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While visiting the Cook Islands as the head of the U.S. Delegation to the Pacific Islands Forum,  Hillary Clinton did a little shopping on the sidelines  at the  Avarua markets in Rarotonga.   Locals were so excited about her visit that they started a Twitter hashtag #IsawHillary and posted Twitpics  at the Twitter account @CookIslands .  A woman presented her with this traditional floral headpiece.  She looks like a Pacific Island princess.

Here is one of the Twitpics.

Tomorrow she is due to arrive in Jakarta, Indonesia.

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Remarks at the Pacific Islands Forum Post-Forum Dialogue

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Cook Islands National Auditorium
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
August 31, 2012

Thank you very much, Prime Minister, and let me begin by saying what a pleasure it is to be here in the beautiful Cook Islands. I am honored to be the first Secretary of State of the United States to participate in the Pacific Islands Forum-Post Forum dialogue. And on behalf of my delegation and our government, we express deep appreciation to you.

And I wish to thank Secretary General Slade and his team for the excellent preparation, all the leaders and delegations and representatives from the Forum partner countries. I’ve had the privilege of meeting many of you at our annual roundtable at the United States General Assembly, and last year at the Pacific Island countries leaders meeting with President Obama in Hawaii, America’s own bridge to the Pacific.

It is fair to say that for the past three-and-a-half years, the Obama Administration has made a major push to increase our engagement across the Asia Pacific. This is a vast and dynamic region, a key driver of global economic and politics, and the United States has a historical presence in this region. That’s why I have said that the 21st century will be America’s Pacific century, with an emphasis on Pacific. The Pacific half of Asia Pacific doesn’t always get as much attention as it should, but the United States knows that this region is strategically and economically vital and becoming more so.

We too, of course, are a Pacific nation. With that long history that many of you know so well, 70 years ago Americans made extraordinary sacrifices on many of the islands represented here. And we have since then underwritten the security that has made it possible for the people of this region to trade and travel freely. We have consistently protected the Pacific sea-lanes through which a great deal of the world’s commerce passes. And now we look to the Pacific nations in a spirit of partnership for your leadership on some of the most urgent and complex issues of our times such as climate change. Our countries are bound by shared interest, and more importantly, shared values, a shared history, and shared goals for our future. So the United States is already invested in the Pacific. Indeed, we are increasing our investments and we will be here with you for the long haul.

We also know that how we work with you here in the Pacific is a very strong message to the people of the Pacific and even beyond. And I take that very seriously. Here in the Pacific, and indeed across the world, the United States seeks a model of partnership rooted in our common values, but which delivers practical benefits and helps you create stronger economies and societies. And we’re pursuing this American model of partnership, and we want our work here in the Pacific Islands to exemplify these standards.

Currently, the United States spends $330 million every year supporting the nations and people of the Pacific Islands. Additionally, our Export-Import bank is active in the region, providing $3 billion for investments in Papua New Guinea, helping in the last few years to finance U.S. trade with Tonga, Tuvalu, Fiji, and Micronesia. Last October, in response to your request, we opened a USAID office in Papua New Guinea to strengthen our development partnerships in the region.

Today, I’m pleased to announce our plans for new programs totally more than $32 million, which are part of the Asia Pacific’s strategic engagement initiative I launched in July. These new programs will address the priorities that you have identified. One of these is sustainable economic development that protects biodiversity. When I was in Port Moresby in 2010, I visited a mangrove restoration project and pledged U.S. support for protecting this region’s magnificent natural resources.

Later today, I will join Prime Minister Puna at an event dedicate to ocean conservation. And I will discuss there our new cooperation with Kiribati to protect marine ecosystems, our work with New Zealand and other nations to establish a marine protected area in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica, and two new USAID programs. One will help coastal communities increase their capacity to adapt to the effects of climate change. The other will help develop this region’s renewable energy resources. And we are also committed to working with our Pacific partners to renew the Tuna Treaty, to ensure sustainability and a fair, transparent return for all our partners.

Throughout the region we seek to advance a sound economic agenda that includes more free trade and increased investment in energy. And we strongly support good governance because sustainable growth and capable leadership go hand in hand with the respect for the rule of law and human rights.

Another priority we share is security. All of us have an interest in maintaining peace and security in the Pacific. Hundreds of U.S. vessels from our Navy and Coast Guard, as well as our fishing vessels, sail these waters. We know how important the ocean and the resources are to your economic development, food security, and traditional culture. So we have worked to be a strong partner in fighting illegal and unregulated fishing and other crimes that take place at sea like human trafficking.

The U.S. Coast Guard already has security partnerships with nine Pacific island nations, and we are working to expand them. I will discuss this at an event later today with both our Coast Guard Admiral and the commander of the Pacific Command. And we’ll talk about increased efforts to clean up unexploded ordnance in the region to protect people’s lives and security.

A third priority of ours is supporting the women of the Pacific. And with that, I want to applaud Australia and Prime Minister Gillard for their unprecedented historic commitment. Now you would expect me, I’m sure, to say that we need to do more on behalf of women everywhere, and I will say that, but I say it not just because I believe it and know how important it is as a moral and human priority, but because I know that this region, long term progress depends on cultivating the skills and contributions of all people, men and women.

On my trip to the region two years ago, I announced the creation of the Pacific women’s empowerment initiative, and later today I will launch the next phase of that initiative, the Rarotonga Partnership for the Advancement of Pacific Island Women. That will be a collaborative venture with both Australia and New Zealand to identify rising women leaders across the region and connect them with networks of support. Investments like these in the economy and security and the people of the region reflect the depth of our commitment. We greatly value our relationships and we want our partnership to continue to strengthen and multiply.

And let me add that we welcome the opportunity to work with your development partners – Japan, the European Union, China, other development partners who are here from the UK to Canada who we just heard from. We all have important contributions and stakes in their region’s success, to advance your security, your opportunity, and your prosperity. I think, after all, the Pacific is big enough for all of us. And what we want to do is have a 21st agenda that keeps faith with the people of this region and your stewardship of the resources of this vast ocean we share.

So yes, the American people are proud of our ties, the hard fought battles of the Pacific theater 70 years ago, the natural disasters we have responded to together, the economic and educational exchanges we’ve shared, the bonds of family and friendship that connect us. So again, thank you for welcoming me here, and I look forward to many more years of friendship and partnership between the United States and the nations and peoples of the Pacific. Thank you, Prime Minister.

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Remarks at the Rarotonga Dialogue on Gender Equality

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
August 31, 2012

(In progress) Ambassador Frank (inaudible) and 30 years of service and commitment on behalf of the United States here and elsewhere throughout the world. And I wanted to thank all of you for gathering here – some of you I have met before, others this is my first time. But to all of you, it’s a great pleasure to be here in the beautiful Cook Islands with leaders from government, civil society, and multilateral organizations, all committed to improving the status of women in the Pacific.

I particularly want to thank the Government of Australia and (inaudible), and New Zealand – thank you Amanda for your support – and the other Pacific Island countries, as well as the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, the Secretariat of the Pacific community, UN agencies, and the World Bank, for all of your leadership in promoting gender equality. I also want to recognize Australian Ambassador-at-Large Williams, New Zealand AID program director who I just mentioned Amanda Ellis, Deputy Secretary General Troy and Minister Toni from Papua New Guinea.

But most of all, I want to thank all of the Pacific women who are here and all whom you represent because we could not put millions of women into this small space, but you are here on their behalf. And I’m delighted that you could be with us because it is my firm belief that women in the Pacific Islands constitute a great reservoir of untapped talent and ability.

Now every country can do better on this front, including my own – there is no doubt about that – but progress for gender equality in the Pacific has not kept pace with the rest of the world. And we have to recognize that. But we also are here to do something about it. Look at the numbers: Research from the World Bank and local organizations shows that the Pacific has the world’s lowest rate of women participating in legislative bodies or holding executive roles in the world – less than 2 percent. There are only seven countries in the world that have no women in their parliament, but four of them are located here in the Pacific. Up to 60 percent of women in the Pacific report being the victim of gender-based violence or sexual abuse. Maternal health statistics are also poor, and women face greater barriers to starting businesses and participating in the economy.

Now these facts illustrate a problem that doesn’t just hurt women and girls; it hurts everybody. It holds back entire societies. Because when women are unequal participants, economic growth is undermined. Development is stymied. Communities and countries are robbed of the contributions that women could make.

But the good news is that there are also impassioned leaders in this region, including those around this table, pushing for change. And role models like Adi Chakudaee, who co-founded an organization called Women Business Development, and that was to help their women in Samoa how to unleash their economic power. So supporting and promoting gender equality is a core part of the United States commitment to the Pacific.

On my visit to the region in 2010, we helped launch the Pacific Women’s Empowerment Initiative with Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the World Bank. That has spawned a series of meetings addressing women’s political participation, economic opportunity, health care, and gender-based violence. I’m happy to announce that the United States will contribute $200,000 this year in voluntary funding to the UN Women’s Trust Fund to end violence against women. We’re also committed to developing a new network of women leaders in the Pacific that we are calling the Rarotonga Partnership for the Advancement of Pacific Island Women. Together with the East-West Center based in Hawaii and the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, we will work with academic institutions and private partners across the Pacific to help build the capacity of women leaders and strengthen the leadership training. I want to thank Charles Morrison and everyone at the East-West Center for helping to make this possible.

Our pledge to promote gender equality across the Pacific, extends far beyond this meeting, so today what I’m hoping we can do is to share ideas and identify areas that need more attention because this is something that we feel very strongly about as all of you do.

So with that, let me thank you for joining us today, and I look forward to hearing the ideas and the opportunities that you can share with all of us. Thank you very much. (Applause.)


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