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Cook Islands Oceans dialogue emphasises genuine partnerships and collaboration to ensure sustainable oceans
3:34 pm GMT+12, 07/11/2019, Cook Islands

Foreign Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann opened this week’s Dialogue on Cook Islands approaches to International Engagement to secure Sustainable Oceans hosted by Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration with the Ministry’s pe’e (chant) “Taku Ipukaea, Kia Rangatiria”.  
 
“Composed by staff of the Ministry, this pe’e speaks of our skies, our lands, our ocean, and our people. It speaks to the sacrifices and contributions of our forebears to our existence today. It speaks to our obligations and responsibilities to those who will follow in our stead. And it speaks to the many challenges we’re confronted with daily to harness our natural resources for sustainable growth while upholding conservation stewardship responsibilities for future generations” said Secretary Herrmann.
 
Attended by a diverse cross-section of Cook Islands society inclusive of traditional and religious leaders, representatives from government, non government and civil society, private sector, state owned enterprises, academia and other interest groups, the Dialogue provided an opportunity for participants to have a greater appreciation of the work of MFAI in the oceans space, and to understand the support provided and available for the Cook Islands oceans agenda from regional organisations including the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), South Pacific Regional Environmental Program (SPREP), and The Pacific Community (SPC). Regional officials together with Cook Islands government and civil society representatives participated in an interesting and lively panel discussion sharing perspectives on oceans governance and challenges in balancing development and conservation imperatives.
 
Panellists and attendees noted the growing significance and complexity of the oceans discourse, domestically and in global fora and the importance of genuine partnerships and collaboration in ensuring sustainable oceans. There was support for greater transparency around oceans activities and oceans governance and recognition of the pivotal role data collection and analysis played in informing the science around oceans resources, and in turn, policy considerations for ensuring sustainable oceans.
 
MFAI UN & Treaties Division Director Josh Mitchell, who leads MFAI’s work on oceans governance engagements was pleased with the Dialogue discussions noting deliberations would further inform the current development of MFAI’s international engagement strategy and contribute to ensuring the Cook Islands was optimally placed and capably equipped to protect and advocate for the Cook Islands oceans interests in an increasingly complex and challenging global oceans environment.
 
Speaking after the Dialogue, Director Mitchell said, “There are two main aspects MFAI will continue to work on with key oceans stakeholders which will be captured in the strategy. First, domestic coordination and cohesion to clarify and confirm national positions on oceans governance which then inform MFAI’s international engagement efforts. This requires working across and with a multitude of government agencies and non-government stakeholders including our communities on ocean-related matters which for the Cook Islands Government is inclusive of the Blue Economy, Marae Moana, Deep Sea Minerals, Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), Fisheries, Transport/Shipping, Maritime Domain Awareness, Extention of the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Climate Change and Sea Level Rise, and National Security. The second aspect which the strategy will need to incorporate is working within the Pacific regional Oceans framework, and particularly with our regional organisations and neighbouring Pacific countries, so the Cook Islands can influence regional oceans negotiations and positions and amplify the reach and impact of our collective Pacific voice in global oceans discussions.”
 
MFAI will undertake further consutations with oceans stakeholders over the next couple of weeks and hope to finalise the strategy before the end of this year.
 
Speaking following the Dialogue, Secretary Herrmann said “The Cook Islands engages internationally through multiple portals. Beyond government, there’s a growing number of entities from civil society, private sector and beyond, who are domestic, regional and international entities who are engaged and having greater influence on global oceans discourse than in prior decades. It is therefore important for MFAI to strengthen key partnerships domestically and regionally with entities active in the oceans fora, encourage inclusive and genuine engagement which should in turn facilitate collaboration and cultivate unity of purpose in firstly afticulating the Cook Islands oceans agenda, then working in a cohesive and collaborative manner to advocate for those interests on the international stage to deliver benefits for all Cook Islanders.”
 
MFAI greatly appreciated the participation of key regional organisations active in the oceans space to this first Oceans Dialogue facilitated by MFAI – those being PIFS, FFA, SPC and SPREP.
 
“The policy advice, technical support, capability development and international advocacy support rendered by regional organisations, some of whom are over 70 years old, has been invaluable to the Cook Islands sustainable development over decades across the full spectrum of our development agenda”, said Secretary Herrmann. “Regional organisations belong to member countries, including the Cook Islands, and its important the Cook Islands engages proactively with member countries and regional organisations, including at governance levels, to ensure regional service delivery to member countries is relevant and context specific to support the current and evolving development needs of the people of the Pacific”.
 
Particularly useful for all Dialogue attendees was some insight into the current work of regional organisations as availed by regional panelists relating to sustainable oceans development.
 
For further insight into services available to the Cook Islands and member countries from PIFS, FFA, SPC and SPREP, see https://www.forumsec.org/ocean-management-conservation/ ; https://www.ffa.int/node/1569
; http://oceanportal.spc.int/portal/ocean.html ; https://www.sprep.org/island-and-ocean-ecosystem-services
 
Queries regarding the Ocean Dialogue and development of MFAI’s international engagement on oceans strategy can be directed to josh.mitchell@cookislands.gov.ck and on regional organisations to jim.armistead@cookislands.gov.ck

SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS FOREIGN MINISTRY/PACNEWS


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