Report – By Rachel Reeves on Rarotonga
It seems that during last month’s Pacific Islands Forum, leaders from donor nations announced major multimillion dollar investments on a daily basis in an ostensible bid to outdo other donors.
The Forum has come and gone, and the question remains: how much of that aid will translate into real benefits for the little host nation? What tangible impact will the Forum have on the Cook Islands?
The Australian government pledged AU$320 million over 10 years to Pacific nations in the interest of achieving gender equality within the region.
The idea is to increase the proportion of women in leadership roles, improve economic opportunities for women, and improve access to justice for abused and victimised women.
The US earmarked US$25 million to enable low-lying islands to cope with climate change and the resultant rising sea levels.
Still, US carbon emissions continue to comprise a lion’s share of the global total. The Polynesian Leaders Group issued a statement after their meeting calling it “morally unconscionable” that wealthy nations continue to derive energy from dirty sources, as island nations are disproportionately burdened by the effect.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also announced US$3.5 million in new funding to properly and cautiously remove unexploded ordnance the US left behind after World War II.
New Zealand announced an investment of NZ$50 million over three years to support fisheries surveillance and management in the region.
Prime Minister John Key said the funding will go toward sharing of New Zealand’s intellectual property, strengthening the science that underpins management and policy decisions.
The US also indicated it intends to expand its shiprider programme, though Clinton did not name a specific cost or figure.
The Chinese, Cook Islands and New Zealand governments pooled resources to announce the biggest water project ever to be undertaken in Rarotonga. The project will involve the laying of reticulated water mains across the island, with a view to making potable water accessible for all households by 2015, and will cost NZ$60 million.
Australia committed AU$58 million over four years to improve data on weather, climate and sea levels to inform climate change conversation and strategy in Forum countries.
It also earmarked AU$85 million over four years to strengthen tertiary education institutions and infrastructure in the region. The investment covers 2000 new places in tertiary bridging programmes and 2300 new places in engineering, construction, maritime transport, education and health institutions.
Rachel Reeves is political reporter of the Cook Islands News.