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Ministry Statements and Speeches 2009

Special Political and Decolonisation Committee (Fourth Committee): Agenda Item 39: the Question of Tokelau

Statement by Kirsty Graham, Deputy Permanent Representative, Friday 9 October 2009

Mr Chairman

New Zealand welcomes the draft resolution on the “Question of Tokelau” and appreciates the interest of members of this Committee on this issue. Tokelau is relevant to New Zealand both as the administering authority and also as a country strongly committed to the principle of self-determination.

It is now two years since the people of Tokelau voted in a United Nations-supervised self-determination referendum. In that referendum, for a second time, Tokelau’s electorate did not reach the threshold they themselves had set for a change of status from that of territory to one of self-government in free association with New Zealand. The details of that process have been thoroughly reported by the Secretariat and are well known to those who take a close interest in the issue of self-determination.

Mr Chairman

Last year I explained that Tokelau and New Zealand had decided to focus primarily on further improving essential services on the atolls, rather than moving in the medium term to a further act of self-determination. That continues to be the approach both partners are taking. At a time when global challenges add extra pressure onto small and vulnerable communities such as Tokelau, this focus on the core needs of the atoll populations seems particularly appropriate.

Tokelau’s needs are primarily met by New Zealand but there are others who contribute. It is important to acknowledge the assistance of the international community and members of the United Nations system. Particular thanks are due to the United Nations Development Programme, working through its regional office in Samoa, and the World Health Organisation.

Mr Chairman

The right to self-determination is fundamental. It deserves no less than our full support. It is, however, not sufficient on its own. The peoples who seek to exercise self-determination must also have the opportunity to develop their full needs. That is what New Zealand is committed to for the people of Tokelau. We welcome the ongoing interest of the Special Committee (C24) in Tokelau and we will continue to report to it on developments there.

Thank you.

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