New Caledonia

Introduction Settled by both Britain and France during the first half of the 19th century, the island was made a French possession in 1853. It served as a penal colony for four decades after 1864. Agitation for independence during the 1980s and early 1990s ended in the 1998 Noumea Accord, which over a period of 15 to 20 years will transfer an increasing amount of governing responsibility from France to New Caledonia. The agreement also commits France to conduct as many as three referenda between 2013 and 2018, to decide whether New Caledonia should assume full sovereignty and independence.
History

The western Pacific was first populated about 50,000 years ago. The Austronesians moved into the area later. The diverse group of people that settled over the Melanesian archipelagos are known as the Lapita. They arrived in the archipelago now commonly known as New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands around 1500 BC. The Lapita were highly skilled navigators and agriculturists with influence over a large area of the Pacific.

From about the 11th century Polynesians also arrived and mixed with the populations of the archipelago.

Europeans first sighted New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands in the late 18th century. The British explorer James Cook sighted Grande Terre in 1774 and named it New Caledonia, Caledonia being the Latin name for Scotland. During the same voyage he also named the islands to the north of New Caledonia the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), after the islands north of Scotland.

Whalers operated off New Caledonia during the 19th century. Sandalwood traders were welcome but as supplies diminished, the traders became abusive. The Europeans brought new diseases such as smallpox, measles, dysentery, influenza, syphilis and leprosy. Many people died as a result of these diseases. Tensions developed into hostilities and in 1849 the crew of the Cutter were killed and eaten by the Pouma clan.

As trade in sandalwood declined it was replaced by a new form of trade, Blackbirding. Blackbirding was a euphemism for enslaving people from New Caledonia, the Loyalty Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to work in sugar cane plantations in Fiji and Queensland. The trade ceased at the start of the 20th century. The victims of this trade were called Kanakas, a label later shortened to Kanak and adopted by the indigenous population after French annexation.

The island was made a French possession in late 1853 in an attempt by Napoleon III to rival the British colonies in Australia and New Zealand. Following the example set by the British in nearby Australia, between 1864 and 1922 France sent a total of 22,000 convicted felons to penal colonies along the south-west coast of the island; this number includes regular criminals as well as political prisoners such as Parisian socialists and Kabyle nationalists. Towards the end of the penal colony era, free European settlers (including former convicts) and Asian contract workers by far out-numbered the population of forced workers. The indigenous Kanak populations declined drastically in that same period due to introduced diseases and an apartheid-like system called Code de l'Indigénat which imposed severe restrictions on their livelihood, freedom of movement and land ownership.

During World War II, US and Allies forces built a major position in New Caledonia to combat the advance of Japan in South-East Asia and toward Australia. Noumea served as a headquarters for the United States military in the Pacific. The proximity of the territory with the South Pacific operations permitted also quick repairs in Noumea of damaged US ships. The American 23rd Infantry Division is still unofficially named Americal, the name being a contraction of "America" and "New Caledonia".

The U.S. military headquarters - a pentagonal complex - was, after the war, taken over as the base for a new regional intergovernmental development organisation: the South Pacific Commission, later known as the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

New Caledonia has been on a United Nations list of non-self-governing territories since 1986. Agitation by the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak Socialiste (FLNKS) for independence began in 1985. The FLNKS (led by the late Jean-Marie Tjibaou, assassinated in 1989) advocated the creation of an independent state of 'Kanaky'. The troubles culminated in 1988 with a bloody hostage taking in Ouvéa. The unrest led to agreement on increased autonomy in the Matignon Accords of 1988 and the Nouméa Accord of 1998. This Accord describes the devolution process as "irreversible" and also provides for a local Caledonian citizenship, separate official symbols of Caledonian identity (such as a "national" flag), as well as mandating a referendum on the contentious issue of independence from the French Republic sometime after 2014.

Geography Location: Oceania, islands in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Australia
Geographic coordinates: 21 30 S, 165 30 E
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 19,060 sq km
land: 18,575 sq km
water: 485 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than New Jersey
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 2,254 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; modified by southeast trade winds; hot, humid
Terrain: coastal plains with interior mountains
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mont Panie 1,628 m
Natural resources: nickel, chrome, iron, cobalt, manganese, silver, gold, lead, copper
Land use: arable land: 0.32%
permanent crops: 0.22%
other: 99.46% (2005)
Irrigated land: 100 sq km (2003)
Natural hazards: cyclones, most frequent from November to March
Environment - current issues: erosion caused by mining exploitation and forest fires
Geography - note: consists of the main island of New Caledonia (one of the largest in the Pacific Ocean), the archipelago of Iles Loyaute, and numerous small, sparsely populated islands and atolls
Politics

The unique status of New Caledonia is in between that of an independent country and a normal Overseas department of France.

On the one hand, both a Territorial Congress (Congress of New Caledonia) and government have been established, and are increasingly empowered via the gradual implementation of a devolution of powers from France in favour of New Caledonia, pursuant to the 1998 Nouméa Accord. Key areas (e.g. taxation, labour law, health and hygiene, foreign trade, and others) are already in the hands of the Territorial Congress and government. Further authority will be given to the Territorial Congress in the near future. Ultimately, the French Republic should only remain in charge of foreign affairs, justice, defense, public order, and treasury. An additional enhancement to New Caledonian autonomy has come in the form of recently-introduced territorial "citizenship": Only New Caledonian "citizens" have the right to vote in local elections. The introduction of this right has been criticised, because it creates a second-class status for French citizens living in New Caledonia who do not possess New Caledonian "citizenship" (because they settled in the territory recently). Further signs of increased autonomy for the territory, include New Caledonia's right to engage in international cooperation with independent countries of the Pacific Ocean region, the continued use of a local currency (the French Pacific Franc, or CFP) rather than the Euro, as well as the authority of the Territorial Congress to pass statutes overriding French law in a certain number of areas.

On the other hand, New Caledonia remains a part of the French Republic. The inhabitants of New Caledonia are French citizens and carry French passports. They take part in the legislative and presidential French elections, sending two representatives to the French National Assembly and one senator to the French Senate. At the 2007 French presidential election the voter turnout in New Caledonia was 68.14%.[5] The representative of the French central state in New Caledonia is the High Commissioner of the Republic (Haut-Commissaire de la République, locally known as "haussaire"), who is the head of civil services, and who sits as an integral part of the territorial government.

The Nouméa Accord provides a mechanism for the determination of the ultimate status and degree of New Caledonian territorial autonomy: Pursuant to the Accord, the Territorial Congress will have the right to call for a referendum on independence, at any time of its choosing after 2014.

The current president of the government elected by the territorial Congress is Harold Martin, from the loyalist (i.e. anti-independence) "Future Together" party (l'Avenir Ensemble), which crushed the long-time ruling RPCR (Rally for Caledonia in the Republic) in May 2004. "Future Together" is a party of mostly White and Polynesian New Caledonians opposed to independence, but rebelling against the hegemonistic and (allegedly) corrupt anti-independence RPCR, led by the now-discredited Jacques Lafleur. Their toppling of the RPCR (that was until then seen as the only voice of New Caledonian Whites) was a surprise to many, and a sign that New Caledonian society is undergoing changes. "Future Together," as the name implies, is opposed to a racial-oriented vision of New Caledonian political life, one based purely on the political primacy of either the Melanesian native inhabitants or the descendants of European settlers. Rather, it is in favour of a multicultural New Caledonia, of governing principles that better reflect the reality of the existence of large populations of Polynesians, Indonesians, Chinese, and other immigrant communities that make up the territory's population. Some members of "Future Together" are even in favour of independence, though not necessarily on the same basis as the Melanesian independence parties.

People Population: 224,824 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 27.3% (male 31,376/female 30,064)
15-64 years: 65.6% (male 74,064/female 73,369)
65 years and over: 7.1% (male 7,377/female 8,574) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 28.4 years
male: 28 years
female: 28.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.175% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 17.39 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 5.64 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA
note: there has been steady emigration from Wallis and Futuna to New Caledonia (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 7.19 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.85 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 6.5 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 74.75 years
male: 71.76 years
female: 77.88 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.21 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: New Caledonian(s)
adjective: New Caledonian
Ethnic groups: Melanesian 42.5%, European 37.1%, Wallisian 8.4%, Polynesian 3.8%, Indonesian 3.6%, Vietnamese 1.6%, other 3%
Religions: Roman Catholic 60%, Protestant 30%, other 10%
Languages: French (official), 33 Melanesian-Polynesian dialects
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 96.2%
male: 96.8%
female: 95.5% (1996 census)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Territory of New Caledonia and Dependencies
conventional short form: New Caledonia
local long form: Territoire des Nouvelle-Caledonie et Dependances
local short form: Nouvelle-Caledonie
Dependency status: territorial collectivity of France since 1998
Government type: NA
Capital: name: Noumea
geographic coordinates: 22 16 S, 166 27 E
time difference: UTC+11 (16 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: none (overseas territory of France); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are 3 provinces named Province des Iles, Province Nord, and Province Sud
Independence: none (overseas territory of France); note - a referendum on independence was held in 1998 but did not pass; a new referendum is scheduled for 2014
National holiday: Bastille Day, 14 July (1789)
Constitution: 4 October 1958 (French Constitution)
Legal system: based on French civil law; the 1988 Matignon Accords grant substantial autonomy to the islands
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Nicolas SARKOZY (since 16 May 2007); represented by High Commissioner Yves DASSONVILLE (since 9 November 2007)
head of government: President of the Government Harold MARTIN (since 7 August 2007)
cabinet: Cabinet consisting of 11 members elected from and by the Territorial Congress
elections: French president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; high commissioner appointed by the French president on the advice of the French Ministry of Interior; president of the government elected by the members of the Territorial Congress for a five-year term (no term limits); note - last election held 7 August 2007 when Harold MARTIN was elected following the resignation of Marie-Noelle THEMEREAU as president on 24 July 2007 (next to be held in 2012)
Legislative branch: unicameral Territorial Congress or Congres du territoire (54 seats; members belong to the three Provincial Assemblies or Assemblees Provinciales elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 9 May 2004 (next to be held in 2009)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - RPCR-UMP 16, AE 16, UNI-FLNKS 8, UC 7, FN 4, others 3
note: New Caledonia currently holds one seat in the French Senate; by 2010, New Caledonia will gain a second seat in the French Senate; elections last held 24 September 2001 (next to be held not later than September 2007); results - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - UMP 1; New Caledonia also elects two seats to the French National Assembly; elections last held 10 and 17 June 2007 (next to be held on June 2012); results - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - UMP 2
Judicial branch: Court of Appeal or Cour d'Appel; County Courts; Joint Commerce Tribunal Court; Children's Court
Political parties and leaders: Alliance pour la Caledonie or APLC [Didier LE ROUX]; Caledonian Union or UC; Federation des Comites de Coordination des Independantistes or FCCI [Francois BURCK]; Front National or FN [Guy GEORGE]; Front Uni de Liberation Kanak or FULK [Ernest UNE]; Kanak Socialist Front for National Liberation or FLNKS (includes PALIKA, UNI, UC, and UPM); Parti de Liberation Kanak or PALIKA [Paul NEAOUTYINE and Elie POIGOUNE]; Rally for Caledonia in the Republic (anti independence) or RPCR-UMP [Jacques LAFLEUR]; The Future Together or AE [Harold MARTIN]; Union Nationale pour l'Independance or UNI [Paul NEAOUTYINE]; note - may no longer exist, but Paul NEAOUTYINE has since become a president of Parti de Liberation Kanak or PALIKA; Union Progressiste Melanesienne or UPM [Victor TUTUGORO]
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: ITUC, PIF (associate member), SPC, UPU, WFTU, WMO
Diplomatic representation in the US: none (overseas territory of France)
Diplomatic representation from the US: none (overseas territory of France)
Flag description: the flag of France is used
Culture The most popular sport is cricket followed by football.The New Caledonia football team participates in the Oceania region's Nations Cup. Rugby league has been played in New Caledonia since 2003 when its rugby union governing body and clubs switched.
Economy Economy - overview: New Caledonia has about 25% of the world's known nickel resources. Only a small amount of the land is suitable for cultivation, and food accounts for about 20% of imports. In addition to nickel, substantial financial support from France - equal to more than 15% of GDP - and tourism are keys to the health of the economy. Substantial new investment in the nickel industry, combined with the recovery of global nickel prices, brightens the economic outlook for the next several years.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $3.158 billion (2003 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $3.3 billion (2003 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: NA%
GDP - per capita (PPP): $15,000 (2003 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 15%
industry: 8.8%
services: 76.2% (2003)
Labor force: 78,990 (2004)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 20%
industry: 20%
services: 60% (2002)
Unemployment rate: 17.1% (2004)
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1.4% (2000 est.)
Budget: revenues: $996 million
expenditures: $1.072 billion (2001 est.)
Agriculture - products: vegetables; beef, deer, other livestock products; fish
Industries: nickel mining and smelting
Industrial production growth rate: -0.6% (1996)
Electricity - production: 1.508 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 76.3%
hydro: 23.7%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 1.403 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 0 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption: 11,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 605.7 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports: 11,980 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Exports: $1.341 billion f.o.b. (2006)
Exports - commodities: ferronickels, nickel ore, fish
Exports - partners: Japan 17.4%, France 15.9%, Taiwan 14.5%, China 10.8%, Spain 9.4%, Belgium 7.3%, Italy 6%, Australia 4.6% (2006)
Imports: $1.998 billion f.o.b. (2006)
Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment, fuels, chemicals, foodstuffs
Imports - partners: France 39.4%, Singapore 15.1%, Australia 11.3%, NZ 4.8% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $524.3 million annual subsidy from France (2004)
Debt - external: $79 million (1998 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA
Currency (code): Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique franc (XPF)
Currency code: XPF
Exchange rates: Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique francs (XPF) per US dollar - 87.59 (2007), 95.025 (2006), 95.89 (2005), 96.04 (2004), 105.66 (2003)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 55,300 (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 134,300 (2005)
Telephone system: general assessment: NA
domestic: a submarine cable network connection between New Caledonia and Australia, scheduled for completion in 2008, will improve high-speed connectivity and access to international networks
international: country code - 687; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 5, shortwave 0 (1998)
Radios: 107,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 6 (plus 25 repeaters) (1997)
Televisions: 52,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .nc
Internet hosts: 14,252 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: 80,000 (2006)
Transportation Airports: 25 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 12
over 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 9
under 914 m: 2 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 13
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 6 (2007)
Heliports: 6 (2007)
Roadways: total: 5,432 km (2000)
Merchant marine: total: 2 ships (1000 GRT or over) 3,566 GRT/2,543 DWT
by type: cargo 1, passenger/cargo 1 (2007)
Ports and terminals: Noumea
Military Military branches: no regular indigenous military forces; French Armed Forces (includes Army, Navy, Air Force, Gendarmerie); Police Force
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 57,738 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 47,342 (2008 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 16-49: 2,202 (2008 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: NA
Military - note: defense is the responsibility of France
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: Matthew and Hunter Islands east of New Caledonia claimed by France and Vanuatu