Arorangi, Cook Islands - A two-day capacity building workshop designed for Members of the Cook Islands Parliament, provided the platform for open and robust discussions on the soon to be tabled Maritime Zones Bill and the Marine Resources Bill.
The purpose of the two Bills is to empower the Ministry of Marine Resources to implement a range of technical standards, marine management plans, regulations and operating procedures over its 1.8 million square kilometers of ocean.
The two Bills will be scrutinised by Members of Parliament (MPs) at the next sitting of Parliament which begins on Monday 12th February.
At the workshop, the MPs were addressed by the Crown Law Office and the Ministry of Marine Resources.
The event provided an opportunity for Members of Parliament to hear directly from the technical experts before the Bills are then debated.
“The workshop today has helped me have a clear understanding on the marine bills and now, not only will I be confident in giving my decision during parliament deliberations on the bill, but it has also given me confidence in my representation of the people and when they ask questions on this, I will be better informed with my answers,” said Honourable MP, Rose Brown.
The Government believes that the proposed Marine Resources Bill will fill a major gap in the current laws which were identified some years ago.
“These types of workshops where Bills are analysed and simplified for us MPs enables us to be confident and knowledgeable in the decisions we are asked to make when discussing them in Parliament,” said Opposition MP, Honourable Selina Napa.
“I have heard a number of things today which I didn’t know were linked or had repercussions on our marine environment and now with this information, I know that this will pave the way for robust parliamentary debate. I’m looking forward to the sitting next week when these two bills will be tabled in Parliament,” said Honourable Napa.
The UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Country Director and Head of Regional Programme and Policy, Bakhodir Burkhanov, highlighted the key role MPs play in the legislative process.
“Ensuring that MPs receive information and can then effectively scrutinize legislation in Parliament through informed debate is an important principle of good governance,” said Burkhanov.
He added, “This series of Bills workshops organised by the Cook Islands Parliament with the support of UNDP provides a forum for parliamentarians to gain knowledge on proposed legislation, seek clarifications or raise questions directly with officials before the Bills are debated in Parliament.”
The Bills workshop is part of a programme of support by the Pacific Parliamentary Effectiveness Initiative (PPEI) implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji with funding support from the Government of New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).
The PPEI is a three-year programme implemented in collaboration with the Parliaments of Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu, focusing on a number of areas including improving procedures and processes in Parliament and building the capacity of MPs and Secretariat staff.
Jone Tuiipelehaki Raqauqau, Communications Associate – Effective Governance, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji. E: email@example.com, P: (679) 3227 552, M: (679) 9936 744