“We believe that we deserve to stand in front of the international community as equals,” declares first conference to bring together the self-determination and decolonisation movements of Europe and Africa
THE PROBLEMS facing nations without statehood and colonies (NWSC), including the ongoing violence of colonial domination, must be recognised and addressed by the United Nations, the European Union and the African Union, a major conference has demanded after bringing together many of Europe and Africa’s decolonisation and self-determination movements for the first time.
The Europe Africa Summit for Nations Without States and Colonies convened this month on the Canary Island of Gran Canaria, bringing together civic and political organisations representing Scotland, Catalonia, Ireland, Corsica, the Basque Country, the Azores, the Faroe Islands, Libya, Mauritania, the Veneto, Gibraltar, Mexico, New Caledonia, the Kabylia people of Algeria, the Azwad people of Mali and the Amazigh people of Morocco.
Meeting in solidarity, the conference culminated with a declaration that the resolution of conflicts over issues of autonomy must always be peaceful, democratic and negotiated.
A collective statement released by the conference states: “We believe that we deserve to stand in front of the international community as equals and that it is cooperation between equals which can resolve conflict.
“We therefore recognise and support the decolonisation process and the right to self determination in those territories that seek it and call on others to recognise this right as well.”
“We recognise that many of us face discrimination against our community, culture and language that goes against the Human Rights provisions included in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.” Joint-statement from Europe Africa Summit for Nations Without States and Colonies
The conference emphatically rejected any accusation that associates NWSC with xenophobia, the far right or racism, citing the success of their first conference as proof that countries from both Europe and Africa have mutual goals of democratic revival in common.
“We recognise that we face similar problems due to the lack of respect from the states which govern our nations,” the statement continues. “We recognise that many of us face discrimination against our community, culture and language that goes against the Human Rights provisions included in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
“We commit ourselves to the civil and political rights of our nations meaning that our administrations should be local and close to the communities that they govern. We believe in the right to and merit of decentralisation, autonomy and independence.”
The groups, nations and colonies represented at the conference have declared their intent to pursue the provision of a stable coordinating body for NWSC, “to guarantee the continuity of this fruitful encounter”; a joint-address to the UN, EU and AU to raise awareness of the problems facing NWSC; and a commitment to the ‘Right to Peace’ declaration, as defined by the Popular Front National Committee for Canary Islands Independence, which reads:
“Absence of armed conflict and violence caused by the lack of fundamental liberties, economic and social underdevelopment and to consider the colonial domination as one of the largest forms of violence.”
In addition to these wider goals, the conference has also endorsed the results of the Catalan referendum of 1 October, 2017 as legitimate, seeks the release of Catalonia’s political prisoners, and has appealed to the Spanish state to facilitate the decolonisation process of its colonies in the African continent, specifically the Canary Archipelago and Ceuta & Melilla enclaves.
Furthermore, in what could be seen as a stand against Western military intervention in the wake of the Libyan war, the conference has rejected all violence “exerted by the state or international interference in African territories,” saying that “the security and integrity of the countries must be respected.”
In attendance was Common Weal think-tank director Robin McAlpine, as part of a Scottish delegation involved with the International Commission of European Citizens, the EU-funded body which supports stateless nations in Europe.
Speaking to CommonSpace, McAlpine commented: “It has been a wonderful experience to learn so much about all these self determination and decolonisation movements throughout Europe and Africa, and very heartening how much solidarity there is for each other and our aim of democratic decentralisation in both continents.
“The determination to keep working together and showing solidarity was really inspiring and it is great to know that so many different peoples in so many different places share the same kinds of hopes as Scotland’s independence supporters.” Common Weal director Robin McAlpine
“It was really interesting to hear how each of us has often faced the same accusations – that we are somehow xenophobic or racist, that we are isolated and alone, that we are on the wrong side of history. Everyone present was really keen to produce a statement to remind people that the desire for self determination is one which exists all over the world and that it offers a democratic hope for revival in our continents.
“The determination to keep working together and showing solidarity was really inspiring and it is great to know that so many different peoples in so many different places share the same kinds of hopes as Scotland’s independence supporters.”
In recent years, efforts have been made by some geopolitical actors to drive a wedge between self-determination and anti-colonialist movements. When the Catalan independence movement cited the right to national self-determination enshrined in international law, debate ensued over whether this only provided grounds for secession in the case of former and current colonies.
Last year, Argentina’s UN representatives stressed during a debate over the Malvinas/Falkland Islands that while Argentina would defend the right to self-determination everywhere, the principle was not absolute, and must not be used as a “pretext” for interfering with the territorial integrity of existing nation-states.
Picture courtesy of United Nations Photo
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