Ghana’s foreign minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, is participating in a leaders’ meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Cook Island as a special guest.
The 18-member Forum in Rarotonga, capital of the Cook Islands, includes Australia, New Zealand and small island nations, among them Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga.
Earlier in the week, she signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on behalf of Ghana for the establishment of formal diplomatic relations, with the Cook Islands whose Prime Minister, Mark Brown, signed for his country.
Ghana is the second African country after South Africa to establish formal diplomatic relations with Cook Islands. Mr. Brown is also the chairman of the Pacific Islands Forum.
Ghana has a limited diplomatic footprint in the pacific, but diplomats say relations with developing countries, however small or distant, are important for building and maintaining alliances for advocacy within multilateral institutions.
Madam Botchwey held several high level meetings with Pacific regional leaders, and discussed a range of issues.
They included climate change, which constitutes a grave threat to small island nations and Africa, despite the fact that developed countries were the worst polluters.
She held talks with the Australian Minister for International Development, Pat Conroy with whom she exchanged ideas as to how to make the Commonwealth more impactful to member countries.
In another meeting with the Prime Minister of Fiji, Mr. Sitiveni Rabuka, she spoke of the need to make the commonwealth relevant at “people to people level,” as well as among governments.
The Fijian leader recalled his years as a UN peacekeeper in southern Lebanon when serving under the command of the late General Emmanuel Erskine.
Ghana and Fiji are major contributors to UN peacekeeping work.
“We share a common history (as former British colonies), but we must work to build a common future,” Mr. Rabuka said.