18 July 2018

The Decolonisation Papers: U.S. Virgin Islands Statement to the United Nations Conference against Racism - South Africa 2001

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"We remain confidant...that this World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance can forge a new global awakening, and conclude an agreement establishing a mutually acceptable mechanism to redress the damages caused over the centuries."

Statement of the U.S. Virgin Islands 

 Dr. Carlyle G. Corbin, Jr.
Minister of State for External Affairs
Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands

in the
general debate

United Nations
World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination,
Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

Durban, Republic of South Africa

September 2001

(actual delivery)
Madam President, 

Representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I bring warmest greetings from the government and people of the Virgin Islands, and wish to congratulate you as  Minister for Foreign Affairs of South Africa on your election to chair this World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

My delegation joins with the many expressions of condolence on the passing of our elder Govan Mbeki, a hero to our people throughout the diaspora.

We wish to thank the member states of this Assembly for facilitating our participation in these historic deliberations as an associate member of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean UN-ECLAC.

The themes of this conference are of particular relevance to the Virgin Islands, emerging as we did from centuries of slavery as the former Danish West Indies. In fact, it was only a few months ago, on 3rd July that we celebrated the 153rd anniversary of our emancipation from that brutal system - an event we commemorate each year to pay homage to the bravery of our forefathers in taking back their freedom. Our ancestors, who originated from the area between Upper Guinea through Angola of the western part of this beloved continent, had been forcibly uprooted from their homes and transported via the infamous trans Atlantic slave route to the Caribbean.

They were but a portion of the millions of Africans who were taken against their will and forced into slavery - clearly a blatant abuse against humanity.

As so eloquently observed by the non-governmental organization Africa Action, "the enslavement of Africans was a unique tragedy in the history of humanity which is unparalleled not only because of Its abhorrent barbarism, but also in terms of its enormous magnitude, its institutionalized nature, its transnational dimension, and especially its negation of the very essence of the human nature of Africans and African descendents. " 

UNESCO reminds us that this barbaric system could not have lasted as long as it did had it not been accompanied by an ideology of moral justification and a legal apparatus as its underpinning.

In the face of these facts, we concur with the view expressed in the Declaration of the African Regional Preparatory Meeting held in Dakar, Senegal last January that "the first logical and credible step to be taken at this juncture of our collective struggle is for the World Conference against Racism to declare solemnly that the international community as a whole fully recognizes the historical injustices of the slave trade, " and that "colonialism and apartheid are among the most serious and massive institutionalized forms of human rights violations."

We note that some express an apprehension in addressing the issue of remedial action, despite this overwhelming evidence. We note that others appear to practice a sort of selectivity of memory of the objective reality of their role in this difficult and tragic period of history.

We remain confidant, however, that this World Conference against Racism, Racial discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance can forge a new global awakening, and conclude an agreement establishing a mutually acceptable mechanism to redress the damages caused over the centuries.

Madam President,

Among the many issues contained in the draft Programme of Action before us is the call for "the creation and implementation of a programme to restore to the country of origin the many invaluable art objects, historical artifacts, and documents that have been unjustly removed from Africa and the Americas... over the centuries, and the provision of financial assistance to equip the relevant states with museums and related facilities that will be required to preserve and store those articles properly. "

In this connection, my government has entered into two agreements with the Kingdom of Denmark for the preservation and repatriation of the historical documents and artifacts removed from the former Danish West Indies during the period of Danish rule. It is our view that the consummation of these two bilateral agreements with Denmark, and a third under consideration, serve as an important first step, in the full implementation of proposed remedies contained in the draft programme of action of this conference. We applaud the Government of Denmark for their enlightened cooperation thus far, and look forward to the expansion of such programmes in future.

Madam/Mr. President,

Throughout the draft declaration and program of action, and in a number of the national statements in the general debate, are numerous acknowledgments of colonialism as a past practice. But colonialism should not be viewed in the past tense alone. It is very much a present condition as well.

There remain some 17 non-self-governing territories, mostly in the Caribbean and Pacific regions under formal review by the United Nations General Assembly under its Agenda Item 18. A Special Committee on Decolonization which was so important to the successful self determination and subsequent emergence of African and Caribbean states in the 1960s through the independence of Namibia at the beginning of the 1990s still remains seized on this matter.

The political inequality of these remaining territories is an unfortunate holdover from the last millennium, and still very much a feature of the new millennium. The General Assembly has a sacred obligation to ensure that the people of these territories achieve absolute political equality consistent with international law. The successful constituent election in East Timor on 30th August is an example of the successful implementation of that mandate, and evidence of the critical role the United Nations can play in this process if the political will exists on the part of the relevant member States to implement their international legal obligations.

In this connection, we are pleased that negotiations have resulted in the retention of the paragraph in the draft Declaration of this conference referencing the 1960 Decolonization Declaration, consistent with the United Nations Charter, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the first International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism declared by the General Assembly from 1990 - 2000, and the current International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism for the period 2001- 2010.

Decolonization remains the unfinished business of the United Nations. We sincerely hope that delegations bear this fact in mind with a renewed sense of awareness.

Madam President,

In closing, I wish to recall the wisdom of the Jamaican/Caribbean/African patriot Robert Nesta Marley who reminded us in his verse that:

"In this great future before us, we - the survivors - cannot - indeed, we will never forget - the past."

And as our hero Nelson Mandela has advised us,

"With an iron will,  we can - and will - turn this past misfortune into our advantage."

Thank you Madam President.

07 July 2018


The French overseas minister Annick Girardin has defended planned institutional reforms which are being challenged by French Polynesian politicians.

One change would allow a French Polynesian president to serve more than two consecutive terms, which a French Polynesian member of the French National Assembly Moetai Brotherson says is a paradoxical move.

It also follows a French Polynesian assembly vote, unanimously rejecting such a plan.

Ms Girardin said the reform package was aimed at making government more efficient.

She said the reforms concern all Frenchmen people, and also apply to French Polynesia.

Earlier she rebuffed a French Polynesian member of the French Senate Lana Tetuanui who complained about planned cuts to the number of parliamentarians overseas territories can send to Paris.
Ms Girardin said the specifics of the territories are respected but there are issues where the national interest won't allow for that.

01 July 2018


"We have (consistently) highlighted the considerable political, social and economic inequality inherent in a colonial arrangement that is euphemistically projected by the territorial accomodationist government as autonomy."  - Richard Tuheiava, member of the French Polynesia Assembly.

Richard, Ariihau TUHEIAVA 
Elected Member of the Assembly of French Polynesia 

Statement to Special Committee on Decolonization (C-24) 
United Nations, New York, N.Y. 
22nd June 2018 

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Member of the Special Committee, 

I have the honour to address you in my capacity as an elected member of the House of Assembly of French Polynesia from the Tavini Huiraatira party. I bring greetings from our esteemed political leader and former President of our territory, His Excellency Oscar Temaru. 

It has been over five years since the right of the people of Ma’ohi Nui/French Polynesia to self-determination and independence under the meaning of the U.N. Charter has been formally confirmed by consensus General Assembly Resolution of 17 May 2013. We continue to pursue the realization of this inalienable right. 

In this regard, we wish to express our deep appreciation for the consistent recognition by the Non Aligned Movement for their affirmation of this right, most recently expressed in the Baku Declaration of the Eighteenth (18th) Ministerial Conference of the Movement in Azerbaijan last April 2018. 

Given the global support for a legitimate self-determination process, we reiterate our call that the administering Power emerge from the diplomatic shadows and comply with their international legal obligations: 

1) to provide information to the Secretary-General under article 73 (e) of the United Nations Charter, and 

2) to bring our territory to the full measure of self-government through a genuine self-determination process under Article 73(b) of the UN Charter, and relevant General Assembly resolutions.

 Such a genuine process would entail a direct – rather than observer – role of the United Nations in the educational program as indicated in General Assembly resolutions, and in the conduct of a self-determination referendum on options of political equality. 

Mr. Chairman, 

Since 2013, our annual statements to the Special Committee and Fourth Committee have consistently pointed to actions that have impeded the exercise of our right to self-determination. We have highlighted the considerable political, social and economic inequality inherent in a colonial arrangement that is euphemistically projected by the territorial accomodationist government as “autonomy”. For example: 

1) We have provided information on the financially exploitative relationship with the administering Power in violation of the Operative Paragraph #2 of Resolution 72/111 and earlier G.A. resolutions which recognize this action as incompatible with the U.N. Charter, the Decolonization Declaration 1514 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This exploitation takes many forms, including the stubborn retention of our natural resources in violation of Operative Paragraph #15 of G.A. Resolution 72/111. 

2) The economic exploitation goes further with the French insistence on control of our five millions square kilometers of Economic Exclusive Zone, extending their illegal authority over our undersea and seabed resources, as well as deriving revenue from airlines and satellites crossing over our aerial zone. 

Mr. Chairman, 

Of these areas of exploitation, the most egregious has been the human cost of the impact - on the health of our people - of 30 years of nuclear testing, and the challenges to their receiving just compensation and reparation. In our statements to this Committee, we have offered to supply an extensive independent report of such French nuclear period in our territory for dissemination to the member States, after having advised the Committee that the two Secretary-General Reports on the issue were grossly insufficient. 

We understand, however, that even reference to these inadequate reports were being recommended for removal from the resolution. This would have the unintended – or intended – consequences of eliminating the requirement for the Secretary General “to provide continuous updates” on the issue, which would be unacceptable to us. 

We, again, express our disappointment that reference to public information which presents the true picture on the ground is skillfully omitted from the U.N. resolutions and working papers. We can only conclude that the administering Power can refuse to provide information on French Polynesia, while still influencing the decisions of the Committee, by stealth. 

Nevertheless, we wish to endorse the position of the Non Aligned Movement at the 2018 NPT Conference, which “acknowledges the existence of a special responsibility towards the affected people and areas, including those in the former United Nations Trust Territories, that have been adversely affected as a result of nuclear weapon tests conducted in the past”. 

Mr. Chairman, 

In our 2014 statement before this Committee, one year after our territory’s reinscription, we have advised of the absolute unilateral control by the administering Power over our electoral system. This includes: 

• The authority to write and amend the electoral ordinances 

•  Inclusion in the electoral rolls of French police and military personnel 

•  The ‘strategic’ setting of electoral constituencies to favor specific political interests. 

•  The establishment of disparities in the number of votes required to elect an individual representative to the Assembly 

•  The authority to cancel election results, for dubious reasons •The governance of the 48 communes by the French State, not by the territorial government. But the most astounding electoral distorsion is the administering Power’s authority to grant “bonus seats” in our 57-members Assembly, to the political party of the day which supports the so-called autonomy status of colonial accommodation.

 It is within such colonial framework that the elections were held for our Assembly last month. We wish to inform this Special Committee that last 7 June 2018, a unanimity of the 57-members of our Assembly of French Polynesia, including the current ruling pro-France party, adopted an decision to oppose a electoral reform initiated by the French Government that aims to reduce the number of Congressmen representing Ma’ohi Nui within the French Parliament in Paris, and also to limit the number of terms to our elected mayors. This is also clearly an additional indication on how our administering Power is holding its unilateral authority on our local electoral system. 

To be clear, Mr. Chairmain, elections in our territory under such an overall biased system can in no way be recognized as a substitute for any legitimate act of self-determination, where the people select from the options of political equality in a unbiased referendum process. 

Therefore, there is neither relevance nor space for any so-called “fourth option of self-determination” to be discussed, that would aim to deviate the genuine exercise, by the People of Ma’ohi Nui, to its right to self-determination under the exclusive meaning of the U.N. Charter. In this context, we wish to recall the mandate of the General Assembly as contained in six resolutions now on the question of French Polynesia, and the mandate that must be honoured. 

Thank You!


Independent Guåhan invites the island community to its upcoming concert,Na’lå’la’: Songs of Freedom Vol. 2 on July 4th from 3-6 pm at Adelup Field.

This event is free and open to everyone and will feature live music, poetry and dance from local artists. This concert is part of Independent Guåhan’s community outreach around decolonization.

This July 4th, rather than celebrate the independent of another, let us reflect on our island’s need for decolonization.

Independent Guåhan is looking for volunteers to help make this concert a success. If you are able to volunteer or would like to learn more please email independentguahan@gmail.com.