Cook Islands
Cook Islands
(self-governing in free association with
New Zealand)
Joined United Nations:  24 October 1945
Human Rights as assured by their constitution
Click here
Updated 08 December 2012
10,777 (July 2012 est.)
Henry Puna
Prime Minister since 30 November 2010
The monarch is hereditary; the UK representative is appointed by
the monarch; the New Zealand high commissioner is appointed by
the New Zealand Government;

Next scheduled election: None
Following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or
the leader of the majority coalition usually becomes Prime
Minister who appoints the deputy Prime Minister
; Election last
held: 17 November 2010

Next scheduled election:  2014
Cook Island Maori (Polynesian) 87.7%, part Cook Island Maori 5.8%, other 6.5% (2001 census)
Cook Islands Christian Church 55.9%, Roman Catholic 16.8%, Seventh-Day Adventists 7.9%, Church of Latter Day Saints
3.8%, other Protestant 5.8%, other 4.2%, unspecified 2.6%, none 3% (2001 census)
Self-governing parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealand with no administrative divisions; Cook Islands is fully
responsible for internal affairs; New Zealand retains responsibility for external affairs and defense, in consultation with the Cook
Islands; Legal system is based on New Zealand law and English common law
Executive: The monarch is hereditary; the UK representative is appointed by the monarch; the New Zealand high commissioner is
appointed by the New Zealand Government; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the
majority coalition usually becomes prime minister
Legislative: Bicameral Parliament consists of a House of Ariki, or upper house, made up of traditional leaders and a Legislative
Assembly, or lower house, (24 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
note: the House of Ariki advises on traditional matters and maintains considerable influence but has no legislative powers
elections: last held on 17 November 2010 (next to be held by 2014)
Judicial: High Court
English (official), Maori
The Cook Islands were first settled in the sixth century by Polynesian peoples who migrated from Tahiti. Cook Islanders are true
Polynesians, the finest seafarers of the vast Pacific, voyagers on frail canoes who felt at home on the ocean and who travelled across
its huge wastes in search of new lands and new beginnings. The journeys undertaken by these stone age people in their fragile craft
dwarf the voyages of exploration boasted of by the Portuguese, Spanish, British, Dutch, and French. Over-population on many of
the tiny islands of Polynesia led to these oceanic migrations. Tradition has it that this was the reason for the expedition of Ru, from
Tupua'i in French Polynesia, who landed on Aitutaki and Tangiia, also from French Polynesia, who are believed to have arrived on
Rarotonga around 800 AD. Some evidence for this is that the old road of Toi, the Ara metua which runs round most of Rarotonga,
is believed to be at least 1200 years old. Similarly, the northern islands were probably settled by expeditions from Samoa and
Tonga. As was common with most patterns of Polynesian migration, expanding population and pressure on resources resulted in the
ocean-going canoes being stocked with food and the most venturesome souls being encouraged to set off to look for more living
space. This pattern continues today across most Pacific islands except that entry restrictions to other lands are nowadays much
more stringent. Cook Islanders are convinced that the great Maori migrations to New Zealand began from Rarotonga possibly as
early as the fifth century AD. The most favored location for the starting point was Ngatangiia on the eastern side of Rarotonga
where there is a gap in the fringing reef at the widest part of the island's lagoon. Spanish ships visited the islands in the late sixteenth
century; the first written record of contact with the Islands came with the sighting of Pukapuka by Spanish sailor Álvaro de
Mendaña de Neira in 1595. Another Spaniard Pedro Fernandes de Queirós made the first recorded European landing in the islands
when he set foot on Rakahanga in 1606. British navigator Captain James Cook arrived in 1773 and 1779; Cook named the Cook
Islands the Hervey Islands; the name "Cook Islands" was given by the British in honour of Cook when they published a Russian
naval chart in the early 1880s. In 1813, John Williams, a missionary on the Endeavour (not the same ship as Cook's), made the first
official sighting of the Island Rarotonga. The first recorded landing by Europeans was in 1814 by the Cumberland; trouble broke out
between the sailors and the Islanders and many were killed on both sides. The islands saw no more Europeans until missionaries
arrived from England in 1821. Christianity quickly took hold in the culture and retains that grip today.
The Kingdom of Rarotonga was established in 1858 and in 1888 it became a British protectorate at their own request in, mainly to
thwart French expansionism. Then were transferred to New Zealand in 1901. They remained a New Zealand protectorate until
1965, at which point they became a self-governing territory in free association with New Zealand. The first Prime Minister Sir
Albert Henry led the county until 1978 when he was accused of vote-rigging. Today, the Cook Islands are essentially independent
(self-governing in free association with New Zealand), but are still officially placed under New Zealand sovereignty. New Zealand is
tasked with overseeing the country's foreign relations and defence. The Cook Islands are one of four New Zealand dependencies,
along with Tokelau, Niue and the Ross Dependency. After achieving autonomy in 1965, the Cook Islands elected Albert Henry of
the Cook Islands Party as their first Prime Minister. He was succeeded in 1978 by Tom Davis of the Democratic Party. On June
11, 1980, the United States signed a treaty with New Zealand specifying the maritime border between the Cook Islands and
American Samoa and also relinquishing its claim to the islands of Penrhyn, Pukapuka (Danger), Manihiki, and Rakahanga. The
emigration of skilled workers to New Zealand and government deficits are continuing problems. The Cook Islands enjoys universal
suffrage, democratic government, several privately-owned newspapers and a vigorous standard of debate. For all practical
purposes the Cook Islands is independent. It is governed by a Parliament of 24 elected representatives including one who
represents Cook Islanders living in New Zealand and Australia, as well as a House of Ariki or hereditary chiefs who provide
consultation and advice. The Members of Parliament represent districts and entire islands. The system is based on the Westminster
model and elections are held every five years. The Head of State is Queen Elizabeth II in her capacity as Queen of New Zealand.

On June 13, 2008, a small majority of members of the House of Ariki attempted a coup, claiming to dissolve the elected
government and to take control of the country's leadership. "Basically we are dissolving the leadership, the prime minister and the
deputy prime minister and the ministers," chief Makea Vakatini Joseph Ariki explained. The Cook Islands Herald suggested that the
ariki were attempting thereby to regain some of their traditional prestige or mana. Prime Minister Jim Marurai described the
take-over move as "ill-founded and nonsensical". By June 23, the situation appeared to have normalised, with members of the
House of Ariki accepting to return to their regular duties. The emigration of skilled workers to New Zealand and government
deficits are continuing problems.

Source: Wikipedia: History of Cook Islands;  Best Kept Secret of the Pacific: Cook Islands
Like many other South Pacific island nations, the Cook Islands' economic development is hindered by the isolation of the country
from foreign markets, the limited size of domestic markets, lack of natural resources, periodic devastation from natural disasters,
and inadequate infrastructure. Agriculture, employing more than one-quarter of the working population, provides the economic base
with major exports made up of copra and citrus fruit. Black pearls are the Cook Islands' leading export. Manufacturing activities are
limited to fruit processing, clothing, and handicrafts. Trade deficits are offset by remittances from emigrants and by foreign aid
overwhelmingly from New Zealand. In the 1980s and 1990s, the country lived beyond its means, maintaining a bloated public
service and accumulating a large foreign debt. Subsequent reforms, including the sale of state assets, the strengthening of economic
management, the encouragement of tourism, and a debt restructuring agreement, have rekindled investment and growth.
Source: CIA World Factbook (select Cook Islands)
The politics of the Cook Islands, an associated state, takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democracy
within a constitutional monarchy. The Queen of New Zealand, represented in the Cook Islands by the Queen's Representative, is
the Head of State; the Chief Minister is the head of government and of a pluriform multi-party system. The Islands are
self-governing in free association with New Zealand and are fully responsible for internal affairs. New Zealand retains some
responsibility for external affairs, in consultation with the Cook Islands. In recent years, the Cook Islands has taken on more of its
own external affairs; as of 2005, it has diplomatic relations in its own name with eighteen other countries. Executive power is
exercised by the government, while legislative power is vested in both the government and the islands' parliament. The judiciary is
independent of the executive and the legislature.

The monarch is hereditary; her representative is appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the Cook Islands
Government. The cabinet is chosen by the prime minister and collectively responsible to Parliament. Ten years of rule by the Cook
Islands Party (CIP) came to an end 18 November 1999 with the resignation of Prime Minister Joe Williams. Williams had led a
minority government since October 1999 when the New Alliance Party (NAP) left the government coalition and joined the main
opposition Democratic Party (DAP). On 18 November 1999, DAP leader Dr. Terepai Maoate was sworn in as prime minister. He
was succeeded by his co-partisan Robert Woonton. When Dr Woonton lost his seat in the 2004 elections, Jim Marurai took over.

On June 13, 2008, a small majority of members of the House of Ariki attempted a coup, claiming to dissolve the elected
government and to take control of the country's leadership. "Basically we are dissolving the leadership, the prime minister and the
deputy prime minister and the ministers," chief Makea Vakatini Joseph Ariki explained. The Cook Islands Herald suggested that the
ariki were attempting thereby to regain some of their traditional prestige or mana. Prime Minister Jim Marurai described the
take-over move as "ill-founded and nonsensical". By June 23, the situation appeared to have normalised, with members of the
House of Ariki accepting to return to their regular duties.
In December 2009, Marurai sacked his Deputy Prime Minister, Terepai
Maoate, sparking a mass-resignation of Democratic Party cabinet members. He and new Deputy Prime Minister Robert Wigmore
were subsequently expelled from the Democratic Party. Marurai appointed three junior members of the Democratic party to
Cabinet, but on 31 December 2009 the party withdrew its support.

Source: Wikipedia: Politics of Cook Islands
None reported.
U.S. State Department
United Nations Human
Rights Council
Amnesty International
Human Rights Watch
Freedom House
None reported.
None reported.
Cook Islands Association of
Non-Governmental Organizations
Remarks at the Rarotonga Dialogue on Gender Equality
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
August 31, 2012

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 Tafuna’i, who co-founded an organization called Women in Business Development Inc, Samoa 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.
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19 January 2009
Cook Islands Accede to United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards
144th party to the Convention

VIENNA, 19 January (UN Information Service) - The Cook Islands have acceded to the Convention on the Recognition and
Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (also commonly known as the New York Convention), becoming the 144th party to the
Convention. The Convention will enter into force for the Cook Islands on 12 April 2009.

The New York Convention requires courts of States Parties to enforce arbitration agreements and to recognize and enforce arbitral
awards made in other States. The Convention is widely recognized as a foundation instrument of international arbitration and provides a
significant contribution to facilitating foreign investment and trade.

The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) is the core legal body of the United Nations system in the
field of international trade law. Its mandate is to remove legal obstacles to international trade by progressively modernizing and
harmonizing trade law. It prepares legal texts in a number of key areas such as international commercial dispute settlement, electronic
commerce, insolvency, international payments, sale of goods, transport law, procurement and infrastructure development. UNCITRAL
also provides technical assistance to law reform activities, including assisting Member States to review and assess their law reform
needs and to draft the legislation required to implement UNCITRAL texts. The UNCITRAL Secretariat is located in Vienna, Austria, and
maintains a website at .
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Constructing a Government Index For the Cook Islands
Pacific Economic Bulletin Volume 22 Number 2 2007


The governance index for the Cook Islands is based on computations derived at three different levels. As noted earlier, the index is made
up from three core dimensions:

rule of law, government effectiveness and regulatory quality. The indices for each of the three core dimensions are computed from their
sub-dimensions. In turn, each sub-dimension is mostly computed from several indicators, hereafter referred to as sub-dimension

The governance index, together with the core dimensions, sub-dimensions and sub-dimension indicators are measured numerically
within the range zero to 1.0. The interpretation of this zero to 1.0 range is that a value closer to zero indicates a lower level of
achievement. Since the governance index is constructed from annual data, expressing the index numerically allows governments and
others to follow the changes in levels of governance easily.

All of the indicators used by the World Bank team in the construction of their governance indices are taken from surveys of perceptions
of experts and opinion polls. In constructing governance indices for Pacific island countries, we felt expert opinions and opinion polls
reflecting perceptions about governance in the small Pacific states would be difficult to obtain on a widespread and regular basis.

Moreover, the subjectivity of indicators based on perceptions could be a source of resistance to developing economy governments
accepting them as fair evaluations of their governance quality (Knack 2002).

In contrast to the perceptions-based approach, the approach used here provides measures of governance quality that are almost entirely
based on objective data, a substantial proportion of which is drawn from official statistics. The only exceptions are the use of Freedom
House’s Freedom in the World and Freedom of the Press (Freedom House 2006a, 2006b) indicators. The approach we have adopted
intends there to be annual updates of the governance measures and for the indices to be comparable across the countries.
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Cook Islands slammed over handling of HIV case
Posted by Amnesty Concordia on January 13, 2011

The case of a foreign worker diagnosed with HIV in the Cook Islands is generating international controversy after the government there
discussed identifying the person.

The Cook Islands has come under fire for its handling of the case after the resident was diagnosed with the HIV/Aids virus. The
individual has been working in the island’s tourism industry.

Patrick Holmes of Amnesty International New Zealand says the Cook Islands government’s stance on the issue is out-of-line.

“Unfortunately it is somewhat draconian that the government is suggesting both naming this individual and deporting them,” Holmes said.

Cook Islands health officials got legal advice over whether they could publicly identify the person.

But they backed down after HIV campaigners intervened.

“We understand it’s a fearful and challenging time for the Cook Islands, but we also know from experience that these kinds of extreme
and immediate responses are not an effective way to deal with HIV,” said Dr Jason Myers of the New Zealand Aids Foundation.

Cook Islands slammed over handling of HIV case (1:53)

The Cook Islands Cabinet has been meeting today to look at what action, if any, it will take.

The options include possible deportation or quarantine.

“There is a danger that smaller Pacific states may see their neighbours taking these measures and they may be tempted to follow suit,”
said Myers.

The Cook Islands has only ever had two HIV cases diagnosed.

Almost every country in the Pacific has been affected by HIV except for the tiny islands of Niue, Pitcairn and Tokelau.

The total number of cases for the region is 29,700. But of that number, most are in Papua New Guinea.

Human rights and HIV campaigners say as the disease spreads in the Pacific it is crucial it is handled right.

The Cook Islands government is expected to announce its decision tomorrow.
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Mary Wareham Delivers Statement on National Implementation Measures
Statement Delivered at the Second Meeting of States Parties in Beirut
September 16, 2011

Mr. President,

Article 9 of the convention requires that States Parties take “all appropriate legal, administrative and other measures to implement this
Convention, including the imposition of penal sanctions….” The Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) views national legislation as the
strongest means of fulfilling this obligation as it enshrines the convention’s provisions at the domestic level and provides binding,
enduring, and unequivocal rules that leave less room for interpretation. In addition to legislation, clear directives on the convention’s
prohibitions should be developed and disseminated within the armed forces.

According to Cluster Munition Monitor, a total of 14 states have enacted legislation to implement the convention: Austria, Belgium,
France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, UK, and, in 2011, Cook Islands, Czech Republic, and
Italy. We appreciate the update from Ecuador on its legislative measures. CMC members have been working to ensure strong and
comprehensive legislation and we welcome these states’ actions to legislate the ban on cluster munitions.

The CMC urges all States Parties to adopt new, convention-specific legislation to implement the core prohibitions of the convention and
criminalize the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions. New Zealand has prepared model legislation and a
checklist to guide states that do not produce, stockpile, or transfer cluster munitions and those that have not been contaminated by
cluster munition remnants or unexploded bomblets. These are helpful additions to the toolbox of resources available from the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Human Rights Watch, and others.[1]

The CMC believes that legislation should also explicitly ban direct and indirect assistance to anyone with any prohibited activity, including
1) transit of cluster munitions through the State Party's territory, 2) stockpiling of cluster munitions by a state not party on the State
Party's territory, and 3) investment of both public and private funds in the manufacture of cluster munitions or their components. The
ban on assistance should apply “under any circumstances,” including during joint military operations.
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The Cook Islands and Niue will continue to battle for speaking rights at the Rio +20 Conference to be held in Brazil next month despite
moves to exclude these Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) from doing so.

The removal of speaking rights for the Cook Islands follows a United Nations General Assembly Resolution 66/197 in December 2011
limiting participation at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) to State Members of the United Nations.

Delivering a speech on behalf of the Cook Islands Prime Minister Hon Henry Puna to the Rio +20 Informal Ministerial Meeting held in
Barbados last week, chief policy advisor Liz Wright-Koteka said the Cook Islands had attended both the 1992 Rio and 2002
Johannesburg Conferences as a state.

“Chair, it saddens the Prime Minister Hon Henry Puna personally, that 20 years on, a Declaration that held so much hope for all people
and which the participation and commitment of all states is a underpinning principle, will take a big step backwards by not allowing
states such as the Cook Islands to be part of deciding its progression.”

“We were under the impression that the Rio Declaration was a global agreement and what was commonly known as the ‘all states
formula’ for attendance at these conferences applied. It appears now that Rio +20 will not be an ‘all states’ or a global conference. This
is a most unfortunate outcome as sustainable development is critically important to the Cook Islands and other nations that are muffled
as a result of this.”

Liz Wright-Koteka advised the Meeting that the Cook Islands Prime Minister would assume the role of Chair of the Pacific Islands
Forum in August and as incoming chair it was vital that the Cook Islands region be permitted to participate fully at Rio +20.

“The Cook Islands supports the theme of a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, but
wishes to also stress that as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), this is the only viable means of achieving sustainable development
in today’s global context.” “Given the Cook Islands may not be accorded the opportunity to speak as a state in Rio, we urge our fellow
SIDS to highlight that SIDS are already undertaking actions and have made some strong commitments to pursue the pathways towards
transformation to a green economy.”

“The Cook Islands also strongly aligns itself with the position advocated by the Pacific SIDS to add the colour blue to the green
economy debate – synthesised as a ‘green economy in a blue world’ to ensure that issues related to ocean and islands are given
prominence in the Rio +20 agenda.”

“The Cook Islands fears that this approach has not yet gained enough global traction and that outcomes important to small island states
from Rio +20 for ocean, island and climate change issues cannot be said to be secure.”
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New ombudsman at last
1 October 2012

A new ombudsman will be announced when Parliament sits on November 8.

The country has been without an ombudsman for nearly a year now, after former ombudsman Janet Maki resigned in early December
for personal reasons. Since then assistant ombudsman Jeannine Daniel has been managing the Nikao office, although there is no acting

The prime minister is responsible for appointing an ombudsman. Cook Islands News was told in April by the prime minister’s office that
Prime Minister Puna would be making an appointment within the week. However, this did not happen.

The Ombudsman Act 1984 stipulates that a vacant ombudsman position should be filled if Parliament is in session.

The prime minister’s spokesman Trevor Pitt says an announcement about the ombudsman will be made at the start of parliament’s
session next week. He would not reveal a name, indicating “processes” must be followed.

The Office of the Ombudsman was aware they are getting a new head, but are also in the dark about who it is.

The role of the ombudsman is to represent the public by investigating and addressing complaints about government business. When the
ombudsman was legislated into existence in 1984, his or her jurisdiction was limited to investigating complaints about central government
departments and organisations. In 2007, Cabinet appointed the ombudsman to be “in charge of the Cook Islands Human Rights Office”.

Then, in 2009 the Official Information Act came into force, which authorises the ombudsman to investigate and review complaints from
the public about government’s withholding of official information.
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Cook Islands NGO parallel Report
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Report prepared and submitted by Punanga Tauturu Inc.

1. Introduction
1.        This non government Parallel Report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child responds to the Cook Islands
Government’s Initial State Report and Combined Second and Third Reports for the period 1997-2008.

2.        The NGO Parallel report provides additional information on the work of NGOs with Government.  The majority of NGOs in the
Cook Islands were established because government agencies provision of services was inadequate or did not exist.   Further the report
provides contextual information in relation to implementation of the specific article.  It highlights priority areas, including
recommendations to Government for immediate attention to further its compliance with the CRC.

3.        The report provides additional information on the Constitutional system, sources of the law, national and regional frameworks,
regional and international agreements and cooperation.  It also provides information extracted from both national and regional reports,
including published research and studies on the country situation including statistical information to provide the committee on the rights
of the child with the most up to date information in order to given an accurate picture of the situation of children in the country .  

4.        This report follows the thematic structure, based on the eight clusters of articles of the State Report, as recommended by the
Convention on the Rights of the Child Committee and the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  However, the main
focus of the report is on the Implementation Measures, Juvenile Justice, and Access to Justice, Child Abuse and Protective Measures, it
also takes into account the inter-connectedness of the articles.

5.        The Parallel Shadow Report has been by the Punanga Tauturu following consultations with stakeholders across a number of
sectors, both non-government and government and includes input from children and young people themselves .

6.        The national NGO Consultation on the NGO Report to the Committee on the rights of the Child, was an opportunity for both non
government and government participants, who have worked collaboratively together, to review both the State Report on the CRC and the
Addendum and the draft NGO CRC Report.  The participants were informed of the General Comments No. 5, No. 10 and No 13 to read
in conjunction with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
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Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Queen since 6 February 1952
John Carter
New Zealand High Commissioner
since 29 July 2011
None reported.
Sir Frederick Tutu Goodwin
Queen's Representative since 9 February 2001
Tom John Marsters
Deputy Prime Minister since 01 December 2010