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Gatekeepers to Decolonisation: Recentring the UN Peacekeepers on the Frontline of West Papua's Re-colonisation, 1962-3

Tudor, M. ORCID: 0000-0002-7361-9408 (2022). Gatekeepers to Decolonisation: Recentring the UN Peacekeepers on the Frontline of West Papua's Re-colonisation, 1962-3. Journal of Contemporary History, 57(2), pp. 293-316. doi: 10.1177/0022009421997894


This article examines the policies employed by United Nations (UN) peacekeeping leadership and mid-level staff to silence West Papuan anti-Indonesian activists and dismiss the population’s political opinions as immaterial to their territory’s sovereign future. The UN brokered the New York Agreement, legitimising Indonesia’s claims to the region following a decade of international discussions and military skirmishes between Indonesia and the Netherlands over the territory of West Papua. The Agreement vested the UN with sovereign control of West Papua for seven months to facilitate the transition in authority from Dutch colonial rule. Drawing on a multi-archival study of the mission, this article offers depth and balance to previous high-policy-focused scholarship on the dispute, rendering mid-level peacekeepers visible and bringing their role in shaping peacekeeping practices to light. It illuminates how the mission staff dismissed the views of West Papuan representatives in 1962–3 and contributed to the project of disenfranchisement carried out by the Indonesian government. In doing so, the mission leadership decisively participated in the re-colonisation of the population and disregarded rights violations on the ground.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: decolonisation, human rights, peacekeeping, sovereignty, United Nations, West Papua
Subjects: J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > International Politics
SWORD Depositor:
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