Ministry Statements & Speeches:
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I have the honour of delivering New Zealand’s national statement today.
We will focus our remarks on the Question of Tokelau.
On behalf of New Zealand and the Administrator of Tokelau, I say malo ni, warm greetings in the language of Tokelau, to you all.
Madam Chair, New Zealand is delighted to note that Tokelau continues to remain free of COVID-19.
In addition, Madam Chair, we are very happy to note that 99% of eligible people in Tokelau aged 16 years and over are now fully vaccinated against the virus.
Through a combination of contactless delivery of Pfizer vaccines by the New Zealand Defence Force, virtual training on the administering of the vaccines, and other remote planning and preparation support provided by New Zealand’s Ministry of Health, Tokelau was safely enabled to run its own rollout programme using local clinical staff on each of the three atolls.
The result speaks for itself, and stands as a strong testament to the unique partnership that exists between New Zealand and Tokelau, whereby Tokelau is empowered to deliver for itself on its key priorities, with timely and measured support from New Zealand.
Planning is now under way for a further delivery of Pfizer vaccines for 12-15 year-olds in Tokelau in the coming months, again by the New Zealand Defence Force.
Unfortunately, Madam Chair, the story of COVID-19 for Tokelau will not simply end there. While Tokelau’s remote geography will continue to afford a good measure of protection, the smallness of its atolls, the close-knit nature of its communities, and its limited healthcare capacity still mean that it is highly vulnerable to the spread of virus, should it ever arrive on Tokelau’s shores.
Appropriate border measures and ongoing vaccinations are therefore likely to remain twin features of life for Tokelau for the foreseeable future.
At the same time, life does not and cannot stop altogether as a result of COVID-19, and New Zealand continues to work closely with Tokelau to deliver the necessities of life for its people.
Key areas of focus at present include support for coastal resilience, justice sector reform, language maintenance, an upgrade and expansion of Tokelau’s solar energy supply, and delivery of a new submarine cable and inter-atoll connection, all while adhering strictly to COVID-19 safety protocols.
Just last month, Madam Chair, the new Southern Cross NEXT cable being installed in the region landed in Nukunonu, and along with it, the promise of reliable, high-speed internet access for the first time in Tokelau’s history.
In the coming months, a new domestic inter-atoll connection will also be delivered, to join Atafu and Fakaofo to the new cable, bringing increased capacity and opportunity for all of Tokelau across a range of fronts, including education, self-governance, and international connectivity.
Another key area of focus, Madam Chair, is the planned rollout of the New Zealand Gardasil 9 brand of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to Tokelau, at the request of the Fatupaepae (women’s group) there. The HPV vaccine is an effective means of reducing the risk of cervical cancer and other diseases caused by HPV but is not currently available in Tokelau.
Madam, the challenges posed by COVID-19 have only reinforced New Zealand’s resolve to support Tokelau in its efforts to strengthen its capacity for well-informed decision-making and self-governance.
We welcome the ongoing interest of the Fourth Committee, and commit to continuing to provide timely and accurate information to assist it and the wider UN System.
Madam Chair, I conclude New Zealand’s statement by thanking you for the opportunity to address you today, in the languages of New Zealand te reo Maori and in Tokelauan, namely tēnā tātou and fakafetai.
I thank you.