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UN reaffirms that the people of Am Samoa should determine their future political status

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The United Nations General Assembly “strongly urges” American Samoa’s  administering Power - the United States of America - “to refrain from undertaking any kind of illicit, harmful, and unproductive activities, including the use of the Territory as an international financial centre, that are not aligned with the interests of the people of the Territory.”

In a resolution adopted during its Dec. 13, 2019 meeting, the General Assembly requested American Samoa and the U.S. to “take all measures necessary to protect and conserve the environment of the Territory against any degradation.”

It “once again requests the specialized agencies concerned, to monitor environmental conditions in the Territory and to provide assistance to the Territory consistent with their prevailing rules of procedure.”

The UN is “concerned” by the “use and exploitation of the natural resources” of the world’s Non-Self-Governing Territories (including American Samoa) by their administering Powers for their benefit, by the use of the Territories as international financial centers to the detriment of the world economy, and by the consequences of any economic activities of the administering Powers that are contrary to the interests of the people of the Territories.

The 5-page “Question on American Samoa” resolution points out that the General Assembly recognized that all available options for self-determination of the Territory are valid as long as they are in accordance with the freely expressed wishes of the people of American Samoa.

It also recognized that the specific characteristics and the aspirations of the people of American Samoa require flexible, practical, and innovative approaches to the options for self-determination, without any prejudice to territorial size, geographical location, size of population or natural resources.

The UN is “convinced” that the “wishes and aspirations of the people of the Territory should continue to guide the development of their future political status and that referendums, free and fair elections and other forms of popular consultation play an important role in ascertaining the wishes and aspirations of the people.”

The UN is also “convinced” that any negotiations to determine the status of the Territory must take place with the active involvement and participation of the people of the Territory, under the auspices of the United Nations, on a case-by-case basis, and that the views of the people of American Samoa in respect of their right to self-determination should be ascertained.

The UN is “mindful” that, in order for the UN Special Committee on Decolonization to enhance its understanding of the political status of the people of American Samoa and to fulfill its mandate effectively, it is important for it to be apprised by the United States  as the administering Power and to receive information from other appropriate sources, including the representatives of the Territory, concerning the wishes and aspirations of the people of the Territory.

Additionally, the UN is “aware” of the importance both to American Samoa and to the Special Committee of the participation of elected and appointed representatives of American Samoa in the work of the Committee.

The UN resolution provided a summary of what Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo V. Ale - who represented the governor - said during the 2018 Pacific regional decolonization seminar. Among other things - the political status of American Samoa as an unincorporated and unorganized territory limited its ability to self-government and exposed it to decisions made by the U.S.  (See Samoa News May 9 and May 10, 2018 editions for details.)

Through the resolution, the UN reaffirms that it is ultimately for the people of American Samoa to determine freely their future political status; and calls upon the U.S, in cooperation with the territorial government and appropriate bodies of the United Nations system, to develop political education programs for the Territory in order to foster an awareness among the people of their right to self-determination in conformity with the legitimate political status options.

The resolution takes note of the territorial government’s work with respect to moving forward on political status, local autonomy and self-governance issues with a view to making political and economic progress, and recalls the establishment in April 2016 of the Office of Political Status, Constitutional Review and Federal Relations.

It recalls the indication by the territorial government that American Samoa should remain on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, under the purview of the Special Committee until such time as its people have exercised their right to self-determination.

The UN reminds the U.S of its responsibility under the UN Charter to promote the economic and social development and to preserve the cultural identity of the Territory, and requests the U.S to take steps to enlist and make effective use of all possible assistance, on both a bilateral and a multilateral basis, in the strengthening of the economy of the Territory.