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Cook Islands secures $20m grant to build climate-resilient nation

Thursday 7 March 2024 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Environment, Health, National, Outer Islands


Cook Islands secures $20m grant to build climate-resilient nation
Ministry of Finance and Economic Management’s Development Coordination Division director Mani Mate, centre, with Mafalda Duarte, the executive director of the Green Climate Fund, and Tessa Vaetoru, DCD’s development programme manager, following the signing of the grant. SUPPLIED/24030630

A project aiming to build a healthy and resilient nation in the context of climate change and set to benefit more than 15,000 Cook Islanders, will start to be implemented in the coming months, thanks to an estimated US 12.5 million (NZ$20.3m) Green Climate Fund (GCF) grant.

Prime Minister Mark Brown, who has been a strong advocate for the project, says this is a truly significant milestone, a momentous occasion for the nation and one that has been many years in the making.

According to a statement, the idea was first mooted by the GCF NDA (National Designated Authority), Wayne King to former Health Minister, the late Nandi Glassie, and Health Secretary Elizabeth Iro in 2017.

More recently Health Secretary Bob Williams, with the support of the Minister of Health Vainetutai Rose Toki Brown has progressed the proposal, with a number of Government agencies providing invaluable support, the statement added.

The 38th meeting of the Board of the Green Climate Fund which concluded in Kigali, Rwanda this morning, approved the nation’s first ever direct grant proposal.

In attendance at that meeting was Mani Mate, director Development Coordination Division (DCD) of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM), Tessa Vaetoru, DCD’s development programme manager, Secretary of Health Williams and Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC) chief executive Allan Jensen.

Many years of planning and scoping resulted in a funding proposal being put forward to implement the project/programme “Akamatutu’anga To Tatou Ora’anga Meitaki (ATOM) - Building a healthy and resilient Cook Islands community, one block at a time”, the statement said.

Williams said the nationally significant project falls under Prime Minister Mark Brown’s advocacy to the GCF and other funding partners to make meaningful contributions towards financing the Cook Islands’ climate resilience.

The project is structured to establish an enabling environment for health in the climate change context in the country, develop tailored interventions to address climate-sensitive health risks (CSHRs), and operationalise community-based climate/health adaptation measures, Williams added.

“An estimated 30 communities and 22 health facilities and emergency centres in 11 highly vulnerable outer island sites will be supported through the programme to improve the resilience of health services,” said PM Brown.

“Activities will directly benefit an estimated 15,040 people, of whom 7648 are expected to be women. CSHRs will be incorporated into an enhanced health information system, indirectly benefiting the country’s entire population.

“Climate finance will continue to play a big part in helping us build resilience in the face of climate change impacts. Infrastructure costs for small population countries like us mean we pay a disproportionately higher cost for resilience that larger countries, so every dollar we can get is significant.

“A number of public servants and consultants have worked on this project and to them the nation says meitaki maata.”

The project will consist of three core components:

Component 1: Strengthening the capacity and capabilities of Te Marae Ora, partners, and stakeholders to integrate climate change considerations in their health operations.

Component 2: Building institutional capabilities to respond to climate change and health issues and effectively deliver health services to the population of the Cook Islands.

Component 3: Resilience building measures to reduce health impacts from climate change in communities.

The project’s accredited entity is the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management and the project’s executing entities are Te Marae Ora - Cook Islands Ministry of Health and Cook Islands Investment Corporation.

A large team contributed to this proposal being accepted including the Climate Change Office at the Office of the Prime Minister, the national designated authority to the GCF which has also been active throughout the process, the statement said.

Following the approval of the grant from the GCF Board, the formal grant documentation was signed on behalf of the Cook Islands Government by Mate, as the accredited entity representative.

A separate funding subsidiary agreement was also signed between MFEM and CIIC. This will enable the funds to move from the accredited entity and Executing Entities – TMO and CIIC for this project. The formal disbursement documentation was also promptly completed in Kigali, with the first milestone disbursement expected to occur in the coming weeks, and project implementation starting shortly thereafter.