Who are Colonized?

In December 1960, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 1514 (XV), formally titled the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and People asserting that all people and all nations have the equal right to self-determination. Self-determination is defined as an inherent right belonging to every people to decide their political fate. Resolution 1514 called for an end to colonialism, especially for the non-self-governing territories around the world. The non-self-governing territories are defined as those places “whose people have not yet attained a full measure of self-government.” The resolution asserted that colonialism served as an impediment to world peace and fostered the denial of human rights. Additionally, the resolution obliged the occupying or colonizing nations to ensure that:

“Immediate steps shall be taken, in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories or all other territories which have not yet attained independence, to transfer all powers to the peoples of those territories, without any conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire, without any distinction as to race, creed or colour, in order to enable them to enjoy complete independence and freedom.”

The resolution set off a wave of decolonization efforts around the world, as many former territories negotiated new political statuses and relationships. Today, however, Guam remains on the UN list of 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Complementing Resolution 1514 (XV) the UN released Resolution 1541 (XV) which affirmed three options by which a non-self-governing territory could be considered having exercised a full measure of self-government. These options are:

Emergence as a sovereign independent State;
Free association with an independent State as the result of a free and voluntary choice by the people of a territory through an “informed and democratic process.”
Integration with an independent State on the basis of complete equality in status, rights of citizenship, representation, opportunities and freedoms between the people of the Territory and the State. Like free association, integration should be the result of free and voluntary expressed choice through an informed democratic process.
In 1961, the UN General Assembly created the Special Committee on Decolonization, comprised of members nominated by the President of the General Assembly to “examine the application of the Declaration (1514), to make suggestions and recommendations on the progress and extent of the implementations of the Declaration, and to report to the General Assembly.” Every year, the Committee holds seminars and sessions, and prepares working papers to help the UN better understand the conditions in the remaining non-self-governing territories. The Committee also makes recommendations for resolutions to protect the interests of the peoples of these territories.