01 July 2013

“Hijacking decolonisation”: French Polynesia at the United Nations

French Polynesia’s historic resolution at the United Nations was clinched by years of campaigning and back-room diplomacy by this French dependency, reports Nic Maclellan

Nic Maclellan is a correspondent for Islands Business magazine and co-author of La France dans le Pacifique (Editions la Découverte) andAfter Moruroa: France in the South Pacific (Ocean Press).

IN A SENSE, Oscar Manutahi Temaru lost the battle but won the war. Not long before he ended his term as president of French Polynesia this month, he achieved his long-held goal of increasing international support for the Maohi people’s right to self-determination. Temaru has been campaigning for independence from France since the 1970s.

In a historic decision, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on 17 May to reinscribe French Polynesia on the UN list of non-self-governing territories. The resolution, sponsored by Solomon Islands, Nauru and Tuvalu with support from Vanuatu, Samoa and Timor-Leste, was adopted by the 193-member UN General Assembly without a vote. It ends a sixty-five-year period during which French Polynesia has been absent from the list of countries recognised as colonial possessions.

The resolution asks the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation to debate the issue of French Polynesia at its next session and report back to the General Assembly. It also calls on 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.”

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