Special Committee on Decolonization Approves 3 Draft Resolutions, Hears Officials, Petitioners from Non-Self-Governing Territories, Opening Substantive 2023 Session
Approving three draft resolutions on visiting missions as well as collecting and disseminating information, the Special Committee on Decolonization opened the substantive part of its 2023 session today, with petitioners from various Non-Self-Governing Territories drawing attention to the importance of self-determination.
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 — approved its annual draft resolution on “Dissemination of information on decolonization”.
By its terms, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to further enhance the information provided on the United Nations decolonization website. It would also request the Department of Global Communications to continue its efforts to update web-based information on the assistance programmes available to the Non-Self-Governing Territories.
It also approved without a vote the draft resolution titled “Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73(e) of the Charter of the United Nations”, which would have the Assembly request that administering Powers respect their Charter obligations by transmitting to the Secretary-General statistical and other information of a technical nature relating to the economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories for which they are respectively responsible, as well as the fullest possible information on political and constitutional developments in the Territories concerned.
By the terms of the draft resolution titled “Question of sending visiting and special missions to Territories”, also approved without a vote, members requested the Chair and Bureau to develop, on a case-by-case basis, a plan for the conduct of visiting missions to the Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Members also examined the specific questions concerning Gibraltar, Tokelau, American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands French Polynesia, Guam, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, Saint Helena’s, Turks and Caicos and the United States Virgin Islands. Petitioners and officials from various Territories made spirited interventions, citing historical events and current geopolitical complexities.
“Gibraltar belongs to the Gibraltarians — full stop,” Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of Gibraltar told the Special Committee, also adding: “If anyone doesn’t like it, they can lump it.” Spain gave Gibraltar away in perpetuity 300 years ago by a binding international treaty, he said. Pointing to ongoing negotiations for a treaty between the United Kingdom and the European Union, he added that his homeland “is not, nor will it ever be, a bargaining chip on any negotiating table”.
Richard Buttigieg of the Self-Determination for Gibraltar Group, recalling how Gibraltar acquired a unique identity after being closed off from the world when the border between Spain and Gibraltar was closed in 1969, said this was reversed when Spain joined the European Union. However, with the United Kingdom leaving the Union, Spain is using the opportunity to further its outdated claim. He stressed that the people of Gibraltar will not yield to any form of pressure.
However, Spain’s representative described his country as the victim of a colonial situation that affects its territorial integrity. He drew attention to Assembly resolution 2353 (XXII) of 1967 which called for the decolonization of Gibraltar based on the principle of territorial integrity as well as the annual calls made by the Special Committee, which invite the two parties to begin talks for the decolonization of Gibraltar without delay. Reiterating his call on the United Kingdom to address decolonization, he stressed: “We must turn the page on the sad situation of colonization once and for all.”
On the British Virgin Islands, its premier Natalio Wheatley drew attention to an order of council which gives the United Kingdom additional powers, likening it to a Sword of Damocles hanging over the Territory. A power grab by the Governor or the United Kingdom would irreparably damage their relationship with the Territory, he cautioned, pointing to its efforts to transform itself into a tourism-led, investment-driven, low-carbon economy.
Eliezer Benito Wheatley of the University of Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy also highlighted the democratic deficit between the British Virgin Islands and the United Kingdom and the lack of democratic accountability when the United Kingdom exercises unilateral authority. Citing decades of colonial neglect, he said the economic development of the Territory has been led by its elected Government, while the United Kingdom has given no budgetary assistance to it in 45 years. Agreeing, the representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis called on the United Kingdom to honour its historic obligation to assist the Territory and build its capacity, as she reiterated the call for “continued democratization of our peaceful region”.
The Special Committee also heard from Kelihiano Kalolo, Ulu-o-Tokelau [Titular Head] of Tokelau, who said that even though the two referenda in 2006 and 2007 did not result in an act of self-determination, the Territory is strengthening its infrastructure and governance systems. The issue of climate change, sea-level rise and catastrophic weather patterns is imminent for Tokelau, he said, adding New Zealand’s support in tackling that. Don Higgins, New Zealand’s Administrator of Tokelau, expressed support for a full exploration of Tokelau’s options for self-determination as the best means to ensure that its people have sufficient information before moving onto a more formal decision-making process.
At the meeting’s outset, members approved the session’s agenda and its organization of work, without a vote. They also decided to accede to requests for hearings on the following agenda items, as laid out in its organization of work: Questions of the British Virgin Islands, the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, French Polynesia, Gibraltar, New Caledonia, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the United States Virgin Islands and Western Sahara. It also decided to accede to 68 requests for hearing on the topic entitled “Special Committee decision of 18 June 2021 concerning Puerto Rico: hearing of petitioners”, welcoming petitioners on that topic on Thursday, 22 June.
The Special Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 13 June, to continue its work.
Dissemination of Information on Decolonization from April 2021-March 2022
The Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples first took up the report of the Secretary-General titled “Dissemination of information on decolonization during the period from April 2022 to March 2023” (document A/AC.109/2023/18).
NANETTE BRAUN, Chief, Communications Campaign Service, Strategic Communications Division, Department of Global Communications, presenting that report, said the Department issued 45 press releases in French and English during the reporting period, covering meetings related to the Organization’s work on decolonization. It also dispatched press officers to cover the 2023 Pacific regional seminar on decolonization in Bali, Indonesia, and the 2022 Pacific regional seminar in Saint Lucia. Press officers were present on the ground assisting the Committee with issuing daily press releases which were then disseminated through the various United Nations news and media platforms, she said. Also highlighting the United Nations decolonization website, which is maintained in the six official languages, she said it had more than 700,000 page views, which is an increase of 68 per cent over the same period last year.
Further, she added, the United Nations social media accounts, which have 67.5 million followers, as well as UN News continue to disseminate information on this topic in the six official languages in addition to Hindi, Kiswahili and Portuguese. Drawing attention to an in-depth multimedia feature with journalist Nicole Hannah Jones, best known for the Pulitzer-prize-winning 1619 Project, she pointed to 37 videos of meetings and events on the issue. Among them were meetings of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) and the Special Committee on Decolonization. Further, the Visitor Services Section in New York continues to share information on decolonization through guided tours and the Dag Hammarskjöld Library continues to maintain and update its research guides and digitized 4,100 United Nations documents, 220 of which related to the Decolonization Committee. The global network of 59 United Nations Information Centres also continues to inform and educate the public on the work of the Organization, she added.
JOSIANE AMBIEHL, Chief, Decolonization Unit, United Nations Department of Political Affairs, underscored the importance the General Assembly places on the dissemination of information on decolonization. Outlining some of the Unit’s recent work, she said it updated the Secretariat working papers on each Non-Self-Governing Territory under the Committee’s purview. It continues to maintain and update the website known as “The United Nations and Decolonization”, which was launched in its current form in 2019, based on information collected under Article 73(e) of the Charter of the United Nations, she said, highlighting the particular focus paid to gender-related data and the enduring impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. All relevant working papers, resolutions on decolonization and other important documents were placed on the website, and information on the two regional seminars held in 2022 in Saint Lucia and in 2023 in Indonesia — as well as the proceedings of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly — were also made available.
The audience of the Special Committee’s website significantly improved, with page views witnessing a 68 per cent increase from 2021 to 2022, aside from a 71 per cent increase in the number of sessions held and a 47 per cent increase in the number of users, she added. Further, she noted that the messages of the Secretary-General to regional seminars between 2005-2022, previously only available in English, were now available in all six official languages on the website, aside from a new section dedicated to highlighting the achievements of women in Non-Self-Governing Territories.
JOAQUÍN ALBERTO PÉREZ AYESTARÁN (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends in Defence of the Charter of the United Nations, reaffirmed its unwavering political commitment to end colonialism and ensure the full realization of the inalienable rights of every Non-Self-Governing Territory while calling on occupying and administering Powers to engage constructively to that end. For their part, all relevant Secretariat departments must further expand their activities, bearing in mind that such efforts are critical for raising awareness. All possible means must be used for information dissemination — including traditional and alternative outlets, all six official United Nations languages and information in relevant publications on the options available to the people of Territories. The only way to move forward is if all concerned parties renew their commitment and political will, he stressed, underscoring that the international community must not lose sight of decolonization, especially since the yearning of millions for freedom and justice has been protracted for too long.
Beyond respecting such Territories’ inalienable right to their natural resources, occupying or administering Powers must desist from the pursuance of economic and other activities that have the potential to negatively affect the interests and well-being of those Territories’ peoples, he emphasized. More than 20 years have passed since the last Non-Self-Governing Territory changed its status and became a full Member State. Today, the international community finds itself immersed in the Fourth International Decade for the Elimination of Colonialism. “How many more decades do we have to declare before we, once and for all, eliminate colonialism in all its forms and manifestations?”, he asked. In that regard, he strongly condemned the use of modern neocolonial practices that include, among others, economic exploitation; restricted access to new technologies; and the attempts to substitute international law norms with non-consensual rules, policies and programmes.
ALEJANDRO GONZÁLEZ BEHMARAS (Cuba) underscored the important role of communication in informing the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories about their options for self-determination. The Department of Global Communications must use all means, traditional and innovative, to do this, he said, noting the Dag Hammarskjöld Library’s efforts to digitize relevant information. Also commending the work of the United Nations Information Centres, he called on the Department of Global Communications and the Decolonization Unit to work together to maintain the webpages of the Special Committee. Pointing to the need for well-balanced language, he said the information must be timely so it can lead to better decisions and understanding of the problem.
DIEGO PARY RODRÍGUEZ (Bolivia), associating himself with the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, said that history had shown that colonialism dominated and de-structured existing societies, leaving wounds that remain unaddressed. Colonialism entailed flagrant violations of human rights that counter the basic principles of the Charter, he said, lauding the Special Committee’s work. However, he voiced regret that the process of decolonization has been bogged down by the intransigence of administering Powers not complying with their international obligations, pointing to 17 such cases before the Special Committee, in addition to Puerto Rico. Therefore, he hoped that necessary measures will be undertaken so that parties can reach an agreement through dialogue and mediation, thereby putting an end to colonial domination and helping restructure the livelihoods of subjected peoples.
JASSER JIMÉNEZ (Nicaragua), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends to conclude its earlier statement, condemned the flagrant and prejudicial use of modern neocolonial practices, which include, among others: unilateral coercive measures, interference in the internal affairs of States, and the attempts to impose social, economic and political models above the development of entire nations. The persistence of colonialism and its modern manifestations, he pointed out, prevents the development of international economic cooperation, hampers countries’ development and runs counter to the universal ideals of peace and coexistence embodied in the Charter. With the current International Decade scheduled to end in 2030 at the same time when the international community should have achieved the Sustainable Development Goals, he voiced his hope that this synchrony can be sized to advance the decolonization agenda. For its part, the Group of Friends will spare no efforts in preserving, promoting and defending the Charter and reiterates its full support and solidarity. As well, it will continue efforts to achieve a colonialism-free world and settle, once and for all, the debt to humanity.
The Special Committee then approved without a vote the draft resolution titled “Dissemination of information on decolonization” (document A/AC.109/2023/L.4).
Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories/Visiting and Special Missions
Mr. GONZÁLEZ BEHMARAS (Cuba), noting that information from Non-Self-Governing Territories is a vital tool to ensure exhaustive analysis of the specific situation in each Territory, expressed concern that not all administering Powers comply with their obligations under the Charter. He stressed that numerous resolutions call on those Powers to fully cooperate with the work of the Special Committee.
The Special Committee then approved without a vote the draft resolution titled “Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73e of the Charter of the United Nations” (document A/AC.109/2023/L.3).
Also approved without a vote was the draft resolution titled “Question of sending visiting and special missions to Territories” (document A/AC.109/2023/L.5).
Question of Gibraltar
FABIAN PICARDO, Chief Minister of Gibraltar — stressing that the right of Gibraltarians to self-determination is as inalienable as it is indisputable — declared: “There will be no concessions on our sovereignty […] Because our homeland is not, nor will it ever be, a bargaining chip on any negotiating table.” In that regard, Gibraltar is navigating the negotiations for a treaty between the United Kingdom and the European Union which does not compromise its sovereignty. His Government in particular has been negotiating “from the application of the highest standards of transparency” and the highest standards of outcomes on matters affecting sustainability, the environment and the fluid movement of both people and goods between Gibraltar, Spain and the European Union. While those treaty arrangements have not yet been finalized, teams from Gibraltar, the European Union Commission, the United Kingdom and Spain have worked for 20 months on delivering a treaty to enable all to win and none to lose.
There is no “question of Gibraltar”, he pointed out, explaining that the assertion of a bare claim by a third party does not mean there is a “sovereignty dispute”. Spain, he reminded, gave Gibraltar away in perpetuity 300 years ago by a binding international treaty. Moreover, the Court of Arbitration for Sport has confirmed that there is no dispute, and the International Court of Justice rejected the United Kingdom’s offers to submit the claim for dispute resolution. There is only Gibraltar’s inalienable right to decide its future, he underscored. “You either recognize it now or you recognize it in the future — but recognize it you will, recognize it you must,” he asserted, emphasizing: “Gibraltar belongs to the Gibraltarians — full stop. And if anyone doesn’t like it, they can lump it.”
AGUSTÍN SANTOS MARAVER (Spain), noting that he was still moved by the words just heard, underscored the need for compliance with Assembly resolution 1514 (XV). Spain continues to be the victim of a colonial situation that affects its territorial integrity, he said, underlining that Assembly resolution 2353 (XXII) of 1967 called for the decolonization of Gibraltar based on the principle of territorial integrity. The colonial situation was directly linked to the administering Power’s military use of the Territory, he said, recalling that resolution 3163 (XXVIII) had required the withdrawal of military bases in Non-Self-Governing Territories. The administering Power’s interests in this regard were affected by the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, which dragged Gibraltar into a legally complex situation that all parties have tried to alleviate without affecting its inhabitants or those of the neighboring Spanish zone.
However, these negotiations did not imply that the United Kingdom and Spain are complying with the annual calls made by the Special Committee and the regional seminars, which invite the two parties to begin talks for the decolonization of Gibraltar without delay, he said, recalling that resolution 2429 (XXIII) of 1968 even set a date for the end of the Territory’s colonial status: 1 October 1969. The administering Powers have not complied with these mandates, he said, reiterating his call on the United Kingdom to address decolonization, under the aegis of the United Nations, including the obligations the administering Powers are breaching, stressing: “We must turn the page on the sad situation of colonization once and for all.”
RICHARD BUTTIGIEG of the Self-Determination for Gibraltar Group, recalling how General Francisco Franco closed the border between Spain and Gibraltar in 1969, tearing apart families and alienating the latter from the outside world, said that “instead of destroying us, the closure of the frontier became one of the most important events that helped shape the unique identity of the Gibraltarians.” While Spain’s desire to join the European Union reversed this, he said, with the United Kingdom leaving the Union, Spain then saw an opportunity to further its outdated claim. However, the people of Gibraltar will not yield to any form of pressure, he said, calling on the Special Committee to send a visiting mission to the Territory. Gibraltarians have endured many hardships, he said, stressing that their children must grow up with the privilege of being the sole arbiters of their destiny.
KELIHIANO KALOLO, Ulu-o-Tokelau [Titular Head] of Tokelau, said even though the two referenda in 2006 and 2007 did not result in an act of self-determination, the Territory is strengthening its infrastructure and governance systems. In this regard, the National Strategic Plan 2021-2026 provides a guide for Tokelau’s people to realize the goal of self-government with the ongoing support of New Zealand as its administering Power. The issue of climate change, sea-level rise and catastrophic weather patterns is imminent for Tokelau, threatening the livelihood of its people and encroaching onto land masses and contaminating water reserves. In this context, he highlighted New Zealand’s support, including its allocation from climate change and environment funds and programmes.
DON HIGGINS (New Zealand), Administrator of Tokelau, reported that Tokelau recorded its first cases of COVID-19 on its border in December 2022 and its first case of community transmission in May 2023. In preparation for such developments, New Zealand and Tokelau have been working in close partnership, with the latter continuing to have a very high vaccination rate, good stocks of basic medical supplies and well-trained staff. While New Zealand’s health officials have remained in close contact to respond to needs, it is Tokelau that has very much led its own response. On Tokelau’s new conversation regarding its self-determination, he said that Wellington sees a full exploration of Tokelau’s options as the best means to ensure that its people have sufficient information before moving onto a more formal decision-making process. In supporting Tokelau as best as it can, New Zealand will continue to devote significant efforts and resources to promote the well-being of Tokelau’s inhabitants and build climate change resilience. He also spotlighted the efforts to design a new programme which ensures that the fisheries within Tokelau’s economic exclusive zone remain sustainably managed.
ANNA KONARA MOKONO (Papua New Guinea), speaking also on behalf of Fiji, noted that, aside from technical updates to the draft resolution on the Question of Tokelau, much of last year’s resolution will remain intact. However, she highlighted recent developments worthy of inclusion, including the election on 26 January 2023 for the Eleventh General Fono of Tokelau and the subsequent March 2023 confirmation of Faipule Kelihiano Kalolo of Atafu as Ulu-O-Tokelau. As well, she said that it is noteworthy that, during the election for the General Fono or Parliament, all three atolls constituting the Territory took part in the same electoral process for the first time in Tokelau’s history. “The importance of political leadership in the Territory cannot be overstated,” she stressed. The resolution will also provide an update on the COVID-19 pandemic situation in Tokelau, which has remained largely free of the virus since its global outbreak, due to health measures undertaken, she added. Further, she underscored the need to follow up on the decision of the General Fono on 23 May 2022 on how Tokelau now considers taking further forward its self-determination aspirations, as it prepares to mark in 2026 Tokelau’s Centenary under New Zealand’s administration.
Question of British Virgin Islands
NATALIO WHEATLEY, Premier and Minister for Finance of the British Virgin Islands, noting his re-election on 24 April, said his Government is committed to engaging with the Special Committee to ensure that the Organization is fully abreast of the Territory’s challenges in achieving a full measure of self-determination. Sustainable development, economic transformation and governance reform are priorities for his Administration, he said, drawing attention to an upcoming visit from the United Nations Resident Coordinator. He also pointed to new direct flights between the Territory and Miami, as well as concessional loans for hurricane recovery, as steps that will enable the Territory to become a tourism-led, investment-driven, low-carbon economy. Recalling the crisis between the Territory and the United Kingdom last year, he said while that country did not pursue direct rule, which was opposed by numerous regional stakeholders as well as the people of the Territory themselves, it did put in place an order of council, which gives it additional powers. Describing the order as akin to a Sword of Damocles hanging over the Territory, he said it is an undemocratic and unnecessary measure. The process of reform is going in the right direction, he said, adding that it is not a tick-box exercise and should not become an opportunity for the United Kingdom to impose policies that could negatively impact the islands. Rejecting any power grab by the Governor or the United Kingdom, he cautioned that this would irreparably damage their relationship with the Territory.
WALTON ALFONSO WEBSON (Antigua and Barbuda) said that the British Virgin Islands remaining one of the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories under colonialism is a concern for Antigua and Barbuda, with which it shares strong social, economic, cultural and family ties. Although the British Virgin Islands has demonstrated its capacity for self-rule and economic management for years, it remains shackled and not free to make decisions concerning its political aspirations at the local level, he said, adding that the free, fair and peaceful elections held on 24 April further demonstrated their ability to ensure good governance with transparency and accountability. Therefore, they must be free to exercise their right to self-determination, he stressed, echoing the commendations by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government to Premier Natalio Wheatley and his Administration. Antigua and Barbuda are a close friend of the United Kingdom and recognize its efforts in partnering with the British Virgin Island’s elected Government to strengthen institutions, he added.
NERYS NAKIA DOCKERY (Saint Kitts and Nevis), noting that her country was the beneficiary of a concerted decolonization process, expressed solidarity with Non-Self-Governing Territories in the Caribbean as they call for “continued democratization of our peaceful region”. Colonial systems of governance have never and will never be truly democratic, she said, expressing concern about former colonial Powers refusing to acknowledge the political aspirations of colonized peoples. Commending the premier and people of the British Virgin Islands as they prepare for complete self-determination, she said they were taking the time to create the structural scaffolding for a fully decolonized Territory. The United Kingdom must honour its historic obligation to assist the Territory and build its capacity, she said.
CARLTON RONNIE HENRY (Saint Lucia), noting that challenges remain for small Territories during the Fourth International Decade, called for the operationalization of innovative steps to advance their decolonization in order to successfully implement their respective mandates. Such a trajectory, to independent statehood, is a part of Saint Lucia’s DNA, he said, underlining the importance of the United Nations assistance in the process to full self-governance. Saint Lucia, with CARICOM, stands firmly with the British Virgin Islands in the face of the United Kingdom’s threat to impose direct rule on the people of the Territory.
ELIEZER BENITO WHEATLEY of the University of Cambridge Center for Science and Policy said there is a democratic deficit between the British Virgin Islands and the United Kingdom. There is no democratic accountability when the United Kingdom exercises unilateral authority and constitutionally overreaches into areas of governance that should be the mandate of the local Government. The economic development of the Territory has been led by its democratically elected Government, he said, adding that the United Kingdom has given no budgetary assistance to it in 45 years, even after the devastation caused by natural disasters. Citing decades of colonial neglect, he said that the United Kingdom must report to the Special Committee and should provide a clear path for the complete decolonization of the Territory.
Question of French Polynesia
MAREVA LECHAT-KITALONG, Delegate for International, European and Pacific Affairs of French Polynesia, noted that 17 May 2023 marked the tenth anniversary of the re-inscription of French Polynesia in the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, affirming their inalienable right to self-determination and independence, in line with Chapter 11 of the Charter of the United Nations and General Assembly resolution 1540 (XV), adopted a decade ago. Unfortunately, that decade “has also been one of silence as the only answer from the empty French seat”, she said, voicing regret that France has refused to submit information under Article 73(E) and expressing hope that that such a submission will be initiated this year by the administering Power. Recalling the result of elections held on 16 April and 30 April 2023, resulting in a “blue wave” of pro-independence seats, she underscored that the resolution on French Polynesia should reflect the democratic voice of its people. To this end, she proposed that some language should be added referencing Assembly resolution 77/53 passed on 7 December 2022 on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, as well as a reference to resolution 77/149. Further, she proposed several deletions, including a reference to the 2020 municipal elections, to be replaced by the more recent elections held, and for the insertion of a paragraph on fostering awareness on the right to self-determination.
CARLYLE CORBIN of the Dependency Studies Project noted that his statement pertains to the topic of the implementation of the Decolonization Declaration but the Special Committee’s methods of work only permit petitioners to speak under Territory-specific agenda items. He noted a wide variety of levels of commitment among administering Powers to fulfill their Charter obligations as well as differing interpretations regarding self-determination. The current dependency arrangements are often mistakenly projected as legitimate forms of self-Government, he said, raising the questions of whether there can be a genuine unbiased process of self-determination if it is conducted primarily by the administering Power. Dependency legitimization was encouraged by them, he said, also highlighting the “zero sum game” whereby the Territory is offered either immediate independence or modernized dependency status.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), speaking for the administering Power, outlined progress in dialogue with New Caledonia since the holding of its third referendum in 2021, including through four ministerial trips over the past year. These include a visit by Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne in April and one by the Minister of the Interior Gerard Darmanin in June, following contact with the Special Committee in New York. Discussions moved forward during this latest trip, he said, noting that the audit showed that France met all the criteria for decolonization established by the United Nations. Its conclusions are clear, he said, noting that economic, social and cultural jurisdictions have been transferred to local institutions, particularly with respect to natural resources, while foreign affairs remained a joint jurisdiction. Further, he noted that discussions took place to act on consensus and transitional measures with regard to the freezing of the electorate, which has existed since 1988, stressing the need for movement towards common law. Dialogue will continue, he said, citing trilateral talks to take place in August in Paris. He invited the Special Committee to visit New Caledonia, and said that, despite challenges, France is determined to move towards consensus, in line with the Nouméa Accord.
MAX HUFANEN RAI (Papua New Guinea), also speaking for Fiji, noting that the two countries are sponsors of the draft resolution on the question of New Caledonia, said that “today we have yet again heard loud and clear what colonization does to people, their minds and mindsets, their spirits, their will and their dignity.” Noting that New Caledonia is at a fork in the road, he said this is the fallout of the third self-determination referendum held in December 2021 in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fewer than half the eligible voters participated in that exercise, he said, also pointing to the ending of the Nouméa Accord in 2021. Noting positive efforts from all stakeholders in the Territory, including the administrating Power, he highlighted the Territory’s increasing participation in Pacific regional meetings. Commending the spirit of partnership between its people and the administrating Power, he said nevertheless, much work is needed for a pathway forward for all New Caledonians.
PHILIPPE GOMES, speaking on behalf of Calédonie Ensemble, emphasized the need to respect the three referenda, stressing that “independence has to be decided by the people”. Recalling that 47 per cent of New Caledonians voted for sovereignty, he said that “consensus” is how decisions have been historically made. Therefore, he underscored the need to agree on lasting conclusions in the spirit of mutual respect and harmony. “No one writes on a blank page,” he stressed, underscoring the need to continue the emancipation of New Caledonia. Echoing the point made by the Minister of the Interior on shared sovereignty with respect to certain State powers, he called for a strengthening of unity and called for an indivisible New Caledonia, stressing: “We cannot do what is a de facto apartheid.” To this end, he called for a re-imagining of the right to self-determination, away from binary referenda, and called for a renewed fight against inequalities, which ossifies economies.
MAGALI TINGLE, speaking as a Kanak woman and saying there was a national liberation movement in her country, called for the voice of her people to be respected after the damage and stigma perpetrated by 70 years under the colonial yoke. The way to full liberation must be opened through dialogue and consensus, she emphasized, noting that, since the referendum held on 11 December 2021, its results have been incessantly contested. “This illegitimate referendum robbed us of our independence, and we will never stop contesting it,” she stressed. Stressing that the Nouméa Accord ensures the will of the nation to self-determination, working side-by-side with the advocates of non-independence, she pointed out however that the administering Power refers to the rule of the market, adding: “Who can believe in the objectivity of the process, when France is not able to live up to the decolonization principles it proclaims?” She called on the international community to see the situation for what it is and on the United Nations to bring its authority to bear to ensure France carries out its decolonization obligations, not through a referendum that excludes the participation of the Kanak people.
LAURA VENDEGOU, describing herself as a member of the non-independentist movement, said that her father was a grand chief and senator who brought together Melanesian and French identities. Expressing pride in being French, she said the burden of colonization was removed from her Territory on 28 September 1958 when the Kanaks voted to remain French and then confirmed this twice. “I am a young Kanak and French woman,” she said, adding: “I am not colonized.” Those who say the Kanak people are still colonized live in the past, she said, adding that “my independentist brothers and sisters do not have the monopoly of speaking for all Kanak people.”
GIL BRIAL, noting that independentists refer to people such as himself as “other”, said that he is a descendant of convicts, men and women who were deported to New Caledonia. Noting his mixed parentage, he added: “I am at home in New Caledonia, I have no other home.” Kanaks are not colonized in 2023, he said, adding that France has been exemplary in providing infrastructure, housing and education to New Caledonia. Also commending France for “letting us assume our own jurisdiction,” he added that the Territory has met all the phases of the Noumea Accord. Rejecting the independentists’ boycott of the referendum, he said New Caledonia has chosen to be integrated into the French Republic.
BENJAMIN ROBERTS of the Turks and Caicos Forum said that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Kingdom Government was among many colonial overseeing nations boasting of how they came to the aid of countries, aiding them through the provision of vaccines. It then pushed its vaccines like a used car salesman. However, it has failed to provide compensation for harm caused by these vaccines, and is now “silent as a graveyard”, he said, adding that the United Nations is derelict in its duty in ignoring the matter. He attributed ground lost by the Turks and Caicos to the leadership of former Governor Nigel Dakin, who was arrogant and non-transparent. Further, he contested the claims made in a 2023 working paper on joint maritime actions and radar systems provided by the United Kingdom, saying that the paper neglects to provide figures on how such actions have nullified the tidal wave of illegal migrants, who are wreaking havoc on the quality of life of indigenous people.
ALPHA GIBBS of the Turks and Caicos Heritage Foundation said it agonizes him to restate the violations suffered by the native-born citizens of that Territory. Highlighting the lack of accountability of the administering Power, he said there is no evidence on the ground that it is making any progress towards fulfilling its obligations under Article 73 of the Charter. The United Kingdom continues its “change of guard”, appointing Governors without any input from the people of the Territory, he said. The Governor is constitutionally exempt from oversight from local authorities, he said, also noting that illegal migrants have successfully established residency, thereby creating a population imbalance in Turks and Caicos.
CHRISTOPHER RUSSEL of OWA said that the people of the United States Virgin Islands still have the inhumane status of being colonized, 63 years after they put on record the conditions suffered under their colonial status. Recalling the right to Constitutional Convention pursued in 2007 and the Constitution reflecting the interests of its people in 2009, in harmony with international law, including Chapter 11 of the Charter of the United Nations, he voiced concern over the ongoing interference in the pursuit of self-determination by the Government of the Virgin Islands of the United States over jurisdiction of the document. Such efforts were met with misinformation by individuals hired to do so, he said, calling for the Special Committee’s help in seeing the process through.
* 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).