Cook Islands Elections: Political Reform?

The Cook Islands National Parliament Election results are now official:

Democratic Party (Demos): 11 seats
Cook Islands Party (CIP): 10 seats
Independents: 2 seats
One Cook Islands (OCI): 1 seat

Henry Puna remains Prime Minister as CIP formed coalition with independent candidates and OCI.

There is an ongoing debate in the Cook Islands about the electorates and how they represent population size and regional interests. The Cook Islands are divided into 24 electorates:

  • Rarotonga: 10 electorates with an elector population of about 8,000
  • Southern Cooks: 10 electorates with an elector population of about 2,000
  • Northern Cooks: 4 electorates with an elector population of less than 500

With the current system, power is regionally distributed rather than relative to population size. Critiques from political activists and some politicians stress that MPs from outer islands wield too much power compared to the small populations they represent. The Prime Minister, for example, was elected with only 97 votes in a constituency (Manihiki) with a total elector population of 132. On the other hand, the current system more equally distributes power among the 15 Cook Islands and allows for outer island interests to be adequately represented at national level.

A possible reform bridging both arguments would be to introduce a bicameral system. However, the question is whether such a system, common to larger democratic states such as Switzerland, suits the Cook Islands as a comparatively small island state.

The call for such political reform in the Cook Islands is not new. It seems rather unlikely that change is introduced, since a change in electorates is likely to reduce power of the majority of MPs currently in office.


Research Project: Natural Hazards, Disaster Risks and Coping in the Pacific Islands

Approach: A Case Study of Post-Disaster Management after Cyclone Pam (March 2015) is conducted in Vanuatu.

Goal: This research project looks into natural hazards in the Pacific Island region, concentrating on Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu. Cyclone Pam has been one of the worst natural hazards that ever hit the Pacific Island region. More than a quarter of the country’s population had to seek protection in emergency shelters and standing crops in the fields were destroyed to more than 95 percent. More than 166,000 people – which is more than 60 percent of the country’s population – were in need of food distribution.

Fieldwork: This is a collaborative research project by the University of the South Pacific. In June 2018, I  conducted research in several villages on Tanna Island. My part of the research focusses on two main researach questions:

1) What are Tannese peoples’ most urgent needs three years after cyclone Pam?

2) What role does traditional housing play in disaster risk reduction?

Tanna Island (Vanuatu), June 2018 (photo taken by Kim Andreas Kessler)

In January 2018, Dr Frank Thomas and Dr Manoranjan Mohanty went for research to Vanuatu to investigate generally into knowledge and practice regarding to disaster risk reduction (Dr Thomas) and the policy environment (Dr Mohanty). In 2017, Dr Eberhard Weber conducted fieldwork on traditional cyclone shelters.

Cook Islands Elections

On 14 June 2018, general elections were held in the Cook Islands. These are the results after preliminary counting:

Democratic Party (Demos): 11 seats
Cook Islands Party (CIP): 10 seats
Independents: 2 seats
One Cook Islands (OCI): 1 seat

It is expected that the Electoral Office releases the final result on 28 June 2018.

If results are confirmed and the Demos, OCI and independent candidates form a coalition, the Democratic Party will lead the Cook Islands Government for the first time since 2010.

Conference on Sustainable Alternatives for Poverty Reduction and Ecological Justice


The recent Tropical Cyclone Keni reminds us that many people in the Pacific Islands and elsewhere are exposed to natural hazards and environmental change that have the potential to severely impact their lives, livelihoods and well-being.

In an era when climate change has become a major threat to the survival of people not only here in the Pacific Island region but globally, reflection and discussion of what to do to prevent these threats from worsening are urgent. The task becomes even bigger when one realizes that even without the threats environmental and climate change many people already face great challenges to live a life with dignity.

The Conference will seek to engage multi-disciplinary and ecumenical dialogues on key social, economic and ecological concerns from a variety of perspectives. Among others, the goal of the Conference is to build a permanent partnership and long life learning process to promote economic, social and ecological justice.

We are interested in multi-disciplinary exchanges and insights with a focus on religious-based and scientific approaches to sustainability problems and injustice. We expect that the Conference will be a blend of learning and discussion.

Date: 26 – 29 June 2018

Location: Marine Campus, The University of the South Pacific

Contact Person: Dr. Eberhard Weber



For this Conference, we accept abstracts from junior and senior researchers from the Pacific Island region, who wish to reflect on their research from an ethical perspective. Participants are invited to submit proposals for consideration on the following fields (and beyond):

  • Ecological Crisis, Climate Change, and Eco-justice
  • Economical Ethics and Eco-Theology
  • Sustainability, Religion and Ethics
  • Responsible Production, Distribution and Consumption Patterns
  • Ethics, Food and Biodiversity
  • Poverty, Climate Change, and Eco-justice
  • Urban Poverty, Health and Eco-justice

Please send abstracts (max. 200 words) to Dr. Eberhard Weber.

For more information, click here.

Global Freedom Index in the Pacific – 2018

Freedom House published its report ‚Freedom in the World 2018: Status by Population and Country’. In the Pacific Island region, the report triggers some controversies why Vanuatu and Solomon Islands are ranked higher (more political freedom) than Fiji.

Taking a closer look at the questionnaire used for this report suggests that the questions applied emphasise on political freedom and neglect to rate polity effectiveness. Ineffective institutions can lead to more political freedom, regardless of the policies these institutions aim to implement. This can explain at least partially the different rating of the countries above.


OECD: Cook Islands to graduate to developed country?

In 2017, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) notified the Cook Islands that they would be classified as a developed country and no longer appear on the DAC list for Official Development Assistance (ODA).

The Cook Islands Goverment negotiated to postpone the final decision in order to provide more accurate data on GNI until end of 2018.

OECD is planning to take the final decision in the first quarter of 2019.

50 Years USP

The University of the South Pacific opened its doors in 1968.

This year we celebrate USP’s 50th anniversary and its unique contributions to the development of the Pacific Island region and beyond.

Categories USP

Coming Up: PIURN Conference in Samoa

This is the 2nd Pacific Islands University Research Network Conference in Apia, Samoa.

Conference Theme: “Addressing the Challenges of Sustainability in the Pacific Islands”

Conference Aims:

  1. To bring together scholars from the Pacific region to collectively address the changes in the Pacific region.
  2. To enable graduate students to develop knowledge and connections with other scholars and to share research data and methodologies.
  3. To raise awareness about the work and existence of PIURN and enhance its profile and visibility as a potential regional research “think tank” organisation for technical and professional advice on (specific) research areas concerning the Pacific