Special Committee on Decolonization Concludes 2014 Session, Approving Draft Resolutions on New Caledonia, Tokelau, French Polynesia
The Special Committee on Decolonization today concluded its 2014 substantive session with the approval, without a vote, of three draft resolutions, including one calling on France, New Caledonia’s administering Power, to consider developing an education programme to inform the people in the Territory about the nature of self-determination and prepare them for a future decision on the matter.
By other terms of that expansive text, introduced by Papua New Guinea’s representative (document A/AC.109/2014/L.12), the Assembly would urge all concerned parties, in the interest of the people there and within the framework of the 1998 Nouméa Accord, to promote peaceful progress towards an act of self-determination with all options open. It would encourage France to guarantee the inalienable right of the people to own, access, use and manage their natural resources, including proprietary rights for their future development.
Further by the text, the Assembly would note the concerns regarding challenges in the provincial elections process, and encourage the administering Power and the people of New Caledonia to address those amicably under the relevant laws in the Territory and in France, in line with the Noumea Accord. It would commend the recommendations of the United Nations visiting mission to the Government of France and of New Caledonia for appropriate action.
A draft resolution on the question of Tokelau (document A/AC.109/2014/L.15) would have the Assembly acknowledge the decision of the General Fono in 2008 that consideration of any future act of self-determination by Tokelau would be deferred, and that New Zealand and Tokelau would focus on enhancing essential services and infrastructure on the atolls.
A related provision would have the Assembly recallthe adoption by Tokelau of its National Strategic Plan for 2010-2015, and commend the achievement in 2013 of 60 per cent of the Plan’s objectives, including completion of the Tokelau Renewable Energy Project with the support of the administering Power.
The text on the question of French Polynesia (document A/AC.109/2014/L.16) would have the Assembly express regret that France had not responded to the request to submit information on French Polynesia under Article 73 (e)of the United Nations Charter, and call on it to intensify its dialogue with French Polynesia to facilitate rapid progress towards a fair and effective self-determination process.
Reaffirming that it was up to the people of French Polynesia to determine freely their future political status, in line with relevant texts, the Assembly would call on the administering Power, in cooperation with the territorial Government and appropriate bodies of the United Nations system, to develop political education programmes for the Territory in order to foster an awareness of the people’s right to self-determination in accordance with legitimate options.
Following a presentation by Amadu Koroma (Sierra Leone) on the United Nations visiting mission to New Caledonia from 10 to 15 March, Rock Wamytan, Signatory to the Noumea Accord and President, UC-FLNKS, Congress of New Caledonia, called the mission “historic” in that it had taken place during the final period of the Nouméa Accord, with the Kanak people hoping to achieve self-determination through electoral consultations.
The Accord’s provisions on those consultations, he said, could end a 160-year-long history of turning the Kanak people into a minority through a methodical settlement policy. Through the non-independence parties, France was threatening Kanaks in efforts linked to the creation of lists of those eligible participants in elections, he said, adding that, for decades, the administering Power had set the rules of the game on voting rights, having strengthened the anti-independence party and contravened the wishes of the Kanak people.
Béatrice Le Fraper (France) said her country had regularly communicated with the United Nations and responded positively to the Special Committee’s requests. Her Prime Minister had decided to undertake the mission to show that France played an “exemplary” role in New Caledonia. Provincial elections, held on 11 May, had been conducted smoothly, she said, emphasizing that the Nouméa process should be seen through to the end and allow for the full exercise of sovereignty by Caledonians. A critical discussion phase was beginning among Caledonians, which must be done in an atmosphere of mutual trust. France’s role was to facilitate dialogue that linked the various segments of Caledonian society.
Gaël Yanno, President of the Congress of New Caledonia, said that, in the May provincial elections, anti-independence candidates had won a majority of seats. Free association, integration and independence were not the only options for New Caledonia, he said, noting the option to become a decolonized French territory.
Marie-Paule Tourte-Trolue, Deputy Secretary-General, Office of the High Commissioner of New Caledonia, said the French Government was a partner in the Nouméa Accord, having “progressively and irreversibly” shifted its powers to New Caledonia and supported socioeconomic development.
Also today, the Special Committee heard two petitioners on question of French Polynesia, as well as adopted the Report of the Pacific Regional Seminar (document A/AC.109/2014/CRP.11) and its report on decisions concerning organizational matters (document A/AC.109/2014/L.14).
Additional participants in today’s discussion were the representatives of Nicaragua, Saint Lucia and Chile.
Meeting this morning to conclude its 2014 substantive session, the Special Committee on Decolonization was expected to take up the questions of Tokelau, New Caledonia and French Polynesia, as well as other outstanding matters. Before it were the report of the Pacific Regional Seminar (document A/AC.109/2014/CRP.11) and another containing recommendations of the report of the Special Committee (A/AC.109/2014/L.14).
Action on Tokelau Draft
ROBERT GUBA AISI (Papua New Guinea), speaking also on behalf of Fiji, introduced draft resolution L.15, suggesting that it be approved by consensus.
The Special Committee then approved the text without a vote.
Question of New Caledonia
AMADU KOROMA (Sierra Leone) presented a summary of the report of the visiting mission to New Caledonia, from 10 to 15 March 2014, noting that the mission had also visited Paris on 17 and 18 March for related discussions. The mission had resulted from concerns raised by the President of the Congress of New Caledonia, who had called attention to problems with the review of the electoral roll for provincial elections held in May. During informal consultations in January 2014, the Special Committee had spoken with representatives of the Kanak and Socialist Liberation Front (FLNKS) to learn that 6,700 people born outside New Caledonia had been granted voting rights while at the same time 1,900 Kanaks had been rendered ineligible.
He said the mission had taken stock of the preparations for the election and gathered information on implementation of the Nouméa Accord, notably paragraph 321. Initially, the mission had been bitterly opposed by those who were against New Caledonia’s independence, he said, noting that FLNKS generally favoured independence while settlers were against it. The mission had a duty to explain that it was an impartial United Nations body, present only to gather information. “We were not there to support any group, as against the other” he said.
The French Government had made it clear the mission would have unimpeded access to every group, he said. As such, the mission had met with various stakeholders: the High Commissioner, the representative of the French Government in New Caledonia, representatives of the territorial government, the customary senate, the President of Congress, a senator, the French National Assembly, provisional assemblies, municipal authorities, various political groups, the association of mayors and the economic and social commission among them. It had visited a nickel complex, a university, the French Government’s Cadre Avenir project, as well as groups originally opposed to the mission.
Describing the situation as extremely fragile, he emphasized the importance of sustaining dialogue in order to promote a common destiny. There must be a genuine effort to address shortcomings in implementing the Nouméa Accord, notably in respect of restricted electoral provisions, and to review the special administrative commissions. The mission acknowledged the French Government’s supportive role in providing university education and training results, while encouraging it to develop a reliable capacity-building programme. The systematic influx of immigrants had been noted as a problem and raised with the French Government.
Mr. AISI, emphasizing that the visiting mission should have taken place two years ago, said that the comprehensive nature of the report showed why missions were important. New Caledonia was a work in progress requiring the Special Committee’s assistance because the Nouméa Accord would expire in 2019, he said.
JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua) noted that one objective of the mission had been to better understand the range of interpretations concerning potential irregularities in the electoral process, and expressed concern that paragraph 97 of its report, for example, referred to inclusions in the special electoral roll. There had been no single interpretation of the provisions on inclusion in the electoral roll for the last 16 years, he said, adding that the 1998 electoral roll, mentioned in the report, had not been made available to the Electoral Commission for 16 years.
GAËL YANNO, President of the Congress of New Caledonia, said that no petitioner against independence had spoken since 1986, and only the voices of pro-independence petitioners had been heard. Therefore, he requested that, going forward, anti-independence petitioners participate in the work of the Special Committee each year. In the 11 May provincial elections, anti-independence candidates had won a majority of seats. Their goal was for New Caledonia to maintain a broad autonomy under France. Similarly, in previous elections, more than 60 per cent of voters opposed independence.
Noting that the peace and emancipation process had been marked by two agreements — the Matignon Agreements of 1988 and the Nouméa Accord of 1998 — he said France had done everything it could to support the peace process. Since the deadly clashes in the mid-1980s, New Caledonians had lived in a climate of peace and the Territory had achieved notable economic development. The Government shared power with pro-independence politicians, and currently, five such politicians were in the Government. There was a need to prepare for New Caledonia’s future beyond the Nouméa Accord, which would expire 2018. Emancipation and decolonization were not synonymous. The United Nations had provided three options: free association, integration and independence. A fourth option was set out in General Assembly resolution 2065 (XX), which could allow recognition of New Caledonia as a decolonized territory within France.
ROCK WAMYTAN, Signatory to the Noumea Accord and President, UC-FLNKS, Congress of New Caledonia, said his delegation had repeatedly requested France to address the problem of the special electoral roll because the criteria were not being respected. What his party viewed as “organized fraud” was harming the balance of the Nouméa Accord and threatening the decolonization architecture. As UC-FLKNS had not been heard by the French State, and given the seriousness of the problem, it had approached the Special Committee with the aim of ensuring that it could see first-hand the points it had raised in various correspondences.
He said the visiting mission was “historic” in that it had taken place during the final period of the Nouméa Accord, with the Kanak people hoping to achieve self-determination through electoral consultations. The Accord’s provisions on those consultations could end a 160-year-long history of turning the Kanak people into a minority through a methodical settlement policy. Through the non-independence parties, the French State was threatening Kanaks in efforts linked to the creation of lists of those eligible participants in elections. For decades, the administering Power had set the rules of the game on voting rights, having strengthened the anti-independence party and contravened the wishes of the Kanak people, he stressed.
MICKAEL FORREST, Secretary of the International Relations Unit of FLNKS, stressed that New Caledonia had been colonized by a political regime in 1853, when the French empire had extended its borders to extract natural resources through a colonial outpost. Today, many banks, insurers and metal production companies followed similarly practices. The timetable for implementing the 1998 Nouméa Accord had not been observed, he said, stressing that the agreement was important to the Kanak people, who were seeking to build a community-based society. With growing doubt about France’s commitment to implement the agreement, he said the Special Committee had a number of challenges to remove threats to the peace process. The right to self-determination should be applied only in accordance with international law. The seventeenth Ministerial Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement in May in Algiers had expressed support for FLNKS.
BÉATRICE LE FRAPER (France) said her country had always believed the United Nations should be informed of progress in the Nouméa process, having regularly communicated with the Organization and responded positively to the Special Committee’s requests. The decision to undertake a mission had been made by the Prime Minister, who had wanted to show that France played an “exemplary” role in New Caledonia. Provincial elections, held on 11 May, had been conducted smoothly, she said, emphasizing that the Nouméa process should be seen through to the end and allow for the full exercise of sovereignty by Caledonians. A critical discussion phase was beginning among Caledonians, which must be done in an atmosphere of mutual trust. France’s role was to facilitate dialogue that linked the various segments of Caledonian society. “We cannot replace those segments of Caledonian society,” she said, adding that the range of views expressed today were indicative of dialogue under way in the Territory’s institutions.
MARIE-PAULE TOURTE-TROLUE, Deputy Secretary-General, Office of the High Commissioner of New Caledonia, said the French Government was a partner in the Nouméa Accord, having “progressively and irreversibly” shifted its powers to New Caledonia and supported socioeconomic development. The issue of electoral lists was being reviewed by electoral authorities, while those who had been democratically elected in May could now begin working on various public policies. Going forward, the focus must be on follow-up and the phasing out of the Nouméa Accord, taking into account the electoral lists. France had supported territorial development through equitable redistribution in the northern provinces and Loyalty Island. Mineral resource development also had been encouraged. Additionally, it had trained 1,400 administrators, 80 per cent of whom were Kanaks, while the integration of struggling youth had been a focus of the French army. “We know nothing is perfect,” she said, acknowledging that much remained to be done through capacity-building and training. Other powers would be devolved once those elected to the Congress of New Caledonia requested it.
Introduction of Draft Resolution
Mr. AISI (Papua New Guinea), introducing the draft resolution on the question of New Caledonia (document A/AC.109/2014/L.12), noted that next year marked a midpoint of the third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, and he stressed the need to redouble efforts to achieve that objective. The Nouméa Accord provided a clear road map, but despite steady progress on its implementation, much remained to be done before 2018.
Then, the Special Committee approved resolution L.12.
Question of French Polynesia
RICHARD ARIIHAU TUHEIAVA, Union Pour La Démocratie, regretted that the Secretariat working paper had been prepared without support or cooperation from the administering Power. That Power’s control of French Polynesia’s electoral system included its authority to write and amend electoral ordinances, determine voter eligibility, and confirm or cancel election results. Such authority was hardly consistent with democracy. The 48 communes of French Polynesia were under the administering Power’s legal, judicial and technical control. They were also operating financially — hence politically — under the influence of a locally elected French Polynesian government. Interference also included “bonus seats” awarded to political parties that favoured “political accommodation with the dependency” status, and the inclusion of French police and military in electoral roles. Immigration policy, also controlled by the administering Power, determined voter eligibility and openly encouraged French migration to the Territory. He encouraged use of the “transfer of powers” doctrine to remove such unilateral authority if a self-determination process was to be fair and its results genuine.
OSCAR MANUTAHI TEMARU, former President of French Polynesia, said that, one year after the re-inscription to the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, thousands of people in Tahiti had marched to commemorate that historic event, which permitted French Polynesia’s engagement with the international community after the long period of “dependency in the periphery” that had resulted from the unilateral de-listing of the territory in 1963 without the United Nations concurrence. The Non-Aligned Movement made consistent references to its right to self-determination, and its sustained efforts were duly recognized in draft resolution “L.16”. He expected France, as the administrating Power, to live up to its international legal obligations. It was regrettable, however, that it had failed to transmit information on the Territory this year, under its obligation set out in Article 73 (e) of the United Nations Charter.
He said that the draft resolution approved Tuesday on the implementation of the Decolonization Declaration recognized the “inalienable rights of the people of the non-self-governing territories to their natural resources and their right to establish and maintain control over the future development of those resources”. The administering Power, however, was already planning exploitation, having established a special committee on strategic minerals. “Without real recognition of our ownership on these resources, and without control over immigration, we are bound to become the powerless spectators of yet another pillaging,” as has been the case for more than 30 years during the French exploitation of phosphates on the island of Makatea. On the impact of nuclear testing, it was disappointing that the Secretary-General’s report had not been available for consideration during the current session, drawing attention, instead, to the Independent Report on the French Nuclear Testing in French Polynesia, of January, intended for publication as a General Assembly document.
MICHELLE JOSEPH (Saint Lucia) asked about administration in French Polynesia.
Mr. ARIIHAU TUHEIAVA, responding, said an organic law implemented in Paris by the administering Power set out competencies in the Territory and its communes. Since 2004, specific competencies had been reserved for the administering Power, involving such matters as currency, army, police, immigration, justice and the exploitation of strategic mineral resources. The remaining competencies, by default, were allocated to the locally elected Government of French Polynesia.
Mr. KOROMA (Sierra Leone) said the important issues raised by the two speakers deserved the Special Committee’s serious consideration.
The Special Committee then approved the draft resolution on the question of French Polynesia (document A/AC.109/2014/L.16) without a vote.
It also approved the report of the Pacific Regional Seminar (document A/AC.109/2014/CRP.11)
The representative of Chile spoke after action, thanking delegations upon his departure from the Committee.
The Special Committee then adopted its report on decisions concerning organizational matters (document A/AC.109/2014/L.14).