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Kia Orana. I bring greetings on behalf of the Government and people of the Cook Islands. We have prepared a formal paper on the Cook Islands situation regarding matters before this Special Session of the General Assembly that has been given to the Secretariat for circulation. Given time constraints, however, I would like to speak very briefly to the paper.

Like many other countries attending this Session, women in the Cook Islands traditionally played a role focussing on child-raising and domestic duties. Gradually; however, it came to be recognised that women were capable as well of making a broader contribution to the development of the country.

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They also had a right to do so. In fact since the approval of the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategy in and the Beijing Platform of Action "BPA" in in particular, the status of women in the Cook Islands in all of the critical areas identified by the Strategy and Platform of Action has improved considerably.

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That Policy clearly recognised. Their involvement in community and national development is most important. They must never be just passive observers. It is. In these few minutes, I would like to concentrate on four areas in which progress has been noteworthy. Women have played a leading role in the protection of our fragile and vulnerable ecosystem. Their push for the use of traditional marine conservation reserves known as the "raui" to contribute towards an increase in the s of fish and shellfish available for present and future generations. These conservation reserves are not legislated for but are community based and managed on the basis of trust and responsibility.

Progress has been made with regard to the establishment of mechanisms of collaboration between Government and NGO's.

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Government agencies have come to recognise that this is not a domestic problem that should be swept under the carpet to be sorted out between individual parties. Rather, it is a community problem. With the assistance of donor governments, training of the judiciary, probation, health and police officials in appropriate ways to deal with this problem has been possible.

The provision of victim support and assistance is also now readily available. Government is currently reviewing legislation related to sexual crimes. We have recently seen the election for the first time of two women to our twenty-five Member Parliament and nine women to local government.

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Since strict economic reforms were made instatistics collected indicate that exactly 50 percent of small businesses started up with Government assistance were by women. For the period from January-December total funds accessed by small businesses owned by women amounted to In trying to highlight the positive areas, we are ever mindful that much work still needs to be done in these and other areas, which include:. Progress in the implementation of the BPA has been made possible by a close working partnership between Government and civil society, in particular NGOs. I would also like to lend our support to issues of concern to the Pacific Island countries, namely, the cessation of nuclear testing, and the banning of hazardous wastes from our region.

Call for renewed commitment from everyone here - the international and regional organizations, governments and NGOs, to continue to work towards achieving gender equality, development and peace for the 21st century. The Cook Islands Government looks forward to working closely with other members of the international community during and following this Special Session. The Cook Islands exercised its act of self-determination in through a process overseen and endorsed by the United Nations.

The Cook Islands has since tried extremely hard, and continues to do so, to improve the economic, political, and social development of our country and has made some ificant progress. An important part of Government's overall development efforts has been aimed at improving the status and situation o-f Cook Islands women which will ultimately benefit every individual in our very small island nation.

The Cook Islands domestic strategy regarding women has guided by the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategy, which was adopted by the international community in Wherever possible, Government with civil society has facilitated and coordinated these national efforts in order to meet those aims. Gender equity in the Cook Islands is beginning to be manifested in all areas of community life, both at local and national levels.

Government has given priority to ensuring that the status and situation of women, inclusive of girls and women with a form of disability, will continue to be mainstreamed in national development strategies. Government adopted its first "National Policy on Women" in This Policy includes a local "Plan of Action" for each of our nine outer island communities. This situation remains the same; no other report has noted any decline in these figures. Government is attempting to ensure implementation of these conventions within the framework of the country's national legal system.

Some of the measures being implemented are:. In due course it is hoped that all forms of discrimination, especially the evil of violence will be eliminated from the lives of women, children, and just as importantly, women with a disability. Story was later appointed the first Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, serving in this post for fourteen years.

The changes at the national level are also being reflected at the local Government level. Government has ensured the inclusion of traditional leaders in the decision-snaking processes of the country by establishing a House of Ariki - a council of all paramount Chiefs - a permanent mechanism by which traditional leaders may give advice to Government on Cook Islands women looking relating to local custom and tradition. Some religious denominations have yet to demonstrate gender equity.

Government has established a process that enables NGO's to assist coordinate, facilitate, monitor and evaluate all development programmes related to women. Together with the Government Division for Women's Affairs they collaborate on a wide range of development efforts for our women. In collaboration with Government, several NGOs are actively undertaking the promotion of women's rights in the Cook Islands. This includes:. Several outstanding achievements have been made on environmental matters initiated or strongly promoted by women. These include:.

This concept has also been extended to encourage sustainable use of natural parks, bird and plant life. The Cook Islands supports the stand taken by other Pacific Island countries in their efforts to ban all hazardous wastes from the Pacific region.

The South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone treaty, commonly known as the Treaty of Rarotonga, was adopted in the Cook Islands inan important step in the global process of eliminating nuclear testing from the face of the earth. The Cook Islands is also a atory to Cook Islands women looking Comprehensive NuclearTest-Ban treaty and currently hosts two monitoring stations for verification purposes. The Cook Islands Government and people continue to call on those responsible to cease the transportation and the dumping of their nuclear and hazardous wastes in the Pacific Islands region.

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It is time for women to play a more direct, central role in decision making in all countries, promoting the more effective use of resources and energy towards developmental programmes which will bring about peace and equality amongst all nations and peoples. Call for renewed commitment from everyone here - the international and regional organizations, governments and NGOs, to continue to work towards achieving the goals of BPA and to reach gender equality.

In conclusion, the Cool: Islands Government looks forward to working closely with other members of the international community, both in the United Nations and elsewhere following this Session.

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