10 Jun 2013

Tokelau speaks up about being shut out of UN bodies

6:06 pm on 10 June 2013

Tokelau is to ask the United Nations to take special consideration of territories to ensure they can link up with international agencies and access funding for critical projects.

The Ulu o Tokelau, Aliki Faipule Salesio Lui, told a UN Decolonisation Committee meeting in Ecuador last month that the atolls, as a New Zealand colony, are not eligible for UN funds through its Small Island Developing States programmes.

He says while the impacts of climate change, coastal erosion and ocean acidification are already plain in Tokelau, it has no opportunity to participate in the international discussion on these issues.

The Ulu says it wants to be able to join UN bodies like the Alliance of Small Island States or the International Renewable Energy Agency and will plead this case at the UN's Special Committee on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, in New York.

ALIKI FAIPULE SALESIO LUI: This is the message that we have been conveying. And also we our relationship with the development partnership landscape has changed. So the development partners have the financial resources, but, importantly, they have the resources, including the wealth of institutional knowledge.

DON WISEMAN: What's required here, I guess, is a rule change, and you want the UN to change the rules, effectively, that determine who can belong to what organisation.

AFSL: Yes. I think it's our intention and also with the support of New Zealand. New Zealand is doing whatever possible for Tokelau, and also, at the same time, the UN is just watching how the New Zealand administering powers behave in terms of whether they support or not.

DW: Clearly, you want to get aid assistance from these various organisations, but if that's not possible the other option is to come directly to Wellington and ask for more.

AFSL: Yes, that's another way, that's another means for our development. So we continue a dialogue with New Zealand and see what opportunities can be better explored for the best interests of our people.

DW: You were at this colonial seminar in Ecuador last week. A lot of the other colonies, are they thinking the same thing?

AFSL: Yes, there are some the same, but I think what our message was throughout Ecuador was Tokelau has the right to self-determination, and that New Zealand has a responsibility to facilitate that process in Tokelau's best interests. The relationship between Tokelau and New Zealand is described in the UN General Assembly Resolution 67/131 - adopted on 18 December 2012 - welcoming the commitments of both Tokelau and New Zealand to work together in the interests of Tokelau. As the administering power, New Zealand gives us a substantial degree of autonomy in the management of our own domestic affairs. We plan to attend the New York session of the Decolonisation Committee to continue to raise awareness of our intention that UN organisations need to take special consideration of territories. We are not competing for resources. We are committed to convey our voice and be part of the global community. This is our moral responsibility as leaders of our time.