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Letter to the director of the OSCE ODIHR regarding the consequences of colonialism in Polynesia, Corsica, Melanesia, the Caribbean and the Antilles

Letter to the director of the OSCE ODIHR regarding the consequences of colonialism in Polynesia, Corsica, Melanesia, the Caribbean and the Antilles

Baku, 2 May, AZERTAC

The participants of a conference “The Path to decolonization: Consequences of assimilation and its implications for the realization of human rights”, organized by the Baku Initiative Group at the United Nations Office at Vienna, have expressed their deep concern about the colonial situation faced by the peoples of Polynesia, Corsica, Melanesia, the Caribbean and the Antilles and sent an open letter to Matteo Mecacci, the Director of the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and Mrs. Theresa Ribeiro, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.

The conference participants emphasized that after the signing of the UN Charter in 1945, international standards of self-governance began to evolve thanks to the consideration by the UN General Assembly of the conditions required for self-determination and decolonization. They noted that the UN General Assembly adopted relevant resolutions between 1946 and 1960, giving rise to a global consensus on these international principles. The process was accelerated with the adoption in 1960 of the historic declaration on decolonization (Resolution 1514) and its supporting resolution (Resolution 1541). These processes encouraged the struggle for independence of the countries and territories under colonial rule. However, 64 years after the adoption of that resolution, the peoples of Polynesia, Corsica, Melanesia, the Caribbean and the Antilles still face to new colonial practices.

The letter, which stresses the role of the Baku Initiative Group in the fight against colonialism, says: “The main goal of the Baku Initiative Group, which was established as an international non-governmental organization in 2023, is to support the fight against colonialism and neo-colonialism. Within this framework, the Baku Initiative Group has organized about 10 international conferences from Baku to New York, including Geneva and Istanbul. On April 30, 2024, we held another conference in Vienna, the capital of Austria. Its topic is “The Path to decolonization: Consequences of assimilation and its implications for the realization of human rights”. Your esteemed institution was invited to that event. The activity of the Baku Initiative Group has been recently highlighted at the intergovernmental level. The “Declaration on cooperation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Congo” was signed during the official visit of the President of the Republic of Congo, Mr. Denis Sassou-Nguesso, to Baku, the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan, on April 4, 2024. Paragraph 8 of this Declaration states: “Both sides draw attention to the series of international conferences on decolonization and neocolonialism organized by the Baku Initiative Group, which has created a favorable environment for discussing the consequences of colonialism and its various manifestations, as well as the challenges arising from the neocolonial experience.”

In particular, it was stated that detailed information was provided at all international conferences organized by the Baku Initiative Group in relation to discrimination concerning employment and housing, exploitation of natural resources in Polynesia, Corsica, Melanesia, the Caribbean Sea and the Antilles, and facts of large-scale immigration organized by the French government.

These facts have been generalized in the letter in the following manner:

- Excessive food dependency of the population in the interests of French monopolies (more than 80 percent of food comes from France); implementation of a thought-out poor economic development strategy in relevant countries; poverty (50 percent of the population of French Guiana lives in poverty) and widespread unemployment; implementation of all sorts of abuse (violence, weapons and drug trafficking);

- 1989 (Guiana) Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (No. 169) has not been ratified;

- The policy of assimilation, which promotes the institutions of French cultural hegemony and pushes the gradually disappearing local languages into the background, the French curriculum for our children that does not correspond to the history, geography, culture and ambitions of indigenous peoples for the future;

- The seizure of land (90 percent of French Guiana belongs to the French state), the control over millions of square kilometers of our Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) (which makes France the second biggest maritime state in the world with 11 million square meters of EEZ), the decades of the policy of deportation of our youth to France, which greatly contributed to an unprecedented demographic crisis in Guadeloupe and Martinique, and the plundering of natural resources;

- The creation of a two-tier colonial justice system that criminalizes any resistance movements and protects bribe-takers under the guise of the French rule of law (chlordecone poisoning in Martinique and Guadeloupe and the arrest of young people who fought against land seizures, creation of excusive jurisdiction over the Corsicans who were tried without a recognition of their status as political prisoners and were treated unfairly in the conditions of imprisonment);

- “Empty chair” policy since Polynesia was re-incorporated into the list of countries to be decolonized;

- Without any consultations with indigenous people whatsoever, the use by western powers of the Indo-Pacific zone (Polynesia, New Caledonia), as well as the Caribbean-American zone (French Guiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe) and Corsica (Solenzara base) as geostrategic military bases in preparations for war;

- The process of decolonization started under the Noumea Accord is not followed. In particular, an illegal referendum is held and the number of voters is decreased.

“Proceeding from history and responsibility to their people, representatives of organizations from the last French colonies of Polynesia, Corsica, Melanesia, the Caribbean and the Antilles and the Baku Initiative Group ask you to urge the French government to stop all actions that run counter to international norms and practices.

We emphasize the need for the establishment of an international expert group under the leadership of UNESCO and for sending it to relevant areas immediately to prepare an informative report on the state of cultural and religious heritage of local peoples.

We also emphasize the great importance of discussing the harmful environmental impacts of France's colonial policy at COP29, which will be held in Baku, the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan, in November 2024.

We ask for your support in appealing to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to send a special mission to study the state of the environment, economy, human rights and rights of indigenous peoples.

At a time when our humanity is facing the consequences of global warming and unprecedented dangers that threaten its future, we believe in your help and support, and hope that this time our requests and appeals will not go unanswered,” the open letter states.

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