Feb 07, 2022

Guam : Commission on Decolonization Creates a Self-Determination Study For the CHamoru Self-Determination Movement

As one of UNPO's newest members, the Government of Guam is currently investigating how the right to self-determination applies to its particular case: The CHamoru people of Guam in particular feel that the effects of Spanish then American colonization must be addressed and are continuing to advocate for better representation of Gua, at national and international levels, with a view towards holding a plebiscite on their status. Having exhausted all domestic remedies for self-government, the government of Guam will cooperate with the UNPO to increase cooperation with the United Nations. Although strategic and well informed, Guam can only attend the UN twice a year, and the US often opposes any assertions made by Guam at the UN. With the help of the UNPO, Guam hopes to find a remedy to the injustices of American colonisation.

The publication of this extensive study is a welcome step and can provide a blueprint for all members of UNPO seeking to exercise their right to self-determination from the broadests of perspectives. The study can be found here.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced a federal policy regarding the US territories, it endorsed the fundamental principle of self-determination, and left all status options open to people within the US territories. It complemented the obligations the US held under Article 73 (b) of the United Nations Charter to help territories under US administration to gain full-government and under Article 73 (e) which transmitted political and economic developments in the territories concerned. The federal policy affirmed Guam's goal of advancing its own political status after previous attempted initiatives. 

However, the question of political and conditional advancement under international law began to grow after much discourse in the US territories. The question prompted the Commission on Decolonization in Guam to begin a study looking into three political status options: independency, statehood, or free association.

Throughout the assessment, the level of preparation in Guam for achieving Full Measure of Self-Government weighed against the present Elected Dependency Governance arrangement of Unincorporated Territorial Status is noted. Especially, the historical evolution of the stages of loss of sovereignty, to colonization from the Spanish, US, and Japan, and finally the creation of the current dependency government.

The rejection of the Unincorporated Territorial Status in the 1982 referendum where Guam expressed preference for alternative autonomy status highlighted the US resistance towards genuine acceptance of political autonomy while under US jurisdiction. The three proposed political status plans are results from this rebuff of efforts to bring about reform for autonomous arrangement. The study finds the next step toward political advancement relies upon decolonization, which would bring about self-government. 

However, Guam along with other US territories remain in a vulnerable political position and remain powerless toward the final decision-making by Congress, as they have limited voting rights. On 10 December 2020, the Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council “affirmed that in the process of decolonization of Guam, there was no alternative to the principal of self-determination as it was a fundamental human right recognized under relevant human rights conventions”  

The study confirms that the present dependency in Guam falls short of international standards for potential self-government. In line with Article 73 (b) of the UN Charter, the potential to advance is there. In the end, the people of Guam refuse to remain complacent with the current dependency of government and will remain fighting in their quest to gain self-determination. 

Read the study here