About the Commission on Decolonization

About the Commission on Decolonization

The Commission on Decolonization was established by the 24th Guam Legislature in 1997 to enhance the efforts of the Commission on Self-Determination. Its purpose is to educate the people of Guam on the various political status options available. Since then, the Commission and each respective Task Force have conducted educational and outreach programs including meetings, rallies, and seminars in efforts to inform the public about the decolonization process and three status options - Free Association, Independence, and Statehood.

History of the Commission on Decolonization

 

On December 14, 1960, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) passed resolution 1514 (XV) declaring its position on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples. This resolution specifically established international law with regard to the sovereignty of indigenous peoples throughout the world. In 1961, the General Assembly of the UN established a Special Committee on Decolonization to oversee the implementation of the declaration all over the world. By 1986, there was a total of 68 non-self-governing territories throughout the globe that were identified by a committee that included eight member states in the UN, with the United States as one of the member states. Work over the past twenty-five years has resulted in 51 territories being granted some form of self-determination. Guam remains one of the residual 17 jurisdictions that have not been granted any form of self-determination. Other localities in the similar position include Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Tokelau, New Caledonia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

In 1946, almost half of the world's population lived in a colonial territory. Today, less than 2 million people live in colonies. The status quo has brought continuing change to our island that we have no voice in shaping. Under the status quo, Guam's future will continue to be shaped not by Guam's interest, but by what other's want for Guam.   A self-determination vote is the beginning of the decolonization process. No matter what option is selected, a constitution to support the status that is selected will have to be put in place to end Guam's status as a non-self-governing territory. The United States as Guam's administering power and as a signatory to international treaties of social and political rights, is not likely to support an end to Guam's non-self-governing status unless a stable constitution guaranteeing equal rights to all has been adopted by Guam residents.

 

According to Webster's Dictionary, colonialism is “control by one power over a dependent area or people; a policy advocating or based on such control.” The process and continuation of colonization is dependent on one government or a group of people imposing on another government or group of people, the rules under which they live. The exercise of external control over a dependent area or people usually affects the area and their resources. Which the colonial power seeks to use or exploit. The exercise of colonial power over a people is considered a violation of the most sacred human right to self-determination of a people to make their own decisions about how they are governed, and how their natural resources are used.

 

Decolonization is the movement of a colony from a dependent status to a self-governing status. The colonial people’s expression of their desires for a decolonized status is usually evidenced through a process of self-determination. Hence, self-determination is the process by which the people of a colonial territory express their desire for a self-governing status. The expression to implement a self-governing status. The foundation of the principle of self-determination in international law comes from the process of decolonization or the affirmation of a people’s right to be self-governing and the right to be free from undemocratic external decision-making.

 

In the process of decolonization, it is the colonized people who have the right to self-determination (e.g., the colonized people are the “self” in self-determination). In Guam’s case, “the people” is clearly understood through the identification of “native inhabitants” in the treaty of Paris (Article IX). These “people” were subsequently those who received US citizenship under the Organic Act of 1950. Hence, Guam Public Law 23-147 specifically states, “Native Inhabitants of Guam” shall mean those persons who became US citizens by virtue of the authority and enactment of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam and descendants of those persons.” In international law, “the people of the territory” is understood to be those who would have made up a nation in the absence of colonialism. Hence, the process of decolonization is intended to restore equity to peoples who have collectively been harmed by colonization. Complementing Resolution 1514 (XV) the UN released Resolution 15414 (XV) which affirmed three options by which a non-self-governing territory could be considered having exercised a full measure of self-government. The attainment of a self-governing status is evidenced when a colony’s status has been changed and that change provides for the former colony to be either: (1) an independent sovereign, (2) an equally integrated part of another country (e.g. statehood in US system), (3) a freely associated state in the free association of the United States of America. While these statuses are common wisdom, they have been the international basis for evaluating whether a territory has attained full self-government in accordance with the United Nations charter. The United States was the principal proponent of these status options being adopted in the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514 (1960). Each status option – independence, free association, and statehood – will affect the island’s future in different ways. Henceforth, the Commission on Decolonization and its Task Forces were created to educate the public on the three status options.

Meet the Commission on Decolonization Team

 

The Commission is composed of 11 members of the community, to include: one representative from each task forces advocating for their respective status option, representatives from the Legislature, Mayors’ Council and Youth Congress, the Governor of Guam as Chairman, and his appointed members.

 

Office Staff

Melvin Won Pat-Borja, Executive Director

Josh Aguon, Staff Assistant

Natasha Suba, Program Coordinator