Pacific News Minute: UN Decolonization Committee Discusses Pacific

Jun 28, 2018

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At the end of it’s annual meeting, the United Nations Decolonization Committee approved resolutions on five territories – three of them in the Pacific.

The United Nations doesn’t speak of “colonies” any more, but of “non-self governing territories.”  

And the countries that control them aren’t “colonial powers” but “administrative authorities.”

Several countries on the list don’t want to be, while one egregious example of colonialism isn’t listed. 
Of the seventeen territories on the list, six are in the Pacific.

One, New Caledonia, is near the end of a 20-year decolonization process that concludes with a referendum in November. But, if opinion polls can be believed, it will vote to remain part of France. 

Just two months ago, the pro-independence party in French Polynesia finished a poor third in territorial elections. Last year, the Pacific Islands Forum overcame decades of anti-colonialist principle to admit both New Caledonia and French Polynesia as full members. 

In Tokelau, a referendum on sovereignty fell just 16 votes short of a two thirds majority in 2007, but more and more of its people take advantage of its dependent status to live and work in New Zealand; they would lose those rights if Tokelau gained full sovereignty. 

American Samoa recently reaffirmed that it does not consider itself a colony.

In Guam, efforts to organize a referendum on its status have collapsed. And Pitcairn Island is believed to be too small to govern itself.

West Papua, seized by Indonesia in 1966, is not on the decolonization list, and Indonesia sits as a member of the UN Special Committee.