Oceania
solomon islands

Solomon Islands uprising in the New Cold War

Australia has dispatched some 100 police and military troops to the Solomon Islands following days of rioting and looting in the capital Honiara. Calling for Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to resign, protesters set the parliament building ablaze, and torched and looted shops, causing millions of dollars in damages. The looting centered on the city’s Chinatown, where three charred bodies have been found amid the ruins. Tensions between Guadalcanal and Malaita islanders have been enflamed by massive Chinese capital flows into the former island, while the latter remains comparatively impoverished. The two provincial governments are bitterly at odds over Sogavare’s recent decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic. (Map: University of Texas Libraries)

Oceania
Nauru

Pact indefinitely keeps open ‘Australia’s Gitmo’

A new memorandum of understanding was signed allowing Australia to continue to indefinitely detain asylum seekers at a facility on the Pacific island of Nauru. Since 2012, asylum seekers arriving by boat have been barred from settlement in Australia and sent to offshore detention centers instead. The deal extending use of the Nauru facility comes just as the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) finally reached an agreement to close the contentious Manus Island Regional Processing Center, which was found to be illegal by the PNG Supreme Court in 2016. Most of those held there are now to be transferred to Nauru. Both the Manus Island and Nauru facilities have been criticized by rights groups as “Australia’s Guantánamo.” (Photo of Nauru facility via Wikipedia)

Oceania
Vanuatu

Vanuatu seeks ICJ opinion on climate justice

The South Pacific nation Vanuatu announced its intention to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the right of future generations to be protected from the consequences of climate change. Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Bob Loughman warned that the climate crisis is “increasingly eluding the control of individual national governments,” and stressed the need for a global solution. The announcement set out his government’s plan to coordinate the efforts of Pacific Island states and other vulnerable nations to seek clarification on the legal duties of large emitters of greenhouse gases. (Photo: David Cobbin via NUPI)

Oceania
rapanui

Inter-American panel to hear Rapa Nui land claim

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) agreed to hear a complaint against the state of Chile brought by the Rapa Nui indigenous people of Easter Island, demanding recovery of their ancestral lands. The complaint accuses Chile of numerous violations of the American Convention on Human Rights, citing Article 4 on the right to life, Article 12 on freedom of conscience and religion, Article 21 on property rights, and Article 25 on judicial protection. More than 70% of traditional Rapa Nui lands are now classified as “state lands,” from which the island’s indigenous inhabitants are effectively excluded—causing “irremediable damage” to their way of life and autonomy. The complaint charges that this constitutes a violation of the 1888 Acuerdo de Voluntades (Consent Agreement), under which the Rapa Nui accepted Chilean sovereignty. (Photo: DebatesIndigenas)

Oceania
Taranaki

New Zealand settles Maori land claim

New Zealand iwi (Maori kinship group) Ngāti Maru signed a deed of settlement with the Crown, resolving its historical land claims under the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. Ngāti Maru is the last of eight iwi in Taranaki, a North Island region, to settle its claims under the treaty. The Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Andrew Little, announced in a statementthat the iwi, which comprises 2,800 registered members, will receive financial and cultural redress as part of the settlement, including an apology from the Crown. The financial redress is valued at NZD$30 million (about USD$20 million). The agreement also includes the vesting of 16 culturally significant sites to Ngāti Maru. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Planet Watch
Line 3

Global petro-resistance greets 2021

As the year comes to a close, Native American activists and their allies in Minnesota are launching a weekly protest vigil against the planned Line 3 pipeline, that would bring more Canadian shale-oil to US markets. The self-proclaimed “water protectors” pledge to continue the campaign into the winter. The Conservation Council of Western Australia meanwhile launched legal challenge against approval of the new Burrup Hub liquified natural gas facility, asserting that it is the “most polluting fossil fuel project ever to be proposed in Australia,” and “undermines global efforts [to mitigate climate change] under the Paris Agreement.” While Denmark has pledged to end North Sea oil exploitation by 2050 as a step toward meeting the Paris accord goals, other Scandinavian governments remain intransigent. The Supreme Court of Norway has upheld a judgment allowing the government to grant oil licenses in new sections of the country’s continental shelf. The decision was challenged by environmental groups including Nature & Youth Norway, who claimed that it violates the European Convention on Human Rights. (Photo: Stop Line 3)

Planet Watch
maori

New Zealand declares ‘climate emergency’

The New Zealand parliament has passed a motion declaring a “climate emergency,” joining a growing number of nations that have formally acknowledged the crisis and approved similar declarations. The motion was supported by the Labour Party, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori, while the National Party and ACT opposed it. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern moved the motion, calling climate change “one of the greatest challenges of our time,” and citing the “devastating impact that volatile and extreme weather will have on New Zealand and the wellbeing of New Zealanders.” The motion also notes “the alarming trend in species decline and [the] global biodiversity crisis, including the decline in Aotearoa’s indigenous biodiversity.” (Photo: Shutterstock via The Conversation)

Oceania
torres strait

Strategic strait at issue in Australia-China rift

Amid trade wars, diplomatic tiffs and propaganda sniping, the ugliness between China and Australia seems set to escalate as Beijing enters an agreement with Papua New Guinea to establish an industrial foothold within the narrow Torres Strait. Radio Australia reports that community leaders in North Queensland, just across the strait from New Guinea, fear that China’s plan to construct the facility will jeopardize border security and threaten the commercial fishing sector. There are also concerns that Beijing will attempt to militarize the outpost, seeking to counterbalance the new US-Australian naval base planned for PNG’s Manus Island. (Map: Torres Strait Regional Authority)

Oceania
new caledonia

New Caledonia: one more shot for independence

The results are in for the independence referendum in New Caledonia and, as in 2018, the majority has voted against seceding from France. However, the proportion of “yes” to “no” votes changed. Support for independence rose from 43% in 2018 to 47% this time, indicating that more residents than ever before want independence. And the archipelago could still win independence in the coming years. The 1998 Nouméa Accord that paved the way for this referendum allows for one more independence vote, in 2022, for a total of three. One-third of the region’s legislature must vote in favor of holding the final referendum—and that body already has a pro-independence majority. On the other hand, anti-independence politicians have called for a change of script now that secession has failed twice. One argument says the final referendum should instead give residents the option of going the other direction: further integration with France. But that could be very controversial, with many calling it a violation of the Nouméa Accord. (Flag image via Wikipedia)

Oceania
cyclone-harold

Pacific megastorm complicates COVID-19 response

A powerful storm that ripped across four Pacific Island nations raises an uncomfortable question for humanitarians on lockdown: how do you respond to a disaster during a pandemic? Cyclone Harold was the first Category-5 storm to make landfall in the Pacific since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic in March. Vanuatu, Tonga and the Solomon Islands saw extensive damage, while some 6,000 people were evacuated in Fiji. COVID-19 has forced the global aid sector to rethink how it responds to disasters when faced with flight cancellations and closed borders. (Photo: NASA via The New Humanitarian)

Oceania
Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto accused of rights violations in Bougainville

Mining giant Rio Tinto is responsible for multiple human rights violations caused by pollution from its former mine on the Pacific island of Bougainville, the Human Rights Law Centreconcludes in a new investigative report. For 45 years, the Panguna copper and gold mine on Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, was majority-owned by the British-Australian mining company, but in 2016 Rio Tinto divested from the mine, leaving behind more than a billion metric tons of mine waste. The report, After the Mine: Living with Rio Tinto’s Deadly Legacy, documents the devastating consequences of that action for the thousands of people living around the mine site. The report reveals communities living with contaminated water sources, land and crops flooded by toxic mud, and health problems ranging from skin diseases and respiratory ailments to pregnancy complications. (Image: Human Rights Law Centre)

Oceania
Bougainville

Bougainville votes for independence from PNG

In a referendum held over two weeks, the people of Bougainville, an archipelago in the South Pacific’s Solomon Sea, voted overwhelmingly to seek independence from Papua New Guinea (PNG). The referendum was the centerpiece of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement between the PNG government and Bougainville independence leaders to end a devastating decade-long war that claimed nearly 20,000 lives—nearly a tenth the territory’s total population. Negotiations between PNG and Bougainville about the road forward will now begin and could continue for years, with the PNG parliament having the final say. Control of the territory’s rich mineral resources has been a key issue in the conflcit. (Photo via UNPO)