New Zealand welcomes the draft resolution on the “Question of Tokelau” and appreciates the interest of members of this Committee on this issue. In particular, I thank the delegations of Papua New Guinea and Fiji for their contributions to the Committee on the Question of Tokelau. Tokelau is relevant to New Zealand both as the administering authority and also as a country fully committed to the principle of self-determination.
Twice in the past five years the people of Tokelau have voted in United Nations-supervised self-determination referenda. In each referendum Tokelau’s electorate did not reach the threshold they 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.
While it might seem strange to some that these self-determination votes resulted in the status quo it is important, not least at this stage of the decolonisation process when the Second Decade is concluding, that this remains an option and one that should be fully respected.
Self-determination is important. So too is development and the very viability of small and vulnerable communities like those in Tokelau. It is for this reason that in early 2008 leaders from both New Zealand and from Tokelau agreed to focus 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.
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.