Gibraltar ‘wants to see action from UN’
When it comes to Gibraltar, the United Nations has “whistled and looked the other way” for too long, David Guerrero-Liston, Gibraltar’s representative in the US, told the UN’s Fourth Committee on Decolonisation in New York on Wednesday, adding it was now time for “action”.
Mr Liston said the UN should recognise that a fixed approach to decolonisation would not work in all situations, some of which required “imagination and tailor-made solutions”, and urged diplomats to despatch a visiting mission to Gibraltar to learn firsthand and on the ground about the aspirations of the Gibraltarians.
“The people of Gibraltar are a distinct people in their own right,” Mr Liston said.
“They are the only ones who must freely and democratically determine their own future.”
And he later added: “It is your duty to ensure that we attain full self-government and decolonisation, so that we can take our rightful place among the family of nations.”
Mr Liston addressed the UN on behalf of Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who was unable to travel after testing positive for Covid-19.
Spain usually addresses the Fourth Committee before Gibraltar’s representatives but on Wednesday, unusually, the Spanish representative made no speech at the session in New York.
For five decades, successive Gibraltarian governments have lobbied the UN to strike the Rock off its list of non-self-governing territories.
On Wednesday morning in New York, Mr Liston urged the UN to finally take steps to decolonise Gibraltar.
He rejected the Spanish government’s claim on Gibraltar, stressing that the Rock would not bend on sovereignty.
“Gibraltar has been listed as a non-self-governing territory since 1946,” Mr Liston said.
“There were over seventy countries listed then.”
“Many of you have achieved your political emancipation, your decolonisation and your removal from that list.”
“The people of Gibraltar wish to follow in the footsteps of all those of you who have gone before.”
“They are entitled to exercise the right to self-determination and decolonisation.”
“The UN cannot have one rule for some and a different rule for others.”
In the assembly hall, Mr Liston told the UN its efforts to eradicate colonialism had failed in their main objective.
He called for the Fourth Committee to ask their colleagues at the Committee of 24 to send a visiting mission to Gibraltar, something the committee has always resisted.
“If that committee continues to ignore our invitations to visit and learn about our country first-hand, how can it provide you with useful information, suggestions and recommendations regarding Gibraltar and the legitimate aspirations of our people?” he asked.
“How can you even pretend to have an informed debate in these circumstances?”
“You cannot fulfill your mission if you do not venture out from the boardrooms and the offices here in New York.”
Gibraltar, he said, has continually sought to work with the UN and continues to do so.
But now it was time for the UN to reciprocate.
“Gibraltar has always supported the international effort over many decades for the eradication of colonialism,” Mr Liston said.
“In all that time we have heard plenty of good intentions expressed in this committee and elsewhere.”
“But make no mistake, we want to see action.”
“The first three Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism have failed in their main objective.”
“This is partly because of a collective failure to learn the lesson that one size does not fit all.”
“There is a need for imagination and for tailor-made solutions where required.”
“Gibraltar wants to work with the United Nations.”
“We want the United Nations to work with us too.”
“Sadly, too often our words have fallen on deaf ears.”
“All too often when it comes to Gibraltar, the UN has whistled and looked the other way.”
Mr Liston’s speech to the UN comes as Gibraltar prepares for negotiations for a UK/EU treaty on the Rock’s future after departing from the European Union.
The complex negotiations aim to pave the way for a new relationship with Spain and the EU, but Gibraltar is also preparing for its post-Brexit future should the talks fail.
Mr Liston told the UN how the preferred option – not just for Gibraltar but for Spain and the UK too - remains to secure an agreement.
He said Gibraltar makes a positive economic contribution to southern Spain, adding the coronavirus pandemic had also highlighted the bond between Gibraltar and Spain.
In its vaccination efforts, Gibraltar had vaccinated thousands of cross frontier workers, he told the UN.
“When our businesses went into lockdown because of the Covid pandemic, we helped those same workers economically too with regular cash payments,” Mr Liston said.
“That is how neighbouring countries should behave.”
“For many years we have had a relationship of conflict and confrontation with Spain.”
“This has stemmed from the Spanish government’s outdated territorial claim to our homeland, which we will always reject.”
“We cannot redraw the boundaries of Europe back to what they were three centuries ago, when Spain ceded Gibraltar to Great Britain in perpetuity.”
“We have to accept the reality before us today.”