Evolving approaches to sovereignty in the French Pacific

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review


This contribution explores notions of sovereignty in the three French territories of the South Pacific: French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Wallis and Futuna. It also analyses the key nuances and challenges of the transition from aspirations of 'independence' to those of 'shared sovereignty'. From protectorates or colonies to overseas territories (Territoires d'Outre-Mer), these three territories have experienced specific and customised statuses with various degrees of autonomy, all underscoring a fine line between autonomy and sovereignty. Indeed, 'sovereignty' has today become much more synonymous with the concept of 'self-government' or 'large autonomy', as the current situation in French Polynesia demonstrates. Meanwhile, New Caledonia is one step closer to 'full sovereignty', since its actual status includes provisions for a referendum on self-determination between 2014 and 2018. The claim for independence, a characteristic of Kanak and Maohi movements, has become more pragmatically focused, to the extent that considering sovereignty 'in free-association' with France is now a perfectly conceivable option. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)456-473
Number of pages18
JournalCommonwealth and Comparative Politics
Issue number4
Early online date22 Nov 2012
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • French overseas territories
  • free-association
  • independence
  • self-determination
  • South Pacific
  • French Polynesia
  • Kanak
  • New Caledonia
  • Pacific
  • sovereignty
  • Wallis and Futuna


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