New Caledonia Holds Self-Determination Referendum with UN Electoral Assistance
On Sunday 4 November, some 175.000 New Caledonians – about 80 per cent of the territory’s eligible voters – went to the polls to answer the question, “Do you want New Caledonia to accede to full sovereignty and become independent?” A majority of 56.4 per cent voted “No”. The referendum, a key part of the territory’s decolonization process, is called for in the Nouméa Accord of 1998 between France and pro-independence and anti-independence groups. New Caledonia is one of 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories (NSGTs) around the world and is discussed regularly in the United Nations General Assembly.
Upon request of the French authorities this year and following the wish expressed by New Caledonian political leaders for the United Nations to continue to accompany the referendum process, the head of the Department of Political Affairs and Focal Point for Electoral Assistance, approved the deployment of a group of 13 electoral experts to follow the self-determination referendum in New Caledonia from 17 October to 7 November 2018. The panel’s deployment completed a cycle of UN support to the preparation of the referendum. This cooperation included the dispatch of UN experts in 2016, 2017 and 2018 in the special administrative commissions to accompany the process of revising of the voters’ rolls, including the one for the referendum.
Following the referendum, New Caledonia will remain on the list of NSGTs, until the General Assembly decides otherwise non-self-governing territories. According to the Nouméa Accord, a second referendum may be held in 2020 at the request of one third of the members of the New Caledonian Congress. If independence is again rejected, a third referendum may be held in 2022 under the same conditions. If the result is still negative, the parties to the Accord will meet to consider the situation thus created.
Cover photo: Polling station in Noumea, New Caledonia, 4 November 2018. UN Photo/Tadjoudine Ali-Diabacte