UN team heads to Tokelau for second referendum on self-government
A five-member team of United Nations observers is heading to Tokelau, a group of three small atolls in the Pacific Ocean, to monitor a referendum next week on whether the territory should have self-government in free association with New Zealand.
UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters today that voting in the referendum on Tokelau, a Non-Self-Governing Territory that has been administered by New Zealand since 1926, will take place from this Saturday until 24 October.
It will be the second such referendum: the first took place in February 2006, when 60 per cent of Tokelauan voters supported the option for self-government in free association with New Zealand. This did not meet the two-thirds majority required by Tokelau’s representative body, known as the General Fono.
The UN monitoring team comprises: Ambassador Robert Aisi of Papua New Guinea, a representative of the Special Committee on Decolonization; an official from the Department of Political Affairs’ Decolonization Unit; two officials of the Department’s Electoral Assistance Division; and an official with the Department of Public Information.
A similar team observed last year’s referendum, and deemed the election process to be credible and reflecting the will of the people of Tokelau, which has a population of about 1,500.
Since then the General Fono decided to hold a second referendum on the same basis, and to conduct a detailed process of engagement with Tokelauans – including those communities living in Hawaii, American Samoa, Samoa, Australia and New Zealand – to ensure that all fully understood the issues involved in the vote.
If Tokelauans achieve the two-thirds majority during this referendum, a date will then be set for a “day of self-government.” This will probably be in mid-2008 to allow New Zealand enough time to make the necessary legislative amendments.
There are currently 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remaining on the UN’s decolonization list, compared to 72 such territories when the Organization was established in 1945. The last Non-Self-Governing Territory that exercised the right to self-determination was East Timor, now known as Timor-Leste, which gained its independence in 2002.