Monica Feria-Tinta has been instructed to advise the Kanak people, native inhabitants of New Caledonia (listed in the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories), on the question of the recent independence referendum held last year, and on their self-determination rights under the UN Charter, including making representations on their behalf, before the United Nations.
A Non-Self Governing Territory, New Caledonia is administered by France.
In 1998 the Nouméa Accord was signed between the French Government, the Kanak, and a political alliance drawing its support mainly from the Kanak population. Under the Accord, the question of independence of New Caledonia was to be voted on in a referendum. A total of three referendums were to be held if independence were to be rejected in the first two.
The Third referendum went ahead on 12 December 2021 in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. The referendum overwhelmingly approved the Pacific territory remaining part of France. However, pro-independence parties in New Caledonia have rejected the result of the referendum as final results showed that almost two-third of voters abstained or returned blank or null ballots.
According to a 2019 census, the Kanak – who were mostly absent in the referendum- constitute a significant number of the population, at 99,078 or 40.3%.
Reportedly, a request to delay the referendum to allow for a mourning period (traditional to Kanak customs) following a September rise in coronavirus infections amongst the Kanak population was rejected by France, which led to a boycott of the referendum by the Kanak population. By contrast, throughout the world, many elections were delayed due to Covid-19. In France, itself, for example, local elections in 2020 were postponed.
The referendum in New Caledonia has been widely reported by international media: