26th October 2018
The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat’s Smaller Island States (SIS) Adviser Tasha Siaosi visited Rarotonga on the 21st – 25th of October, 2018 to strengthen engagement with the Cook Islands. Ms Siaosi met with a cross-section of Cook Islands government, business and civil society with discussions covering Cook Islands priorities as they relate to the SIS Regional Strategy 2016-2020.
The Cook Islands is one of eight members of the Pacific Islands Forum’s SIS grouping which include the smallest members of the Forum in population and land mass.
At the SIS Leaders Meeting held in Nauru in early September, SIS Leaders committed to revitalising the identity and efforts of the SIS sub-grouping within the Forum through The Blue Pacific narrative. They agreed to caucus on issues of importance in order to drive SIS priorities in the broader Forum context as well as in various regional and international fora.
During her visit Ms Siaosi met with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI), the focal point for the Forum and its Secretariat in the Cook Islands. Through the SIS program, the Forum Secretariat fund an SIS Officer position at MFAI who co-ordinates SIS initiatives in the Cook Islands. Ms Siaosi also met with Joseph Ngamata of the Cook Islands Airport Authority to gain insight into the Cook Islands experience with upper airspace management, which is one of the priorities SIS committed to explore at their meeting in 2017.
“The SIS grouping is a valuable advocacy mechanism for the Cook Islands to advance issues of shared concern amongst the most vulnerable members of the PIF within the broader Forum membership and beyond,” said Antonina Browne, MFAI Pacific Division Foreign Affairs Officer. “We welcome the visit of Ms Siaosi as affirmation of the Forum Secretariat’s commitment to strengthening collaboration, including sharing of SIS country experiences, as related to amongst other SIS priorities – upper airspace management and labour mobility.”
“Cook Islands is a valuable member of the SIS sub-grouping and has been a strong advocate of SIS initiatives in various regional and international fora” said Ms Siaosi. “The Cook Islands experience regarding upper airspace management will be shared with the SIS membership. More importantly, we look forward to the contribution by Cook Islands towards the Mid-Term Review of the SIS Strategy in 2019 as well as welcoming on board a new SIS Officer of Cook Islands”.