UN ‘all words and no action’ on Gib, Garcia says in New York
The UN’s Fourth Committee on Decolonisation in New York has been “all words and no action” for 60 years when it comes to Gibraltar, Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia, said on Wednesday as he called on future generations to see the Rock through the prism of democracy and human rights, not a territorial claim.
Dr Garcia’s address marked 60 years since Gibraltar first appeared before the UN, where representatives have continuously called for the Rock to be struck off the list off non-self-governing territories.
Over the years, Gibraltar has appeared repeatedly before the Fourth Committee and Committee of 24 and watched as other colonies have been struck off the list.
Dr Garcia called on the representatives of former colonies like India, Australia, Canada and South Africa, as well as smaller nations like Grenada, St Lucia and Nauru, who have also achieved decolonisation.
He asked for the same route-map others have used before and to move ahead with their mandate.
But Dr Garcia’s hope for change perhaps lies in future generations.
“There is always hope that future generations may come to see Gibraltar differently, through the prism of democracy and human rights, rather than as a mere object of Spain’s territorial ambition,” he said.
He told the UN that people cannot simply be handed over between kings and princes against their wishes.
“This means that the freely and democratically expressed wishes of the people of Gibraltar must prevail,” he said.
“We cannot be simply transferred from an existing colonial power to a new one.”
“That is not decolonisation. That is recolonisation.”
“Worse still is the notion of replacing one colonial power with two of them jointly.”
“We have overwhelmingly rejected that already.”
Dr Garcia too rejected Spain’s claim for sovereignty.
He asserted that Gibraltar must determine its own future, and highlighted the challenges Brexit has posed for the Rock.
“Spain seeks to redraw a European border to what it was before 1704,” he said.
“This is a frightening notion. It has huge implications that extend far beyond Gibraltar. The truth is that we are no longer in the eighteenth century. Today, people have rights. Today, people come first.”
“Today, the wishes of the people must be paramount.”
He said Gibraltar’s exit from the European Union had allowed the Rock to work with Spain to solve shared challenges, with the aim being to enhance the regional economy and protect the interests of communities on either side of the border.
Dr Garcia stressed Gibraltar’s positive impact economically on neighbouring Spain and spoke of the thousands of workers who cross daily into Gibraltar.
In financial terms, this makes Gibraltar the second largest employer for the southern region of Spain, with purchases worth $1.5billion in goods and materials from Spanish companies.
He said Gibraltar has worked towards a UK/EU treaty with the bloc to protect this economic interaction going forward, and is committed to work with a new Spanish government following their electoral process.
“But make no mistake,” Dr Garcia said.
“We will never surrender any part of our sovereignty. Gibraltar belongs to its people.”
He described Gibraltar’s multicultural society made up of settlers from across the Mediterranean, who are separate and distinct from the administering power and have a right to self-determination.
“That influx of immigrants has, over three hundred years, produced the Gibraltarian of today,” Dr Garcia said.
“We are a separate and distinct people from the administering power.”
“A people with the inalienable right to self-determination under international law.”
Dr Garcia looked back at 60 years of elected representatives attending the UN to argue for the same recognition and how this so far has been fruitless.
“60 years later, Madam Chair, we are still here saying the same thing,” he said.
“Nothing has happened. There has yet to be meaningful engagement by the United Nations.”
“The UN has simply looked the other way. This is not only disappointing, it is unacceptable.”