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RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, January 29) – The United Nations is attempting to provide a one-stop-shop for all its support agencies to the Pacific to enable more assistance for each country's needs.

The Cook Islands government in collaboration with the United Nations held a national consultation on the Cook Islands UN programme for 2008-12 at the Sinai Hall in Avarua last week Friday.

MFEM ministerial liaison Priscilla Maruariki, one of the hosts of the meeting, said the purpose was to come up with areas to ask for UN assistance in line with the Millennium Development Goals and the newly launched National Sustainable Development Plan.

United Nations resident coordinator from Samoa, Naheed Haque said they are identifying priorities for UN support in the Cooks.

"Our work is people focused. We do not build buildings, wharves and schools but we help countries build nations through focusing on building human resources and people's capacity to develop through training, capacity building, exchanging ideas, expertise and experience," said Haque.

She said in the past the Cooks may have seen the UN through their agencies like the World Health Organisation, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the environment and ICT work of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

There are 14 UN agencies that provide support to the Cooks but those at the meeting agreed that there was very little information provided on just what kind of assistance they can provide.

Eight UN agency representatives gave overviews of what type of assistance they can provide to the country.

"In the coming years, you will start to see us not as separate individual agencies but as a combined team that will pool our resources and expertise to provide you with the best coordinated and effective support that you need," Haque said.

National UN facilitator Jim Armistead from Aid Management said there was a lack of information about UN activities in the Cooks and this is why there is a need for a UN representative in-country.

Armistead was one of three government officials who attended a UN country consultation in Samoa last December.

One of the goals of that meeting was to identify areas where the UN does not overlap with other donor agencies.

The Cook Islands needs to provide the UN with an outline of country priority areas of need by the end of March.

Maruariki says this will involve more meetings with government agencies and non-government organisations. Those present at the meeting ranged from traditional leaders, NGOs, and the Rescue Fire Service to government ministry representatives.

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