The Fourth Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations is the Special Political and Decolonization Committee, otherwise known as SPECPOL. Established in 1993, SPECPOL is the combination of the Decolonization Committee (formerly the Fourth Committee) and the Special Political Committee. These committees were merged in 1990 when the United Nations established 1990-2000 as the “International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.” This was particularly important considering at the time of the United Nation’s creation, 750 million people lived in colonized territory. Over 80 former colonies have become independent since 1945. Today, in part due to the work of the Fourth Committee, this number has drastically decreased to approximately two million people living in colonized territory, an amount SPECPOL is still determined to address.
SPECPOL includes all 193 Member States, uniting to alleviate developing countries’ dependencies on former colonizing powers. The committee derives its mission from Chapter XI of the United Nations Charter, which commits to the preservation of the rights and dignities of people living in non-self-governing territories. The committee passes resolutions with suggestions on the optimal ways for the United Nations and Member States to address the issues of colonized people. According to its mandate, the Fourth Committee can discuss issues such as self-determination, decolonization, and peacekeeping efforts.
While SPECPOL was derived from the Disarmament and International Security Committee, it takes on issues that the First Committee does not address, as well as looking at topics with a wider scope. Unlike other UN committees, SPECPOL shines a spotlight on issues pertaining to occupation, colonization, and subjugation, with the primary goal of making all countries political independent and prosperous. According to its mandate, SPECPOL is not able to take military action, and therefore many of its resolutions are passed along as suggestions to the Security Council, which ultimately decides whether or not the plan of action will be carried through.
Since its inception, SPECPOL has passed many resolutions addressing the quality and framework of information technology in developing countries, paying special attention to the development of the United Nations’ Department of Public Information. The Committee has also attempted to develop a consensus among member states regarding the issue of the peaceful uses of outer space. Historically, SPECPOL has focused its attention on issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition, SPECPOL frequently works in unison with groups such as The High Commissioner on Refugees and also specialized groups such as the “Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories”.
The Special Political and Decolonization committee holds a unique role in the United Nations. While other main committees aim to resolve current global issues, SPECPOL is concerned about healing countries from the lasting impact of their troubling conflicts throughout history. The committee’s foremost goal is to ensure that all countries enjoy the benefits of the independence to which they are entitled and only when all countries are economically, culturally, and socially liberated can the world move forward.