The Nouméa Accord for New Caledonia

This text of the Nouméa Accord for New Caledonia was agreed to in Nouméa on 21 April 1998 by the French government, the FLNKS and RPCR, and was signed in a ceremony on 5 May at the opening of the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center.
(NB: This is not a complete or official translation of the 17-page document, but a translation and summary of key points.)
PREAMBLE 1) Kanak identity 1.1 Special civil status 1.2 Law and customary structures 1.3 The cultural heritage 1.4 The land 1.5 The symbols
2) Political institutions 2.1 The assemblies 2.2 The electoral body and the method of voting 2.3 The executive 2.4 The communs (local government councils)
3) Powers 3.1 New powers transferred to New Caledonia 3.2 Further powers to be transferred 3.3 The sovereign powers
4) Economic and Social Development 4.1 Human resource development 4.2 Economic development 4.3 Social and political 4.4 Control of the means of development
5) The evolution of the political structure of New Caledonia
6) Implementation of the Agreement 6.1 Text of agreement 6.2 Elections 6.3 1998 referendum 6.4 Election to the Assemblies and Congress 6.5 Committee of signatories to the agreement
(NB: This is an unofficial translation!)
1) France took possession of Grande Terre, which James Cook had named New Caledonia, on 24 September 1853. It took over a territory according to the conditions of international law recognized at that time by the nations of Europe and America, without establishing legal relations with the indigenous population. The treaties agreed with the customary authorities in the course of the year 1854 and in following years, did not constitute well-balanced agreements, but were in fact unilateral acts.
The territory was not empty.
Grande Terre and the islands were inhabited by men and women who were to be named Kanaks. They had developed their own civilization, with its traditions, its languages and customs organized on the social and political arena. Their culture and their imagination were expressed in diverse forms of creativity.
Kanak identity was founded on a particular bond with the land. Each individual, each clan defined themselves with a specific link to a valley, a hill, the sea, the mouth of a river, and watched over the memory of the welcome for other families. Tradition gave names to each part of the countryside, set taboos which marked certain places, and defined customary paths – all this defined the space and customary exchanges.
2. The colonization of New Caledonia was written as part of a historic movement when the countries of Europe imposed their domination on the rest of the world.
Men and women came in great numbers, in the 19th and 20th centuries, convinced they were bringing progress – driven by their religious faith, brought against their will, or searching for a second chance in New Caledonia. They settled and there became the founders of new lines. They brought with them their ideals, their understanding, their hopes, their ambitions, their illusions and their contradictions.
For some of them – notably the men of culture, priests and pastors, doctors and engineers, bureaucrats, soldiers, political leaders – the indigenous people were seen through different eyes, marked by a greater understanding or a real compassion.
By bringing their scientific and technical knowledge, the new populations in the Territory participated, in often difficult circumstances, in mining and agricultural development, and with the aid of the State in the management of New Caledonia. Their determination and inventiveness allowed both exploitation and created the basis for development.
The relationship between New Caledonia and the far-off metropolitan power was marked for many years by a colonial dependence, a one-to-one relationship, a refusal to recognize the specificities, and the new populations also suffered in their hopes and aspirations.
3). The moment has come to understand the shadows of the colonial period, even if this era was not devoid of light.
The shock of colonization brought with it a lasting trauma for the original population. The clans were deprived of their name and even their land. A significant colonization of the land entailed considerable displacement of the local population, through which the Kanak clans saw their means of subsistence reduced and their sites of memory lost. This dispossession led to a loss of reference points to define their identity.
Kanak social organization, even if its principles were acknowledged, found itself overturned. Population movement destabilized them. Far too often, misunderstandings or the strategies of power failed to recognize the legitimate customary authorities and to put into place leaders lacking the legitimacy that comes from custom. All this accentuated the trauma to Kanak identity.
At the same time, the Kanak artistic heritage was denied or pillaged. To this negation of the fundamentals of Kanak identity were added limits on public liberties and an absence of political rights, even though the Kanaks had paid a heavy price in defending France, most notably in the First World War.
The Kanaks were pushed back to the geographic, political and economic margins of their own country, which could only provoke revolts in a proud people who were not without warrior traditions – revolts that incited violent repression, aggravating the resentment and misunderstandings.
The colonization so undermined the dignity of the Kanak people that they were deprived of their identity. Men and women lost their lives and their reasons for living in this confrontation. Great suffering resulted. We must acknowledge the memory of these difficult times, to recognize the faults, to reinstate to the Kanak people the identity which was taken from it – this will amount to a recognition of its sovereignty, the precondition to the foundation of a new sovereignty, shared in a common destiny.
4). Decolonization is the method to rebuild a lasting social bond between the communities which live today in New Caledonia, allowing the Kanak people to establish new relations with France that correspond to the realities of the times.
Through their participation in building New Caledonia, the other communities who live in New Caledonia have gained a legitimate right to live there and to continue to contribute to New Caledonia’s development. They are indispensable for social balance and for the functioning of the economy and the social institutions. The accession of Kanaks to positions of responsibility remains insufficient and must be built up by affirmative action – this does not take away, however, from the fact that the participation of the other communities living in the Territory is essential.
Today, it is necessary to pose the basis of citizenship for New Caledonia, allowing the original people to form a human community together with the men and women who live there, affirming their common destiny.
The size of New Caledonia and its economic and social structures does not allow the opening up of the labor market, and justifies the need for measures to protect local employment.
The Matignon Accords, signed in June 1988, manifested the desire of the inhabitants of New Caledonia to turn the page on violence and mistrust, to write together new pages of peace, solidarity and prosperity.
Ten years later, it would be proper to take a new step, marked by the full recognition of Kanak identity, a precondition for refounding a social contract between all the communities that live in New Caledonia, and by a sharing of sovereignty with France, on the path to full sovereignty.
The past was the time of colonization. The present is the time of sharing, of rebalancing. The future is a time of identity, in a common destiny.
France is ready to accompany New Caledonia on this path.
5). The signatories to the Matignon Accords had thus decided to step together, to find a negotiated solution based on consensus – a solution on which they will ask all the inhabitants of New Caledonia to decide upon.
This solution will set out the political structures of New Caledonia for twenty years, and the methods for New Caledonia’s emancipation.
Its implementation presupposes a Constitutional law, which the French government is committed to preparing with the view of having it adopted in Parliament.
The full recognition of Kanak identity leads:
The New Caledonia institutions will take a new step towards sovereignty: certain deliberations of the Territorial Congress will have legislative standing, and an elected Executive will draft these laws and implement them.
During the course of this period, signs will be adopted which show the progressive recognition of a New Caledonian citizenship, signs which will be the expression of the community’s chosen destiny. This citizenship is capable of transforming, at the end of the period, into nationality if it is so decided at the time.
The electoral body for the local Assembly elections in New Caledonia will be restricted to people who have lived there for a certain time.
After taking account of the constraints of the local employment opportunities, measures will be taken to favor local employment for people long resident in New Caledonia.
The sharing of powers between the French State and New Caledonia will signify a shared sovereignty. It will be a progressive transfer, with powers transferred as soon as new structures are put in place. Others will be transferred according to a set timetable, which can be modified by the Congress, according to the principle of self organization. The transferred powers cannot return to the French State, which will mean the irreversibility of this structure.
New Caledonia will benefit from aid from the French State throughout the whole period that the new structures are being put in place – through technical assistance, training and finances, for the exercise of the transferred powers and for economic and social development.
These commitments will be inscribed in multi-year programs. New Caledonia will take part in the capital or in the functioning of the principal institutions of development in which the State is a party.
At the end of the period of twenty years, the transfer of the sovereign powers to New Caledonia, the accession to an international status of full responsibility and the organization of citizenship will be put to a vote by the concerned populations.
Their approval would amount to the full sovereignty of New Caledonia.
Key points of agreement:
1) Kanak identity
1.1 The special civil status for Kanaks under French law will be transformed into a new customary status. The law will distinguish between customary land, which will be controlled and inherited according to customary law, and other land which will be governed by common law.
1.2 A greater role will be given to Kanak customary authorities, and recognized by the new Congress and Executive. Customary authorities will have a greater role in land, custom and social issues.
1.2.5 The current customary council of New Caledonia will be transformed into a “Customary Senate” of 16 members, which must be consulted on issues that affect Kanak identity.
1.3.1 Place names: Kanak names for localities and places will be compiled and reintroduced. Sacred sites according to Kanak tradition will be identified and protected by law.
1.3.2 The French State will support the return of Kanak cultural objects and artifacts held in museums and galleries in France and other countries.
1.3.3 Languages: Together with French, Kanak languages will be the languages of education and culture in New Caledonia. Research and universities should assist in development of Kanak language studies, and teacher training is important so they can be used in primary and secondary schools.
1.3.4 Kanak culture must be valued in the media and artistic training, and intellectual property rights protected.
1.3.5 The Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center should be provided technical and financial assistance by the French state
1.4 The land
“The identity of each Kanak is defined above all in relationship to the land.” The role and functions of the Agence de Developpement et Rural d’Amenagement Foncier (ADRAF the Rural land management and Development Agency) will be reviewed.
1.5 Symbols
“The identifying symbols of the country – name, flag, anthem, device, design of bank notes will be jointly developed, to express the Kanak identity and the future shared between all.” – The name of the country can be added to identity documents, as a sign of citizenship.
2) Political institutions
“One of the principles of the political agreement is the recognition of a New Caledonian citizenship.” The notion of citizenship sets restrictions for the electoral rolls for the political institutions of the country and the final referendum. It also has implications for measures to protect local employment.
2.1 The Assemblies
2.1.1 Provincial Assemblies, in the Loyalty Islands, North and South, will be made up of 7, 15 and 32 members (who are also members of the Congress) together with 7, 7 and 8 supplementary members who are not members of the Congress.
2.1.2 The Assembly and Congress members are elected for terms of 5 years. Certain Acts of Congress have the character of national laws, and cannot be challenged except before the [French] Constitutional Council after reference by the French State’s representative, the New Caledonia Executive, the President of a province, the President of the Congress or a third of the members of Congress.
2.1.4 The Customary Senate must be presented with all draft laws which affect Kanak identity in the sense outlined in the agreement. – An Economic and Social Council will represent the main economic and social forces of New Caledonia, and must be consulted on any Congressional acts on economic and social issues.
2.1.5 The boundaries of local government districts (communs) must be located within one province.
2.2.1 The electoral body for the final referendum (foreseen in section 5) will be: a) voters inscribed on electoral rolls at the date of the electoral votes foreseen in section 5, and who were eligible to vote in the referendum scheduled in article 2 of the [1988] referendum or b) those who fulfill the conditions for participation, such as those who can justify interruptions in their presence in New Caledonia for family or professional reasons; c) those who, under customary law, were born in New Caledonia and have their material and moral interests there, or those born outside of New Caledonia but have one parent born in New Caledonia and have their material and moral interests; d) young people who reach voting age, register on the electoral rolls, who: – lived in New Caledonia between 1988 and 1998 (if born before 1988), or – had one parent who fulfilled the requirements for the 1998 referendum (if born after 1988);
e) those people who, in 2013, can demonstrate twenty years continuous residence in New Caledonia.
The electoral body for the Assemblies and Congress will be restricted to: a) those meeting the requirements to vote in the 1998 referendum; b) those people in the annex of the 1998 voting lists who have been resident for ten years before the election; c) to those who reach voting age for the first time after 1998 and who: – have lived in New Caledonia for ten years in 1998 – have a parent eligible to vote in the 1998 referendum – have a parent registered in the annex for the 1998 referendum who has ten years residence.
The electoral rolls for the final referenda will be closed a year before the final vote.
2.3 The Executive:
The New Caledonia Executive will be a collegial government elected by the Congress and responsible to it. The Executive will be nominated by the Congress, based on lists of candidates. Members of the Executive cannot be members or the Congress or Provincial Assemblies at the same time.
3) Powers
Powers currently held by the [French] State will be transferred to New Caledonia: – some will be transferred immediately the new political system comes into force – others will be transferred in intermediate stages – some will be shared between New Caledonia and the French State – other sovereign powers cannot be transferred until after the vote set out in section 5.
During this transition period, the State will finance the transferred powers, guaranteed by Constitutional law.
3.1 Immediate transfer during the term of the first congress: a) the right of employment – protecting local employment, and strengthening regulations covering non-residents of New Caledonia (including professionals). b) labor legislation c) foreign trade d) navigation e) the exploration, exploitation and management of the EEZ; f) programs for primary education, teacher training, provincial administration, heads of some departments etc.
3.1.2 Transfer in later terms of the Congress:
Powers over police regulations, civil security (though the State can intervene in times of emergency); finances and accounting for public institutions; civil and commercial law; local government regulations; control of public institutions.
3.2 Shared powers:
Regional and international relations: International relations are within the state’s responsibility. This will take account of New Caledonia’s own interests in any international negotiations conducted by France.
– New Caledonia can join international and regional organizations in line with their statutes (Pacific regional bodies, United Nations, UNESCO) – New Caledonia can be represented in the countries of the region, and can create agreements with these countries in the areas of its powers.
It can be involved in the renegotiation of the relationship between the EU and the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs-PTOM).
Relations between New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna will come under a special statute (as certain French government institutions operate across both territories).
3.2.2 The New Caledonia Executive will be involved in the reworking of the rules governing entry and residence in New Caledonia.
3.2.4 The maintenance of Order: The Executive will be informed by the French representative of measures taken.
3.2.5 Mining regulations
– State powers over hydrocarbons, nickel, chrome and cobalt will be transferred. A council of mines made up of representatives of the provinces assisted by the French State’s representative will be consulted on draft legislation from the Congress or Provincial Assemblies on mining issues.
3.2.6 International air services will not be completely transferred to New Caledonia, but the Executive will be involved in negotiations.
3) The sovereign powers [“royal powers”]
Justice, public order, defense, foreign affairs (except as under 3.2.1), finance and currency will remain as [French] State powers until the creation of new political institutions resulting from a referendum of the concerned population [i.e. until the end of the 20 year period].
4) Economic and Social Development
4.1Discussions will be undertaken for mutual recognition of degrees and training with countries of the Pacific.
4.2 Economic development
– Development of multi-year development programs – mining development – rural electrification – modernizing the finance sector – control of the institutions of development (Post and telecommunications, electricity, Land reform office, Cultural office etc.).
5) The evolution of the political structure of New Caledonia
In the course of the fourth five-year term of the Congress, an electoral consultation [i.e. vote / referendum] will be organized. The date of this consultation will be determined by the Congress during the course of this term of office, by the modified majority of three fifths of its members.
If the Congress has not fixed the date before the end of the second last year of the fourth Congressional term, the vote will be organized on a date fixed by the French State in the last year of the term.
The vote will focus on the transfer of the sovereign powers to New Caledonia, accession to an international status of full responsibility and the transformation [organization] from citizenship to nationality.
If the response to these propositions is negative, a third of the members of Congress can call for the organization of a second vote, which will occur during the second year following the first consultation. If the response is again negative, a further vote can be organized in the same manner and with the same delays. If the response is again negative, the political partners will come together to examine the situation.
In so far as these votes do not lead to the new political organization as proposed, the political structures established in 1998 will remain in force at their final stage of development, without the possibility of going back, and this “irreversibility” will be constitutionally guaranteed.
The result of this vote will apply for the whole of New Caledonia. One part of New Caledonia cannot achieve its sovereignty alone or retain different links with France if the results of the vote are any different to the overall vote.
The State recognizes that the aim is for New Caledonia, at the end of this period, to achieve its full emancipation.
6) Implementation of the Agreement
The French government will prepare the necessary texts to implement the agreement and especially a draft law to revise the [French] Constitution, with the view of its adoption by the French Parliament. If this revision cannot be brought to fruition and if the Constitutional revisions needed to implement this agreement cannot be achieved, the partners will meet again to examine the consequences.
6.2 Elections will be organized in New Caledonia for political, customary, economic and social institutions of the completed agreement, at the initiative of the signatories.
6.3 The 1998 referendum
A referendum will be organized before the end of 1998 on the political structures of New Caledonia, the purpose of this present agreement.
The constitutional law for New Caledonia will only allow those electors to participate as were eligible for the referendum scheduled in article 2 of the law of 9 November 1988 [ i.e. the referendum law which implemented the Matignon Accords].
6.4 Elections for the Provincial Assemblies and Congress will be held six months after the adoption of these laws relating to this new political structure. The terms of office for Assembly members will commence after the date of these elections.
A committee of signatories will be put in place to: – take account of the opinion of local structures consulted on the agreement – participating in preparing the necessary acts to implement the accord – to monitor the implementation of the accord.
Title — 1345 NEW CALEDONIA: The Nouméa Accord (English/Unofficial) Date — 9 May 1998 Byline – None Origin — Pasifik NiusSource — Pacific Concerns Resource Center Inc. , 9/5/98 Status — Abridged
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