.

The representative of Saint Lucia, associating herself with the statement delivered earlier by the delegate of Grenada, welcomed the adoption of Security Council resolution 2414 (2018) which emphasized the need for progress towards a realistic, durable solution to the conflict in Western Sahara through compromise. Welcoming positive developments, including Morocco's engagement in the African Union dialogue on the matter, she voiced support for that country's efforts to enhance the region's development.

The representative of Sierra Leone, emphasizing that United Nations decolonization efforts should be conducted on a case by case basis, welcomed the opportunity to listen to a broader range of stakeholders on Western Sahara, including briefings by two petitioners from the Territory during the Regional Seminar in Grenada. The question of Western Sahara could only be resolved through a sustainable political solution, he said, welcoming the Security Council's decision to place the issue on its agenda until such a permanent solution could be reached. He also urged Morocco to support the well being of people of Western Sahara.

The representative of Zimbabwe said his delegation supported the right to self determination for the people of Western Sahara, describing that position as a matter of principle. The people of Western Sahara should be allowed to determine their destiny, he said. Security Council resolution 690 (1991) was clear on the referendum for the self determination of the people of Western Sahara, he said, adding that the settlement plan signed by both sides that same year, and endorsed by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the United Nations provided for the holding of a self determination referendum and should be implemented unconditionally and without delay. He expressed hope that the ongoing African Union United Nations consultations on Western Sahara would pave the way for a resumption of talks between the two parties with the aim of reaching a permanent solution consistent with General Assembly and Security Council resolutions on the matter.

The representative of Uruguay said efforts to resolve outstanding decolonization issues must be stepped up, and relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions implemented. The parties must move forward on negotiations for a just and lasting solution, she added, encouraging them to cooperate with the United Nations and to ensure full respect for the human rights of those living in refugee camps. However, one side was exploiting the natural resources of the other, she pointed out, underlining the need to bring the parties closer together.

The representative of Gabon expressed full support for the Special Envoy's efforts, the ongoing United Nations led political process and the Morocco autonomy initiative. Information on the ground demonstrated that the model being implemented was making inroads, she said, commending all such Moroccan efforts in that regard.

The representative of Morocco stressed that the issue at hand was not decolonization but territorial integrity. Indeed, the Security Council considered the situation to be a regional dispute and treated it as such under Chapter VI of the Charter. Providing a summary of Morocco's history under the control of colonial occupiers, he said his country had eventually managed to regain its territorial integrity, including the region of the Sahara that had been under the control of Spain. In short, the Moroccan Sahara would remain a part of Morocco until the end of time. Describing a broad range of infrastructure projects that had been implemented, he said the Moroccan Sahara featured many services and initiatives geared towards promoting economic development. With that in mind, the political stalemate should not prevent its development.

He went on to note that the population had elected officials and parliamentarians in a democratic and transparent manner. The Security Council had recently adopted resolution 2414 (2018) which supported the Moroccan proposal and the political process to resolve the situation, without linking the matter to decolonization. The Moroccan initiative was the only path towards resolving the issue, he said, adding that the solution to the question of the Moroccan Sahara remained a United Nations led political process that respected Morocco's territorial integrity and dealt with relevant political issues. He said the population in the Tindouf refugee camps should be registered to ensure accurate information.

The representative of Guinea called on all parties and neighbouring countries to work towards a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution, which would in turn help to stabilize the security situation in the Sahel. Highlighting results from the transparent, fair elections in 2017, he said Morocco's 2015 development plan sought to boost economic development. The Moroccan autonomy initiative should be the only framework for achieving a compromise to the dispute.

The representative of Senegal expressed support for the Security Council's call for progress on resolving the conflict, as contained in resolution 2414 (2018), urging all neighbouring countries to heed that call. The international community must bear in mind the immense potential of a solution, not just for the cause of development, but also due to the need to confront major challenges in the Sahara/Sahel region and beyond. Morocco's autonomy initiative was a good faith effort to resolve the conflict, he said, adding that it was also realistic and based on compromise.

SIDI MOHAMED OMAR ABDELLAHI, introduced by the Chair as a speaker on behalf of the Frente Polisario and Western Sahara, said the question of the Territory was a clear cut issue of self determination despite efforts to convince the Special Committee otherwise. Recalling that the General Assembly had deplored Morocco's 1975 invasion and occupation of the Territory on many occasions, he said it had also called upon Morocco to terminate the occupation immediately. The continued occupation, therefore, remained the major obstacle. Rejecting Morocco's attempt to impose itself on the Territory without a decolonization due process, as well as its policies that tried to alter the Territory's demographic character, intimidate its people and plunder its resources, he said the lingering colonial situation � and the Assembly's relevant resolutions on it � testified to the fact that the right of all peoples to self determination was indeed inalienable, and could not be sidestepped by long standing occupations or aggressive policies. The Special Committee should consider the request, made on several occasions, to deploy a visiting mission to Western Sahara, as the last such visit had been in 1975. It was the Special Committee's duty to tell Morocco that it was indeed a colonizing Power, and ask that country to end the occupation.

MHAMED ABBA, petitioner from Western Sahara, described economic investment in Western Sahara by local elected leaders such as himself in development, tourism, agriculture and infrastructure development, among other areas. He said that his Council was supporting social investment, encouraging private investment, preserving the local culture, enhancing sustainable fishery practices, generating jobs and stimulating trade. Once of its major priorities was to boost Western Sahara's gross domestic product (GDP) and create more opportunities for the local people, he said, stressing that since his elected council represented the local population and promoted its welfare, they were the real representatives of the people.

A petitioner, describing herself as an elected official from Morocco, said the two regions of the Sahara had recently been transformed and now enjoyed high levels of health, literacy and access to infrastructure, including airports, roads and connectivity to water and electricity. Democratically elected officials had adopted a development model, including an aquaculture plan that would create thousands of jobs alongside a range of projects focused on the agricultural, tourism and cultural sectors. The impact of those efforts was the creation of jobs, the promotion of investment and the creation of a business hub in the region, she said.

NAMA SHAHIR, a petitioner, emphasized the need to ensure the protection of his people's rights. Morocco had committed human rights violations, including torture and intimidation, in Western Sahara. Since 1975, the Moroccan policy in occupied zones had been one of genocide and attempts had even been made to change the region's demography. In addition, the media lacked access to report on what was happening under the occupation. The Secretary General had addressed those and other concerns, he said, while pointing out that MINURSO lacked a component dedicated to protecting human rights. As such, a mechanism should be established to address human rights in Western Sahara, he stressed.

MOHAMED ALI ARKOUKOU, a petitioner, said he represented a United States based non profit organization in two Western Sahara refugee camps. The Frente Polisario was the legitimate representative of the people, but the debate on the situation in Western Sahara continued in the United Nations. Spain had betrayed its responsibility to conclude the decolonization process and now Morocco, the occupying Power, had tried to play tricks to legitimize its occupation. Its systematic human rights violations continued today, he said, adding that current challenges included holding the referendum and addressing the brutal conditions in the refugee camps.

HAMAD MOHAMED FALL, a petitioner, said the buffer strip had split the Sahara into two parts and was laden with landmines. The consequences included many injuries and fatalities as well as psychological and economic suffering. The zone facilitated protection for Moroccans and the stealing of natural resources, he said, underlining that, because the wall's construction was in violation of international law and human rights, it should be dismantled.

Ms. ABBA, a petitioner, said freedom of the press was not only important to democracy, it was democracy. In the case of Western Sahara, the price of a free press had become too high, with Morocco perpetrating human rights violations against journalists or preventing them from entering the Territory in order to shield the situation from the global gaze.

A petitioner said Morocco was undisputedly an occupying Power in Western Sahara. Significant evidence collected by international organizations had revealed the adverse impacts of the occupation, she said, noting that the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had raised concerns about the people's right to access their own natural resources. Local civil society organizations had documented similar illegal economic activities, she said, adding that the Territory's people continued to be treated as second class citizens in their own land. The goals of all the development projects implemented by Morocco were intended not for their benefit, but only for Moroccan settlers, and for that country to gain further access to Western Sahara's resources. By involving other international actors in those activities, Morocco also sought to legitimize the occupation and other flagrant violations of relevant United Nations resolutions, she said.

Source: United Nations

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Egypt

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary General.

**United States-Democratic People's Republic of Korea

I will start off by reading the statement we issued earlier today on the Summit between the leaders of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the US: the Secretary General welcomes the holding of the Summit between the leaders of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United States as an important milestone in the advancement of sustainable peace and the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. As the Secretary General noted in letters to both leaders before the Summit, the road ahead requires cooperation, compromise and a common cause. Implementing today's and previous agreements reached, in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions, will require patience and support from the global community. The Secretary General urges all concerned parties to seize this momentous opportunity and reiterates his readiness to fully support the ongoing [process].

And also earlier today, there was a statement from the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mr. [Yukiya] Amano, who also pledged IAEA's support if called upon.

**Secretary-General's Travels

A travel to announce: this Sunday, the Secretary General will leave for a trip to Finland, Norway and the Russian Federation. In Helsinki, the Secretary General will be attending the second meeting of his High level Advisory Board on Mediation. He will also attend the Kultaranta talks, an annual debate on foreign and security policy organized by Finnish President Sauli NiinistAl. The theme of the talks this year is the future of the international system.

He will then go on to Norway, where he will speak at the Oslo Forum, which is a retreat for international conflict mediators and high level decision makers � that meeting is co hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. While in the Norwegian capital, the Secretary General will also meet with his Majesty King Harald V and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon, who is also a UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] Goodwill Ambassador focusing on ending poverty. The Secretary General will also be hosted [by] and meet with Prime Minister Erna Solberg and the Foreign Minister of Norway.

And finally, he will go to Moscow, where he is scheduled to meet with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He will also have an audience with His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia � he is the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Secretary General will deliver remarks at the Moscow based think tank, the Valdai Discussion Club. He will also participate in a ceremony commemorating the seventieth anniversary of the UN presence in Russia. And as he has already said, he will also be attending the Portugal vs. Morocco game, which is part of the first round of games of the World Cup, which as you know is being held in Russia this year. We expect the Secretary General to be back in New York on 22 June.

**Disabilities

Earlier this morning, [the Secretary-General] addressed the eleventh session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In his remarks, the Secretary General stressed that this Convention, with 177 ratifications since its adoption in 2006, is an historical commitment which reaffirms that people with disabilities are entitled to exactly the same rights as everyone else, and that societies must be organized so that all people, including those with disabilities, can exercise their rights [freely]. But signing and ratifying the Convention is not enough: implementation is essential, he said, not as an act of charity but as a recognition of rights and a practical necessity, if we are to build healthy, sustainable societies to the benefit of everyone. The Secretary General also recalled that he had initiated a comprehensive review of the UN's work in this area, in order to make sure that the Organization is leading by example. Those remarks have been shared with you.

**HIV/AIDS

A bit later, he spoke at the General Assembly at a meeting reviewing the progress against HIV/AIDS, [and said] that on all continents, key populations at higher risk of infection continue to be left further and further behind. He stressed the need to empower young people to protect themselves from HIV. This [includes] providing a full range of sexual and reproductive health services and rights, harm reduction for people who use drugs and access to antiretroviral treatment for people living with HIV. Prevention is the key to breaking the cycle of HIV transmission, he said. At this pivotal moment, we must renew our focus and shared commitment to a world free of AIDS. The pandemic is not over, but it can be, and we must all do our part, he said.

**Bangladesh

An update from Bangladesh, where the first heavy rains of the year swept through Rohingya refugee settlements in Cox's Bazar district � this happened over the weekend, marking the start of the monsoon season. Our colleagues at the UNHCR [United Nations Refugee Agency] tell us that this is an early test for refugees and humanitarian agencies working to support the Government of Bangladesh on the response efforts.

Torrential rains and winds up to 70 kilometres per hour caused at least 89 reported incidents, including 37 landslide incidents, causing several injuries and one confirmed fatality � that of a child. Nearly 2,500 refugee families, some 11,000 people in all, were impacted by these rains. According to damage assessments, more than 1,000 shelters have been damaged as well as 10 water points, 167 latrines, a health facility and one food distribution site. The rains have also flooded the main road through the Kutupalong settlement, temporarily blocking vehicle access to other parts of the site.

While relocations and aid distributions continue, UNHCR is prepositioning more emergency supplies, including 10,000 tents, 190,000 tarpaulins, as well as 2 million water purification tablets, ready for use when needed. UNHCR also has five hospital tents and emergency health kits stored in permanent warehouses in Cox's Bazar.

**Iraq

Turning to Iraq, the Secretary General's Special Representative for Iraq, Jan Kubis, issued a statement late yesterday calling upon Iraq's election management bodies expeditiously to investigate and adjudicate all complaints of electoral fraud and violations, in a fully transparent way that promotes the integrity of the electoral process and the legitimacy of all its results, in line with the laws and Constitution of Iraq. He called upon all political bodies and their supporters to uphold the peace and to remain committed to resolving any electoral disputes through legal channels. And he also urged the Iraqi Government, the security forces and the electoral management bodies to take all appropriate steps to secure electoral materials, in particular in light of the recent fire incident affecting some of the electoral commission's warehouses.

**Syria

Concerning Syria, the Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, held consultations in Cairo and today had substantive and useful discussions with President [Abdel Fattah] Al Sisi of Egypt. The Special Envoy underscored the important contribution that Egypt can make in support of the UN facilitated political process on Syria. The Special Envoy will return to Geneva tomorrow.

Meanwhile, our humanitarian colleagues are deeply concerned for the safety and protection of civilians in southern Hassakeh Governorate following a recent intensification of hostilities. Since the beginning of the month, 44 civilians have reportedly been killed in the governorate as a result of fighting and military operations against Da'esh. The United Nations calls on all parties to spare civilians, and to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to allow for safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access to all in need, particularly those in hard to reach areas and besieged areas, as required by international humanitarian law and human rights law.

**Lebanon

The UN Refugee Agency today underscored the importance of working closely with Lebanon to find safe, dignified and sustainable solutions for Syrian refugees. In all countries, the agency says, it respects the rights of refugees to decide freely and for themselves on returning home. And similarly, it does not discourage returns that are based on individual, free and informed decisions. UNHCR is very concerned at Friday's announcement by the Foreign Minister of Lebanon on freezing the issuance of residence permits to international staff of UNHCR in Lebanon. This directly impacts UNHCR's ability to effectively carry out critical protection and solutions work in Lebanon. UNHCR hopes the decision of the Foreign Ministry will be reversed without delay.

**Migration

Our colleagues at the UN Migration Agency (IOM) welcomed today the decision by Spain to offer a safe harbour to over 600 migrants � including scores of children and seven pregnant women � who have been waiting aboard a rescue vessel since Sunday. The Director General of IOM, Bill Swing, said he was glad that Spain has stepped forward to defuse this crisis, but he said he feared a major tragedy if States start refusing to accept rescued migrants as was threatened. He added that keeping the rescued people at sea is not going to dissuade other migrants from crossing to Europe and they, too, will need to be rescued sooner or later.

**Ukraine

IOM also said today � warned today � that Ukraine is the largest displacement crisis in Europe since the Balkan wars. Speaking after her visit to Kyiv and to conflict areas in Eastern Ukraine, IOM's Regional Director said that with thousands dead and 1.5 million displaced, it is scandalous that this conflict remains largely forgotten.

**Child Labour

Today is the World Day against Child Labour. This year's theme is Generation Safe and Healthy, and it focuses on improving the safety and health of young workers and on ending child labour. About 73 million children are in hazardous work. These children are toiling in mines and fields, factories and homes, exposed to pesticides and other toxic substances � they carry heavy loads and work long hours.

And the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also warned today that after years of steady decline, child labour in agriculture has started to rise again in recent years, driven in part by an increase in conflicts and climate induced disasters. The agency said this not only threatens the well being of millions of children, but also undermines efforts to end global hunger and poverty.

**Human Rights

I'd been asked a number of times by a number of you offsite about the process for selecting the next High Commissioner for Human Rights, and I can confirm that the UN Secretariat has sent out letters to the Permanent Missions to request nominations for this position. The letter was also shared with major human rights NGOs [non governmental organizations]. And this will be in addition to the Secretary General's own search. As you are aware, the High Commissioner is appointed by the Secretary General and approved by the General Assembly for a four year term. In order to ensure a wide pool of candidates for this position, the Secretariat would welcome any nominations to supplement the Secretary General's own search. The nomination of women candidates is strongly encouraged. I will take questions. Edie?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Thank you, Steph. Two questions. First, does the Secretary General have any plans to follow up on his offer of assistance of the United Nations and its agencies to the leaders?

Spokesman: Sure sorry. Okay. I can sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt you. No, we do expect to be in contact with US authorities in the coming days. Obviously, I think the you know, the summit ended just a few hours ago. People are flying to various destinations. But we do expect contacts to be had in the coming days.

Question: And my second question was, there are reports that an attack on Hodeidah might be imminent. Is there any update from Mr. [Martin] Griffiths on on what's happening there?

Spokesman: No. I don't have Mr. Griffiths is now back in Amman. He remains in contact with the parties, but I have no direct information as to the actual situation on the ground as of now. Yes, ma'am?

Question: Thank you, Stephane. We have been seeing some reports of air strikes and clashes in Idlib. I was wondering if the UN has any presence and if you have an update on the humanitarian situation. And also, my second question is on Myanmar. The Special Envoy for Myanmar would be travelling today, if I'm not mistaken?

Spokesman: Yes, she's there. If I'm not mistaken, she's there today.

Question: And do you have an update on the visit?

Spokesman: No, this is her first day. I think the first day was part of being spent on Yangon or Naypyidaw. We're trying to get some details as to what field visits she may be able do. Carole? Sorry and Idlib, no updates on Syria besides what I've already mentioned. Carole?

Question: Stephane, on North Korea, is the Secretary General concerned or disappointed that the joint statement makes no mention of verifiable denuclearization, which is a point he made in his statement at the stakeout ahead of the summit?

Spokesman: No, I think for the Secretary General, as I said, he very much welcomed the holding of the summit, which he feels is an important milestone. What the Secretary General would like to ultimately see has not changed, which is a peaceful and complete verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. So, his position has not changed, and I think you know, obviously, it's early days, but I think he was he very much welcomed and was pleased that the summit took place.

Question: Follow up on that?

Spokesman: Yeah.

Question: Yes, Stephane, but how important is verification in order to reach that goal that the Secretary General have, that ultimate goal?

Spokesman: You know, I think, if the Secretary General would be here, he would say, nerves of steel. This is the beginning of a process. The United Nations is there, will be there to help along the parties inasmuch as they wish. And, obviously, we need to see exact get more a bit more details. Yeah?

Question: Just this morning on George with George Stephanopoulos, President [Donald] Trump said, of Kim Jong Un, his country does love him. His people you can see the fervour. They have great fervour. Does the United Nations have any concern about the signal that rhetoric like this signals for human rights in North Korea? And is this sort of language just the kind of necessary part of a peace process?

Spokesman: No, I'm not going to play the role of commentator for what is being said in interviews. I think the United Nations' stance on the situation of human rights in the DPRK has been clear and is unchanged.

Question: In but in terms of forgetting about rhetoric in interviews, what about in policy, that in the statement there was no mention of that?

Spokesman: I will leave the analysis to the analysts. Yep?

Question: Thank you, Stephane. You mentioned that the UN is there to help and support the talks. In what ways can the UN do that? What concrete steps can the UN help?

Spokesman: I would say whether it's the IAEA, the CTBTO [Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization], we have different parts, technical parts, of the UN, which can play a role towards a denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Olga?

Question: Thanks, Stephane. Just to clarify about the long visit of Secretary General. So he leaves for Finland on Sunday? So what day will he be where?

Spokesman: He will be Monday in Finland, Tuesday in Norway, and then Wednesday and he arrives in Moscow, if I'm not mistaken, Wednesday afternoon, and then he leaves he's there about two nights. One of my colleagues will bring me a note with more details as I stop trying to improvise. Yes, you've been very patient.

Question: Hi. Also, about the Trump Kim summit, President Trump said after the meeting that he hopes China would participate in the signing process of a peace treaty. He said China has been very helpful. So, I would like to know that if the Secretary General has any comment about China's role that bring the two leaders together closer for talks?

Spokesman: Look, we're not privy to whatever discussions may have taken place before, but it's clear that China has a very important part to play in the situation in the Korean Peninsula and has played a very positive role. Mr. Abbadi and then Nabil.

Question: Thank you, Stephane. Regarding the statement you read out on the summit, the Secretary General's statement, I have two questions. One, he refers to two letters sent to the two leaders. Have these letters been made public and why not, if not?

Spokesman: No, they were sent around 11 May. They were private letters. They were not made public. Sometimes in diplomacy, we do things above the water line, sometimes under the water line, but I think the gist of the letter is clear in the statement, which the Secretary General said the road ahead requires cooperation, compromise and a common cause. The Secretary General has been very supportive of these diplomatic initiatives, whether it was the first summit between the leaders of the DPRK and the Republic of Korea or now the meeting between the Secretary between the US President and the leader of the DPRK. The letter were words of encouragements, just as he himself said publicly yesterday.

Question: And my second question about the same statement, he refers to the denuclearization, and he used word complete and verifiable, but he left out the third adjective which is commonly used with respect to the process, which is irreversible. Why?

Spokesman: I think no one would want to see a denuclearization which is then reversed. Nabil?

Question: Yes. Yes. On Lebanon, you read the statement on Lebanese Foreign Minister's position. So, has the SG replied to the Lebanese Foreign Minister letter? I think he sent the letter on this matter to the SG. And, if not, what's the SG's message to the Lebanese Government on that? And I have another question.

Spokesman: I don't know if the letter's been replied to. I think the Secretary General is has been very clear on the issue of refugee rights, that any return needs to be voluntary. He backs UNHCR, and I think the Secretary General, like we all do, recognizes the immense generosity of the people and Government of Lebanon in having hosted so many refugees for so long. And we I think we can never honour enough that generosity, but there are certain issues in terms of refugee rights and principles that the Secretary General feels very strongly about.

Question: And, on Hodeidah port and city, there are reports say that the UN moved or evacuated the international presence or personnel from Hodeidah. Can you confirm that? Do you have any numbers and?

Spokesman: Sure. I mean, the UN temporarily reconfigured its presence in Hodeidah. Humanitarian footprints as I've said here quite often, the footprint shifts on based on operational requirements and other considerations, including, obviously, security. Dozens of UN staff currently remain in Hodeidah. Critical operations continue, and, obviously, we have made a decision to stay and deliver.

Question: So, do you have any number and who are the people that you?

Spokesman: The reconfiguration that I've just talked about includes temporarily reducing overall staff numbers and temporarily relocating international staff. This also sometimes happens during the Eid period. Currently, there is slightly there are about 41 national UN staff remaining in Hodeidah. And, again, I think this underscores the fact that most of the the vast majority of the humanitarian work done in these crises countries, whether it's in Yemen or in Syria is, in fact, done by nationals. Carole?

Question: [Inaudible] I have defective microphone. I have two follow up questions. You said on North Korea that you expected a meeting with the US

Spokesman: No, I didn't say I expected a meeting. I expected contacts to be had.

Question: Okay. So there's nothing set up? There's no?

Spokesman: No. No, I mean, it could be contacts at various levels. I but I didn't say meeting.

Question: Okay. I wanted to clarify that. And can you tell us a bit what the Secretary General might be discussing with President [Vladimir] Putin when they meet?

Spokesman: There's a host of issues. As a permanent member of the Security Council, I think there are quite a lot of issues on the agenda. We can expect them to discuss Syria, to discuss UN reform, and just there's a full complement of peace and security issues that need to be that should be discussed and that may very well be discussed. Mr. Abbadi?

Question: Thank you, Stephane. In the joint declaration issued in Singapore, the declaration refers to the promotion of peace and security, not only in the Peninsula but also in the whole world. How important role is the UN going to play in the process?

Spokesman: Well, as the Secretary General said, we stand ready to assist the parties at implementing and moving the process forward. Yep?

Question: [Inaudible].

Spokesman: It's you know, it's this the ink is barely dry in what was signed. Obviously, we'll have contacts to get more details. Yes, sir?

Question: Regarding the assistance of the UN to the summit or the process that will come afterwards, was the UN formally requested to assist in and, if yes, in what?

Spokesman: No, as I said, we the reaction from the Secretary General I mean, you heard him yesterday. You heard the head of the IAEA today and again the Secretary General's statement. We stand ready to assist, and obviously contacts will be had to see how and when we could assist.

Question: Different question?

Spokesman: You may.

Question: In what capacity will Mr. [Antonio] Guterres be attending the Morocco Portugal game? And what country will he be supporting?

Spokesman: He will be attending as a guest of the host, the Russian President. As to where his heart will beat, I will let you guess. [Laughter] Or for whom his heart will beat.

Question: Well, I'm guessing, because he's the UN General so I can guess.

Spokesman: What the Secretary General is interested in is fair play and ensure that everybody has a good time, just like we do here at the briefing. Yes, ma'am? Yeah. Sorry.

Question: Okay. On Hodeidah, I'm just not clear where where things stand. You said that Martin Griffiths has gone back to Amman, so presumably the period of intense negotiations is over. And what what was the outcome?

Spokesman: Listen you know, Mr. Griffiths is able to use the phone and email and other ways to communicate with the parties. We remain in touch. As you know, the Yemeni Foreign Minister was here talking to the Secretary General yesterday. We are trying to do whatever we can to avoid a bloody battle for Hodeidah, which would have devastating humanitarian consequences. We would like to see all the parties redouble their efforts and recommit to a political solution for Yemen and to stop the suffering of the Yemeni people, which has gone for much too long and continues every day. Thank you. Oh, sorry. On sorry. Stay here. On the trip, the Secretary General will be in Finland on the 18th, Norway on the 19th, and basically in Russia on the 20th and the 21st.

Source: United Nations