As a proud founding member of the Forum, the Cook Islands has always taken the view that we are stronger together” says Prime Minister Mark Brown.
Brown made the comments as Forum leaders celebrated the 50 years of the Pacific Islands Forum last week.
The retreat chaired by Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama last Friday was attended by Forum leaders including Nauru President Lionel Aingimea from the Micronesia subregion.
“This 50th Anniversary and the unprecedented challenges amidst COVID-19 global impact require elevated levels of regional co-operation and I look forward to working closely with the Forum Chair Fiji, my colleague Forum leaders and the Secretariat in the months ahead as we recalibrate our regional priorities and elevate efforts to support our individual health and economic recoveries,” said PM Brown.
In discussing regional COVID response, Leaders emphasised the importance of ensuring the timely and affordable distribution of safe and effective COVID-19 treatments and vaccines to all Pacific peoples to mitigate health concerns, improve their wellbeing and support economic recovery.
Forum Leaders underscored the threat posed by the Delta variant and its impact on several member countries while emphasising the importance of timely and affordable COVID-19 vaccination roll-out, vaccine certification for the reopening borders and utilization of the existing Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 to support all Members recovery plans.
Leaders committed collectively to ensure comprehensive vaccination coverage target of 80% of the eligible population for the Pacific region by the first quarter of 2022 and acknowledged the invaluable and ongoing support of Australia, New Zealand and other development partners in ensuring Pacific access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Leaders also discussed threats to maritime zones.
“I particularly welcome our Declaration of Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate change-related sea level rise”, said Prime Minister Brown.
“Our ocean resources, as demarcated by our territorial boundaries are fundamental to our national security. This Declaration by our 18-member Forum Family is our collective interpretation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) maritime zones provisions and strengthens our individual and collective efforts to preserve our existing boundaries against the threat of sea-level rise,” he said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration continues to lead Cook Islands international engagement on maritime boundaries related issues. This most recent Maritime Zones declaration by the PIF provides a strong basis for Forum engagement, visibility, advocacy on maritime zones at the global level including at the upcoming UN General Assembly and COP26 negotiations scheduled for 12 November 2021.
Retreat discussions also included the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the Pacific Island Forum focusing on the theme of “Forum-Security and Prosperity in Unity”.
Amongst the successes of regional efforts over the last 50 years, Leaders reflected on support towards self-determination and statehood of PIF members; the assertion of Pacific interests in the shaping of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); the establishment of a Nuclear Free Zone in the Pacific through the 1985 Treaty of Rarotonga; the proactive institution of oceans governance measures at all levels to protect the health and resilience of the oceans and its resources, gaining recognition as leaders in oceans governance; the establishment of dedicated regional agencies for fisheries and the environment; strengthening regional security through the 2000 Biketawa Declaration and the 2018 Boe Declaration; the common advancement of economic and trade interests within the region and further abroad; and global advocacy on climate change culminating in our positioning within the Paris Agreement.
SOURCE: PACNEWS/COOKS FOREIGN MINISTRY