UNGA73: Special Political and Decolonisation Committee (Fourth Committee): statement on the question of Tokelau delivered by New Zealand
Thank you, Chair.
First, congratulations on your appointment as Chair.
On behalf of New Zealand and the Administrator of Tokelau, I would like to say a warm malo and greetings to you all.
As we shared with the C-24 in June, this is an exciting time in New Zealand’s relationship with Tokelau. During 2018 we have:
• First, scaled up the position of Administrator;
• Second, increased the size of our development programme in Tokelau; and,
• Three, strengthened our political engagement with Tokelau. Tokelau’s leaders visited New Zealand as Guests of Government last month, and this month the first New Zealand Minister of Tokelauan descent, the Honourable Kris Faafoi, visited Tokelau.
These developments reflect the importance New Zealand places on its relationship with Tokelau, and represents part of the Government’s recent ‘reset’ of its approach to our relationships in the Pacific.
The reset recognises New Zealand’s connectedness to the region, and aims to build deeper partnerships with our neighbours. It has resulted in increased focus on the Pacific and a new sense of momentum in our engagement.
Over the next four years, New Zealand will invest around NZ$86 million in Tokelau. This funding will be focused on three priority areas.
First, we are improving core public services.
New Zealand is working to support improvements in Tokelau’s health and education systems.
We have recently financed a new inter-atoll vessel that will cut down travel time between the three atolls from 4 to 6 hours to around sixty minutes.
We have co-financed an undersea internet cable, to provide faster and more reliable internet. This offers opportunities in tele-medicine and distance learning.
Second, we are strengthening governance and management practices.
Good governance and issues related to transparency and the promotion of democracy are key interests of New Zealand and are reflected in the work we are doing across the Pacific.
In Tokelau, strengthening public financial management capacity and sustainably maximising the revenue Tokelau receives from its valuable fisheries resources are two focus areas for governance.
Third, we are building resilience to the impacts of climate change.
As our Prime Minister to her address to the General Assembly last month, in the Pacific, the impacts of climate change are not academic or even up for debate.
And as the Ulu of Tokelau said in his statement to the C24 in June: “The effects of climate change and sea level rising threaten the very livelihood of our people”.
Tokelau’s status as a territory means it is unable to access sources of global climate finance available to many other countries. This makes New Zealand’s support even more critical – and we are committed to providing this.
We are currently working with Tokelau on a project to reduce the risks of coastal inundation from storms and sea-level rise. We are also working on a weather station which will help Tokelau forecast and record changes in the weather.
New Zealand is also committed to supporting Tokelau’s voice on the global stage. Tokelau regularly joins New Zealand’s delegations to international climate change negotiations. And, I am please to say, the application of the Climate Change Convention and the Paris Agreement now extend to Tokelau. This is likely to mean increased recognition for Tokelau’s climate mitigation work, as well as the greater focus on its vulnerability to the effects of climate change.
In his statement to the C24 in June, the Ulu noted that while Tokelau is very much committed to self-determination, it will be several years before the issue of another referendum on self-government is considered by the General Fono.
As Tokelau navigates this path, New Zealand remains committed to helping build Tokelau’s capacity and confidence to self-govern.
We welcome the ongoing interest of the Fourth Committee and will ensure we continue to provide timely and accurate information to assist it and the wider United Nations system.
Thank you, tena koutou and, in Tokelauan, fakafetai.