Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration
Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) officials participated in a virtual meeting held on 4 August 2020 of the Cook Islands and other Polynesian countries and territories members of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), based in Samoa. The meeting was called by Polynesia’s Representative on SPREP’s Executive Board, Mr Engel Raygadas of French Polynesia, to discuss preliminary preparations for the second Executive Board meeting to be held in early September.
Meeting every two years, between biennial meetings of the full SPREP membership, the Board provides management direction to the Secretariat and comprises a Troika of past, present and future SPREP meeting chairs, metropolitan members and representatives of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia. MFAI participates at all governance meetings of SPREP and other members of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP) on behalf of the Cook Islands in exercise of its foreign affairs responsibilities, working in collaboration with the relevant technical line-agency/ies. In the case of SPREP, MFAI works closely with the National Environment Service, Climate Change Cook Islands, the Cook Islands Meteorological Service and other agencies and environment stakeholders as appropriate.
At this year’s meeting of the Polynesian constituency, members requested the Secretariat to streamline the Board’s work programme to focus on key regional priority areas that require decision from members. The group also asked the Secretariat to provide clarity on the Terms of Reference of the Board and recommended amendments to clarify the role of the Board in decision-making.. The next virtual meeting of the group is scheduled for 18 August and MFAI will be consulting relevant domestic agencies in advance of that meeting.
MFAI’s Secretary, Ms Tepaeru Herrmann, stressed the need for all regional agencies to provide the Cook Islands and other member countries with insights on the operational and financial variations they are looking to set in place to adapt to the effects of COVID-19 and the effects of such variations on regional agencies respective work programmes. “We are pleased that SPREP has initiated a conversation amongst countries within the sub-regions as well as the recently established SPREP Friends of Chair group on the financial implications that COVID-19 is placing on the Secretariat. The Cook Islands will continue to participate actively in those discussions to support the Secretariat, working closely with all member countries to ensure the organisation remain fit for purpose and responsive to the evolving needs of countries, particularly as we all grapple with the impacts of COVID-19”.
The challenge before SPREP is one all regional organisations are grappling with and MFAI will continue to take a proactive, considered and innovative approach to engaging with CROP to advance the interests of the Cook Islands and to ensure the respective Secretariat’s continue to deliver important assistance to the Cook Islands and the members of the respective CROP in line with evolving development priorities at national levels. In that regard, Ms Hermann added, “the continued conservation and management of our environment has a vital role to play in the steady recovery and transformation of the Cook Islands economy. Prioritisation and reorganization of the regional development agenda, including as relate to the environment, will be a key consideration for CROP as there continues to be uncertainty about the scope and duration of these impacts from COVID-19.”
Following the completion of the Executive Board meeting the Chair of Polynesia will provide a debrief and presentation to members on the outcomes of that meeting. For further information regarding this release and MFAI engagement in the SPREP fora please contact Mr Ewan Cameron (firstname.lastname@example.org), phone +682 29347.
Photo: staff of MFAI Pacific & Regional Division - Ewan Cameron, SIS Officer/Regionalism Coordinator; Dr. Jim Gosselin, Director, Pacific & Regional Division and Ngakiri Teaea, Foreign Service Officer.