Pacific Geographies (Feb 2022)

The third independence referendum in New Caledonia – a fallback to colonialism?

  • Kowasch, Matthias,
  • Batterbury, Simon P.J.,
  • Bouard, Séverine,
  • Wadrawane, Eddie Wayuone

Journal volume & issue
no. 57
pp. 11 – 15


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The third and final referendum in the French overseas territory New Caledonia on December 12, 2021, was wasted. Although the vote was legal and the result was clear (96.5% voting against independence), we argue – along with various international observers – that the schedule did not respect Kanak cultural traditions and the vote should be considered as undemocratic. As engaged scholars with different scientific backgrounds (geography, agronomy, education) and of different origins (German, British-Australian, French-Caledonian and indigenous Kanak), we critically examine the circumstances of the third referendum and analyse the reasons for the non-participation of the majority of independence supporters. We offer a number of observations on future prospects for the interrupted decolonization process and recommend the consideration of new forms of partnerships between France and New Caledonia.