Special Committee on Decolonization Approves Draft Resolution on Tokelau as It Concludes 2009 Resumed Session

23 June 2009

Special Committee on Decolonization Approves Draft Resolution on Tokelau as It Concludes 2009 Resumed Session

23 June 2009
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Special Committee on


11th Meeting (AM)




Members Hear from Titular Head of Government, Approve Report of Regional Seminar

The Special Committee on Decolonization concluded its resumed session this morning by taking up the question of Tokelau, the report of the Caribbean Regional Seminar and the report on issues related to its own work.

Acting without a vote, the Special Committee approved a draft resolution on the question of Tokelau, a Pacific Non-Self-Governing Territory administered by New Zealand, recommending that the General Assembly note the continued recognition by the Government of New Zealand of the right of the Territory’s people to self-determination and the firm commitment of both Tokelau and New Zealand to ongoing development for the long-term benefit of the Territory’s people.

While noting that referendums in 2006 and 2007 had not produced the two-thirds majority required to change the Territory’s non-self-governing status, the Assembly would further acknowledge the decision of the General Fono (the national Parliament) that consideration of any future act of self-determination would be deferred, and that New Zealand and Tokelau would devote renewed efforts to strengthening essential services and infrastructure on the atolls, thereby ensuring an enhanced quality of life for the people.  The Assembly would also acknowledge Tokelau’s initiative in devising a strategic economic development plan for the period 2007-2010.

Introducing the draft resolution, the representative of Papua New Guinea said the text welcomed the assurance by the Government of New Zealand that it would continue to meet its obligations with respect to Tokelau.  It also welcomed the cooperative attitude of other States and territories of the region and their support for Tokelau’s economic and political aspirations, and the Territory’s increasing participation in regional and international affairs.  He reiterated the co-sponsors’ commendation for New Zealand’s readiness to cooperate with the Special Committee and its exemplary efforts in assisting the people of Tokelau in their endeavours to realize self-determination.

The representative of Fiji, the second co-sponsor, thanked New Zealand for its financial support of Tokelau, while also acknowledging the work of the United Nations and stressing his recognition of the decolonization processes in Tokelau and New Caledonia.  Fiji saw no better way to achieve the Special Committee’s mandate.

Echoing that sentiment, Faipule Foua Toloa, Ulu o Tokelau (Titular Head of Government of Tokelau), said: “I believe that Tokelau is moving in the right direction and, already, the wind that fills our sails grows stronger day by day as we strengthen the capacity of our resources and develop our infrastructure.

Speaking as a petitioner prior to the Special Committee’s approval of the draft resolution, he said Tokelau would not give up its aspirations for self-determination, while stressing that the challenge for its leaders continued to be the strengthening of institutions and the unity of the people.  The General Fono had resolved in February 2008 that a lot of work remained to be done in strengthening local capacity and infrastructure, and in promoting economic development.  While work on self-determination would continue, it would be several years before another referendum was considered.

Like all nations around the globe, Tokelau was feeling the effects of the global financial crisis and taking measures to address it, while instilling confidence that its policies made the best use of scarce resources, he said.  It was establishing its development priorities, setting realistic targets and working towards integrating good governance practices into its public management systems.  Tokelau would then realign public expenditure to reflect the focus on those areas.

The relationship between Tokelau and New Zealand was significant, he said, as witnessed by their Joint Principles of Partnership signed in 2003 and the current support arrangement, which stood at NZ$43.1 million for 2008-2010.  During its upcoming first meeting with the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Council of Ongoing Government hoped to convey the importance of that special relationship.  Tokelau would continue to seek New Zealand’s support as it strove to determine its own future.

He also outlined Tokelau’s efforts to contain the outbreak of H1N1 influenza and to address the effects of global warming and rising sea levels, pointing out that access to funding from the climate change adaptation programme had been thwarted by its status as a Non-Self-Governing Territory of New Zealand.  He called on the international community to continue to advocate Tokelau’s position on that issue, and to take practical and immediate steps to reduce the types of activities that impacted negatively on the environment and caused global warming.

For its part, Tokelau was working on an energy policy that would allow its small atolls to operate on 100 per cent renewable energy, he said, adding that the Territory’s development priorities were identified in its National Strategic Plan for the next five years.  Its other programmes included a joint Tokelau-New Zealand shipping project; the construction of two schools and a health centre under its infrastructure project; efforts to develop human resources capacity; a project to strengthen the delivery of village-level judicial services; and a waste management programme.

The Tokelau Trust Fund now stood at some NZ$56 million, he continued, pointing out that the Territory continued to build a reputable status in the region and at the international level.  The ingredients of nation-building were now in place, including the Constitution and the flag.  The Constitutional Committee would meet later this year to discuss governance structures.  “We will line our canoe with the support from our main partner, New Zealand, in cooperation with this Committee, but at all times we will keep the interests of the people of Tokelau at the heart of our efforts.  Our canoe will be lined with the elements of good governance, sustainable development strategies, robust infrastructure, qualified and experienced personnel and a clear vision for the direction that we want to take.”

New Zealand’s representative said the past year had been a challenging one for Tokelau, yet considerable achievements had been made.  The global economic crisis had not bypassed the Territory, despite the isolation of its three remote atolls.  Ensuring that the 1,500 people of the three atolls had access to essential services and enjoyed a good quality of life were core objectives for both Tokelau and New Zealand.

She said substantial efforts had been devoted to enhancing economic development and making improvements in the core sectors of water and sanitation and waste management.  Finding programmes and strategies that worked for Tokelau and were fully compatible with local values was an important goal for New Zealand, as well as agencies of the international community.  New Zealand was committed to working closely and cooperatively with the Ulu, his fellow leaders and officials to deliver the best possible service for the people of Tokelau in the present challenging times.

The increasing spread of H1N1 influenza had not left Tokelau untouched and its health system was under pressure as it dealt with a number of possible cases, she said.  However, through very close cooperation with the World Health Organization and the New Zealand Ministry of Health, Tokelau was very well prepared and had support for the challenges that lay ahead.  The new Prime Minister, during a forthcoming visit to Samoa, would meet with Tokelau’s leaders in Apia for the first time since the change of Government in November 2008.  It would be an important opportunity to affirm New Zealand’s commitment to Tokelau, and the shared determination of both parties to work for a viable and forward-looking community on the atolls of Tokelau.

Also this morning, the Special Committee adopted the report of the Caribbean Regional Seminar on Implementation of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, to be annexed to the Special Committee’s report for the current session of the General Assembly.  The Seminar took place in Saint Kitts and Nevis on 12-14 May.

In other action, the Committee approved, also without a vote, a text on matters related to its work (document A/AC.109/2009/L.14), including the convening of a series of meetings away from Headquarters; representation at seminars, meetings and conferences of intergovernmental and other organizations; the pattern of conferences; control and limitation of documentation; consideration of the list of Territories to which the Declaration on the Granting of Independence is applicable; the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism; and participation by representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories in the Special Committee’s work.

In connection with the Second International Decade, the Special Committee would inform the Assembly of its decision to organize, in 2010, a seminar in the Pacific region, to be attended by representatives of all Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Closing the session, Special Committee Chair R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa ( Indonesia) reiterated his conviction that the Committee must redouble its efforts to help ensure that the decolonization process became more relevant and beneficial to the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories under its purview.  Throughout its substantive session, the Special Committee had endorsed 11 draft resolutions and 3 reports, and would submit all relevant information and documents to the General Assembly through the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization).

The Special Committee, he continued, had an ongoing responsibility to make tangible progress in implementing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960), subsequent relevant General Assembly resolutions, and the principles and provisions of the United Nations Charter.  The Special Committee must also continue exploring further how to guide the decolonization process through the many challenges and opportunities of the contemporary world.

He said the upcoming conclusion of the Second International Decade underlined the urgent need to support the Non-Self-Governing Territories in establishing the conditions for full self-government, which would allow them to demonstrate their will regarding their future political status through a valid internationally recognized act of self-determination, eventually leading to their “de-listing”.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.