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UN adds French Polynesia to decolonisation list

Video by Rochelle FERGUSON

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-05-18

The UN voted Friday to add French Polynesia to its decolonisation list, affirming the inhabitants' right to "self-determination and independence". The British-ruled Falkland Islands and the US Virgin Islands are also on the list.

The UN General Assembly voted on Friday to add French Polynesia to its list of territories that should be decolonised, affirming the right of the islands' inhabitants 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.

"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 on Thursday, adding that it would not be taking part in the debate. 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.

France annexed different parts of Polynesia during the 19th century. The territory of about 275,000 people is best known now for tourist island of Tahiti and for the French nuclear tests carried out there 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.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

 

Date created : 2013-05-17

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