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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 12, 2021

Self-Determination Through Autonomy or Independence? – On the Current and Future Position of New Caledonia

  • Markku Suksi ORCID logo EMAIL logo
From the journal ICL Journal


New Caledonia is a colonial territory of France. Since the adoption of the Nouméa Accord in 1998, a period of transition towards the exercise of self-determination has been going on. New Caledonia is currently a strong autonomy, well entrenched in the legal order of France from 1999 on. The legislative powers have been distributed between the Congress of New Caledonia and the Parliament of France on the basis of a double enumeration of legislative powers, an arrangement that has given New Caledonia control over many material fields of self-determination. At the same time as this autonomy has been well embedded in the constitutional fabric of France. The Nouméa Accord was constitutionalized in the provisions of the Constitution of France and also in an Institutional Act. This normative framework created a multi-layered electorate that has presented several challenges to the autonomy arrangement and the procedure of self-determination, but the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee have resolved the issues regarding the right to vote in manners that take into account the local circumstances and the fact that the aim of the legislation is to facilitate the self-determination of the colonized people, the indigenous Kanak people. The self-determination process consists potentially of a series of referendums, the first of which was held in 2018 and the second one in 2020. In both referendums, those entitled to vote returned a No-vote to the question of ‘Do you want New Caledonia to attain full sovereignty and become independent?’ A third referendum is to be expected before October 2022, and if that one also results in a no to independence, a further process of negotiations starts, with the potential of a fourth referendum that will decide the mode of self-determination New Caledonia will opt for, independence or autonomy.

Corresponding author: Markku Suksi, Professor of Public Law, Departmen of Law, Åbo Akademi University, Turku/Åbo, Finland, E-mail:

Published Online: 2021-03-12
Published in Print: 2021-03-26

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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