Out with Old, In with the New?

In October last year the UK’s permanent Representative at the United Nations stood up before the Fourth Committee and proposed that the modern relationship that now exists between Britain and its last remaining Overseas Territories was sufficient to allow for those Territories to be de-listed. Needless to say, the proposal went no further and 10 fragments of the British Empire remain on the UN’s decolonisation list.

As the Special Committee on Declonisation starts its third decade amid frustration at the Committee’s inability to move forward, it is interesting to note that new business may come its way.

In the last ten years the Committee has only managed to oversee one ex-colony taking up independence, and the reality is that of the 16 still remaining on its list fewer than half a dozen have any real hope of taking the road to independence and the majority don’t have any desire to. Certainly most of Britain’s Overseas Territories are happy to remain as such, partly as a result of the support they receive in financial assistance or defence, but also because they just don’t see themselves as anything other than British.

This rather leaves the Special Committee with little to do other than till the same ground every year, with Gibraltar, the Western Sahara and the Falkland Islands taking up a disproportionate amount of its time.

Perhaps that will change.

On Thursday, the French Polynesian Assembly approved a resolution asking the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, to reinscribe French Polynesia on the UN decolonization list. A majority of 30 Assembly members voted for the resolution with 26 against.

The resolution will be presented to September’s Pacific Islands Forum meeting, in Auckland, New Zealand and French Polynesia president Oscar Temaru also plans to send the resolution to the United Nations, in New York.

Puerto Rico and West Papua have also been calling for re-listing following a resurgence of independence movements within their Territories and aparently they are not alone.

Perhaps the time has come for the Special Committee to drop those Territories that it has no hope of assisting to independence, and rather take on some whose enthusiasm has them knocking at its door?


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