Noumea, 13 February 2011
In my capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, I have conducted a visit to New Caledonia from 4 to 13 February 2011. My visit offered me a unique opportunity to witness conditions relevant to my mandate and to consult with a wide range of stakeholders. I would like to thank the authorities of the Republic of France for their cooperation. I am also grateful to the Customary Senate for the assistance it has provided to me in the preparation and conduct of my visit.
The objective of my visit has been to hold consultations and receive information in order to examine the human rights situation of the indigenous people of the country – the Kanak people –while recognizing fully the history of New Caledonia. I have sought to understand the approaches that the Government of France as well as the Government of New Caledonia and the Kanak people have chosen in their efforts to progressively achieve a harmonious and productive coexistence among all sectors of the country’s population, through implementation of the Noumea Accord of 1998.
I have had the opportunity to consult with the High Commissioner and other French officials, the President and ministers of the Government of New Caledonia, officials of the three Provinces, the members of the Customary Senate, and other customary authorities. I also wish to thank the representatives of numerous Kanak and non-governmental organizations, including trade unions and women, youth and environmental organizations that have provided information to me.
In addition to my meetings in Noumea, I traveled to the three provinces of the country. I visited authorities and members of indigenous communities in Kone, Thio, Saramea, Lifou and Ouvea. I also visited the detention centre in Noumea. I am grateful for the warm hospitality with which I have been received by Kanak customary authorities and their communities and by government authorities.
I am encouraged to learn of a consensus among stakeholders around the Noumea Accord, which provides a framework to transfer powers from France to New Caledonia institutions and allows for the possibility of full independence. I especially welcome the provisions of the Noumea Accord that promote the culture and customary institutions of the Kanak people as an integral part of social and political fabric of the country, as well as the provisions that provide a foundation for the many initiatives being taken to address the conditions of disadvantage that Kanak people face in all spheres of life. I note that the Noumea Accord can and should be interpreted in a manner fully consistent with the the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration complements the United Nations policy on decolonization.
During my visit I have learned of numerous steps to implement the Noumea Accord and related positive developments, but I have also learned of many challenges that remain. I have heard from Kanak authorities and members of indigenous communities repeated expressions of frustration about ongoing patterns of discrimination, limitations on the exercise of their customary rights, poor social and economic conditions, and lack of adequate participation in decisions affecting them in many respects.
In coming weeks I will evaluate the information I have gathered and meet with French authorities in Paris to further discuss the human rights situation of the Kanak people. Subsequently I will be developing a report with recommendations, and that report will be submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council and made public. My expectation is that the report will contribute to further constructive dialogue with the governments of France and New Caledonia and with representatives of the Kanak people.