COOK ISLANDS PEACE INITIATIVE APPROVED BY FORUM

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GOVERNMENT OF THE COOK ISLANDS Office of the Prime Minister Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Media Release October 7, 1999

The Pacific Islands Forum (formerly the South Pacific Forum) of Pacific Leaders, meeting in Palau, approved a proposal advanced by the Cook Islands Prime Minister the Honorable Dr. Joe Williams, to promote a Culture of Peace in the region.

In tabling at the Forum the call for peace of Pa Ariki, on behalf of the House of Ariki, and the recent letter from His Eminence Bishop Stuart O'Connell of Rarotonga, the Prime Minister put those national initiatives in their broader International context. Dr Williams recalled the words of the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, who on September 14, the International Day of Peace, observed that it was not enough to send peacekeeping forces, to engage in peace-building efforts after hostilities end and to conduct preventative diplomacy. While all were essential, at a deeper level there was a need for a Culture of Peace.

"Valuable work is being done at the regional level to develop options aimed at a comprehensive and integrated approach to the implementation of preventative diplomacy," the Prime Minister recognized. "At the same time, as Secretary General Annan observed, we must move further to develop a Culture of Peace both within the Cook Islands and at the regional level, through the Forum and other regional institutions" stressed Dr Williams.

Last month, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, in recognition of the International Year for the Culture of Peace. "We raised the matter in tabling the initiative from the House of Ariki and the letter from the Bishop, and I am pleased to say that all Forum leaders endorsed the Declaration and have charged the Forum Secretariat with developing a regional Programme of Action", the Prime Minister indicated.

This will be pursued through regional organizations over the coming months.

 

Media Release October 7, 1999

NEW LOOK FORUM HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL: COOK ISLANDS PM WILLIAMS

The 30th Forum of Pacific leaders has just concluded successfully in Palau with a new look and considerable progress on a range of important issues.

Recognizing that the Forum now includes several States in the North Pacific, including Kiribati, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau, leaders agreed to change the name of the Forum from the South Pacific Forum to the Pacific Islands Forum.

Among the decisions taken, Forum leaders adopted in principle a Free Trade Area (FTA) among Forum members and the negotiation of the FTA Agreement will begin early in 2000. "The FTA will open up unprecedented opportunities for Cook Islanders not only to import regional products cheaper than today, but also for our local businessmen wishing to promote their products on the international level", explained Prime Minister Dr. Joe Williams.

"We look forward to working closely with our business community to see how the Cook Islands can best take advantage of the FTA not only for the benefit of individual businesses but also in the promotion of national economic growth," he added.

A number of regional economic initiatives were also approved by Forum Leaders, including the convening of an ad hoc meeting of Forum Ministers of Education to consider a wide range of human resources development issues fundamental to overall sustainable development. "Improving the quality and delivery of education to meet the needs of Cook Islanders both in Rarotonga and the Outer Islands into the new millennium is of the utmost concern to Government," stressed Dr. Williams. "We are committed to taking action both at the national and regional levels towards that end."

Also endorsed by Forum Leaders were the conclusions of the Forum Aviation Ministers meeting held last month. In discussing aviation matters, the Smaller Island States (SIS) of the Forum, including the Cook Islands, stressed the importance both of improving in relation to international civil aviation. Explained the Prime Minister, "The SIS, led by the Cook Islands, has made it clear that they wanted a full recovery of costs for services they have been providing, often with no cost recovery for years. We reiterated our position at this year's Forum and will be working closely together over the next year to achieve our objectives in this regard."

Forum Leaders also considered a range of nuclear-related issues, including the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (signed by the Cook Islands), and the development of regimes for the preparation of environmental impact statements and liability for possible damage relating to the shipment of radioactive materials and nuclear fuel.

"All Forum members have expressed concern about the shipment of nuclear materials through the region and we have taken important concrete steps to protect the regions' interests in this area", said Dr Williams.

"In sum, this year's Forum offered a valuable opportunity to exchange experiences and views among Leaders on a wide range of important issues to the Cook Islands and agreement on regional action that will be pursued over the coming year."

For more information, contact: Elma MaUa Telephone: (00682) 24735 Email: govmedia@pmoffice.co.ck 

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