Bougainville joins UNPO

Wednesday, September 18, 1991

By Norm Dixon

The Republic of Bougainville was accepted as a new members of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) at its recent meeting in The Hague. The decision represents a small but important precedent in Bougainville's campaign to win recognition for its independence.

The UNPO was formed in February at a meeting of peoples and nations not represented at the United Nations because their countries are occupied, colonised or forcibly integrated into larger states.

Its initial meeting was attended by representatives from the Cordillera (in the Philippines), East Turkistan, Estonia, Georgia, the Greek minority in Albania, Kurdistan, Latvia, Taiwan, Tibet, West Papua, Armenia, Lithuania, the International Indian Treaty Council and the Aboriginal people of Australia.

Belau, East Timor, the Indians of the Amazon and many other representatives and observers could not attend the first meeting.

Bougainville was one of eight new members admitted to the organisation. The others are Assyria, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Aceh, the Republic of South Moluccas, Zanzibar, Chechenskaya and Irag Turkleri.

Bougainville's delegation was headed by a leader of the Bougainville interim government and former provincial premier, Joseph Kabui. Kabui also met with the United Nations Subcommittee on Human Rights.

The 47 delegates attending the UNPO meeting unanimously adopted a resolution reaffirming the principle of self-determination. The meeting expressed deep concern at many governments' policies of transferring people into areas to swamp minority nations and peoples.

Kabui described Bougainville's admission to UNPO as "a very positive move towards a full realisation of her self-determination ... Every member nation of UNPO will be both morally and legally bound to support and sponsor one another towards the final self-determination once any member of the group is successful in gaining their own independence."

Members of UNPO are now looking to the Baltic states, which have won their independence and are UNPO founding members, to push their claims for self-determination in international forums.

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