Rarotonga, Cook Islands, 18 October 2023 - The Cook Islands participated in the 217th Session of the Executive Council of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) which took place from 4 – 18 October 2023, at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.
The Cook Islands was represented through Permanent Delegate and Cook Islands Ambassador to UNESCO since 2017, Her Excellency Dr Nathalie Rossette-Cazel, who was the only Pacific representation among the Executive Council’s 58 Member States.
The 217th Session, which was the fifth and last regular session of the Executive Board during the biennium, informed actions on more than 40 draft decisions on key topics including education in emergency, culture and climate change, geoparks, ocean science, field networks, and the creation of a UNESCO regional office doted with more expertise and an increased budget.
Ambassador Rossette-Cazel, who was elected as the Chair of the UNESCO Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) group, has collaborated very closely with the organisation to establish a SIDS operational strategy for the 39 SIDS countries from the Pacific, Caribbean, and Indian Ocean regions. The Executive Board endorsed the SIDS Strategy and the Accelerator programmes before their consideration by the UNESCO General Conference at its 42nd session to convene next November in Paris.
The proposed SIDS Accelerator programmes will positively impact the Pacific region in supporting priorities in the areas of ocean science and literacy, blue curriculum, culture and climate change, gender equality, protection of the artist, fresh water, education for all and higher-level education, geoparks and biosphere reserves to name a few.
The Executive Board is one of the three constitutional governance organs of UNESCO, with the others being the General Conference and the Secretariat and is elected by the General Conference. In November 2021, the Cook Islands was elected for a four-year term as a Member of the Executive Board and co-chair of the Financial and Administrative Commission.
Australia has just announced its candidature to the Executive Board which will be considered by the General Conference in November 2023. If elected, Australia would join the Cook Islands on the Board, and alongside the Cook Islands provide the Pacific greater visibility.
"Our sustained and proactive engagement with UNESCO shows that Small Islands Developing States can be heard and can influence key decision-making to support global initiatives that will promote our national development efforts and those of our Pacific region,” said Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Tepaeru Herrmann.
“Ambassador Rossette-Cazel continues to advocate for our interests in a fora of importance for the Cook Islands and the Pacific, and we look forward to exploring additional areas in which UNESCO can support our national and regional priorities.”