Rarotonga, Cook Islands, 16 November 2023 - The Honourable Tingika Elikana, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) has led the Cook Islands delegation to the 7th Asia and Pacific Population Conference.
The conference, which convenes once a decade, is organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Asia and the Pacific, and is being held at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok from 15 to 17 November 2023.
The three-day conference brings together Leaders, Ministers and Representatives from Asia and the Pacific Islands region to share experiences and policy approaches relating to population and development in their own national and regional contexts.
The Asia and Pacific regions are home to sixty percent of the world’s population, and what happens in the region matters at the global level. There have been notable developments in population trends within the Asia and Pacific regions, and within individual countries within each region. These include movements from high to low fertility and mortality levels and increased longevity and migration levels, resulting in older, more urban populations. Within these broad trends, population dynamics differ across sub-regions and countries.
During the conference, Assistant Minister Elikana strongly advocated for the Cook Islands and the Pacific region, delivering national and regional statements throughout the three-day meeting.
Assistant Minister Elikana observed that "it is important to note that Pacific Island Countries have made significant progress in implementing the ICPD program of action, and the 2013 Asia Pacific Ministerial Declaration. Of course, progress varies between countries, but it is encouraging to see how many of us have integrated and aligned population dynamics within our national sustainable development strategies and policies."
The 7th Asia and Pacific Population Conference was also an opportunity to present the Cook Islands Population Policy which highlighted demographic transition, with the Cook Islands focus not on lowering births and deaths but on more nuanced aspects of age structure together with emigration and inter-island immigration and outflow.
The latest 2021 Census for the Cook Islands shows that over the 2011 - 2021 period, the resident population overall increased despite certain islands in the Pa Enua (Outer Islands) experiencing de-population over that period. Challenges that persist require deeper appreciation of migrants, persons living with disabilities, gender and women's empowerment, non-communicable diseases, and enabling factors for the well-being of our families. Ultimately, the Cook Islands Population Policy strives to support a thriving healthy population.
Assistant Minister Elikana was supported in his participation by MFAI Director for the Treaties, Multilaterals and Oceans Division, Sandrina Thondoo, and Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Director for Central and Policy Planning, Valery Wichman.
The delegation also met with the United Nations Assistant Secretary General Ms Diene Keita as part of the conference pre-briefings. The participation of the Cook Islands delegation was supported by the UNFPA in Asia and the Pacific.