The United Nation Resident Coordinator, Ms. Simona Marinescu and UNDP Resident Representative Ms. Yvette Kerslake scheduled visit to the Speaker of Parliament, Hon Niki Rattle who sends her apology while away on Parliamentary travel, alternatively met with the new Clerk of Parliament Mr Tangata Vainerere and staff of Parliament on Monday afternoon of the 26th November 2018.

The new UN Resident Coordinator arrived over the weekend for a short visit to present her credentials to Government also met with the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Financial Secretary and the Director of National Environment Services on Monday.  From Romania, Ms Marinescu a former Senate Member of the Parliament of Romania, totally new in the post with the United Nations reaffirms her continued support to Government and the Parliament of the Cook Islands through the Pacific Parliamentary Effectiveness Initiatives [PPEI] Project designed to accelerate support to Members of Parliaments and also further support the increase of women’s political participations from 2016 to 2018.

The advocacy program by UNDP to the Cook Islands and selected Pacific countries aims to continue projects on capacity building for Members of Parliament and Parliamentary staff. Despite the program coming to the end in December 2018, negotiation with New Zealand and Australia on funding support for ongoing projects is being negotiated.  The UN wants to see more on ‘oversights’ – we cannot report on the SGDs with no data, says Ms Marinescu.

With two highly important key elements in mind, the UN Resident Coordinator emphasized her strong interest to work with the Clerk and Members of Parliament to flag and consider to ratify the convention of genocide under the United Nations Convention on Genocide which she wants all countries to ratify this convention given the effect on human rights, political, economic and social rights.  While the effect of genocide is not visible in the Cook Islands at present, our representation and support at the United Nations General Assembly in New York is very important to showcase with the rest of the world of our support together with other UN Member States to ratify Convention on Genocide.

As the highest institution in making laws, the active role of Parliament in taking steps towards the ratification of the genocide convention through law reform is paramount to ensure legislative process are being developed to reflect this convention commitment.  Meanwhile, the concept of genocide is new to the Cook Islands context and accelerating this with Members of Parliament to fully understand the ratification of the convention on genocide will require an enormous amount of training and awareness with community consultation support before this can become law.

Motivated to continue supporting Pacific Parliaments, Ms Marinescu also passionate about the progress and achievements of the SDGs in respective countries noted the progress of the ‘national sustainable development goals’ in the Cook Islands. The Clerk of Parliament pointed out that under Goal 16 “Promote a peaceful and just society for all and build effective, accountable institutions at all levels” – the Number of Parliament Sitting days is the only indicator identified of the entire work of Parliament without recognition nor acknowledgement to the number of Parliamentary Select Committee Meetings and these Committee work meets more frequently than the actual Sitting of Parliament.  The target before was 80 days and this is now being amended to 50 days, says the Clerk which is also being reflected in the Strategic Plan of Parliament currently being developed.

In essence, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Manager joined the Clerk and staff after the one-hour meeting for quick refreshments before their next appointments with ‘everlasting head-ei and neck shell ei’s as parting gifts.