Remarks at the United Nations General Assembly Fourth Committee Joint General Debate on Decolonization Items

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Senior Adviser for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
October 14, 2022


Thank you, Chair, distinguished representatives. I would like to commend the Chair for your stewardship of this Committee. I would like to also thank the Fourth Committee Bureau and Secretariat. It is logistically complex to arrange this particular segment of the Fourth Committee’s work given the number of representatives and petitioners who travel from around the world to New York to brief the Fourth Committee. We value and welcome the participation of the representatives and petitioners; this is an important opportunity for all of us here to listen and to learn. Let me underscore here also that the United States fully supports the participation of civil society in UN meetings. The UN, and especially this committee, is a place for ideas to be discussed and debated, and civil society has an important role in informing our efforts to create better policies.

The United States is proud to support the right of peoples to self-determination, and we will continue to uphold the full application of Article 73 of the UN Charter. The United States recognizes the challenges American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands face due to their size, isolated locations, and limited natural resources. The United States also recognizes the impact on indigenous peoples and residents resulting from years of slavery, colonialism, and wars followed by conflict and social adjustment, including during the period of U.S. administration and the development of internal self-government.

We acknowledge these adversities, and are committed to advancing shared progress. The United States federal government has close partnerships with local governments in American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The people of American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Island are an integral part of American society. Washington, in collaboration with the territorial governments, works collectively to promote political, social, and economic development in the Territories. The strong relationship between the Territories and the rest of the nation was demonstrated by the inclusion of the Territories in the same Federal pandemic relief, recovery, and Build Back Better Act programs provided to all 50 U.S. States. That innate sense of inclusion has also been consistent in the rollout and implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, which will provide unprecedented resources for both infrastructure investment and climate change adaptation.

Under the Biden-Harris Administration’s policies aimed at recognizing and seeking pathways to greater remediation of racial and ethnic injustice, the United States has acknowledged forthrightly the existence of past and present Federal actions and institutionalized practices that, in some cases and circumstances, have not been consistent with the protection of equal rights and opportunities for Americans in the Territories’ diverse communities.

The U.S. recognizes its obligations under Article 73(e) of the Charter to promote self-determination for the peoples of American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Although they have the status of Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Territories are locally self-governing under Federal and local law establishing democratic political institutions and strong private sector led economies. They are governed by residents of their communities who are freely elected by their residents to establish their priorities, to decide how their resources are shared and expended, and to determine their path to ensure an honoring of their identity and to foster the relationships necessary to nurture it.

American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands also enjoy political representation at the Federal level. Elected representatives from each territory to the U.S. House of Representatives serve on several important committees where they participate in debates on national legislation essential to the progress and sustainability. The governors of these Territories are regularly invited to Senate and House committees of jurisdiction to report on the status of the Territories and to advocate for Federal policy changes and initiatives. The Interagency Group on Insular Areas cochaired by the Secretary of the Interior and the White House Director for Intergovernmental Affairs annually hosts the governors and U.S. representatives from each territory at a senior plenary session where they have the audience of representatives of the Administration and where they may register their priorities and concerns with the execution of Federal policies and initiatives.

The United States will continue to support American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands in their collective and individual endeavors to improve the quality of life of their peoples.

Thank you.