As Session Concludes, Special Committee on Decolonization Reaffirms Inalienable Right of French Polynesian People to Self-Determination

21 June 2013
GA/COL/3258

As Session Concludes, Special Committee on Decolonization Reaffirms Inalienable Right of French Polynesian People to Self-Determination

21 June 2013
General Assembly
GA/COL/3258
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Special Committee on Decolonization

9th Meeting (AM)

As Session Concludes, Special Committee on Decolonization Reaffirms Inalienable

Right of French Polynesian People to Self-Determination

 

Members Also Pass Two Other Drafts Resolution on Tokelau, New Caledonia

The Special Committee on Decolonization today concluded its 2013 substantive session by approving, by consensus, three draft resolutions, including one whereby the General Assembly would, for the first time since 1947, reaffirm the inalienable right of the people of French Polynesia to self-determination.

The text would reaffirm that ultimately the people of French Polynesia could determine freely their future political status.  It would also call for the development of political education programmes for the Territory in order to foster awareness among its people of the right to self-determination in conformity with the legitimate political status options.  The administrative Power, as well, would be called to cooperate fully with the work of the Special Committee, and the French Government would be urged to intensify dialogue with French Polynesia’s representatives to facilitate rapid progress towards a fair and effective self-determination process. 

Petitioning the Committee as a representative of the Union Pour la Democratie (UPLD), Richard Ariihau Tuheiava thanked supporters for their efforts to re-inscribe French Polynesia to the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Remarking that the rules for French Polynesia’s referendum needed to mirror those established in New Caledonia under the Nouméa Accord, which imposed a residency requirement of 20 years for eligibility to vote, he stressed that it was also important to realize that re-inscription had happened because of the colonial nature of the status quo in French Polynesia. 

Acting by consensus, the 24-member Special Committee ‑ responsible for monitoring implementation of the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples in 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories ‑ also approved draft resolutions on Tokelau and New Caledonia, as well as concluding its consideration of the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)* and adopting two reports.

The terms of the text on Tokelau would have the General Assembly acknowledge the 2008 decision of the General Fono that said that consideration of any future act of self-determination by Tokelau would be deferred.  It would also note that Tokelau and New Zealand remained firmly committed to Tokelau’s ongoing development for the long-term benefit of its people, and would call upon the administering Power and United Nations agencies to continue to provide assistance to Tokelau as it further developed.

The Titular Head of Tokelau, Aliki Faipule Salesio Lui, petitioned the Special Committee, pointing to the implementation of 60 per cent of the goals set forth in the National Strategic Plan 2010-2015, which focused on governance, infrastructure development and sustainable development.  However, he noted that there had not been a place for Tokelau to participate in the global discourse on managing climate change.  “At present Tokelau stands to lose not just her unique environment and land, but also her culture, language and traditions which affirm the identity of her people,” he said.

The representative of New Zealand said the people of Tokelau had indicated in a recent referendum on self-determination that the timing for transition to self-government was not yet right.  Core services had to be delivered first in order for conditions to be met for another referendum to be held.  New Zealand remained fully committed to work with Tokelau and to overcome the problems of smallness, isolation and lack of resources.

The representative of Papua New Guinea introduced both draft resolutions on behalf of Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

Under the terms of the draft resolution on New Caledonia, the General Assembly would invite all the parties involved to continue promoting a framework for the peaceful progress of the territory towards an act of self-determination in which all options were open and which would safeguard the rights of all sectors of the population, according to the letter and the spirit of the Nouméa Accord.

Also today, the Special Committee heard six observers’ statements on the question of Falkland Islands (Malvinas).  It also approved a Report of the Caribbean Regional Seminar (document A/AC.109/2013/CRP.1) held in Quito, Ecuador, from 28 to 30 May of this year and a Report of the Special Committee ‑ adoption of recommendations (document A/AC.109/2013/L.14) ‑ both of which would be submitted to the sixty-eighth session of the General Assembly.

Closing the session, Special Committee Chairman Diego Morejon-Pazmino (Ecuador) noted the “historic decision” made on 17 May of this year by the General Assembly to recognize the Non-Self-Governing Territories status of French Polynesia, adding that “frank and open discussions” at the meeting of the Special Committee in Quito would lead to stepped up dialogue and cooperation with administering Powers to speed up decolonization efforts.

The representative of Chile spoke on the question of French Polynesia.

Speaking during today’s meeting on the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) were representatives of Uruguay, Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia, Angola, and Papua New Guinea

The representative of Chile spoke on the Report of the Caribbean Regional Seminar.

Background

The Special Committee on Decolonization met this morning to conclude its 2013 session, resuming discussion of the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and New Caledonia and taking up the questions of Tokelau and French Polynesia.  The Special Committee was expected to hear petitioners from Tokelau and French Polynesia, as well as take action on three draft resolutions relating to the questions of Tokelau, New Caledonia and French Polynesia (documents A/AC.109/2013/L.15, L.12 and L.16).

Committee members had before them working papers, providing both background information and updates on the latest constitutional, legal and political developments, as well as economic and social conditions in Tokelau (document A/AC.109/2013/2) and New Caledonia (document A/AC.109/2013/16), together with the Report of the Caribbean Regional Seminar (document A/AC.109/2013/CRP.1) and the Report of the Special Committee ‑ adoption of recommendation (document A/AC.109/201/L.14).

Statements by Observers on the Question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)

JOSÉ LUIS CANCELA (Uruguay) said the Presidents of States Parties of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and associated States supported Argentina’s legitimate claims to the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas.  MERCOSUR’s “Brasilia Declaration”had noted that the dispute’s origins and colonial nature could not be ignored; that the issue could only be resolved through resumption of negotiations; and that the General Assembly had rejected the incorporation of the issue of self-determination into a 1985 resolution on the issue.  A solution needed to be reached in accordance with United Nations, MERCOSUR and Organization of American States resolutions on the matter.  He opposed the United Kingdom’s military presence in the region and reiterated his opposition to unilateral activities, such as exploitation of natural resources and the conduct of military exercises.

ERIKA MARTÍNEZ LIEVANO (Mexico) reiterated his support for the positions of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Ibero-American Summitand the Organization of American States, stating that it was vital the United Kingdom and Argentina return to negotiations and seek to find a peaceful and definitive solution to the dispute between them.

RUBÉN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBÚN (El Salvador) said that the question of the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands was a priority issue gaining support both regionally and multilaterally.  The Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom had a bilateral relationship with strong, political ties and cooperation on different items on the international agenda.  However, despite that, resuming negotiations on the matter, which must be based on international law and territorial integrity while taking into account the legal and historic rights of the archipelago, had still not been possible.  Various arguments put forward by the United Kingdom to justify its presences in the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands and its exploitation of resources were based on a unilateral position.  He called on the United Kingdom to resume negotiations as soon as possible in accordance with the relevant resolutions and especially in accordance with the 26/25 (XXV) resolution on the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States. 

DIANA LUCÍA RENGIFO VARGAS (Colombia) reiterated her country’s support to the legitimate rights of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas.  That sentiment, as well, had been expressed through regional forums such as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).  It was important that the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom resume negotiations in order to find a peaceful and definitive solution to the dispute.  It was also important to observe the provisions of General Assembly resolution 31/49, which called upon the two parties to refrain from taking decisions that would imply introducing unilateral modifications in the situation.  She also called upon the good Offices of the Secretary-General to carry out its mandate to those efforts.

XAVIER SANTA ROSA (Angola) called for constructive dialogue between Argentina and the United Kingdom, reaffirming the principle of preserving peace in the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands.  He supported the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone and its recent Montevideo Declarationand welcomed the current draft.

FRED SARAFU (Papua New Guinea) said that the United Kingdom and Argentina needed to return to negotiations.  The resolution had recognized the interests and rights of the islanders.  The good offices of the Secretary-General needed to be brought to bear towards helping resolve the impasse.  Further, the Special Committee needed to find different ways to enhance its work, particularly given that so many resolutions had now been passed on the issue.  To help move things forward, the Special Committee should seriously consider the invitation to send a visiting mission to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), as well as to other Territories on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Petitioners on Tokelau

ALIKI FAIPULE SALESIO LUI, Titular Head of Tokelau, said Tokelau had implemented 60 per cent of the goals set forth in the National Strategic Plan 2010-2015, which focused on governance, infrastructure development and sustainable development.  In 2008, following the 2006 and 2007 referenda, New Zealand and Tokelau had agreed to bolster efforts to improve the Territory’s health, education and village development.  One of those initiatives was the Tokelau Renewable Energy project, where, with New Zealand’s support of $NZ 7 million, approximately 4,000 solar panels were installed in all three villages.  Tokelau’s electricity was now powered by solar energy and authorities were working with development partners to fully switch to renewable energy. 

Other projects, he continued, included the construction of a school in Atafu and a hospital in Nukunonu, which would be completed next month.  The construction of a school in Fakaofo would take longer due to the inclusion of a larger community water tank under the building.  Because of the Territory’s vulnerability to climate change, its schools were fitted with huge water tanks and built higher to compensate for the scarcity of water and communities’ susceptibility to storm surges and rising seal level.  Already affected by coastal erosion and ocean acidification, he said that there had not been a place for Tokelau to participate in the global discourse on managing climate change.  “At present Tokelau stands to lose not just her unique environment and land, but also her culture, language and traditions which affirm the identity of her people,” he said. 

He also said that Tokelau and New Zealand had agreed to a “total transport solution”, by which Tokelau’s administrator chartered a vessel to meet the island’s current shipping needs, while awaiting a new vessel, air service, inter-atoll service and a bulk supply service.  Rules and requirements under the Safety of Life at Sea Convention had thwarted efforts thus far to obtain a vessel for passengers, occasional bulk supplies and dangerous goods.  He was determined to ensure Tokelau obtained the ship by 2014. 

Turning to aid, he said that because of New Zealand’s financial challenges Tokelau was seeking development partnerships with United Nations agencies and key regional organizations.  In addition, the Queen of the Realm of New Zealand had approved Tokelau’s national symbol.  Towards self-Government, Tokelau had a Constitution, a national anthem and a national flag.  Last month, village constitutional consultations were completed on Government functions and structures.  They focused on the traditional role of Senior Elders in the parliamentary system; introduction of a national election system; the tenure and appointment of the Titular Head; composition of the Cabinet or Council; and a new approach for members of the Parliament of Fono.  The participants’ subsequent recommendations would be presented to the Constitution Committee at the end of July and then the Parliament of Fono.   They would inform the Devolution Review Report.

JONATHAN KING (New Zealand), Administrator of Tokelau, underscored New Zealand’s pledge to work with the Special Committee to provide relevant and timely information on Tokelau.  However, he recalled a referendum on self-determination, in which the people of Tokelau signalled that the timing for transition to self-government was not yet right.  Core services must be delivered first in order for conditions to be met for another referendum to be held.  New Zealand remained fully committed to work with Tokelau and to overcome the problems of smallness, isolation and lack of resources.  He added that a significant step had recently been taken in achieving safe transport for Tokelau, which was a critical service and provided a “life-line” to the Territory.

He also noted that New Zealand remained the largest bilateral donor to Tokelau, which amounted to 75 per cent of Tokelau’s budget, highlighting the Tokelau renewable energy projects and the construction of two new schools and hospital buildings. Additionally, it was important to acknowledge the assistance of the wider international community and the United Nations, particularly the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Action on Draft Resolution

FRED SARUFA (Papua New Guinea), introducing the draft resolution on Tokelau (document A/AC.109/2013/L.15), pointed out that the presence at the meeting of both Ulu-o-Tokelau and the administering Power demonstrated yet again both sides’ willingness to work together with the Special Committee, and the United Nations in general, to assure the future well-being of the Tokelau people.  Indeed, the ongoing excellent manner in which Tokelau and New Zealand had conducted their relationship was a “beacon of hope” showing what could be achieved when there was mutual understanding and respect between the Non-Self-Governing Territory and the administering Power.  Urging Committee Members to support the draft resolution on Tokelau, he called it balanced, forward-looking, and fairly represented the well-being of the Tokelau people. 

The Special Committee then approved the draft resolution, without a vote.

Question of New Caledonia

FRED SARUFA (Papua New Guinea), also speaking on behalf of Fiji, introduced the draft resolution on New Caledonia.  He thanked France for its cooperation in moving the decolonization process forward.  Significant progress had occurred since the Nouméa Accord, but more was needed before 2018, when a referendum was due to take place. 

He went on to say that the draft text highlighted the progress made and the challenges faced.  The most notable development was the Tenth Meeting of Signatories of the Nouméa Accord on 6 November 2012.  He welcomed the assignment of a representative of the Kanak people to the French Embassy in New Zealand and added that the Melanesian Spearhead Group’s appointment of a Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front member as chair was an important step.  The Liberation Front hosting of the meeting in New Caledonia had been a “watershed event”.

Petitioner on French Polynesia

RICHARD ARIIHAU TUHEIAVA, Union Pour la Democratie (UPLD), thanked the States that supported efforts to re-inscribe French Polynesia to the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, especially the Non-Aligned Movement and the Pacific Small Island Developing States Group.  The Mauhi people of French Polynesia needed self-determination in line with United Nations provisions on the subject. 

The Nouméa Accord, which governed the self-determination of the Kanak people in New Caledonia, excluded some inhabitants from participation in the upcoming referendum, he said.  Residency of at least 20 years was required for eligibility and similar eligibility criteria would need to apply to French Polynesia if true self-determination were to proceed there.  Currently, any Frenchman could run for office and was eligible to vote.  Any European Union citizen could also vote, simply by registering and establishing six months residency.  Such laws were totally inconsistent with United Nations resolutions on self-determination. 

He said that unilateral application of the French Constitution to French Polynesia and New Caledonia had effectively downgraded the status of those peoples.  Rather than using the term “peoples”, the term “population” was now used, which opened the door to include recent settlers in the self-determination process.   The United Nations mandate in French Polynesia could only be achieved through authentic political education and with the direct cooperation of the United Nations.  Sufficient time was needed to ensure the people were properly educated so that they could fully understand the various political status options available to them.

As well, he said, it was important to realize that re-inscription had happened because of the colonial nature of the status quo in French Polynesia.  Independent assessments would show that French Polynesia had not achieved an acceptable level of self-Government.  There needed to be Polynesia citizenship; the creation of eligibility criteria for voting; the reform of the electoral system; a United Nations assessment of the health and environmental consequences of French nuclear testing, with fair and equitable compensation for victims; and recognition of the Tahitian language.

Statement

JOSE ANTONIO COUSINO ( Chile) expressed concern that in recent years matters not relevant to its work had been brought before the Special Committee.  As well, he described a report on decolonization in the Pacific that had been presented in the Indigenous Forum as “inaccurate and partial”.  Further, the issue of compensation, as mentioned by the petitioner from French Polynesia, was a bilateral matter to be taken up by the Territory and administering Power.  Lastly, he agreed with that petitioner that the power held by the local Government and authorities of the French Territory was quite minimal.  He said they had less power than any municipality authorities in his own country.  Reform of the political situation in French Polynesia was needed, he added.

Closing Remarks

Thanking the Bureau and the Committee as a whole, the Chair referenced the “historic decision” made on 17 May by the General Assembly to recognize the Non-Self-Governing Territories status of French Polynesia, adding one more Territory to the work of the Special Committee.  Today, the Committee had adopted a resolution on that question. 

Following “frank and open discussions” at the meeting of the Special Committee in Quito in May, he said he wished to step up dialogue and cooperation with administering Powers to speed up decolonization efforts, making a “direct and sincere” call to delegations to commit to the work of the Special Committee.

* *** *

* A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.