Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples 1960: A Milestone in Decolonization Process
17 December 2020
This year marks two most remarkable anniversaries: 75th anniversary of the foundation of the United Nations and the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the General Assembly of the United Nations. These two events, the way we see it, are tightly intertwined. The creation of the UN – the true embodiment of mankind’s intention to build a better world and prevent the horrors of World War II from happening ever again – laid the foundation for the adoption of the Declaration, 15 years later. We find natural – what kind of a better world would that be, if such abominable thing as colonialism would have still been in place? Since 24 October 1945, when the United Nations was established, over 80 countries which were earlier under colonial rule became the rightful UN members. The UN played a pivotal role in the decolonization process by defining the goals and norms which, in their turn, helped the colonized countries and their peoples to gain independence. The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples of 1960 became one of the UN’s most efficient instruments in this endeavour. It is no exaggeration to say that the Declaration has changed the world’s legal order forever. It gave a powerful impulse to the colonial territories’ movement for independence and stated the necessity of putting a speedy end to colonialism, thus becoming a true milestone in the decolonization process and one of the finest achievements of the UN’s work.
We would like to give a few remarkable results that it has yielded. Its implementation has released around 750 million people from colonial yoke. At the time this was one-third of the world’s population. It also drastically changed the political map of the world and resulted in the establishment of over 80 new states in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania. In other words, the political map of the world as we know it, for the most part, was shaped due to the adoption of the Declaration. It is no coincidence, that 1960 came down in history as the “Year of Africa”. 17 new countries (former colonies of the UK, France, Italy and Belgium) emerged on the continent that year, including Gabon, Ivory Coast, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Madagascar, Senegal, Somalia, and Togo.
Shortly afterwards Sierra Leone gained its independence and decolonization process commenced in British East Africa. Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, Gambia, Mauritius declared independence, so did Algeria in 1962, gaining it after a long devastating war. In 1970’s the last colonial empire, Portuguese, crumbled – Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Angola, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, Comoros.
Against this background, we are particularly proud of the fact that it was our country, the Soviet Union, that came up with the initiative of developing this Declaration and, together with other states, ensured its adoption, despite fierce resistance of colonial powers which insisted that the “colonies were not yet ready for independence”.
USSR has always been a staunch supporter of Africa’s independence from colonial powers. The very first preconditions for collapse of colonial system in Africa emerged back in 1940’s, during the World War II. And Soviet Union contributed to that greatly. Back then, the USSR and African states stood together against pure evil – Nazism, with its racial theory, dividing humankind into two parts: “superior race” and “lesser races” which, according to Nazis, were destined to serve to the former as slaves. USSR, its allies from Anti-Hitler coalition, Africa and other continents, have saved the world from this madness. This is one of our common achievements, our common gift to the world.
In Freedom Park memorial complex in Pretoria, the Russian section of the Wall of Names was unveiled in 2018. The names of Soviet military specialists who gave their lives to assist the liberation struggle in the region of Southern Africa are enshrined on that wall. We are grateful to our South African friends for cherishing the memory of those people.
The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples of 1960 made it possible to put the relations between our country and African nations to a new level. The Soviet Union went far beyond initializing the development of the Declaration - building relations with African states was an important part of USSR’s foreign policy. Our country actively supported newly established, young African states both diplomatically and on economic level. The USSR provided economic and technical support to help African countries create multifaceted economies. USSR concluded agreements on technical and economical support with 37 countries on African continent. Their implementation entailed the creation of some 600 new various industrial objects.
Today our country, the Russian Federation, turns a new page of relations with Africa, staying true to the way that the Soviet Union has paved. On the principles of equality, mutual respect and understanding & non-interference in domestic affairs, Russia is building its relations with African continent. Russia-Africa Summit 2019 and the upcoming Second Russia-Africa Summit scheduled for 2022 are just two of the many examples to that.
Against this background, the 60th anniversary of the adoption Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples 1960 looks even more relevant. We believe, the best way to celebrate the legacy of this important document is to eradicate colonialism and put it where it belongs – the scrapyard of history. As Herbert Spencer once said, “Nobody can be perfectly free till all are free”.
Embassy of the Russian Federation in South Africa