Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
November 10, 2023
At the top, let me just start by thanking Prime Minister Brown and the people of Cook Islands for hosting us this week, and also to Secretary General Puna and the PIF Secretariat for their leadership.
I am really honored to be the first U.S. Cabinet Official to visit Rarotonga since we established diplomatic relations with the Cook Islands this past September when President Biden hosted the second U.S.-Pacific Islands Summit.
The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to the U.S.-Pacific partnership and to investing in the region, because the United States is a Pacific nation. I think that is something important for us to state and to be recognized. And because we are bound together by our history and robust people-to-people ties.
During my time here in the Cook Islands, I had three main goals:
First, to deepen our diplomatic, development, and security cooperation with our Pacific Island partners. And over the past few days, I met with leaders from across the region. It has been an opportunity to affirm our commitment to the Pacific Islands and, more importantly, to listen, to better understand how the United States can continue to support the region’s priorities outlined in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
During my time here, I also had the chance to visit the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs and then to engage with young leaders, which is one of my favorite things to do whenever I travel anywhere in the world. I sat down with alumni of the Young Pacific Leaders program and other U.S. exchange programs. These changemakers give me so much hope, and the United States is committed to supporting the region’s youth.
In that vein, I was proud to announce our intent to work with Congress to provide $500,000 to support the Pacific Leadership Initiative and to work with the region to empower the next generation of leaders, in a way that’s grounded in Pacific principles.
Second, this week, I reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including international efforts to tackle the climate crisis – a crisis that has had a disproportionate impact on Pacific Island nations. We must take on this existential threat with a concerted, global response. And regional and multilateral fora, such as PIF, have a central role to play in this work.
And so, my third objective during this trip was to underscore the importance of our partnerships in the multilateral system. The United States is committed to working with Pacific Island nations at the United Nations and beyond to bolster respect for the UN Charter and promote global governance reforms.
It all comes down to just this: We are better positioned to advance the SDGs and to strengthen regional security when we work together. And when I get back to New York, I look forward to continuing to build upon the progress we made this week.