What is happening in the French territory of New Caledonia?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Mapping of New Caledonia

Why in the News?

New Caledonia, France’s Pacific island territory, is under a state of emergency due to deadly riots.

About New Caledonia 

  • New Caledonia is a French overseas territory in the Pacific.
  • It enjoys a large degree of autonomy but depends heavily on France for matters like defence and education.
  • It includes the island of New Caledonia where the capital, Noumea, is located, the Loyalty Islands; the Belep Islands; and the Ile des Pins.
  • New Caledonia’s lagoons were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.

The Crisis: A Quick Recap

  • New Law: The French government passed a law that has upset people in New Caledonia.
  • Vote Reforms: Now, French citizens who lived on the island for 10 years or more can vote. The government says it’s fairer this way.
  • Resistance from Indigenous people: The locals, especially the Kanak community, feel this gives too much power to French settlers and stops them from gaining independence.

How did France occupy this territory? 

  • Exploration: British explorer James Cook named the island New Caledonia in 1774 after the Latin name for Scotland.
  • French Annexation: France annexed it in 1853 and New Caledonia became a French overseas territory in 1946.
  • Fewer Locals: France brought in lots of French people. Now, the original Kanak people are only 40% of the population, while others, like the Caldoches and newer French arrivals, make up the rest.

Why are the people protesting?

  • There were similar fights in the 1990s, leading to promises of more power for locals.
  • In 2018, 2020, and 2021, they voted on whether to be independent from France. But many boycotted the last vote, saying it wasn’t fair because of the pandemic.

Why is it significant for France?

  • France sees New Caledonia as important for keeping power in the region.
  • It wants to stay strong in the Pacific to stand up to other big powers, like China.


[2014] Explain how the foundations of the modern world were laid by the American and French revolutions.

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