Pacific Scoop

UN adds French Polynesia to decolonisation list in spite of ‘cool’ Britain, US

Backgrounder on the debate over self-determination in French Polynesia. Report by Caroline Lafargue. Video by Radio Australia.

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Rochelle Ferguson

The UN General Assembly has voted to add French Polynesia to its list of territories that should be decolonised, affirming the right of the islanders to “self-determination and independence”.

French Polynesia joins 16 other territories on the decolonisation list, including the British-ruled Falkland Islands and the US Virgin Islands.

Though the measure is largely symbolic, it calls on the French government to “facilitate rapid progress” towards self-determination. It was passed by consensus in the 193-member UN assembly.

Oscar Temaru

Defeated French Polynesian leader Oscar Temaru … strong advocate of independence. Image: Cook Islands News/PMC

“The right to self-determination cannot be exercised against the will of the concerned populations,” the French mission said in a letter to UN members, adding that it would not be taking part in the debate on Friday.

Britain, the United States, Germany and the Netherlands also disassociated themselves from the vote.

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 the pro-independence lost an election this month and the government is now controlled by a party that backs the existing autonomy granted by France.

The Netherlands, United States and Germany said the UN General Assembly should have taken into account the May election results before deciding to add the territory to the list.

Nuclear tests
France annexed different parts of Polynesia during the 19th century. The territory of about 275,000 people hosted French nuclear tests up to the mid-1990s.

It was on the UN decolonisation list from 1946 to 1986.

The Solomon Islands’ UN Ambassador Collin Beck, who introduced the resolution with Nauru, Tuvalu, Samoa, Vanuatu and East Timor, told the General Assembly there was “wide international support” for putting Polynesia back on the list.

“The map of decolonising remains an unfinished business of the United Nations,” Beck said.

The result of the May elections in French Polynesia “must never be equated with a referendum” on self-determination, he added.

France’s Pacific territory of New Caledonia is also named on the UN declonisation list.

Britain has the Falklands, known as the Malvinas islands by the Spanish-speaking world, along with Gibraltar, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, St Helena, Turks and Caicos islands and Pitcairn on the UN list.

Britain boycotts committee hearings on the Falklands, which Argentina uses to assert its sovereignty claim.

American Samoa, Guam and the US Virgin Islands remain under US jurisdiction.

New Zealand’s Tokelau is also on the UN list.

Source: France 24

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Transcript of Radio Australia video


  1. Angry French, 19. May 2013, 19:52

    I’m French and I protest over the UN. Where’s the non-interference when it doesn’t concern the US interests ? Also Polynesian people said NO to independence many times, plus Temaru isn’t the president anymore and Flosse said he is going to cancel this measure.

  2. Coralia, 27. May 2013, 16:18

    Well too bad Angry French….democracy has spoken – Hollande should have looked for more friends to vote in his favour! Did you even read about the US Virgin Islands being in the list as well?….oh that’s right….you were too angry!