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And now there are 18

New Caledonia and French Polynesia join forum

BURIED in the communiqué of the 47th Pacific Islands Forum, at item 30, is a single sentence: “Leaders accepted French Polynesia and New Caledonia as full members of the Pacific Islands Forum.” It’s a momentous change. Since its founding in 1971, the Forum has been an organisation of independent and sovereign nations. But during their annual retreat last month, Forum leaders decided to welcome two non-selfgoverning territories, still colonised by France, as full members.

There were 16 members in the regional organisation at the start of the Forum in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia. Now there are 18. But this fundamental decision was made with limited ceremony.

The consensus of Forum leaders was forged despite calls by leading Kanak and Maohi independence activists to defer any decision. The lack of any explanation or declaration in the Forum communiqué reflects ongoing concerns amongst some member states, worried about unforeseen consequences and other territories that might seek membership.

After the announcement, Philippe Germain, President of the Government of New Caledonia, told Islands Business: “It’s really a great thing for New Caledonia, for it will certainly allow us to participate in discussions about the management of our region in all sectors:not only the environmental questions that are worrying the whole world, but also issues of economy, health, education and governance.”

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