Special Decolonization Committee Hears Updates on Situation in New Caledonia, Guam amid Calls for Recognizing Right to Self-Determination, Power Imbalances

Caribbean Regional Seminar to Be Held in Dominica, 25-27 August

Highlighting fresh developments in Guam and New Caledonia, delegates provided updates on some of the world’s 17 remaining Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, as the Special Committee on Decolonization continued its 2021 substantive session.

Taking up the question of New Caledonia, the administering Power and representatives of the Territory outlined their perspectives ahead of a third referendum on independence.

Nicolas de Riviére (France), the administering Power, said a new important phase is opening, with a third referendum scheduled to be held on 12 December.  Following two previous referendums held in 2018 and 2020, both resulting in the majority voting against independence, the third is being planned in line with relevant United Nations resolutions.  A transition period from 2021 to 2023 will be followed by a referendum in 2023, he said, adding that France stands ready to host the Special Committee for a visiting mission prior to the polling.  As such, France will not request that New Caledonia is removed from the Special Committee’s list of Non-Self-Governing Territories until the right to self-determination is ascertained.  Responding to a question posed by a Committee member from Papua New Guinea, he said the third referendum would resemble the previous ones.

Speaking on behalf of those inhabitants who wish to remain part of France, Sonia Backes, of Province Sud, said that, if the Territory gains independence, it will lose French nationality, military protection and health‑care services.  Indeed, New Caledonia in no way resembles other decolonization situations, she said, stressing that, today, it has a form of autonomy that resembles independence.  Many Kanaks are proud of being Kanak, New Caledonian and French, she said, emphasizing that it is up to the Territory’s people to take their future into their own hands and decide how best to exercise the right to self‑determination.

Special Committee members shared their observations.  Max Hufanen Rai (Papua New Guinea), delivering a statement on behalf of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, expressed hope that the aspirations of the people continue to be heard and respected.

Sapenafa Kesoni Motufaga (Fiji) said the question of New Caledonia demonstrates how progress can be made.  Indeed, thanks to the United Nations and cooperation by the administering Power, the process of self-determination has progressed much more quickly in New Caledonia than in the 16 other Non‑Self‑Governing Territories.  Noting that the Territory has the region’s lowest rate of COVID-19 transmission, he commended France for providing assistance to address pandemic-related challenges.  He looked forward to the administering Power’s ongoing support for the next referendum, for which peaceful dialogue among all parties will be essential.

Taking up the question of Guam, the Special Committee heard from Anthony Marion Babauta, who delivered a statement on behalf of the Governor of Guam.  Outlining current challenges, he said that, despite sustained calls for a change in political status, the United States — the administering Power — continues to hinder the CHamoru people’s right to self-determination and threaten the social, economic and overall well‑being of Guam and its people.  Its ongoing militarization of the island violates several human rights, he added, drawing attention to the unchecked conduct of the United States armed forces in and around the Territory.

Emphasizing his commitment as Governor to hold a self-determination plebiscite, he said that, under United States President Joseph R. Biden, the administering Power has been proactive in recognizing the inequity of its relationships with its Territories.  Hopefully, the 120-year plight of the CHamoru people will be acknowledged through executive action and the Administration’s support for Congressional legislation that would authorize a plebiscite, consistent with Guam law, he said, also requesting that the Special Committee send a visiting mission to the Territory.

The 29-member Special 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 — also considered the questions of the Cayman Islands, Monserrat, Pitcairn, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands, agreeing to take action on related draft resolutions on 25 June.

During the morning meeting, Special Committee Chair Keisha Aniya McGuire (Grenada) said that the 2021 Caribbean Regional Seminar that was originally scheduled for 19 to 21 May in Dominica, but postponed due to the COVID‑19 pandemic, will take place from 25 to 27 August, after the Secretariat completes an on-site risk assessment.

The Special Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 18 June, to take up the question of Puerto Rico.

©United Nations

WHAT TO READ NEXT...