Tokelau (previously known as the Union Islands, and officially as Tokelau Islands until 1976; lit. "north-northeast" ) is a dependent territory of New Zealand in the southern Pacific Ocean. It consists of three tropical coral atolls (Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo), with a combined land area of 10 km². The capital rotates yearly between the three atolls. Tokelau lies north of the Samoan Islands, east of Tuvalu, south of the Phoenix Islands, southwest of the more distant Line Islands, and northwest of the Cook Islands. Swains Island is geographically part of Tokelau, but is subject to an ongoing territorial dispute and is currently administered by the United States as part of American Samoa.
fourth-smallest population]] of any sovereign state or dependency. As of the 2016 census, around 45% of residents were born overseas, mostly in Samoa and New Zealand. The nation has a life expectancy of 69, comparable with other Oceanian island nations. Approximately 94% of the population speak Tokelauan as a first language. Tokelau has the smallest economy in the world, although it is a leader in renewable energy, being the first 100% solar powered nation in the world.
Tokelau is officially referred to as a nation by both the New Zealand government and the Tokelauan government. It is a free and democratic nation with elections every three years. However, in 2007 the United Nations General Assembly included Tokelau on its list of non-self-governing territories. Its inclusion on the list is controversial, as Tokelauans have twice voted against further self-determination and the islands' small population reduces the viability of self-government. The basis of Tokelau's legislative, administrative and judicial systems is the Tokelau Islands Act 1948, which has been amended on a number of occasions. Since 1993, the territory has annually elected its own head of government, the Ulu-o-Tokelau. Previously the Administrator of Tokelau was the highest official in the government and the territory was administered directly by a New Zealand government department.
The name Tokelau is a Polynesian word meaning "north wind". The islands were named the Union Islands and Union Group by European explorers at an unknown time. Tokelau Islands was adopted as the name in 1946, and was contracted to Tokelau on 9 December 1976.