Author Howard Henry with a copy of his book ‘Christianity created a Nation’. 21082021
The United States’ intention to establish diplomatic ties and recognise the Cook Islands
as a sovereign state will open doors to United Nations membership, writes Rarotonga
writer and historian Howard Henry.
President Joe Biden
recently announced that the United States of America will, in the near future,
establish full diplomatic relations with the Cook Islands.
doing so, the United States will therefore recognise the Cook Islands as a
sovereign nation as being a country fully capable of charting its own destiny
and therefore whatever pathways, it may take in the future regarding Cook
Biden’s announcement is indeed very good news for the people of the Cook
United Nations organisation was established following a major conference in San
Francisco at the end of 1945.
of the original signatories did not have their own citizenship at the time they
first joined this organisation.
citizenship was not established until 1946.
citizenship was created in 1947, and New Zealand citizenship came about through
the British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act 1948. It was through
this Act that the people of the Cook Islands gained New Zealand citizenship.
criteria for United Nations membership is outlined in Article 4 of the UN
Charter and can be divided into four key elements as follows:
country applying for UN membership must meet the requirements of statehood as
defined under “customary international law” as having:
government of some kind and
have the capacity to conduct foreign relations with other countries.
country must be a “peace-loving” country … with a track record to prove it.
country applying for membership must declare that it accepts all the
obligations contained in the UN Charter by:
a) consenting to be bound by the UN Charter, a legally
binding international treaty; and
b) attach a formal declaration as
such to its UN membership application.
country concerned must be willing and able to carry out all the UN Charter
is no mention in any part of the United Nations Charter that a country has to
have its own citizenship status in order to qualify to become a full member of
the United Nations.
apply for UN membership is not a complicated process.
is actually quite simple and straight forward.
procedure to apply for UN Membership is as follows:
country concerned will submit a “letter of application” to the
Secretary-General requesting membership along with a statement confirming that
country’s acceptance to all the obligations of the United Nations Charter.
application is then passed across to the Security Council for its
be successful, this application must receive the support of at least nine of
the 15 members of the Security Council.
that has happened, the Security Council will then send a recommendation across
to the UN General Assembly for its consideration. A two-thirds majority is
needed for that country to then be admitted as a member of the United Nations.
becomes effective the date the formal UN resolution for admission is adopted.
However, as the situation
currently stands, there is one significant “stumbling block” that will prevent
the Cook Islands from becoming a member of the United Nations.
that is the UN Security Council.
Council has 15 members. There are five permanent members being China, France,
Russia, United Kingdom and the United States. The other 10 non-permanent
members are countries elected for two-year terms by the UN General Assembly.
of the current non-permanent countries of the Security Council have diplomatic
relations with the Cook Islands. These being Brazil, Iceland, India, Norway and
United Arab Emirates.
the Cook Islands to be successful in its application to join the United
Nations, that application must receive the support of all five permanent
members of the Security Council.
would take only one of the five permanent members to exercise a “veto option” for
the Cook Islands membership application to be declined. Should that happen, then
the Cook Islands application to join the United Nations would not proceed any
Cook Islands established diplomatic relations with China in 1997. So the
Chinese Government will not “veto” any Cook Islands application going before
the UN Security Council.
Cook Islands established diplomatic relations with France in 2000. So the
French Government will not “veto” any Cook Islands application going before the
UN Security Council.
the Cook Islands establishes diplomatic relations with the United States, then
the United States will not “veto” any Cook Islands application going before the
UN Security Council.
with “five doors” needed to be open on the UN Security Council before the Cook
Islands can hope to become a member of the United Nations, three of those doors
being China, France and the United States will soon all be open.
will leave only two countries who would have the ability to “veto”, or stop,
any Cook Islands application to join the United Nations. And those two counties
for the Cook Islands to have any hope of joining the United Nations, we must
first establish diplomatic relations with both the United Kingdom and Russia.
diplomatic relations with both those countries, one or both of them could very
well exercise a “veto option” in the UN Security Council. And so the Cook
Islands application to join the United Nations will not proceed any further.
appears that the Cook Islands has diplomatic relations with 57 other countries
who are members of the United Nations.
are two other significant points that need to be made here.
Cook Islands is not a full member of the British Commonwealth. Associate member
yes. Full member no. Niue and Tokelau are also not full members of the British Commonwealth
either. A check on any of the British Commonwealth Membership websites will
confirm this to be the case.
To become a full member of the British Commonwealth,
both the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Cook Islands must first establish
diplomatic relations along the same lines as to what President Biden said the
United States and the Cook Islands were about to do.
the New Zealand Government stop, hinder or block any future attempt by the Cook
Islands from joining the United Nations?
answer to that is no.
New Zealand Government has no legal mandate on constitutional authority to
hinder any attempt by the Cook Islands to join the United Nations should that
be the desired wish of the Government and the people of the Cook Islands.
mentioned recently by the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia
Mahuta, “the bond between the Cook Islands and Aotearoa New Zealand will never
is a bond/relationship that was originally started by the indigenous people of
both countries that goes back more than 800 years.
more recent times, this bond/relationship has only got stronger based on shared
ideas, values and mutual interests regarding the people of both New Zealand and
the Cook Islands.
the Cook Islands were to join the United Nations, would that weaken this bond/relationship
the Cook Islands has with New Zealand?
would actually strengthen that bond/relationship between the two countries.
This is because the Cook Islands would then be looked upon as having emerged as
a sovereign state in its own right and so will be internationally recognised in
the Cook Islands were to join the United Nations, would that result in any
changes to Cook Islanders holding New Zealand citizenship?
A country having its own citizenship is not a pre-requisite to United Nations
there would be no need to amend or change any aspect of the Cook Islands/New
Zealand citizenship situation.
the Cook Islands were to join the United Nations, would that result in any
changes to the current political, economic and social relationship that
currently exists between New Zealand and the Cook Islands?
All matters in connection to the Cook Islands/New Zealand relationship can
continue to develop, mature and evolve in accordance to the desired wishes of
the Governments and people of both New Zealand and the Cook Islands.
As mentioned previously, in
order for the Cook Islands to obtain full membership of the United Nations, “five
doors” on the UN Security Council need to be open.
the Cook Islands having diplomatic relations with China and France, then two of
these doors are already open.
Biden announced that the United States are about to establish full diplomatic
relations with the Cook Islands, means that a “third door” to membership of the
United Nations is about to open.
leaves only the United Kingdom and Russia as the remaining two permanent
members of the Security Council who have the potential to “veto” the Cook
Islands from becoming a full member of the United Nations.
and when these two countries establish diplomatic relations with the Cook Islands,
then the “fourth and fifth door” to United Nations membership will then be
so the Cook Islands can then move forward and submit an application to join the
United Nations. And so with the support of the five permanent members of the
Security Council, that membership application will be successful.
the future support of the United Kingdom and Russia, by way establishing
diplomatic relations with the Cook Islands, any hope the Cook Islands may have
of joining the United Nations would probably come to nothing.
diplomacy has a way of changing, evolving and moving in different directions
over a period of time.
is true, “the Lord does move in mysterious ways” – sometimes!
in due course, both the Governments of the United Kingdom and Russia will one
day look to establish diplomatic relations with the Cook Islands.
knows how long it will take for this to happen, but it will happen.
is not a question of “if” Cook Islands will gain UN membership. It is simply a
question of … when?
Howard Henry is the eldest grandson
of the late Albert Henry, the first premier of the Cook Islands. Howard has authored a number of books
including “Christianity created a Nation” – a book of many stories concerning a
whole series of events following the arrival of the Gospel to Aitutaki on 26