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Current developments in New Caledonia

  • Context (TH): Socialist Kanak National Liberation Front (FLNKS) of the South Pacific French territory of New Caledonia called to abandon the plan to modify the electoral reform.
  • Protests and riots erupted in response to the French parliament’s decision to amend the voters’ list.

New Caledonia map - PMF IAS

History of the archipelago

  • New Caledonia had Kanaks as the original inhabitants. France gained control of the territory in 1853.
  • After World War II, colonial laws were abolished, and the Kanaks were granted French citizenship.
  • In the 1960s, increased migration from France turned the Kanaks into a minority in New Caledonia.
  • Angered by their deteriorating socio-economic status and lack of economic and political involvement, an independence movement grew under FLNKS in 1984.
  • Thus, tensions soared between the Kanaks and loyalists between 1984 and 1988.
  • It ended with the signing of the Matignon agreements in 1988 and the Nouméa Accord in 1998 between the Kanaks and the French government.
  • This allowed the transfer of powers from Paris to local authorities along with three referendums to decide the territory’s independence. The independence referendums held in 2018 and 2020 were in favour of France and against an independent New Caledonia.
  • Kanaks requested to postpone the third and final referendum due to COVID-19 in 2021, but the French disregarded the request.

Social Inequalities in New Caledonia

  • Kanaks allege “settler colonialism” by the French population replacing the indigenous population.
  • Steel and nickel mining sectors have indigenous people as labour while the non-indigenous people reaped economic and political benefits.
  • 2019 census showcased the poverty rate among Kanaks to be 32.5%, while only nine per cent of non-Kanaks experienced poverty.

New Caledonia in French Indo-Pacific strategy

  • France considers itself an Indo-Pacific power through its overseas territories which combined makes it the second largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
  • Additionally, the large number of French citizens authenticates French governance.
  • The Islands represent a strategic position for France in the Indo-Pacific, especially against China.
  • Therefore, to assert its presence in these territories, integration becomes necessary.
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