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I. Statement on re-inscription of French Polynesia (Maohi Nui) on UN List of Countries to be Decolonized

Statement on the re-inscription of French Polynesia (Maohi Nui) on the United Nations List of Countries to be Decolonized, adopted as part of the Report of the Public Issues Committee by the World Council of Churches Central Committee.

04 September 2012

WCC Central Committee meeting, 28 August - 5 September 2012

1.      The present day French Polynesia (Maohi Nui) became a French protectorate in 1842 and a French colony in 1880, although it was not until 1946 that the indigenous Maohi people acquired French citizenship. By the end of the 19th century, France had annexed all the islands that now constitute French Polynesia. The islands were governed by France under a decree of 1885.

2.      In 1945, when the UN was founded, one of the first initiatives was to engage in a proper decolonization process, hence establishing a list of territories yet to be decolonized. Article 73 of UN Charter (non-self-governing territories) as well as UN General Assembly Resolution 1514 (on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples) describe the UN’s mission to decolonize the remaining non self-governing territories. The French colonies of New Caledonia and French Polynesia were on the list of countries to be decolonized. However, in 1947 France succeeded in having French Polynesia withdrawn from the list, with no prior consultation with the people of Maohi Nui.

3.      In 1958, France held a referendum among its colonies in the Pacific islands, but the opposition to French colonization was suppressed. Subsequently, Maohi Nui remained as a French colony. Moves towards increased local autonomy began in 1977, and new statutes creating a fully elected local executive were approved in Paris in 1977. In 2003, French Polynesia's status was changed to that of an ‘overseas collectivity’ and in 2004 it was declared an ‘overseas country’.

4.      Today, French Polynesia is a semi-autonomous territory of France with its own parliament, assembly, president and executive government. Nonetheless, France continues to exert influence on domestic affairs. Leaders have limited power over many essential domestic and international matters. For example, France administers the justice and education system, defence, currency, health, emigration, land rights, environment and international maritime borders without the consent or participation of the Polynesian people.

5.      The political and church leaders in French Polynesia believe that their struggle for freedom, autonomy and right to self-determination should be addressed by the UN. In August 2011 the French Polynesian Assembly voted for the re-inscription of French Polynesia on the United Nations decolonization list. France does not recognize this resolution which was adopted by the majority in the Territorial Assembly.

6.      Effective advocacy efforts for the re-inscription of French Polynesia on the UN list of territories to be decolonized is an essential first step towards self-determination. The primary work should be done through the UN Committee of 24 (Special Committee on Decolonization). In order to achieve this goal, the support of the international community is vital.

7.      In September 2011, the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) organized a consultation with political, church and regional actors in the Pacific to discuss strategies on advocating for re-inscription of French Polynesia on the UN list of countries to be decolonized. The WCC member constituencies in the Pacific asked for WCC’s support for their advocacy initiatives during the visit of the WCC general secretary to the Pacific in September 2011.

8.      The Council of the Maohi Protestant Church in its 2012 synod, decided to call on “the support of the Pacific Conference of Churches and the World Council of Churches to support its efforts for re-inscription of French Polynesia (Maohi Nui) on the UN list of territories to be decolonized”. The Maohi Protestant Church Synod also stated that: “the Council considers the re-inscription of French Polynesia on this list as means to protect the people from decisions and initiatives taken by the French state contrary to its interests; the re-inscription constitutes the recognition of the human rights of the people of French Polynesia; the Council reiterates that it is their faith that will save the Maohi people whose conscience has been manipulated and that it is the people who will take the decision regarding the sovereignty of their nation”.

It is in this context that the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Kolympari, Crete, Greece, from 28 August to 5 September 2012:

A.     Recognizes the universal human rights of all people and in particular the right to self-determination of all oppressed, colonised, indigenous people in the world, in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;

B.     Calls on France, the United Nations, and the international community to support the re-inscription of French Polynesia on the UN list of countries to be decolonized, in accordance with the example of New Caledonia;

C.     Encourages the French authorities to fulfil their obligations and provide all necessary means for the economic, social and cultural development of the Maohi people;

D.    Urges France to compensate all those affected by nuclear testing and radioactivity;

E.     Invites its member churches and international faith-based organisations to support through advocacy efforts for the re-inscription of French Polynesia to the UN list of countries to be decolonised and its eventual full decolonisation;

F.     Calls on the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs to facilitate the global advocacy initiative for the re-inscription of French Polynesia on the UN list, especially the primary work through the UN Committee of 24;

G.    Prays for the people and the churches of Maohi Nui as they embark on their peaceful and just struggle for self-determination.

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