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[Media Release - MFAI & NATCOM] Cook Islands elected to the Executive Board of UNESCO

17 November 2021

Cook Islands elected to the Executive Board of UNESCO

On Wednesday 17 November 2021 in Paris at UNESCO headquarters, the Cook Islands was elected to the Organization’s premier governance body, its Executive Board, securing 154 votes (out of 178) from its 193 membership. This will be the Cook Islands’ inaugural uptake of this post and will serve for the 2021-2025 term through its Permanent Delegate and Ambassador, H.E. Dr Nathalie Rossette-Cazel.

“This is a landmark result, not just for the Cook Islands but for our Pacific region and small island developing States (SIDS) more broadly, and marks a historic step in the diplomatic history of our country. It demonstrates that through concerted work by our diplomats both here on Rarotonga and overseas we can make our voice heard and influence key decision-making to support global initiatives that will promote our national development efforts and those of our Pacific neighbors” said MFAI’s Head of Ministry, Ms Tepaeru Herrmann, adding “while many of MFAI’s efforts are not often visible to our people, the positive results are there to see and shall continue to be strengthened in future.”

“Nathalie’s sustained efforts on behalf of Government since her appointment as our Permanent Delegate to UNESCO in 2017 are to be commended. Being Chair of the UNESCO SIDS Group since October 2020 and having served on the Legal Committee are examples of some of the work she has undertaken, lifting the profile of the Cook Islands in UNESCO to this high level of respect and trust, worthy of a seat on the Executive Board” added Herrmann.

The Cook Islands has many explicit linkages to the work of UNESCO. For example, “we are significantly involved in UNESCO’s Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) program. Given our vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, ensuring our children have the requisite skills and knowledge needed to make decisions on issues that will impact on the environment that they and future generations will inherent, the ESD is an extremely important program to us” said Secretary General of the Cook Islands National Commission of UNESCO, Ms Danielle Cochrane. The Cook Islands has participated and presented at a number of UNESCO expert meetings on Climate Change Education and ESD, and was one of the first countries in the Pacific region to join the Sandwatch programme – a particularly successful initiative that is now integrated across the Cook Islands curriculum.

Through partnerships with UNESCO, the Cook Islands has been able to give priority to the ongoing support of our archives and museums in preserving and providing access to valuable Cook Islands collections. Through UNESCO’s Memory of the World Committee for Asia and the Pacific, the Cook Islands has successfully preserved in digital form a number of documents, rare books and photographs of our islands’ rich historical, cultural, political and economic histories.

The Natural Sciences programmes of UNESCO are reflected in the Cook Islands through work around biodiversity, climate change and education. As well as government-led programmes, a number of NGO’s are also active in this space and appreciate both the support of UNESCO and the opportunity for them to share and input in UNESCO’s work programme in this area.

Going forward, the Cook Islands will look to enhance existing links with UNESCO and work to strengthen areas to support our youth and the intangible aspects of our culture. In achieving those goals, and looking more broadly to the Pacific and SIDS in general, the Cook Islands will, as a member of UNESCO’s Executive Board, strive for:

  • Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with an emphasis on ensuring that Pacific Islands nations are not left behind;

  • Emphasis on high-quality 21st century education that is responsive to the challenges of the region;

  • An integrated approach to sustainability in the sciencesbased on learnings from across the Pacific on the respect and utilization of unique Indigenous Knowledge Systems;

  • Preservation and protection of tangible and intangible heritage rooted in living cultural practice;

  • Utilization of digital technology and modern communication strategies to counter the tyrannies of isolation experienced throughout the Pacific; and

  • An active and effective UNESCO, based on strong partnerships founded on inclusion and diversity; and an efficient system of governance that recognizes the unique challenges and contributions of SIDS; together with an inter-sectoral approach that seeks sustainable outcomes for all.

The Cook Islands joins fellow SIDS member states St Lucia, Grenada, Haiti and the Dominican Republic on the Board. “We will bring to the Board a unique and specific viewpoint, the voice of the ‘Pacific’, and as a small island developing state, representative of many voices, and pledged commitment to adding a unique and valuable perspective to the work of the Executive Board” said Herrmann.


Queries regarding this media release can be directed to Siai Taylor, Senior Foreign Service Officer, Treaties Multilateral & Oceans Division at or 29 347

Find more about Sandwatch here:


1. Cook Islands Permanent Delegate to UNESCO Nathalie Rossette-Cazel (second from the left) pictured with Marshall Islands Deputy Permanent Representative (DPR) Mr Sam Lanwy, Assistant Director General for Natural Science Mrs Nair-Bedouelle who is also in charge of SIDS Section coordinating SIDS activities across UNESCO, DPR for Nauru Ms Joanie Hartman, and DPR for Fiji Mr Anare Leweniqila.

2. Group shot with Pacific delegates attending the 41st General Conference of UNESCO.

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