The National Environment Service (NES) is pleased to announce the signing and approval of the GEF7 Project between the Cook Islands Government (NES as the Implementing Partner) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The project funding is for US$3.5 million which will run until April 2029.
The project is to enhance biodiversity considerations and effective protected area management to safeguard the Cook Islands integrated ecosystems and species. The project aims to reduce and mitigate negative environmental impacts of the key development sectors (agriculture, infrastructure and tourism), which are the main drivers of biodiversity and habitat degradation. This will be achieved through mainstreaming integrated, sustainable management of land and coastal waters across NES, Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI), Cook Islands Tourism Corporation (CIT) and the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA).
The GEF7 project strategy also includes improving management effectiveness of target protected areas, expansion of the protected area system through the establishment of a 118-ha community conserved area safeguarding globally significant biodiversity within the cloud forests of Rarotonga.
The three main components of the project fund include:
· Component 1# (US$1.9M) – Mainstreaming safeguards to conserve biodiversity and maintain ecosystem services across key development sectors
· Component #2 (US$1.1M) – Improving the management framework to effectively conserve a national protected area system representative of Cook Islands biodiversity
· Component #3 (US$0.5M) – Raising awareness, managing knowledge, mainstreaming gender and monitoring, evaluation and disseminating project results
In early May 2023, NES conducted the GEF7 Inception Workshop to key stakeholders including the Aronga Mana, Heads of Ministries and government agencies, NGO representatives, Pa Enua and online participants that included UNDP. The GEF7 Inception Workshop covered the planning phase, stakeholder consultations, project implementation and outcomes. It is critical that key stakeholders deliberate on the expected project outcomes before implementation. The GEF 7 project has been on a long journey of development. From the GEF 7 National Dialogue in January 2020 to the validation workshop in February 2022, the signing of the agreement in 2023 has been a milestone.
Halatoa Fua, NES Director stated ‘it’s been a long journey to get to where we are today, and I’d like to acknowledge all those that have been involved in this process, who have contributed ideas, shared knowledge and experiences, provided guidance and support to our efforts. From the NES team, we extend our sincere thanks and gratitude to you all for these invaluable contributions that bring us to this point.’