Although greeted with some initial suspicion, a recent visiting mission to New Caledonia was generally well received, the Special Committee on Decolonization heard today.
Amadu Koroma (Sierra Leone), who led had the mission, reported that it took place from 10 to 15 March and was followed by a meeting with French Government officials in Paris on 17 March. He said that some interlocutors had initially questioned the mission’s motives, given that provincial elections were due to take place in May. However, the members believed they had been able to win “hearts and minds” with a message of impartiality and shared objectives for a peaceful electoral process.
Once on the ground, Mr. Koroma reported, the mission’s programme had gone through last minute revisions to include meetings with those who had initially questioned the visit. Members had emphasized that they did not promote the national or regional interests of the Member States that composed the mission, although they understood the reasons for concerns.
Through the visit, the mission had discovered there were issues with the special electoral list, which would have a profound impact on who was considered a resident for voting purposes in the upcoming elections. There had been a marked lack of a unified interpretation of relevant legal provisions that determined who should be included on that list. There had also been concerns about the lack of sufficient time for completing the detailed and thorough work involved in reviewing the list, as well as the lack of important information on people’s arrival dates in the territory, settlement and initial registration.
The mission had also determined that specialized training for Administrative Review members was imperative, although it had not yet taken place. There had also been concerns about challenges in reaching voters in hard-to-reach and isolated places. Other matters of concern included a reported increase in the circulation of small arms, insufficient training opportunities for Kanak people and an influx of immigrants.
The mission had been organized ahead of upcoming provincial elections, regarded as the first stage of a referendum to elect a new Congress, which would oversee the last phase of the implementation of the Noumea Accord. The Noumea Accord provided a timetable under which New Caledonia had gradually gained increasing autonomy from the French Government.
The mission had visited the University of New Caledonia, where the programme “Cadres for the Future” was presented. Established by the Nouméa Accord, it involved secondary, higher and vocational education and was aimed at preparing the Kanaks to take up their responsibilities in all areas, with the overall support provided by the French Government.
In the Northern Province, the mission had visited a compound of the “Adapted Military Service”, a special programme aimed at helping young people facing difficulty integrating into society and the labour market. Sponsored by the Ministry of Overseas Territories, it helped them gain professional skills that enabled them to become part of an effective workforce or to follow another educational programme.
Following that presentation, the representative of Papua New Guinea noted that efforts were under way to finalize the mission report. The referendum depended on ensuring that the special list was correct and that those who were supposed to vote actually voted. It was incumbent upon the administering Power to ensure that the list was accurate.
The Special Committee then approved, as orally revised, the guidelines and rules of procedure for the Pacific regional seminar (document A/AC.109/2014/17*), which would take place in Fiji from 20 to 23 May. The Committee’s delegation would be composed of the Chair, his adviser and eight other Committee members; including members of the Bureau and four Committee members, to be selected from four regional groups: the African Group, Asia Pacific Group, East European Group and the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States.
Nicaragua’s delegate indicated that her Government would like to participate in the regional seminar, if there was no other candidate put forward from her region.
On the issue of invitations to the seminar, the Chair said the Bureau had agreed the Committee should maintain its practice of extending invitations to select experts and non-governmental organizations. Elected and appointed officials of Non-Self-Governing Territories would also be invited and invitations would also be extended to other Member States, administering Powers, specialized United Nations agencies, as well as regional organizations.
The representative of Papua New Guinea requested that the Chair encourage the administering Powers to participate in the regional seminar, as they had not been very active in years past.
The Committee — formally known as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples — reviews the political, social and economic conditions in the 17 United Nations-listed Non-Self-Governing Territories. It also organizes regional seminars to discuss the challenges of decolonization and works to ensure that the United Nations assists in the process of resolving them.
The following delegations are Committee members: Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Chile, China, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Grenada, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Mali, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sierra Leone, Syria, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, United Republic of Tanzania and Venezuela.
Remaining on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories are the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, French Polynesia, Gibraltar, New Caledonia and Western Sahara, as well as American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.
Following the regional seminar, the Committee will next meet in June.
* 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).