Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration
Wednesday 17 June 2020
Cook Islands High Commissioner to New Zealand Elizabeth Wright-Koteka and Japan’s Ambassador to New Zealand and the Cook Islands Hiroyasu Kobayashi signed an agreement this afternoon in Wellington at the Embassy of Japan for provision of 100,000,000 Japanese Yen (approximately 1.3 Million NZD) under Japan’s Economic and Social Development Program.
The grant, the third of its kind, is part of commitments made by Japan to the Cook Islands at the Eighth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM 8) held in Tokyo in 2018 to support improve social services including healthcare and education in Pacific Islands.
During this afternoon’s signing ceremony, Ambassador Kobayashi affirmed that the commitments made by Japan at PALM 8 were reflective of an enduring friendship between the Cook Islands and Japan. “I am delighted that through this project, Japan can assist the Cook Islands in meeting its urgent medical needs, as well as support its economic and social development in the long term,” stated His Excellency. “I hope that this will be another symbol of the friendship and cooperation between the Cook Islands and Japan.”
In response, High Commissioner Wright Koteka made mention of previous grants as well as the grass-root assistance and in person interactions between Japan and the Cook Islands, stating “the cooperation between our two countries over the years, and the support offered by Japan to the Cook Islands, is testament to a genuine partnership, and demonstrates that your country is one which acts upon its commitments, commitments which have directly benefited our people at the grass-roots level.”
The signing ceremony is the culmination of a series of discussions between the two governments, the most recent earlier this year in exchanges focusing on COVID-19 and specifically, insights into Japan’s management of the pandemic and challenges both countries were confronted with in responding to COVID-19, in the Cook Islands case deficiencies in health response capabilities. The support of Japan and other partner governments, particularly since January, have been invaluable in the Cook Islands being able to keep abreast of insights into COVID-19, securing critical assistance including to bolster health response capabilities as well as support for stranded nationals and visitors grounded by border measures and closures.
“This most recent assistance from the Government and people of Japan is most gratefully appreciated particularly given Japan’s own challenges and the needs of the people of Japan in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and the combined health and economic crisis in its wake,” said MFAI Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann. “The quantum of this assistance and its timely delivery is testament to the depth and health of the relationship at the political level, between the two foreign ministries and an evolving co-operation agenda between our Governments at bilateral level as well as in regional and multilateral fora.”
The Cook Islands and Japan established diplomatic relations in 2011 and on a day to day basis, business is conducted via the two Embassies in Wellington. Regional co-operation however stretches further back to 1997, when the PALM was established, a three yearly dialogue between the Leader of Japan and Pacific Islands Leaders – the most recent PALM held in Iwaki, Japan in 2018. In recent years, Japanese grant assistance has supported the Cook Islands conversion to renewable energy through solar; technical and professional development of Cook Islanders through training in Japan via JICA and invaluable grass roots funding for social development programs, particularly targeting the pa enua. In the early 2000’s, the Cook Islands was exporting notable amounts of fresh tuna, black pearls, noni and some garments to Japan. In recent years, the two governments have increased collaboration on a growing array of issues including renewable energy, security, maritime, fisheries (including through the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission – more commonly known as the Tuna Commission), tourism, development finance (including at the Asian Development Bank), climate change and people to people links.
“Japan is a valued partner of the Cook Islands and we look forward to continued dialogue and collaboration in the months ahead, including as relate to preparatory discussions towards next year’s PALM meeting involving Leaders,” said Secretary Herrmann. “We also look forward to further discussions with Japan and their support for our advocacy for, and the emerging global consensus, for urgent scaled-up international development cooperation to ensure that small island economies can strengthen their health response to the pandemic, while safeguarding food security and averting economic crisis or collapse”.
Allocation of the funding, selection and implementation of projects and reporting on expenditure is overseen by a committee consisting representatives of both Governments and governed by prior agreed protocols between the two governments. The Committee is chaired by the Cook Islands Ministry of Finance and Economic Management and the first committee meeting is expected to convene virtually within the next couple of weeks.
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1 CKI High Commissioner Elizabeth Wright Koteka and Japan Ambassador Hiroyasu Kobayashi – sign agreement;
2 CKI High Commissioner Elizabeth Wright Koteka and Japan Ambassador Hiroyasu Kobayashi post signing ceremony;
3 2018 Japan Pacific Islands Leaders 8th PALM Summit – Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Maliegaoi also Pacific Islands Forum Chair at PALM Summit 5th from left; Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe 6th from left and Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna at far right; and
4 Prime Minister Puna meeting with Japan Foreign Minister Taro Kono in margins of 8th PALM; MFAI Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann also in attendance