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[Media Release-MFAI] Pacific elevate anti-nuclear advocacy through Treaty of Rarotonga

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

Thursday 17 December 2020, 09:00


The States Parties to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (“Rarotonga Treaty”), including the Cook Islands, met at the beginning of this week to elevate anti-nuclear advocacy through the Treaty of Rarotonga.


At their 50th meeting last year, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders called for the full operationalization of the Treaty to address the potential threat of nuclear contamination to the Blue Pacific as a result of the nuclear weapons testing carried out years ago in the Pacific.

The depositary of the Treaty, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary-General, Dame Meg Taylor, said the meeting was a milestone opportunity to commemorate the 35th year of the adoption of the Treaty (6 August 1985), and the 34th anniversary of its entry into force (11 December 1986), to reflect on the Treaty’s achievements and to advance the objectives and implementation of the Treaty as a contribution of our region to the common global goal of the non-proliferation and elimination of nuclear weapons. “The Rarotonga Treaty is one of our very first and most significant achievements as the Forum family. It is a powerful testament to what we can achieve through regionalism, through collective action, under the framework of international law, and in conforming to the rules-based international order, to which we all subscribe,” said Dame Meg.


Tepaeru Herrmann, Secretary of Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki (Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration) delivered a statement on behalf of the Cook Islands at Monday’s meeting. Secretary Herrmann stated “It is true to say that, for our part, the Cook Islands has played an important role in the region’s stand against nuclear weapons. Being situated between former testing sites to the east in French Polynesia, to the north in Christmas Island, and to the west in the Marshall Islands, we have always been acutely aware of and sensitive to the painful nuclear legacy of our Pacific Island brothers and sisters, the consequences of which are still being suffered to this day. To a lesser or greater extent we all share this awful legacy.”


Said Secretary Herrmann, “This is why the Cook Islands has long taken such a strong stance towards keeping our Pacific Region nuclear-free. From our hosting of the Rarotonga Treaty signing in 1985 to sailing our iconic Voyaging Canoe - Vaka Te Au O Tonga to the test site in Mururoa in 1995, the Cook Islands have participated actively in various protest actions which ultimately helped to bring about the end of nuclear testing in the Pacific. More recently, our signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 2005, and becoming the second country in the Pacific to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2018, serve as further examples of the Cook Islands strong and resolute anti-nuclear stance.”


“This week’s meeting outcome is a strong reflection of the concerns we in the Pacific all share about regional and global nuclear issues and positions us well for what is a big year in 2021 for nuclear disarmament, regionally and globally, with the five-yearly Review Conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons coming into force, and growing calls from our Pacific Leaders for action on dealing with the legacy contamination in our region from nuclear testing,” said Secretary Herrmann.

The States Parties to the Rarotonga Treaty are Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.


Queries regarding this media release can be directed to MFAI Director UN & Treaties Josh Mitchell at josh.mitchell@cookislands.gov.ck or phone 29347.


For further insight into the Meeting of Parties held earlier this week, see https://www.forumsec.org/2020/12/15/towards-a-fully-nuclear-free-blue-pacific-forum-sg-at-rarotonga-treaty-meeting/


For further insight into the Rarotonga Treaty including the Treaty text, see https://www.forumsec.org/treaty-collection/


MFAI media release on the Cook Islands becoming Party to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons see https://www.facebook.com/mfaicookislands/posts/1083989601767279


For insight into the Cook Islands 1995 participation in the protest campaign against nuclear testing on the French Polynesian island of Mururoa, read Cook Islands News coverage at https://www.cookislandsnews.com/weekend/remembering-turbulent-times-in-pacific-history/


Photos:

1. 14 December 2020 - MFAI Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann delivering the Cook Islands statement to the State Parties meeting of the Rarotonga Treaty

2. 14 December 2020 – Cook Islands delegation to State Parties Meeting of Rarotonga Treaty – Secretary Herrmann; MFAI Director UN, Treaties and Oceans Josh Mitchell; MFAI Director Pacific and Regional Affairs Division (PRAD) Dr. Jim Gosselin; MFAI PRAD Foreign Service Officer Ngakiri Teaea

3. from PIFS photo archives - 6 August 1985, Rarotonga – signing of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (“Rarotonga Treaty”) by Fiji, the Cook Islands and Australia. Left to Right seated: former Fiji Prime Minister the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara; former Cook Islands Prime Minister the later Sir Tom Davis and former Australia Prime Minister Bob Hawke

4. photo unknown source - 1995 – Cook Islanders aboard Vaka Te Au o Tonga in Pape’ete, French Polynesia participating in protest campaigns against nuclear testing on the French Polynesian island of Mururoa.


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