Hon. Niki Rattle, Speaker of the Parliament of the Cook Islands and CPA Cook Islands Branch President has reiterated her desire to increase the number of women in the Cook Islands Parliament and across the CPA Pacific Region at the 37th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Pacific and Australia Regional Conference.

The three-day regional conference was hosted by theCPA Cook Islands Branch in Rarotonga, Cook Islands from 22 to24 October 2018.Speaker Niki Rattle said: “I am elated once again for the thirdtime as the Speaker to warmly welcome delegates to Rarotongafor the 37th CPA Pacific and Australia Regional Conference. TheParliament of the Cook Islands is delighted to host this regionalconference to discuss issues of mutual interests for the welfare ofour people in our Regions.

The theme of ‘Towards a common future for growth and sustainability’ at this regional conference gives us the mandate to have robust and meaningful deliberations for a better future for those we hold close to our hearts.” “This week, I believe the topics for our regional conference are really relevant in talking about gender equality and my focus whileI’m Speaker of Parliament is to increase the number of women in the Parliament.Out of 24 Members, we have four women and there are many women in the Cook Islands who could actually be sitting in the House and sharing the opportunity of making decisions on the welfare of the people of this country.”

Traditional Welcome by our Cook Islands Warrior for the opening of the Conference.

A meeting of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) PacificRegion also took place during the regional conference. Speaker Rattle also paid tribute to the CPA Branches from the wider Australia and Pacific Regions for their assistance to their counterparts in the Pacific islands. The regional conference was co-chaired by Speaker Rattle and Hon. Peter Watson, MLA, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia.Hon. John Ajaka, MLC, President of the Legislative Council of New South Wales, Australia and CPA Executive CommitteeMember gave the keynote address to the regional conference and said: “The strategic direction established since the appointment of the current CPA Secretary-General is now evident with enhanced professional development opportunities for Members and regular communications from CPA Headquarters.”Around 60 Members of Parliament and parliamentary staff attended the regional conference from 17 CPA Branches across the two regions. The CPA Branches attending the 37th CPA Pacific and Australia Regional Conference included: Australia Federal;Australian Capital Territory; Bougainville; Cook Islands; Kiribati;Nauru; New Zealand; Niue; New South Wales; Papua New Guinea;Queensland; Samoa; Solomon Islands; South Australia; Tasmania;Tuvalu; and Western Australia.

The regional conference held a wide range of workshops over three days including: Parliamentary engagement with the SDGs especially SDG 16 on good governance; climate change; resilient health systems to combat diseases; the separation of powers and the case for financial autonomy; sustainable Parliaments and succession planning for parliamentary staff; engaging young people through youth Parliaments; gender equality in Pacific Parliaments; Parliament’s scrutiny role and tackling corruption; as well as national security and cybersecurity.

Delegates at the regional conference heard from a number of different international and regional organisations including the United NationsDevelopment Programme (UNDP) Pacific Region; thePacific Islands Forum; Climate Change Cook Islands; Cook Islands Health Department; Cook IslandsNational Youth Council; Cook Islands National AuditOffice; and the Cook Islands and Australian FederalPolice.