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Cook Islands

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Australia’s partnership with Cook Islands

How we are helping

On 1 January 2020, Cook Islands graduated from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's List of Official Development Assistance Recipients

2019-20 total Australian ODA estimated outcome
$3.7 million
2019-20 bilateral budget estimate outcome
$1.9 million

Post-graduation program

Australia has allocated $2 million per year from 2020-21 to 2023-24 in non-Official Development Assistance (ODA) funds to support Cook Islands after its graduation from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) List of ODA Recipients on 1 January 2020. This funding will support Cook Islands' regional engagement and provides for their continued participation in Australian-led and ODA-funded Pacific regional initiatives. It will not be reported as ODA.

Cook Islands' post-graduation priorities include developing marine resources within their large exclusive economic zone, and further developing its tourism, education, seabed mining and renewable energy sectors. Australian post-graduation funding to Cook Islands will support investments in economic growth and governance; regional security, including environmental security; fisheries; Cook Islands' COVID-19 response; and gender equality. Australia will also support Cook Islands' access to the PACER Plus Implementation Package, to help it take advantage of the Agreement.

Prior to the pandemic, the strong performance of Cook Islands' tourism industry resulted in a relatively high GDP per capita in comparison to many Pacific island countries and the OECD's decision to classify Cook Islands as a high income-country. Levels of economic prosperity and opportunity differ markedly between Rarotonga and the Pa Enua (outer islands), where many Cook Islanders live a more subsistence lifestyle with less access to basic services.

Before COVID-19, the Cook Islands Ministry of Finance and Economic Management reported that tourism accounted for around 70 per cent of Cook Islands' economy. Travel restrictions due to COVID-19 have seen visitor numbers plunge and the Asian Development Bank estimates GDP has dropped by 60 per cent. Cook Islands is also highly vulnerable to natural disasters which can have a devastating effect on the economy, as demonstrated by the significant damage to infrastructure in 2010 caused by Tropical Cyclone Pat and the impacts of severe drought in 2011.

Australia's development efforts are set out in Partnerships for Recovery: Australia's COVID-19 Development Response.

Achieved program activities

Prior to 1 January 2020, Australia worked with New Zealand through a delegated cooperation arrangement to support Cook Islands' long-term prosperity. Australia supported development activities to:

  • improve water and sanitation (SDG 6) by upgrading septic tanks to a reticulated sanitation system and providing technical assistance to strengthen the regulatory environment
  • improve quality of education (SDG 4) through budget support and
  • improve women's economic participation (SDG 5) and eliminate violence against women.
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