For the first time after Pacific Islands Forum Leaders endorsed the full membership of French Polynesia and New Caledonia, the Secretary General of Forum Secretariat has revealed at a public forum, ‘the decision is uncharted territory in many ways.’


“Within the Secretariat we continue to work to clarify the practical and legal implications of this decision of Forum Leaders.

“More broadly, there are other questions to be considered, particularly within the context of the Pacific Islands Forum – a grouping whose traditional criteria for membership has included full sovereignty and full self-government, revealed Dame Meg while delivering the keynote address at the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (PIANGO)’s 8th Conference in Suva last week.

She said while there is a lot of interest in the self-determination paths of both New Caledonia and French Polynesia, ‘from where I sit, it is too soon to make sense of what their inclusion as full Forum members’ signal in terms of self-determination aspirations.

Both the French Pacific Territories remain on the UN decolonisation list.

“As with all things in the Forum context, any decisions on self-determination for either territory will be discussed and considered by Forum Leaders.

In a one line decision – Forum Leaders meeting in Pohnpei in September, accepted French Polynesia and New Caledonia as full members, taking to 18 the total membership of the 45 year old regional political body.

On West Papua’s quest for membership of regional bodies and independence from Indonesia – Dame Meg had one advice for colonial powers – ‘respect the aspirations for greater autonomy by colonised people.’

“The aspirations for independence should be shared by at least the majority of the population….and does not give rise to civil conflict, said the Forum Secretary General.

Recently, six Forum Member Countries – Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Tonga – used their speeches at the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for the rights of the people of West Papua.

Dame Meg said in the 45 years of the history of the Forum grouping, members have used their strength in numbers to advocate, as a region, on behalf of neighbours that don’t have access to international platforms due to their lack of international status.

Self-determination is a fundamental principle in public international law enshrined in Article 1 of UN Charter. PACNEWS [/restrict]