[MFAI] Senior Government Officials from the Cook Islands and New Zealand convened in Rarotonga last week to discuss and progress actions from the 7th Annual Joint Ministerial Forum (JMF) held in Aitutaki earlier this year. Officials acknowledged the recent losses and challenges faced by both nations including the recent passing of Her Excellency Tessa Temata, the New Zealand High Commissioner to the Cook Islands.
The Joint Ministerial Forum Working Group (JMFWG) is made up of officials from the Cook Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI), the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) of New Zealand. The JMFWG progresses outcomes from the JMF and is an opportunity for dialogue between the two countries on matters of mutual interest.
As Chair, Secretary of MFAI, Tepaeru Herrmann, in welcoming the New Zealand delegation, commended MFAT and the Government of New Zealand for the work they do to support multiple Cook Islands’ agencies. “The history of our two peoples puts enormous obligation upon us to support the incredible success of previous Governments in shaping our co-operation going forward,” said Herrmann, “and we are privileged to use the JMFWG to emphasise the strength of our most important bilateral relationship that is underpinned by common values, history, citizenship and partnership.”
The New Zealand delegation, led by Jackie Frizelle, MFAT Polynesia and French Pacific Divisional Manager, emphasised the special nature of New Zealand’s relationship with Cook Islands, formalised through our constitutional relationship and expressed through the breadth of our people-to-people links. New Zealand Acting High Commissioner, Rachel Bennett, noted “the JMFWG is an important opportunity to advance our shared interests and further strengthen these links.”
Good progress was highlighted from previous JMF commitments, which have seen greater cooperation between the Cook Islands and New Zealand government ministries and agencies to advance a number of issues related to superannuation, student loans, health cooperation, and the transportation sector. Looking ahead, officials noted that further work for the working group would include closer engagement in security, infrastructure development and progressing shared foreign policy goals.
Herrmann described the outcomes of the JMFWG as positive and reflective of elevated levels of focus as we enter a new era in the Cook Islands development, “The flexibilities inherent in our unique partnership as have been evolved by both our countries over decades have enabled us to pursue our shared and separate policies and interests. At the same time, the bonds between our countries, based on shared citizenship and shared values have endured and strengthened over time.” In light of ODA graduation, both delegations agreed the JMFWG afforded an opportunity for the Cook Islands to pioneer new approaches to partnerships. Part of the journey ahead would be developing a cooperative approach to identifying shared priorities in medium term strategy.
The New Zealand delegation commended Cook Islands as it approached ODA graduation, which represented a significant milestone and an opportunity to reflect on our strong and evolving relationship.
Cook Islands officials of the working group are expected to provide recommendations to Cabinet ahead of the next JMF which will be hosted by New Zealand in 2020. Queries regarding the JMFWG and last week’s meeting can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Picture credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration - Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki