Saturday, May 18, 2013

UN General Assembly Puts French Polynesia Back on the List of UN Territories that Should be Decolonized

The United Nations General Assembly voted on Friday to place French Polynesia back on the UN list of territories that should be decolonized and requested the French Government to "facilitate rapid progress . . . towards a self-determination process." 

Adopting a consensus resolution tabled by Nauru, Tuvalu, and Solomon Islands, the Assembly affirmed "the inalienable right of the people of French Polynesia to self-determination and independence" under the UN Charter, and declared that "an obligation exists [under the UN Charter] on the part of the Government of France, as the administering Power of the Territory, to transmit information on French Polynesia."  

The General Assembly's action places French Polynesia back on the UN list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, bringing the number of inscriptions to 17. When the text was introduced, the delegate of the Solomon Islands recalled that French Polynesia was inscribed by France on the original UN list in 1946, together with New Caledonia.  Yet the very next year, in 1947, "the General Assembly was no longer furnished with information on French Polynesia." He said that the subsequent list of Non-Self-Governing Territories published in 1963 "curiously omitted" the Territory, amounting to "the de-facto removal of French Polynesia and New Caledonia from UN oversight without the concurrence of a General Assembly resolution." He said that in June 2011, the Council of Ministers of French Polynesia adopted a resolution seeking self-determination within UN processes. The Territory's Assembly adopted the resolution in August of 2011. The current text, he added: "sends a simple message of peace and hope to the population that want to determine their future."

In that light, the resolution adopted by the 193-member UN General Assembly requests the UN Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (known informally as the C-24) to consider the question of French Polynesia at its next session and to report to the General Assembly at its sixty-eighth session. It further requests the French Government, "as the Administering Power concerned, to intensify its dialogue with French Polynesia in order to facilitate rapid progress towards a fair and effective self-determination process, under which the terms and timelines for an act of self-determination will be agreed." 

Through their statements in the Assembly, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands all disassociated themselves from the consensus vote. According to news reports, the French delegation to the UN sent a letter to Member States on Thursday announcing that it would not be taking part in the Assembly meeting. 

News reports also note that French Polynesia's pro-independence party asked for the territory to be put back on the UN list when it controlled the government in 2011. But that party lost an election this month and the government is now controlled by a party that backs the existing autonomy granted by France. 

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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