The CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the Pacific Islands Association of NGO’s (PIANGO), co-hosted the 14th International Civil Society Week (ICSW) from 4-8 December in Suva, Fiji with the theme “Our Planet. Our Struggle. Our Future.” For the first time, the ICSW was held in the Pacific Region following the campaign to highlight the effects of climate change on small islands. The week’s programme consisted of a youth assembly, concurrent events, cultural festivities, and networking events that built up to the CIVICUS world assembly.
IPMSDL, as one of the event partners, sponsored a forum entitled Self-Determination and Liberation in the Pacific. The forum, organized in partnership with Dewan Adat Papua and Land is Life, served as a space for organizations from the different island states in the region to share their struggles for self-determination and liberation and to establish solidarity among these nations through the introduction of Merdeka (West Papua Support Committee), which was initially launched during a study conference in Davao City, Philippines last March.
The discussion on West Papua included the roots of conflict, the civil and political rights situation under Indonesian occupation – including the social and cultural rights, and the resistance movements formed in response to the injustices. The speakers from the Solomon Islands highlighted the rampant corruption, gender inequality, and foreign take-over of indigenous lands in their islands and how the struggle for self-determination in SI roots back to the Malaitans’ aspiration of governing themselves free from British interference. The sharing from Kanaky featured some individuals who made notable contributions to their independence movements such as political activist Jean-Marie Tijbaou.
From these stories, there existed a common theme of indigenous peoples’ marginalization in their own lands – from issues colonization and repression to modern-day deprivation of basic social services, freedom of speech, militarism, harassment, killings, and so on. These are the same issues from years ago that brought about a rich history of resistances and liberation movements in these island states and led to the formation of various people’s organization as we know today.
Referring to one of the interventions during the forum, although we may live in the same region of the world, this does not necessarily mean that we are aware of what each nation is going through and this accentuates the significance of having avenues such as the forum for building international solidarity – while we can express our support for the struggle of other nations in various ways through our CSOs, NGOs, and POs, facing and winning our local battles is also one of the best means to urge other nations to win theirs. At the same time, we must also remember from our experiences that our legal battles are limited and constrained without the support of our mass movement on the ground.
By the end of the programme, the delegates wrote down on paper their call to actions and insights based on the discussion to support the struggles of West Papua and the Pacific Island states; among these are “Your liberation is our liberation”, “strengthen our partnerships amongst peoples who are also struggling for self-determination”, “self-determination is peoples’ right and government responsibility”, and “[to] liberate our land and resources is [to] liberate our life”.
Long live the struggle of West Papua for national liberation!
Merdeka for West Papua and all Pacific Island States!