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The right to self-determination

On June 15, 2021, the United NationsSpecial Committee on Decolonization (C-24)convened its regular session, an annual gathering of Non-Self-Governing Territories such as Guam, and their administering powers. At its session, the special committee heard testimony from Gov. Lou Leon Guererro delivered by Anthony Marion Babauta. Following is the full transcript of the governor's testimony.

By Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero

Buenas yan Hafa Adai, Madam Chair and members of the Committee:

It has been 60 years since this Committee was created and nearly 40 years since the first testimony on behalf of the indigenous people of Guam was brought to this committee.

Despite this longstanding history of advocacy, the needs and demands of the CHamoru people have fallen on the seemingly deaf ears of our administering power. In direct denial of the people of Guam's sustained calls for a change in political status, the United States federal government continues to not only hinder the CHamoru people's right to self-determination, but threaten the social, economic and overall well being of Guam and her people.

As detailed by a joint letter to United States President Joseph R. Biden by three UN Special Rapporteurs, on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, on Human Rights and the Environment, and on Toxics and Human Rights, our colonial power's ongoing militarization of Guam constitutes a violation of several human rights.

Among them the right to self-determination, the right to free, prior and informed consent, the right to a clean environment, and the right to culture, health, and life. I would like to reiterate this request and have these official filings be included in the final resolutions for this committee and the Fourth Committee.

Since the establishment of Guam'slocally elected government, our island community has worked to address the unique issues of our island, many of them directly caused by our territorial status, especially the inflated costs of imported goods , the uncontrolled immigration into Guam, and the burdensome unfunded federal mandates placed on our local government.

Despite the harmful and significant impacts of these colonial byproducts, the United States military's unchecked actions within the lands and waters of Guam only serve to compound these problems and further hinder the achievement of our full social-economic and political potential.

The Department of Defense relocation that was first proposed in 2006, is now in full swing in Guam with the clearing of native forests that are key habitats to a variety of endangered species, and the destruction of several sites of historical and cultural significance to the CHamoru people, among them 3,000-year-old villages, where four ancestral burial sites were found containing 12 individual remains that, are believed to be approximately 1,000 years old.

Although the CHamoru people and all the people of Guam remain subject to a colonial relationship with the United States --one marked by consultation rather than consent, and unilateral authority rather than democratic will -- we are steadfast in our resolve and have made significant progress with our community education campaign and my commitment as governor to hold a self-determination plebiscite.

Under the new Biden administration, the United States has been proactive in recognizing the inequity of the relationship between themselves and their territories.

The U.S. Insular cases and lack of national voting rights for territorial citizens have been highlighted in a number of congressional bills and resolutions. While the recognition of the historical harms and injustices caused by the Insular cases and the lack of national suffrage has been a long time coming and must continue to be pursued, our administering power is presented with yet another chance to rectify its colonial past and resolve Guam's political status.

As public and Congressional discourse surrounding the Insular Cases and national voting rights continue, it is my administration's position that while these measures of justice will provide much-needed relief to the people of the territories, they cannot take the place of an exercise of self-determination and genuine decolonization.

With the Biden Administration's commitment to rectifying many of the social injustices of the past whose effects continue to shape the present and guide its future, we are hopeful that the 120-year plight of the CHamoru people at the hands of the United States is recognized and given its due diligence in the form of executive action and the Biden administration's support for congressional legislation that authorizes a plebiscite consistent with existing Guam law.

Given Congress's plenary power over the territories, I have since personally requested the Biden administration's support for congressional legislation to address the continued denial of the right to self-determination, as caused by the Davis v. Guam which barred Guam from holding a political status plebiscite.

With the hopeful support of the Biden Administration, a plebiscite authorized by Congress will allow the CHamoru people to express their political desires for the first time in nearly 40 years.

As a nation founded on demands for equality, representation and democracy, the United States' control of its colonies violates the very essence of its principles as a nation and contradicts their commitment to the UN Charter.

The CHamoru people deserve the same opportunity to control their political destiny just as our administering power's founding fathers did. The United States must ensure that the CHamoru people are given the respect that they deserve. It is not enough to recognize the injustices of the Insular cases or to grant us national voting rights. We must be given the right to choose for ourselves what our political future will be.


Madam chair, as Guam has repeatedly sought before this Committee, I once again request a UN visiting mission to Guam to assess our current level of self-government and to determine the progress that has been made toward decolonization.

I have made this same request to the Biden administration. The UN will find during a visiting mission to Guam that despite our Administering power's continued objections and obstruction, we are ready to express our will as a people and decide our political future for ourselves.

The United States must remain true to its commitment to equality and justice and give the Chamoru people of Guam a meaningful opportunity to self-determine and decide what kind of relationship they wish to have with their Administering power.

Next year, I hope to testify before this committee and share that our administering power has brought closure to some of our long-standing requests, and that we have either held a plebiscite or set a date for a plebiscite.

si Yu'osma'ase on behalf of Guam and her people.

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