And it also hopes to see some take part in the elections as candidates for the respective political parties.
That’s according to the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mona Ioane, who says young peoples’ participation in politics has been a relatively new development in the Cook Islands.
However, the role played by young political party members has been significant during election campaigns in recent years, he says.
Speaking at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference in Sydney late last month, Ioane said the involvement of young people in the political arena was good training for those who wanted to become future political leaders.
The participation of young people in politics was also encouraged in the “Te Kaveinga Nui” National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP) 2016 – 2020.
“This looks at the relative wellbeing of young people in our society. The youth are future leaders of our country. We want to create a nurturing and enabling environment that provides opportunity and hope.”
However, the Cook Islands working environment particularly the government sector suffered from elements of favouritism and victimisation, Ioane said.
“For example, once young people identify themselves as supporters of a particular political party, it is logical for the government to employ them in prominent positions, to ensure that policies are carried out.
“If the opposition party becomes government, they will do exactly the same. It is a trend that is common not only in the Cook Islands but throughout the smaller island states
“It may not be the case in big jurisdictions such as Australia and New Zealand, but it is obvious in smaller jurisdictions such as the Cook Islands, Niue, Tuvalu and others.”
Over the years, attention in the Cook Islands had focused on young people as voters, Ioane said.
However, more were now needed to take up positions within political parties.
Albert Henry, the first premier of the Cook Islands who was also the leader of the Cook Islands Party (CIP), had initially established “the Junior CIP”, he added.
This was a group of young people established to be groomed as “next tier” politicians who would eventually take over from older ones.
“The presence of young people in elected positions is very important because they need to be part of the decision-making process.”
Ioane said the Cook Islands parliament had already conducted four youth parliament sittings as part of a programme introduced by the Clerk of Parliament John Tangi when he was Leader of House.
“As a result, young people’s interest in politics has increased significantly. For example, in June this year 2017, the Parliament established a Crimes Bill 2017 Select Committee to receive and hear submissions from the general public.
“The first group that appeared before the select committee was the Tiare Association Inc, comprising young people aged from 20-30.”