Dr. Robert Woonton
The Honourable Prime Minister of the Cook Islands

at the 
World Summit on Sustainable Development 

Johannesburg, South Africa
4 September 2002

Mr Chairman, 
Your Excellencies,
Honourable Leaders and Ministers,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Kia Orana and warm greetings.

I am honoured to deliver this statement on behalf of the Government and people of the Cook Islands. At the outset, may I join with others in congratulating you, Mr Chairman, on your outstanding leadership in preparing for and during this historic Summit.

I would also like to congratulate President Mbeki, and the South African people for the excellent preparations for this Summit and to thank them for the generous hospitality extended to us.

Ten years after the Rio Earth Summit, it is clear that we have not achieved the goals set out under Agenda 21. Towards that end, my Government stands ready to join in adopting the WSSD Plan of Action and Political Declaration.

In doing so, we wish to associate ourselves with the statements made on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum by the Honourable Prime Minister of Fiji and to support the Nadi Declaration issued by the Heads of State and Government at the Third Summit of African, Caribbean and Pacific States last July.

Mr Chairman.

Our vision is one of achieving genuine sustainable development that will improve the quality of life not only for the people of the Cook Islands but also for all the people of our planet earth.

The Cook Islands shares a common identity with other small island developing States (SIDS), especially those in its own Pacific region.
We have a responsibility for the good stewardship of the ocean in which we live. That Ocean is a focal point in the lives of all Pacific Island peoples.

The Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Policy adopted by Forum Leaders only a few weeks ago observes, "The Ocean unites Pacific Island communities more than anything else. it has supported generations of Pacific Island communities - not only as a medium for transport but also as a source of food, tradition and culture."

We ask of those who continue to threaten our Pacific Ocean by transporting radioactive materials across the Pacific against our wishes and those who continue to exploit our rich marine resources to heed our concerns, as we are dependent on our ocean for our livelihood. We join with our neighbouring Pacific Island leaders in our plea to keep our home safe, for our children and the world.

As a small token to our planet and the people of the world, the Cook Islands has declared its 2 million square kilometres of ocean as a whale sanctuary and designated one of its 15 islands as a World Park for the conservation of wild bird life.

The Cook Islands is pleased, that (Chapter 7) on SIDS and Chapter 4 on Oceans capture significant elements of our identity and articulates many of the urgent actions needed to support international and national efforts that will promote the sustainable development of the Cook Islands and SIDS.

Those efforts will be revisited in the review of the Barbados Programme of Action in 2004. We support agreement in the draft Action Plan for holding a global conference as part of that review process.

Mr Chairman.

Many chapters of the draft WSSD Action Plan are important to the Cook Islands' efforts to reduce its vulnerability and to realize sustainable development, including promotion of its private sector as the engine of economic growth. In the latter regard, we face a wide range of trade and investment constraints that must be addressed if we are to integrate fully in a rapidly globalising economy.

Our sustainable development depends heavily on capacity-building, improved trade facilitation measures and fair access to markets, which are not distorted by subsidies, and other measures.

Accordingly, we urge this Summit to support activities currently being undertaken in the Small Economies Work Programme of the World Trade Organization. We call upon the European Union to provide additional assistance for capacity building and other trade-related areas in the context of the forthcoming negotiations with ACP States on economic partnership agreements.

Mr Chairman.

The Cook Islands is acutely aware of the limits to the carrying capacity of the ecosystems and physical resources of both land and sea. In this regard, we support inclusion in the draft Action Plan of references to biodiversity protection, intellectual property, sustainable tourism, agriculture and fisheries. We support the draft Action Plan's proposals on poverty, health, energy, water, sanitation and waste management. Waste management is a critical problem for the sustainable development of tourism, our leading economic sector.

We look forward to the development through the WSSD process of a portfolio of Type II Pacific Initiatives assisted by voluntary Partnerships that will generate significant benefits for the people of the Cook Islands and other SIDS in our region. We seek these partnerships in their fullest sense, with genuine commitments to what is best for all of us. We urge the adoption of concrete timetables, targets and decisive action plans.

Governance is an often mentioned word in our discussions on sustainable development and my government believes that it is a prerequisite for sustainable development and should be practised at all levels.

We believe that development should be inclusive, participatory and transparent.

Mr Chairman.

The security of our Pacific Region and my country continues to be threatened by climate change and sea level rise. For that reason, the Cook Islands calls on a// major emitters of greenhouse gases to take immediate action to reduce their emissions. We call on all States to become party to the Kyoto Protocol.

In conclusion, Mr Chairman, it is imperative that the international community gives its complete and committed support to the Action Plan and Declaration emanating from this Summit.

At the opening of this submit the children of the World demanded a safe and secure future. Let us not fail them and this small planet that we all share.

Thank you, Meitaki Maata and God bless us all.