Guam publishes study on self-determination

by Mar 1, 2022Guam, Status1 comment

International law, as stated in the articles of the United Nations, deems self-determination to be a right of the people, a principle of utmost importance. Self-determination is a principle asserting that all peoples have the freedom to choose their political status and freely pursue their economic, cultural, and social development. However, it should be noted that self-determination is not an individual right; the term “all peoples” refers to the fact that this virtue is a collective right of a population of people. While the term was initially coined for colonies and territories attempting to secede and form a new state (external self-determination), it has earned a slightly different definition where people are allowed the freedoms of self-determination without resorting to secession (internal self-determination). 

As a territory of the United States, Guam has sought to explore all corners of the self-determination principle. Currently, as a new member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, the government of Guam conducted a study on how self-determination relates to the CHamoru people of Guam in the particular sense that the effects of Spanish and American colonization must be addressed while continuing to advocate for better representation of Guam at national and international levels. The CHamoru people are indigenous peoples of the Mariana Islands, which included Guam up until their colonization. While popular belief is that Guam has been allowed self-determination, actions such as in 1982 when the US rejected Guam’s political development for Alternative Autonomy Status in regards to their status as an unincorporated territory have shown otherwise. 

The self-determination study conducted by the Commission on Decolonization in Guam evaluated three things: (1) Has the unincorporated territory status prepared Guam for self-government on international standards, (2) whether adjustments need to be implemented to change Guam’s political relationship with the US to speed up the preparation, and (3) is such a change in political status necessary for Guam to obtain total democratic governance through self-determination and decolonization? The study found that Guam does not meet the international requirements for self-government and that the current political status as an unincorporated territory can help with the preparation to meet these requirements, but cannot last forever. There may still be a long way to go for Guam in hopes of external self-determination, but it may come soon, along with changes and proper representation for the people of Guam.