23 June 2003


Press Release

Special Committee on


10th Meeting (AM)



Situations in Tokelau, Pitcairn Discussed

The Special Committee on Decolonization this morning concluded its 2003 session with the adoption of its report and three resolutions.

Adopting a resolution on Tokelau, as orally revised and contained in document A/AC.109/2003/L.11, the Committee called on New Zealand –- the administering Power –- and Tokelau to consider developing an education programme to inform the Territory’s population about the nature of self-determination, including the three options of integration, free association and independence, so that the Territory may be better prepared to face a future decision on the matter. 

The Committee, adopting a consolidated resolution, contained in document A/AC.109/2003/L.13, decided to continue its examination of the question of the Non-Self-Governing Territories and to report thereon to the General Assembly at its fifty-ninth session with recommendations on appropriate ways to assist the people of the Territories in exercising their right to self-determination.

The text, also adopted as orally revised, addressed the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.

In another resolution, contained in document A/AC.109/2003/L.8, the Committee decided to follow the situation in the Non-Self-Governing Territories to ensure that all economic activities in them were aimed at strengthening and diversifying their economies in the interest of their peoples, including the indigenous populations, and at promoting the economic and financial viability of those Territories. 

In addition, the Committee approved the text of the “Future Work” and authorized its Rapporteur to include it in the report of the Committee to be submitted to the fifty-eighth session of the Assembly.

Addressing the Committee were Faipule Kolouei O’Brien, the Ulu-O-Tokelau; Neil Walter, the Administrator of Tokelau; and Kevin Brian Young, on behalf of the Mayor of Pitcairn.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Papua New Guinea, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Côte d’Ivoire, Bolivia and Chile.

In closing, Committee Chairman Earl Stephen Huntley (Saint Lucia) thanked all members of the Committee, as well as Secretariat staff, who contributed to the successful conclusion of the 2003 substantive work of the Committee.

Discussion on Tokelau

Addressing the Committee, the Ulu-O-Tokelau (titular head of government), Faipule Kolouei O’Brien, reminded the Committee of its visit ten months ago to the three atolls of Tokelau, during which it attended a special session of the General Fono (territorial parliament).  At the current stage, Tokelau needed practical details of the implications of an act of self-determination.  Much had happened in the last year, including the spelling out of the relationship with the administering Power known as the “Principles of Partnership between New Zealand and Tokelau”.  Tokelau was grateful to New Zealand for its efforts to formally express the principles underpinning the unique relationship between the two countries.  The Principles of Partnership provided a firm foundation for Tokelau’s ongoing development.

A review of annual budget support to Tokelau had been completed and endorsed by both Tokelau and New Zealand, he said.  A feature of the new budget process was that it allowed Tokelau to allocate resources in accordance with its own priorities, including in the areas of health, education, village support, shipping and economic development.  The review was used as a basis for the 2003-2004 budget allocation of some $8.6 million.  In February, Tokelau had met with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Territory’s second major donor, to discuss Tokelau’s Country Programme for 2003-2007.  The year 2003 marked the beginning of a new funding cycle, and the underlying principle for the next cycle was capacity-building to enhance services, support and decision-making structures.  The key focus was to prioritize economic and private sector development.  A total of some $487,000 would be available to fund projects.

In the last cycle, UNDP funding resources had assisted in the good governance and sustainable livelihood areas under the general umbrella of the “Modern House of Tokelau” project, he said.  Economic development remained a high priority.  A new directorate to manage the Economic Development Unit had been included in the new budget.  To avoid a piecemeal approach to the development of fisheries, all fisheries proposals would be considered within the context of the Strategic Tuna Management Plan.  To assist in the management of governmental activities, a Planning and Monitoring Unit would be established.

The process for the formal establishment of the Tokelau Trust fund was also well under way, he said.  In January, the General Fono had passed a law for that purpose.  Dialogue between Tokelau and New Zealand would be conducted in September and October, with a view toward formal signing of an agreement in November.  The current level of the fund was some $4.1 million New Zealand dollars.  The period under review was marked by increased activities in regional and international cooperation.  In March, the first formal visit by a Samoan Prime Minister to Tokelau had taken place.  It was an historic occasion that had increased the already close ties between the two countries. 

Village consultations were currently under way on constitutional developments, he said.  The aim of the consultations was to assist the Council of Faipule set an agenda for the upcoming September Constitutional Conference.  Options for self-determination and governance arrangements would be part of the agenda.  Devolution of authority to villages and traditional institutions was key to the future of Tokelau. 

Neil Walter, the Administrator of Tokelau, said the past year had seen Tokelau make further significant advances both in its political evolution and in the management of its national and regional interests.  On the political front, the General Fono had taken charge of Tokelau’s budget and had decided on key developmental objectives and priorities for 2003-2004.  Agreement had also been reached in New Zealand on the “Principles of Partnership”.  The agreement, which would shortly be put before the New Zealand Cabinet, committed New Zealand to the ongoing provision of economic and technical support and outlined the way in which the two partners would work together for Tokelau’s benefit. 

He said a constitutional convention would be held later in the year to discuss the future direction of Tokelau’s political development.  The General Fono had set a target date of June 2004 for the devolution of authority over public services in each atoll to the village council or “Taupulega”, thus realizing a major objective of the Modern House of Tokelau concept.  At Tokelau’s request, the New Zealand Government had increased its level of economic support for the coming years.  It would pay particular attention to the designated priority areas of economic and health services.  Additional effort would go into transportation and economic development.

In the discussion that followed, members welcomed recent developments in Tokelau, with one delegate describing Tokelau’s relationship with Samoa as a necessary development in the realization of self-determination.  Bolivia’s representative said Tokelau was not just a “dot on a map” but a reflection of the Committee’s commitment to the peoples and cultures of Non-Self-Governing Territories. 

Responding to questions, Mr. Walter said there had been intense discussions on the options for self-determination open to Tokelau.  The Special Committee’s four visiting missions to the Territory had contributed to the process.  New Zealand was preparing information that would be sent to Tokelau before the holding of the constitutional convention.  The convention was not designed as a decision-making body, but as an information sharing discussion.  Regarding immigration patterns, four times as many people from Tokelau lived in New Zealand as in Tokelau.  New Zealand permitted dual nationality.  Tokelau did not have its own international identity in terms of international law.  Traditionally, New Zealand helped Tokelau play a full role in regional affairs.


Kevin Brian Young, on behalf of the Mayor of Pitcairn, said that today, Pitcairn was the United Kingdom’s only remaining Overseas Territory in the Pacific.  Recently, difficult circumstances on the island had placed the community under much stress.  The elderly, in particular, were not responding well to current events.  Regardless of the “Trials”, which were the cause of the stress, the community knew it was under threat, and something positive must be done if it was to survive.  The Pitcairn people were asking the administering Power not only to assist them but also to join them as a willing and active partner in the process. 

The positive atmosphere of the Caribbean Regional Seminar had given Pitcairn the confidence to continue working towards talks with the administering Power.  It was hoped that such dialogue would lead to the creation of a work programme.  The people of Pitcairn wanted to consider and choose their own future.  That could not be done without infrastructure, economic and social development, as well as the active cooperation of the United Kingdom.

If progress was to be made, he said, the administering Power must recognize and understand the impact of the Trials on Pitcairn’s community.  The people of Pitcairn had endured years of community-wide investigation.  Court cases would continue to run for many years until all legal challenges were made.  What was once a proud and open society had become more closed and wary.  One negative offshoot of that was for the Pitcairn community to regard most actions of the administering Power with a mixture of cynicism and mistrust.  That was not a good starting point for “constructive dialogue”. 

The first challenge then was to repair the relationship between the Pitcairn community, local government and the administering Power, he said.  The second challenge was to clearly define the role, function and control of the Pitcairn Island Administration Office.  The Committee should be mindful of Pitcairn’s relative naiveté, as it was only in 2000 that Pitcairn became aware of the Committee and its purpose.  It would be helpful if the administering Power actively promoted the idea of self-determination and assisted the people of Pitcairn to examine the various self-determination options.  A more active approach would contribute towards rebuilding the trust that had been lost between the local government and the administering Power.

In the exchange that followed, a member of the Committee remarked that the legal issues on the island seemed to “suck out the life” of the community there and served as an obstacle to Pitcairn moving forward.  He urged the Committee to have an informal meeting with the administering Power, so it could explain exactly what the situation was regarding the Trials so the Committee members could better understand what was going on.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.