French Polynesia Petitioners Urge Action on Continuing Effects of Nuclear Testing
The Special Committee on Decolonization approved 14 draft resolutions today, including one addressing several critical aspects of the upcoming self-determination referendum to decide the future status of New Caledonia.
By the terms of that draft, the General Assembly would note that the referendum on New Caledonia’s future relationship with France, the administering Power, would take place in 2018, and reaffirm that it was ultimately up to the people of that Territory to determine freely and fairly their future political status.
Also by the text, the Assembly would note the concerns expressed about the challenges encountered in the New Caledonia’s provincial elections with respect to persistent varying interpretations of the restricted electorate provisions and the voter registration appeal process. The Assembly would express the view that upcoming consultations on access to full sovereignty, including a just, fair, credible and transparent electoral roll, would be essential for a free, fair and genuine act of self-determination.
Further by the text, the Assembly would recommend that France develop 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 decision on the matter.
In other business, the Special Committee approved, also without a vote, 11 draft resolutions previously clustered into a single “omnibus” text, by which the General Assembly would reaffirm the inalienable right of the peoples of those Territories to self-determination.
The Special Committee also approved, without a vote, a draft resolution on the economic and other activities affecting the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.
It also approved the report on the Pacific Regional Seminar containing the conclusions and recommendations from that event held in Managua, Nicaragua, from 31 May to 2 June 2016.
In other business, the Special Committee heard several petitioners, including one from French Polynesia, who said that the effects of nuclear testing in that Territory could no longer be considered an issue solely between the administering Power and the Ma’ohi people. Noting that people were dying from several nuclear-related illnesses that were bound to be passed on for several generations to come, he emphasized the need for a comprehensive study of the environmental, ecological and health impacts resulting from the testing. He also underlined the need to publish an independent report that could become part of the substantive documentation on the effects of nuclear testing in French Polynesia, in order to prevent the leveraging of political pressures to hide inconvenient truths.
The Special Committee will reconvene on a date and time to be determined.
Hearing of Petitioners
RICHARD ARIHAU TUHEIAVA, Union Pour la Démocratie (UPLD), noted that while the General Assembly had formally confirmed the applicability of Article 73 of the United Nations Charter to the question of French Polynesia, the administering Power nevertheless still refused to transmit the required information on the Territory, in violation of the Charter. The inalienable rights of the Ma’ohi people, including their ownership, control and permanent sovereignty of marine resources and undersea minerals, had been formally recognized, in accordance with the relevant General Assembly resolutions and with various international legal opinions. Those resources belonged to the people, not the administering Power, he affirmed, adding that Union Pour la Démocratie had consistently emphasized the critical nature of the question of resources as a core issue for future development. Yet the administrating Power persisted in activities that were in clear violation of international norms. He urged the administering Power to come to the table and comply with the rule of law and the United Nations Charter, pointing out that the General Assembly had consistently reaffirmed that “in the process of decolonization, there is no alternative to the principle of self-determination”. In that regard, the Special Committee must remain vigilant as to the fundamental difference between colonial reform and decolonization, he stressed.
CHARLES BROTHERSON MOETAI, Third Deputy Mayor of Faa’a, said the effects of nuclear testing on French Polynesia could no longer be considered an issue solely between the administering Power and the Ma’ohi people. It was critical that the United Nations and other organizations address the impact of testing on the Territory’s people in order to ensure that its full effects were understood. Noting that people were dying from several nuclear-related illnesses that were bound to be passed on for several generations to come, he said there was need for a comprehensive study of the environmental, ecological and healthy impacts resulting from 30 years of nuclear testing in French Polynesia. He went on to express concern that 17 years after the last test in the Pacific, people were still living with the legacy of hundreds of previous nuclear tests, underlining the need to publish an independent report that could become part of the substantive documentation on the effects of nuclear testing in French Polynesia so that political pressures could not be leveraged to hide inconvenient truths. The Special Committee should call on the United Nations scientific community to add the impact of the nuclear testing in French Polynesia to its substantive work programme, he said, underscoring that the effects of atomic radiation on humans knew no political boundaries. However, the status of French Polynesia meant that the issue of testing there had not been appropriately addressed.
CARLYLE CORBIN, Senior Fellow, Dependency Studies Project, described his work using a diagnostic tool on self-governance indicators to study the situation of French Polynesia. Among the items examined were the people’s control over the electoral system and judicial procedures, their jurisdiction over cultural preservation matters, and their autonomy to engage in regional economic affairs. Use of the Territory for military activities had also been examined, he added. The assessment had found that the term “autonomy” had been misapplied to French Polynesia, he said, pointing out a “significant imbalance” in the political, social and economic arenas. Recalling that the study had formed the basis of the General Assembly resolution that had re-inscribed French Polynesia on to the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, he said a new proposal was now being formulated for application to French Polynesia, and urged the Special Committee to examine it closely.
The representative of Venezuela noted that the administering Power had shown resistance to fulfilling its obligations to French Polynesia. Calling on the administering Power to work towards the Territory’s self-determination, including independence, he urged the Special Committee to take a stand on the sovereignty of its people. He expressed concern that the population continued to be affected by exposure to nuclear tests, emphasizing that it was of vital importance that the Special Committee and the General Assembly decide on the continuation of studies that would provide objective evidence on the impact of nuclear testing in French Polynesia.
SHONU WAYARIDRI, President of Melanesian Affairs, Mouvement Populaire Calédonien, said that although some in New Caledonia had called for independence, the vast majority of people there wanted it to remain part of the French Republic. Most were happy and proud to be French, he said, adding that in the twenty-first century, it was indeed possible to be proud to be both Kanak and French. The Kanak were undeniably among the freest people in the region, enjoying a remarkably high standard of living, including excellent medical care and education opportunities. For many years, only the pro-independence parties had been heard, although other legitimate political parties had a place in New Caledonia and must be heard, in keeping with the principles of democracy. He said unjust accusations had been made against France although many pro-independence voices had simultaneously called for more generous subsidies and financing from France. The vast majority of the people of New Caledonia wanted the language of responsibility and truth, he emphasized.
ALEXIS LAMEK (France) said his country had cooperated fully with the Special Committee for more than 20 years on the question of New Caledonia and would continue to do so in a fully transparent fashion moving forward. Last January, France had transmitted a contribution to the update on the Secretariat working paper on New Caledonia, in keeping with Article 73 of the United Nations Charter, he recalled, stressing that France was committed to the development of the political and democratic processes through which the people of New Caledonia would decide their future in 2018. It would fully carry out its role as a positive partner, committed to engaging in New Caledonia’s future, including by maintaining its financial contribution at a very considerable level. France had engaged in a progressive transfer of powers, a process that was irreversible, he said.
FRED SARUFA (Papua New Guinea) introduced the draft resolution on the question of New Caledonia (document A/AC.109/2016/L.23), saying that, as in the other Non-Self-Governing Territories, New Caledonia’s self-determination remained an unfinished agenda, not only for the Special Committee, but also the United Nations as a whole. Despite valiant efforts, 2016 marked 163 year of the Territory’s colonization, he said, noting that the draft underscored that New Caledonia was at a highly critical juncture, with the self-determination referendum to decide its future only two years away. It was critical that the referendum be conducted as scheduled, unless all New Caledonia stakeholders decided otherwise.
He said it was also incumbent upon the administering Power, the territorial Government and the people of New Caledonia to ensure that serious concerns over the electoral process, particularly the special electoral list for the self-determination referendum, were expeditiously settled. “This must be just, fair and transparent,” he emphasized, adding that the integrity of the referendum hinged on getting that particular issue right. The text also highlighted the importance of voter education and registration for the self-determination process for all qualified New Caledonians, particularly the indigenous Kanak people. The draft further recognized the ongoing efforts of the administering Power, the territorial Government and the signatories to the Nouméa Accord in seeking, through peaceful dialogue, to resolve various concerns related to the self-determination process. The text also addressed the importance of ensuring the inalienable rights of New Caledonia’s people, especially the Kanak, over natural resources and property.
The representative of Venezuela, taking note of the administering Power’s commendable efforts, urged that they continue, while underscoring the importance of recognizing the wishes of the Kanak people and of granting them sovereignty over their natural resources.
The Special Committee then approved the draft resolution on the question of New Caledonia (document A/AC.109/2016/L.23) without a vote.
Acting again without a vote, the Special Committee then approved draft resolutions on the following Non-Self-Governing Territories: American Samoa (document A/AC.109/2016/L.8), Anguilla (document A/AC.109/2016/L.9), Bermuda (document A/AC.109/2016/L.10), British Virgin Islands (document A/AC.109/2016/L.11), Cayman Islands (document A/AC.109/2016/L.12), Guam (document A/AC.109/2016/L.14), Montserrat (document A/AC.109/2016/L.15), Pitcairn (document A/AC.109/2016/L.16), Saint Helena (document A/AC.109/2016/L.17), Turks and Caicos Islands (document A/AC.109/2016/L.18), and United States Virgin Islands (document A/AC.109/2016/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.
The representative of Venezuela said his country had always promoted decolonization efforts in the Caribbean, engaging in initiatives aimed at bringing the region closer together, such as the Petrocaribe oil alliance, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). He called attention to the importance of financial services, while warning against “fiscal havens” and reiterating that administering Powers should refrain from exploiting the natural resources of the Territories under their administration to the detriment of their respective peoples. Finally, he noted that the principle of self-determination did not apply in the sovereignty dispute over Argentine territory.
The representative of Chile expressed satisfaction that the original “omnibus” draft on the Territories had been broken down into separate and distinctive texts, giving each more dignity. Recalling that mediation between the Special Committee and the United States on the status of Puerto Rico had been proposed during a previous session, he expressed reservation about such an effort.
Mr. Rivero Rosario, (Cuba), Acting Special Committee Chair, responded by clarifying that the decision to welcome that proposal had been made by petitioners, who had said that the Chair should use good offices to determine whether it would be possible to initiate a process of consultation or dialogue between the United States and Puerto Ricans speaking in favour of self-determination and independence.
The Special Committee then approved, without a vote, a draft resolution titled “economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories” (document A/AC.109/2016/L.22). By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm the responsibility of administering Powers to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, as well as the legitimate rights of their peoples over their natural resources.
Also by the text, the Assembly would reaffirm its concern about activities aimed at the exploitation of natural resources that were the heritage of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, including indigenous populations. It would also reaffirm the need to avoid any economic or other activities that adversely affected the interests of the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories. It would further remind the administering Powers of their responsibility and accountability vis-à-vis any detriment to the interests of those peoples.
Turning to other matters, the Special Committee approved, also without a vote, the report of the Pacific Regional Seminar (document A/AC.109/2016/CRP.1), which contained the conclusions and recommendations from that event, held in Managua, Nicaragua, from 31 May to 2 June 2016.
The representative of Chile said every detail of the report had been closely examined and it was very faithful to what had been discussed during the Seminar.