|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Special Committee on
9th Meeting (AM)
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION, CONCLUDING 2007 SESSION, WELCOMES TOKELAU’S
DECISion TO HOLD ANOTHER REFERENDUM ON TERRITORY’S FUTURE STATUS IN OCTOBER
Tokelau “Shining Example” of Commitment on Path to Self-Government,
Says Special Committee Chair; Members Adopt Reports of Committee, Caribbean Seminar
Concluding its 2007 session, the Special Committee on Decolonization recommended that the General Assembly welcome the decision of Tokelau to conduct a further referendum in October to determine the future status of that Non-Self-Governing Territory, as well as the invitation to the United Nations to monitor that act of self-determination.
Tokelau is a Non-Self-Governing Territory in the South Pacific consisting of three atolls, administered by New Zealand. In August 2005, a draft treaty of free association between Tokelau and New Zealand was approved by the national representative body, the General Fono, as the basis for an act of self-determination. A draft constitution was approved in November 2005, setting the stage for a referendum on self-government. That referendum took place in February 2006, but failed to garner the required two-thirds majority; only sixty per cent of registered Tokelauans voted in favour of self-government in free association with New Zealand. It was then agreed that a second referendum would be held in November 2007.
The draft resolution on Tokelau, introduced by the representative of New Guinea and approved today by consensus, would have the Assembly also welcome the establishment of the Tokelau International Trust Fund to support the future development needs of Tokelau and the offer of a donor round table by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It would call upon the administering Power and United Nations agencies to continue to provide assistance to Tokelau as it further develops its economy and governance structures.
Before action, Aliki Faipule Kuresa Nasau, the Ulu O Tokelau (Titular Head of Tokelau), said Tokelau’s Referendum Commission had decided to have a referendum on 20 to 24 October, on the proposal “That Tokelau become self-governing in free association with New Zealand on the basis of the Constitution and the Treaty”. Results would be declared within twenty-four hours. A two-thirds majority of the valid votes in favour of the proposal would be seen as an act of self-determination. Two representatives of the Special Committee were invited to observe the referendum.
He said that Tokelau and New Zealand were working towards the finalisation of an economic package for the coming three years. Tokelau’s vision for the next three years was to accelerate developments in order to make Tokelau “a place where we want to stay, live and a place that we are all proud of”. Village development, health, education and transport had been identified as priorities. The Tokelau International Trust Fund now stood at some $22 million, thanks to the ongoing support of New Zealand and other countries.
Today, much greater consideration was being given to Tokelau’s fragile environment, he said, with particular concerns over the impact of the rising sea level and global warming. He called in that regard on the international community to take practical and immediate steps to reduce such impacts. In conclusion he said, “In October we again have the opportunity to take our place amongst the nations of the world. We make this decision knowing we will have the ongoing support of New Zealand and others. This support is greatly appreciated.”
The Administrator of Tokelau, David Payton, presenting the perspective of the administering Power, said the “near miss” of last year’s referendum had not dissuaded the people of Tokelau and dates for a new referendum had been set. The Government of New Zealand was in full support. His Government would fund the participation of two members of the Electoral Assistance Division of the United Nations Secretariat. He warned, however, that whatever the outcome of the referendum, Tokelau would continue to face many serious challenges, including that of climate change. A further test for Tokelau’s leaders would be how to best draw together those who live on the atolls and the many other Tokelauans who had made their homes elsewhere in the region. Central to that would be a determination to keep the culture and language of Tokelau strong and vibrant.
In conclusion, he said, “I do not know how long the position of Administrator of Tokelau will continue to exist. What is significant is that it is a question that lies in the hands of the people of Tokelau. That surely is testament to the commitment of New Zealand to decolonisation. Equally important is the ongoing commitment New Zealand makes to Tokelau, to stand with it whatever comes. Tokelau and New Zealand are tied by bonds of family and commitment. They will endure.”
The Special Committee’s Chair, Margaret Ferrari, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said the path followed by Tokelau, with the assistance of its administering Power, was a “shining example” of good faith and commitment towards the development of a Territory’s capacity for self-government through the strengthening of its economic, political and social well-being. “It is our hope that Tokelau will serve as a useful example for other administering Powers and the various Territories on the way forward,” she said
In concluding the 2007 session, she said that the decolonization effort must focus on practical, tangible results, as there was only two-and-a-half years left before the end of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. The Special Committee had one essential task to perform: to give all possible support to Non-Self-Governing Territories in establishing conditions that would enable them, through a valid act of self-determination, to demonstrate their will on the issue of their respective status.
She said progress would require innovative approaches and the willingness of all concerned to cooperate. The Committee must focus its time, energy and creativity on Territories where it could help achieve progress, on a case-by-case basis. “I firmly believe that the Special Committee has to find new ways of going about its important work –- through improved cooperation with the administering Powers and in full recognition of the wishes of the peoples and Governments in the Non-Self-Governing Territories.”The Special Committee also adopted its report and that of the Caribbean Regional Seminar, held this year in Grenada from 22 to 24 May. It was understood that reservations expressed by members would be reflected in the record of the meetings, and the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines made a short statement in that regard.
In other matters, the Special Committee decided not to take action on a proposal submitted during the last session to appoint an independent expert on decolonization matters, and to consider the matter closed. It did so after hearing an explanation on the issue by a representative of the Secretariat and two short statements by the representatives of the Russian Federation and Papua New Guinea.
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