• March 24, 2010

Anyone who considers that recent disquiet about the failure of the Isle of Man to move towards independence is an esoteric issue should think again.

The Isle of Man it is sometimes argued only has to press the case and it could go it alone. The United Kingdom as a democracy of long-standing would surely not put any impediment in the way of such a move.

It is however not quite so simple. The United Kingdom along with other States responsible for non-self governing territories is actually supposed to encourage moves towards full independence.

However, when ten years ago the United Nations adopted its resolution (55/146) on the `Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism’ the United Kingdom was anything but enthusiastic.

The United Kingdom representative to the UN, Stewart Eldon, said in the debate on resolution 55/146 in December 2000 (and several other associated resolutions on decolonisation):

“I am taking the floor to explain the United Kingdom’s votes on resolution 55/147 on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, resolution 55/145, on the dissemination of information on decolonization, and resolution 55/146, on the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.

“As members of the Assembly will have seen, we voted against all of these resolutions.

“On the resolution on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the United Kingdom continues to find some elements of this text unacceptable. These include, but are not limited to, operative paragraph 12, which calls on the administering Powers to eliminate the remaining military bases in the Non-Self-Governing Territories. This language is drawn from the decision on military activities, which we also voted against this year.

“With regard to resolution 55/145, the United Kingdom remains of the view that the obligation which this text places on the Secretariat to publicize decolonization issues represents an unwarranted drain on the scarce resources of the United Nations. The resolution is therefore unacceptable.

“Finally, my delegation has a few comments on the resolution on the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. We have read carefully the Secretary-General’s report on the first Decade and take the view that there is scant evidence in it that the activities of the Decade were of any great benefit to the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. In contrast, we are firmly of the opinion that the interests of those peoples are more likely to be furthered through the informal dialogue of administering Powers with the Committee of 24, which falls outside the activities mandated by this resolution.

“We are thus concerned that the activities of the first Decade have not been an efficient use of United Nations resources. Moreover, no plan of action for the second Decade has yet been submitted, and we are therefore unaware of what implications it may have for the handling of decolonization issues in general or for particular United Kingdom territories.”

True to its word the United Kingdom has done little to further full independence for the Overseas territories and Crown dependencies it continues to govern.

It prefers the comfortable status quo as outlined in the final section of paragraph 5 of Mr Eldon’s submission. It also knows that it has the quiet acquiescence of the existing judicial and political establishments set up by the Crown (with key positions staffed by their placemen) in these territories.

After all promoting full political freedom for citizens of dependencies to use Mr Eldon’s words “represents an unwarranted drain on the scarce resources”!

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