UNPO Admits Three New Members
During the XVIII UNPO Presidency and in the continued spirit of its objective to give a voice to peoples and nations worldwide, who are inadequately represented at international institutions, UNPO welcomed three new members into the organization: the World Amazigh Congress, the Sulu Foundation of Nine Ethnic Tribes Inc. and TRIEST. The UNPO Presidency met on the 27 and 28 November 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland, where it considered the membership applications of the above-mentioned organizations.
The World Amazigh Congress
The World Amazigh Congress (CMA) was created in 1995 as a nongovernmental organization. The CMA, with its headquarters in Paris, aims to give the Amazigh people a structure for coordination and aid in their international representation. Among its objectives is the wish to defend and promote the unique cultural identity of the Amazigh; to fight for official recognition of Amazigh identity, language and culture; to re-establish Amazigh history and civilization at the scholarly and scientific level; and to advance the overall protection and proper recognition of Amazigh heritage.
The Amazigh, also often referred to as Berber, are descendants of the pre-Arab people in North Africa. The Amazigh population amounts to around 30 to 40 million people, who are spread out across Morocco (where around 14 million Amazigh reside), Algeria (where around 9 million Amazigh live), Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Niger, and Mauritania. Across Europe, there are also large Amazigh migrant communities. Their common identity is defined through their languages, ethnicity and their shared history.
Following the Arab-Muslim Conquest of North Africa in the 7th Century, Amazigh languages were mostly replaced, through choice or through force, by Arabic. Today these languages are not recognized in most of the countries in which the Amazigh live and are, therefore, not taught at school. Furthermore, the Amazigh communities often face segregation and discrimination in their home countries and deliberate attempts are made to destroy the Amazigh culture. The CMA tries to address these issues through its nonviolent struggle.
The Sulu Foundation of Nine Ethnic Tribes Inc.
The Sulu Foundation of Nine Ethnic Tribes Inc. (SUFONETI) was created in San Fernando, the Philippines, with the aim of bringing development and peace to the people of Sulu. The organization aims to restore the rights and independence of the Sulu people, enabling them to manage their own economy and governing their own territory.
The Sulu people are a Muslim community living in the Sulu Archipelago, a chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean in the south-western Philippines with around 700 thousand inhabitants. They are part of the Malay community and became Muslim when the Sultanate of Sulu was established in 12th Century, which included portions of Borneo, Palawan, Mindanao and other islands in the region. During the Spanish control of the region, which started in the 16th Century, the sultanate had limited self-governance. Following the Spanish-American war, America took control of the Philippines in 1898. In 1915, an agreement between American commanders and the Sultan Jamalul Kiram was signed. This agreement, called the ‘Carpenter agreement’, relinquished all temporal power of the Sultan over the territory. During World War II, the Sulu archipelago was occupied by the Japanese. In 1946, the Sulu archipelago became part of the Philippines. According to the Sulu, the Carpenter Agreement only places limitations on the Sultan’s functions meaning that the Sultan of Sulu can still act as Head of the state, of the religious order and still has power over the people of Sulu.
Today, Sulu is an autonomous chain of islands and a part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The large grass roots support for the Sultanate system illustrates its continued relevance and acceptance by the Sulu people today. The capital of Sulu, Jolo, has suffered from heavy fighting during the military operations against the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a movement founded by the Moro against the Philippine government, in 1973. Moreover, the region has been considered as unsafe after the war. This has resulted in a decrease in economic relationships with other regions, which has left the Sulu Archipelago region with internal conflicts and increasing poverty due to the economic, social and educational problems. The SUFONETI is looking to end these conflicts of the region, while strengthening the independence and the rights of the Sulu people.
TRIEST is a non-profit organization established by the citizens of Trieste. It aims to achieve the complete finalization of the Free Territory of Trieste and of the Free Port of Trieste, while establishing links to cultural organizations in the city and acting as an umbrella organization for associations and groups that are actively defending the rights of the citizens of the city.
Trieste is a region in Italy on the Adriatic coast bordering Slovenia which has a multicultural community that reflects its turbulent history. The region is at the cross roads of Europe’s main cultural groups, Latin (to the West), Germanic (to the North) and Slavic (to the East). From 1382 to 1918 the region was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the city of Trieste was one of its main cities and its main sea port. After World War I, in 1918, the territory became part of Italy which governed it until 1945 when it was turned over to a UK-US occupational administration that held sway over the area until 1947. In February 1947, the Free Territory of Trieste was set up by the United Nations via a treaty, which came into force in September of that year. The establishment of this territory was meant to accommodate the multicultural community and the claims by Italy and Yugoslavia on the territory. In 1954 Yugoslavia and Italy obtained civil administration of the Free Territory of Trieste. In 1975 Yugoslavia and Italy signed a bilateral treaty to formalize their administration over the territory. The Treaty of Osimo came into force in 1977.
However, according to activists the Free Territory of Trieste still exists de jure because the annexation of the territory by Italy and Yugoslavia and their subsequent bilateral agreement was illegal according to international law. TRIEST, hence, aims to restore the de facto independence of Trieste and envisages the establishment of a multi-cultural state with Italian, Slovenian and Croatian as the official languages, reflecting the rich heritage of Trieste.
UNPO would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the newly admitted Members. UNPO looks forward to fruitful cooperation with the World Amazigh Congress, the Sulu Foundation of Nine Ethnic Tribes Inc. and TRIEST, and hopes for strengthened international solidarity among all unrepresented nations and peoples.
Photograph of Trieste courtesy of: Roberta 2008 @Flickr