Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Pacific Island countries appeal exclusion from Rio+20

Article combines a news release in the CI News / Kathleen Leewai
To read the article in the CI News online, please visit: Cook Islands fights for voice at Rio+20

Rio prepares to host the Rio+20 Conference

12 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - The Cook Islands and Niue will continue to battle for speaking rights at the United Nations Rio+20 Conference to be held in Brazil this month despite moves to exclude these Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) from doing so. The removal of speaking rights for the Cook Islands follows a UN General Assembly Resolution 66/197 in December 2011 limiting participation at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) to state members of the UN.

While delivering a speech on behalf of the Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna to the Rio+20 Informal Ministerial Meeting held in Barbados recently, chief policy advisor Liz Wright-Koteka said the Cook Islands had attended both the 1992 Rio and 2002 Johannesburg Conferences as a state.

“Chair, it saddens the Prime Minister Henry Puna personally, that 20 years on, a declaration that held so much hope for all people and which the participation and commitment of all states is a underpinning principle, will take a big step backwards by not allowing states such as the Cook Islands to be part of deciding its progression,” she said.

“We were under the impression that the Rio Declaration was a global agreement and what was commonly known as the ‘all states formula’ for attendance at these conferences applied. It appears now that Rio+20 will not be an ‘all states’ or a global conference. This is a most unfortunate outcome as sustainable development is critically important to the Cook Islands and other nations that are muffled as a result of this.”

Wright-Koteka advised the meeting that Puna would assume the role of chairman of the Pacific Islands Forum in August and as incoming chair it was vital that the Cook Islands region be permitted to participate fully at Rio+20.

“The Cook Islands supports the theme of a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, but wishes to also stress that as a Small Island Developing State, this is the only viable means of achieving sustainable development in today’s global context.

“Given the Cook Islands may not be accorded the opportunity to speak as a state in Rio, we urge our fellow SIDS to highlight that SIDS are already undertaking actions and have made some strong commitments to pursue the pathways towards transformation to a green economy.

“The Cook Islands also strongly aligns itself with the position advocated by the Pacific SIDS to add the colour blue to the green economy debate – synthesised as a ‘green economy in a blue world’ to ensure that issues related to ocean and islands are given prominence in the Rio+20 agenda.

“The Cook Islands fears that this approach has not yet gained enough global traction and that outcomes important to small island states from Rio+20 for ocean, island and climate change issues cannot be said to be secure.”

As there are many other regional groupings competing for international support, Wright-Koteka stressed that SIDS should continue to strongly urge for a renewed political commitment and reaffirmation of the special case of SIDS and their acknowledged vulnerabilities.

“SIDS should encourage the international community to meet existing commitments and agree to new commitments that will facilitate the transformation towards greener economies globally, with the necessary institutional structures to assist these efforts.

“The Cook Islands feels that funds that have been channelled through global funding structures do not take into account the capacity constraints of SIDS. Therefore as result, the Cook Islands, as I am sure other SIDS have not been able to access these funds effectively. Furthermore, access to these funds has been accompanied by onerous reporting obligations.

“The Cook Islands urges that SIDS advocate at Rio+20 for an agreement by the international community to improve access to funds for the transformation to green economies and to ease the reporting burden faced by small islands administration in line with the special case for SIDS.”

At the conclusion of the meeting Wright-Koteka said the chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and Special Envoy of the President of Nauru, Aloysius Amwano, highlighted the concerns expressed by the Cook Islands not being invited as speakers at the Rio+20 conference.

AOSIS representatives reiterated their support for a letter prepared by the chair of AOSIS conveying the group’s concern regarding the exclusion of the Cook Islands and Niue from the list of participating states consistent with the existing practice of ‘all states’ participation in global sustainable development.

Wright-Koteka on behalf of the Prime Minister expressed the Cook Islands deep appreciation for the efforts and the support by AOSIS in pushing the case for the Cook Islands to have a voice at the Rio+20 Conference.

As members of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), delegates from Niue and the Cook Islands were expected to participate in the Pacific side event.

“All of the Pacific Islands countries and territories attending the side event are SPREP members,” said Mr. Sefanaia Nawadra, Director of Environmental Monitoring and Governance Division at SPREP.

“It is very unfortunate that due to their changed status according to the UN rules they will not be attending and won’t be represented at the Pacific side event.”

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