Rarotonga, Cook Islands, 6 September 2023 - Cook Islands High Commissioner to Fiji, His Excellency Jim Armistead, last week on 29 August delivered remarks to attendees at a Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) hosted high-level event commemorating the United Nations (UN) International Day against Nuclear Tests.
Delivering remarks on behalf of Pacific Islands Forum Chair, Cook Island Prime Minister, the Honourable Mark Brown, High Commissioner Armistead spoke to the powerful message of “Honouring the Past, empowering the Future,” saying that the month of August represents the anniversary of the “South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty” more commonly known as the “Rarotonga Treaty,” which is the Pacific’s only existing international law to deliver a safe and peaceful environment, free from the risks associated with nuclear weapons.
High Commissioner Armistead also reflected on the wisdom of Pacific Leaders that brought the Rarotonga Treaty into existence in 1985, and thanked those in attendance who shared their stories of resilience, reminding others of the horrors of nuclear testing and the madness that underpins nuclear weapons.
“When asked to deliver some remarks this afternoon on the Rarotonga Treaty, I went back through the Leaders’ Forum Communiques for context. So the following history lesson of the Treaty draws directly from the Communique language relating to nuclear testing,” said High Commissioner Armistead.
“The Forum Communique of 1986 stated that the “Forum agreed that the deeply-felt concerns and aspirations of all its members in regard to the acquisition, stationing and testing of nuclear weapons and the dumping at sea of nuclear waste were addressed in the Treaty of Rarotonga”… Fast forward to 2023, (and) the region continues to grapple with nuclear issues in the Pacific.”
High Commissioner Armistead also spoke to the critical role of the Rarotonga Treaty, as proposed by Prime Minister Brown, as a Pacific Partnership for Prosperity (PPfP) consideration by Pacific Leaders when they meet in the Cook Islands in November, for this year’s Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting (PIFLM52).
High Commissioner Armistead shared that re-energising the Rarotonga Treaty is especially significant, given the timing and context of new challenges for the Pacific region.
"It represents renewed commitment to advance the mechanisms of the Treaty to ensure its full operation, effect, and compliance," said High Commissioner Armistead. "The Rarotonga Treaty is 38 years old, and we want to ensure that the Treaty remains relevant, fit for purpose, and secures the nuclear-free status of our Blue Pacific for generations to come."
"From the Cook Islands perspective, the Rarotonga Treaty remains a cornerstone of our approach to a nuclear-free zone and the obligation under the Treaty "to make every effort to achieve the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons, the terror which they hold for humankind and the threat which they pose to life on Earth."
"Leaders of the Pacific have left us a legacy in the Rarotonga Treaty, which has united the region in our response to nuclear testing. We have an obligation to uphold the provisions of the Treaty, which can serve to inspire us as we navigate the challenges ahead and ensure a nuclear free legacy for generations to come."
Read Cook Islands High Commissioner to Fiji, His Excellency Jim Armistead’s remarks here: mfai.gov.ck/sites/default/files/2023-08/Remarks.pdf