Friday, June 03, 2016

Tales of Decolonization #5: Message from the Secretary General

I wonder who writes the press releases or the formal statements at the United Nations.

Some of them must be easy as you simply include basic pertinent information. You recognize a country, an anniversary, a resolution or something like that.

It might also be easy because so many of the press releases and statements, year after year, can be very similar and so you can really just cut and paste something from last year, change the dates and maybe a word or two. Such is possible is any large bureaucracy and so we shouldn't assume the UN is immune from this.

But in truth, if you are taking your job seriously you can't do this, you have to give the impression that something is different or that something has changed, even if nothing has.

For the issue of decolonization, we are currently in the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism from the world. Over these past 26 years, very little has changed or shifted in terms of ridding the world of colonialism. One Non-Self-Governing Territory was removed from the list and achieved its independence (Timor Leste) and one territory was added back onto the list (French Polynesia). But other than that very little has changed, except for there being less money and less emphasis on decolonization at the UN level.

For each regional seminar, like for most events that are part of the regular United Nations calendar, the Secretary-General releases a statement thanking the participants and urging all the relevant nations to work towards decolonization.

I would hate to be the writer of these statements, as it must be difficult to find things to highlight without simply repeating what was repeated the year before and the year before that. You have to maintain a consistency, but also create the impression of things moving, changing or improving.

So for each year's statement from the Secretary-General, I am always looking for those little rhetorical treats, the exciting little nuances that are supposed to create that difference, give that feeling of progressive or transformative possibility. For this year's statement it seems to be a thanking of Nicaragua for their willingness to host this regional seminar for two years in a row. That is very kind of them, put este na asunto manggeftao siha, and it has been apparent in both 2015 and 2016, that the Sandanista government takes this issue, for a variety of reasons, very seriously. But what is missing in the congratulations towards Nicaragua for hosting again, is the truth that few other nations are willing to act as hosts. This year's seminar is supposed to be in the Pacific, but no country was willing to host it. In the informal discussions at this year's seminar it seemed possible that the 2017 seminar might once again be in Nicaragua, as several of the country representatives that I spoke to on the Committee of 24 said their country would never host it.

Below is the text for the Secretary-General's statement. Si Yu'us Ma'åse to the Overseas Territories Review for providing the text.

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Secretary-General Hails Nicaragua for Its Generosity in Hosting Second Regional Decolonization in Two Years

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message, delivered by Rie Kadota, Senior Political Affairs Officer, Decolonization Unit, Department of Political Affairs, to the Pacific Regional Seminar on Decolonization, in Managua, Nicaragua, May 31, 2016

I am pleased to send my greetings to all who have gathered in Managua for the 2016 Pacific Regional Seminar on Decolonization, in the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories. I thank the Government and the people of Nicaragua for their generous hospitality in hosting this important Seminar for the second time in two years.

This Managua Seminar also marks the twenty-fifth Regional Seminar of the Special Committee since 1990. I welcome this year’s focus on the Pacific region under the theme of “Commitments and Actions for Decolonization in the Non-Self-Governing Territories”, within the framework of the third Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.

According to the Charter of the United Nations and relevant General Assembly resolutions, a full measure of self-government can be achieved through independence, integration or free association with another State. The choice should be the result of the freely expressed will and desire of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. The Special Committee on Decolonization supports this decolonization process. I also count on the administering Powers to continue to fulfil the obligation to promote the well-being of the peoples under their administration.

This annual Regional Seminar provides a key opportunity for the Special Committee to hear directly from representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories about their unique situations and problems. It also facilitates informal exchanges between administering Powers, other stakeholders, Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Special Committee, experts, civil society organizations, regional organizations and others.

Let us seize this opportunity to identify concrete actions to advance the decolonization agenda. I wish you success in your deliberations. Thank you.

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