Special Committee on Decolonization Approves 9 Draft Resolutions, Including Text Calling for Fair Self-Determination Process in French Polynesia

Speakers Concerned Potential Voters Could Be Excluded from New Caledonia Referendum in 2018

The Special Committee on Decolonization sent nine draft resolutions to the General Assembly today, including on the Question of French Polynesia, garnering calls from petitioners who attested on one hand to the island's improved economic recovery, and on the other to a financially abusive relationship with the administering Power.

By the text, approved without a vote, the Assembly would stress that its 2013 resolution 67/265 � providing for the re-inscription of French Polynesia on the List of Non-Self-Governing Territories � had been reaffirmed by an assessment, presented in 2016 to its Fourth Committee (Decolonization), that the Territory did not meet the full measure of self-government. It would call on the administering Power to intensify dialogue with French Polynesia to facilitate a fair self-determination process.

On that point, Manuel Terai, Delegue aux Affaires Internationales Europeennes et du Pacifique, citing calls for French Polynesia to choose between independence and economic development, said its people had chosen the latter. The business climate had improved and household financial assets were increasing. Free and democratic elections were lawful and transparent. French Polynesia is not a colony that needs to be decolonized, he said, urging the Special Committee to respect the choice of the majority of its population.

Richard Ariihau Tuheiava, of the Assembly of French Polynesia, said various inquiries had revealed a financially abusive relationship with the administering Power, which had kept full control over French Polynesia's natural resources. A wide range of current and potential sources of income derived from our territory represented revenue that should be used in the development of our new economic and social model of an independent economy, he said. Instead, that revenue was transferred to France.

Carlyle Corbin, of the Dependency Studies Project, said a vacuum of analysis had led to slow progress on decolonization. He proposed modernizing the Special Committee's work methods to allow adequate time to address the issues of small territories. He also called for an organic link between decolonization resolutions and the United Nations budget, adding that the proposed budget for 2018-2019 contained no specific reference to the actions called for in those texts.

Venezuela's delegate expressed concern that the administering Power was not cooperating. French Polynesia represented a colonial situation that must be resolved and the Special Committee must remain committed to its decolonization.

In other action, the Special Committee approved a draft on the question of New Caledonia, by which the Assembly would note concerns expressed regarding the challenges encountered in the provincial elections process. It would call on France, the administering Power, to consider developing an education programme to inform the people of New Caledonia about the nature of self-determination so they could be better prepared to make a future decision on that matter.

Papua New Guinea's representative, introducing the draft, said New Caledonia was at a critical stage to decide its future, with a 2018 referendum approaching. A fair, transparent plebiscite was imperative. He urged the administering Power and local authorities to address concerns that potential voters could be excluded from the process. Sierra Leone's delegate expressed unease that 20,000 Kanak potential voters had been left off electoral rolls.

On the Question of Tokelau, the Special Committee approved without a vote a draft (document A/AC.109/2017/L.7) that would have the Assembly recall Tokelau's National Strategic Plan for 2016-2020, prioritizing good governance, human development, infrastructure development, sustainability and climate change adaptation.

Also without a vote, the Special Committee approved draft resolutions on Anguilla (document A/AC.109/2017/L.14), Bermuda (document A/AC.109/2017/L.15), British Virgin Islands (document A/AC.109/2017/L.16), Cayman Islands (document A/AC.109/2017/L.17), Guam (document A/AC.109/2017/L.18), and Montserrat (document A/AC.109/2017/L.19). By their terms, the Assembly would reaffirm the inalienable right of the people of those Territories to self-determination, in conformity with the United Nations Charter and General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), containing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

The Special Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 23 June, to continue its session.

Question of French Polynesia

The Special Committee on Decolonization first took up a draft resolution titled Question of French Polynesia (document A/AC.109/2017/L.24).

MANUEL TERAI, Delegue aux Affaires Internationales Europeennes et du Pacifique, said at the recent Regional Seminar in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines that a speaker had said a choice for the future should be independence or economic development. The people had chosen the latter, he said, providing an update on its economic recovery situation. The business climate had improved and household financial assets were increasing, driven in part by consumption and export of tourism services. Despite some challenges, internal private demand remained high and the Government was intensifying efforts. The Elysee Agreement had included structural undertakings, including the development of public infrastructure. On the nuclear issue, France had acknowledged the situation and set up a compensation package for victims.

Turning to the political situation, he said free and democratic elections were lawful and transparent. Pro-autonomy and pro-independence parties existed. During the most recent territorial general election, 70 per cent of voters opted for autonomy. French Polynesia is not a colony that needs to be decolonized, he said, urging the Special Committee to respect the choice of the majority of its population.

RICHARD ARIIHAU TUHEIAVA, Assembly of French Polynesia, said he remained disappointed that the administering Power continued to deny its obligations under the United Nations Charter to transmit information on the Territory. Various investigations had revealed that the relationship between the administering Power was financially abusive. The administering Power had kept full control and sovereignty of French Polynesia's natural resources from the air to the sea. There were a few examples indicating that the colonial legislation governing French Polynesia ensured the full unilateral authority of France over the natural resources of the territory. A wide range of current and potential sources of income derived from our territory represented revenue that should be used in the development of our new economic and social model of an independent economy, he said. Instead, that revenue was transferred to France. The omission of a reference to nuclear testing by France and its effects on the people of French Polynesia was cause for major concern, as was the selectivity of information, which continued to be influenced by the administering Power.

CARLYLE CORBIN, Dependency Studies Project, said the focus must be on implementing relevant General Assembly resolutions on French Polynesia that focused on bringing forth a genuine decolonization process. A vacuum of analysis had contributed to the slow pace of progress in decolonization. Many of the small territories that had previously engaged in the process had been alienated by the lack of attention paid to their issues. They do not have a Special Representative of the Secretary-General, nor are their issues addressed by the Security Council, he said. They only had the Special Committee but their issues were overshadowed by other concerns. He proposed modernizing the Special Committee's work methods in order to provide adequate time to address the issues of small territories. He also called for an organic link between decolonization resolutions and the United Nations budget, adding that the Organization's proposed budget for 2018-2019 contained no specific reference to the actions called for in resolutions on decolonization matters.

The representative of Venezuela, speaking before the action, expressed concern that little progress had been made and the administering Power was not cooperating. It was a colonial situation that needed to be resolved. The Special Committee must remain committed to the decolonization process.

Acting without a vote, the Special Committee then approved the draft resolution (document A/AC.109/2017/L.24). By its terms, the General Assembly would stress that Assembly resolution 67/265 of 17 May 2013, which provided for the re-inscription of French Polynesia on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, was reaffirmed by the conclusion of a self-governance assessment of the Territory, presented to the General Assembly's Fourth Committee (Decolonization) on 4 October 2016, that the Territory did not meet the full measure of self-government. The Assembly, by the draft, would also regret that the administering Power had not responded to the request to submit information on French Polynesia under Article 73 e of the Charter since the re-inscription of the Territory by the General Assembly in 2013. It would also call upon the administering Power to intensify its dialogue with French Polynesia in order to facilitate rapid progress towards a fair and effective self-determination process, under which the terms and timelines for an act of self-determination would be agreed.

Question of New Caledonia

The representative of Venezuela, speaking before the action, said France must continue to cooperate in a constructive manner. Turning to the Noumea Accord, he said measures to hold a sovereignty referendum must consider the concerns of the people of New Caledonia. The 2018 referendum was a fundamental step towards the decolonization of the Territory, he said, appealing to the Special Committee for a visiting mission to New Caledonia to, among other things, express support for the process.

The representative of Papua New Guinea then introduced a draft resolution titled Question of New Caledonia (document A/AC.109/2017/L.11). Much progress had been made, and the text underscored that New Caledonia was at a crucial stage to decide its future destiny in the 2018 referendum. There were serious concerns among potential voters that they could be excluded from the referendum. A just, fair and transparent plebiscite was imperative, he said, urging the administering Power and local authorities to swiftly address those concerns, especially those of the Kanak people. The draft recognized ongoing efforts of the administering Power, local authorities and signatories of the Noumea Accord to address related issues.

The representative of Indonesia, speaking before the vote, expressed support for the text as a co-sponsor.

The representative of Sierra Leone called for calm and cooperation among all stakeholders at a time leading up to the historical 2018 referendum. However, he expressed concern that 20,000 Kanak potential voters remained off the electoral rolls.

Acting without a vote, the Special Committee then approved the draft resolution. By its terms, the General Assembly would note the concerns expressed regarding the challenges encountered in the provincial elections process with respect to the persistent varying interpretations of the restricted electorate provisions and the voter registration appeal process. The Assembly would encourage the administering Power and the people of New Caledonia to address in an amicable and peaceful manner the concerns of all stakeholders under the existing relevant laws in the Territory and in France, while also respecting and upholding the spirit and letter of the Noumea Accord.

Furthermore, the Assembly would call upon France, the administering Power, in the light of the observations, conclusions and recommendations of the Special Committee's visiting mission, to consider developing an education programme to inform the people of New Caledonia about the nature of self-determination so that they may be better prepared to face a future decision on the matter, and request the Special Committee to provide all available assistance in that regard. It would also urge the administering Power to take effective measures to safeguard and guarantee the inalienable right of the people of New Caledonia to their natural resources and to establish and maintain control over the future development of those resources, and request the administering Power to take all steps necessary to protect their property rights.

Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat

Acting again without a vote, the Special Committee then approved draft resolutions on the following Non-Self-Governing Territories: Anguilla (document A/AC.109/2017/L.14), Bermuda (document A/AC.109/2017/L.15), British Virgin Islands (document A/AC.109/2017/L.16), Cayman Islands (document A/AC.109/2017/L.17), Guam (document A/AC.109/2017/L.18), and Montserrat (document A/AC.109/2017/L.19).

By their terms, the General Assembly would reaffirm the inalienable right of the people of those Territories to self-determination, in conformity with the United Nations Charter and General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), containing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. It would also call upon the respective administering Powers of those Territories to participate in and cooperate fully with the work of the Special Committee, and reaffirm their responsibility to promote their economic and social development, as well as to preserve their cultural identity.

Question of Tokelau

The representative of Papua New Guinea introduced a draft resolution titled Question of Tokelau (document A/AC.109/2017/L.7). Highlighting elements of the draft, he also provided an overview of recent activities in addressing sustainable development, maritime transport and other issues. Among them was a milestone achievement in the spirit of constructive cooperation, where the administering Power, New Zealand, had funded a passenger ferry in 2016. It was imperative that the United Nations work with Tokelau and the administering Power as the people of the Territory strove to determine their future status.

The representative of Sierra Leone, speaking before the vote, expressed support for the text. Commending the Government of New Zealand, as the administering Power, for maintaining a good relationship with the people of Tokelau, he said the process was moving in the right direction in terms of enhancing economic development. That relationship was a good example of cooperation among an administering Power and the Territory.

Acting without a vote, the Special Committee then approved the draft resolution (document A/AC.109/2017/L.7). By its terms, the General Assembly would recall Tokelau's consideration of its National Strategic Plan for 2016-2020, which prioritizes good governance, human development, infrastructure development, sustainability and climate change adaptation, and note the completion of the Plan, which determines development and other priorities for the 2016-2020 period, as well as the Plan's focus on infrastructure development to support service delivery, including through transport and telecommunications solutions. The Assembly would also call upon the administering Power and United Nations agencies to continue to provide assistance to Tokelau as it further develops.

Source: United Nations

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