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[Media Release - MFAI] Cook Islands working to strengthen capability to combat illegal drugs

Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration

5 March 2020

Contrary to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) 2019 report (see, and news reports by both Cook Islands News (28 February 2020) and Radio New Zealand (28 February 2020), the Cook Islands is a signatory to 1 and bound by 2 of the 3 United Nations (UN) Treaties that together form the international law framework of the global drug control regime.

The 3 treaties include the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by the 1972 Protocol; the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971; and the Convention Against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988.

The Cook Islands became bound by the 1961 Single Convention through New Zealand treaty action in the period before the Cook Islands became a self-governing State in free association with New Zealand. This remains the current situation as far as this Treaty is concerned as the Cook Islands has not yet become a party to the amending Protocol.

The Cook Islands acceded in its own right to the 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances on 22 February 2005 and it entered into force for the Cook Islands on 23 May 2005. In 2004, the Cook Islands Parliament passed the Narcotics and Misuse of Drugs Act thereby enabling the Cook Islands to fulfil its obligations under the treaty.

“Over recent years, national, regional and international effort to combat drug trafficking through the Pacific region has intensified and within our resource constraints, the Cook Islands has been a proactive participant in those efforts,” said Foreign Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann.

In addition to its participation in the above key international drug control treaties, the Cook Islands has elevated its participation in regional security collaborations to combat drug trafficking including through the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), the Oceania Customs Organisation (OCO), the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police (PICP) and the Pacific Islands Law Officers Network (PILON), and with the support of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). These efforts involve leadership and co-operation between multiple government agencies including Police, Customs, MFAI, Financial Intelligence Unit, amongst others.

But more must be done, and is planned.

As part of MFAI’s leadership of development of the Cook Islands’ first National Security Policy (NSP) (see MFAI media release 5 December 2019) MFAI intends to recommend to Government resourcing for an assessment of all treaties and conventions that the Cook Islands is bound to by virtue of its relationship with New Zealand prior to 1965, with a view to possibly acceding to these in the Cook Islands own right. This includes the 1961 Single Convention referenced above. Together with other relevant Government agencies, consideration will also be given to becoming a party to the 1972 Protocol to the 1961 Single Convention as well as the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. As a part of this process, discussions are continuing between MFAI and respective Government agencies over the Cook Islands ability to give full legal and practical effect to all such treaties and conventions in the Cook Islands, and what support and resourcing may be required in order to do so.

The proposed additional undertakings involve significant work and resourcing but require in MFAI’s view some prioritization by government given increased evidence of drug trafficking through the Pacific in recent years in order to enhance the national security of the Cook Islands and for the Cook Islands to play its full part in combatting drug trafficking in the region,” said Secretary Herrmann. MFAI expect to move to national consultations on the NSP within the month, the draft NSP is due to Cabinet by the end of June 2020.

Queries regarding this release can be directed to Director of the UN & Treaties Division Josh Mitchell at


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