Modern Decolonization: The Role of the UN and the Responsibility of All of Us


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In December 1960, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution, Resolution 1514 XV, better known as the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. Resolution 1514 proclaims “the necessity of bringing to a speedy and unconditional end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations” and asserts that colonialism “constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights.” This resolution came at the close of the year known as “The Year of Africa,” during which 17 African territories achieved statehood. The year 1960 ignited a wave of African decolonization that lasted nearly two decades: between 1960 and 1977, 44 African states gained independence from European colonial governments.

However, despite this awe-inspiring era of decolonization and self-determination, today, more than 60 years later the Sahrawi people continue under colonial rule and Western Sahara maintains the moniker of “Africa’s last colony.” The United Nations (UN) has many mechanisms tasked with monitoring non-self-governing territories (NSGTs) and mitigating the colonial practice of violating peoples’ fundamental right to self-determination. Western Sahara, and its colonial occupier Morocco, are subject to th