Tokelau, formerly known as the Union Islands and, until 1976, officially known as the Tokelau Islands, is a New Zealand dependent territory in the southern Pacific Ocean. Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo are its three tropical coral atolls. They cover a total area of 10 km2 (4 sq mi). The capital alternates between the three atolls on an annual basis. Swains Island, which is part of the same archipelago as these three, is the subject of an ongoing territorial dispute; it is now managed by the United States as part of American Samoa. Tokelau is located north of Samoa, east of Tuvalu, south of the Phoenix Islands, southwest of the more distant Line Islands, and northwest of the Cook Islands.
Tokelau has a population of around 1,500 people, making it the world's fourth-smallest sovereign state or dependency. According to the 2016 census, around 45 percent of its population were born abroad, largely in Samoa or New Zealand. The population has a life expectancy of 69 years old, which is similar to other Oceanian island states. Tokelauan is the first language of around 94% of the people. Tokelau has the smallest economy of any sovereign country, yet it is a renewable energy pioneer, being the world's first 100 percent solar-powered nation.
Both the New Zealand government and the Tokelauan administration refer to Tokelau as a country. It is a free and democratic country with three-year elections. However, the United Nations General Assembly added Tokelau to its list of non-self-governing territories in 2007. Its position on this list is contentious, since Tokelauans have twice narrowly voted against additional self-determination, and the islands' tiny population makes self-government difficult to implement. The Tokelau Islands Act 1948, which has been revised many times, serves as the foundation of Tokelau's legislative, administrative, and judicial institutions. Since 1993, the area has had its own head of government, known as the Ulu-o-Tokelau. Prior to 1993, the administrator of Tokelau was the top government official, and the territory was governed directly by a New Zealand government agency.