How much sleep have you lost lately by worrying over the fate of Montserrat? Do those hours of tossing and turning also give you pause over the people of Tokelau? Are you more perturbed about American Samoa? Most of us would answer either “no” or “huh?” Could you even find these places on a map? We give less attention to such places than we get frustrated or troubled over North Dakota.
The civilized world contains several political entities officially categorized as non-self-governing territories. They are considered colonies or some sort of dependency. Their ultimate governing body is located in a self-governing nation. For instance, the people of American Samoa live under the rule of the United States.
What about Montserrat? Well, it’s a tiny island in the Carribean in the British West Indies. Montserrat is officially a British Overseas Territory. The Island is about ten miles long and seven miles wide. More than half of the place is an “Exclusion Zone” due to the potential for violent volcanic activity. Approximately 5,000 Montserratans live on the Island.
Environmentalists might have heard of Tokelau, even if they’re not sure where in the world it’s located. Tokelau is the first completely solar powered country anywhere. The 3.9 square mile combination of three atolls lies far to the east of New Zealand and is a dependent territory of New Zealand. An additional small area, Swains Island” is governed as a portion of American Samoa. Altogether, some 1,500 people live in Tokelau.
American Samoa might be better known because it is under the jurisdiction of the USA. It’s an unincorporated territory of five islands and two atolls in the neighborhood of the previously mentioned territory of Tokelau. Its approximately 56,000 people live as American citizens. American Samoa should not be confused with the neighboring independent nation of Samoa. American Samoan government is similar to that of US States in that it has a territorial governor, a bicameral territorial legislative body, and a territorial judicial system.
These are only a few of the many non-self-governing territories around the world. Larger, more powerful nations administer the territories. The larger nations need to recognize and care for the interests and well-being of people living in the territories. In many instances the territorial inhabitants have little or no say as to their own ultimate leadership. An ironic comparison might be to the governance of Washington DC. Washington is effectively a US Territory that falls under the jurisdiction of the US Congress.
There is one unusually noteworthy non-self-governing area, the Falkland Islands. Argentina and the United Kingdom both claim ultimate sovereignty over the territory.
As is the case everywhere, inhabitants of non-self-governing territories want to enjoy social, educational, economic, and political advancement. They want to be assured of protection against abusive treatment. Many of them want progressive development and free political autonomy.
As the category’s name implies, non-self-governing territories do not have full independence nor are they equal partners in the world community of nations. These territories do contribute to their benefactor nations’ economic and military institutions. For example, American Samoa has the highest rate, per capita, of its citizens enlisting in the US military. Their rate is higher than any US State or other territory.
Non-self-governing territories must rely upon their administering “parent” nations for military defense and promotion of national well-being in economic and social matters. To help ensure that the best interests of the inhabitants, non-governmental organizations, mainly the United Nations, monitor the territories.
The Blue Jay of Happiness notes a thought from Filipino writer F. Sionil Jose. “Colonialism subdues in many dulcet guises. It conquered under the pretext of spreading Christianity, civilization, law and order, to make the world safe for democracy.”