TOKELAU a true Small Island Developing State

The text from our 2014 brochure, prepared for the SIDS conference, follows.
(Download as pdf, 2 pages, 700KB)

The Land  and the People of Tokelau:
  • Tokelau consists of three small coral atolls that lie between latitudes 8 and 10 degrees South and 171 and 173 degrees West. Atafu, the most northern atoll has a surface area of 3.5km2; Nukunonu, the central atoll is 4.7km2 and Fakaofo, the southern atoll is 4km2. From Atafu in the north to Fakaofo in the south, Tokelau extends for less than 200km and the atolls are 3-5 metres above sea level.
  • The coral atolls provide a sustainable subsistence lifestyle but within a fragile environment. Tokelau maintains strong social cohesion, active traditions and a strong communal culture, which places considerable emphasis on collective effort and reward.
  • Its total Exclusive Economic Zone is about 300,000km2.
  • Tokelau's population is 1383 (Dec. 2013 population count) with relatively large dependent groups-older and younger people­ because  younger  people  and  those  with  young  children  tend  to  emigrate  to  pursue  better  employment  and  education opportunities overseas. There is a significant population gap in the 25-34 age groups.
  • All Tokelauans have New Zealand citizenship and 7173 people indicating full or partial Tokelauan descent live in New Zealand (2013 NZ Census).
  • Tokelau currently has no air transportation, and the only means of transport is by sea from Samoa (the trip usually takes between 24 and 30hours). All travel and supplies into and out of Tokelau originate and terminate in Samoa, Tokelau's closest neighbour.

Climate and Weather
  • Tokelau, being located in the easterly trade wind zone, has a tropical and marine climate. The mean annual temperature is 28 degrees centigrade and the mean annual rainfall is 2800 millimetres. There is a marked seasonality in rainfall incidence, with the 6 months between October and March accounting for about 60% of the total ammal rainfall; December and January account for 25% of the annual total. The recent impacts of climate change have already been felt in Tokelau, with a severe drought in 2011, followed by Cyclone Evan in 2012.
Geology and Soils
  • The atolls are composed of calcium carbonate reef, sands,  and rock  The soils are generally characterized as being highly alkaline, highly porous, and nutrient-poor and as having low humus content and a high surface salinity. Soils are considered  to be one of the country's major restricting factors, especially in relation to land-based agricultural development. Because of the nature of soils, the agricultural economy is linlited to a basic subsistence level.
Land-Based and Agricultural Resources
  • Cultivated  food  crops  are  generally  limited  to  breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis),  giant swamp  taro  'pulaka'  (Cyrtosperma chamissonis);   taro palagi (Xanthosoma  sagittifolium);  giant taro (Aiocasia  macrorrhizos);  bananas (Mus sp. [2  varieties]); papaya (Carica papaya); pandanus 'fala' (Pandanus odoratissimus); pumpkin (Cucurbita sp.); and coconut (Cocos nucifera).
Marine Resources
  • It is generally recognized that Tokelau's greatest asset is in its natural marine resources. Tokelau's fisheries are made up of an inshore lagoon fishery, reef fishery, and an abundant offshore pelagic fish and deep-ocean fishery. It has been reported that up to 55% of all animal protein consumed in the atolls is from reef, migratory, and shellfish. The offshore fisheries provide Tokelau with the majority of its annual national income and therefore are of great importance.
Political Structure
  • Tokelau is a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand. Tokelau wishes to move toward greater self-governance and is supported in this by the Government of New Zealand and the UN Special Committee on Decolonization. The 'modem house of Tokelau' is the product of a major initiative that aims toward self-govermnent: it provides a governance structure that fits the cultural contel't and increases Tokelau's capacity to manage its own affairs in a more sustainable fashion. An elected Council (Executive Council) works through a General Fono approval system (Parliament) which comprises representatives of the Taupulega (Village Council of Elders), Fatupaepae (Women's Group) and Aumaga I Taulealea (Men's Group).
  • Tokelau's national development challenges are similar to those of other Pacific Island Countries (PICs), especially  the atoll nations. These are:
    • A meagre and fragile natural resource base;
    • Relative geographic isolation;
    • Heavy emigration;
    • Limited human resources;
    • Restricted human development capacity;
    • General dependency on foreign aid and remittances.
All these limitations are acute in Tokelau 's context. In some cases they are exacerbated by the current impacts of climate change.

Tokelau's Current Development Strategy
  • Tokelau's pathway is largely guided by its premier agenda-driven  initiative called the Tokelau Natjooal Strategic Plan (TNSP 2010-2015). The TNSP has 4 main Policy Outcome Areas:
  • GOAL 1: Good  Governance: Improved governance, public sector and financial management and application  of the rule of law;
  • GOAL 2: Infrastructure Development: Improved standard of living through reliable, adequate and efficient infrastructure;
  • GOAL 3: Human Development: Improved  health. education outcomes and social well-being of commuillties;
  • GOAL 4: Sustaina bility: Improved economic, cultural, environmental and spiritual sustainability.
Tokelau' s Significant  Achievements
  • This small atoll nation has several claims to achievements, especially in recent years. Perhaps the most globally profound of these  has been the dedication, foresight  and public commitment towards curbing  global climate change. Tokelau  has set its collective sights on a target of 100%  renewable energy  and aspires  to be the first nation of the world to achieve this. Is this realistic? Yes. Is this achievable? Well  not without further support, assistance and sustainable  partnerships, especially in the key areas of sustainable development  proposed in the SIDS Outcome Document.
  • Since 2010 Tokelau  has embarked  on a tremendous journey  towards the susta inable development goal. It has indeed, through the  initial  help of  both  New  Zealand  and  the United  Nations  Development  Programme  (UNDP), established  a  Tokelau Renewable  Energy Plan (TREP Phase I).Tokelau  has now established  a solar voltaic grid system on each atoll commissioned since 2012. This system  of electrification can realise a total island-by-island  electricity supply (nearly 100%) with some supplemental support, provided under the TREP, by generators and/or additional solar voltaic panels added  to the grid.
Tokelau's Way Forward
  • For Tokelau, the SIDS is a rare opportuillty to let the rest of the world know of its actual physical bemg; its global and regional aspirations; its current  constraints  and  limjtations; and  the lessons  it can  share  as a real small  nation (typically  as a voice unheard) moving  toward developing true and sustainable partnerships.
  • We see our key partnership avenues  through the following focal areas at SIDS in Samoa from 1-4 September.  We especially hope to maintain and even enhance momentum on the following key issues:
  1. Disaster Preparedness
  2. Renewable Energy
  3. Fisheries
  4. Oceans, Seas and Biodiversity
  5. Climate Change
  6. Water and Waste Management
  • It's a tall order, yet we are hopeful and reassured  that a global  way and answer  will be found for the best answer (post 2015 agenda) especially on the issue of "the establishment of  a  true, and  all-inclusive   sustainable development  mandate, regardless of any political  and/or geographical boundaries".
  • We have all agreed to advocate and aspire towards the true spirit of partnerships, a nd to support  meaningful global actions on climate change mitigation and adaptation. Let 's make jt a key issue for the SIDS and help save Tokelau and all other SIDS by simply suggesting:
 'Let no one be left behind!'