To carry out conservation projects and to keep the organisation functioning effectively, TIS must constantly apply for grants that align with their strategic plan. This plan covers five focal areas: youth, waste management, eco-sustainable development, climate change and biodiversity.
While we get some money from local membership fees and donations, most of our funds come from regional and international donors who support environmental projects. Over the past five years most of our funds have come through Marae Moana Oceans 5 support (finished three years ago), the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme, and BirdLife International.
BirdLife International is widely recognised as the world leader in bird conservation. It is made up of a global partnership of conservation organisations (NGOs) that strive to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, as well as working with people towards the sustainable use of natural resources.
For more than 15 years, Te Ipukarea Society has been the recognised BirdLife affiliate for the Cook Islands, because of the work it does with biodiversity conservation, especially involving birds. Because of this affiliation, BirdLife International have provided valuable support to TIS. This support has not only involved providing funds for bird conservation projects throughout the country, but also advice and resources to help Te Ipukarea Society in developing its capacity as a sustainably-run environmental organisation based on sound science and governance.
For the past four years TIS has worked with their executive board and the Birdlife Secretariat in Cambridge, UK, to meet the criteria outlined by BirdLife International to qualify to become a full partner of BirdLife.
With perseverance and dedication to making some changes, mainly around governance and the fund-raising system, TIS has finally been approved, at the recent Birdlife Council Meeting, as a full partner.
Although it now means the organisation has to pay an annual membership fee, this new status provides various additional opportunities, and responsibilities, for TIS under the BirdLife umbrella.
The society still gets similar support to that which it is currently receiving, but in addition now has full voting rights at BirdLife International Partnership meetings. The society is now also eligible to nominate members, and to be nominated, to sit on the BirdLife International council. This new relationship with Birdlife also enhances the reputation of TIS on the global conservation scene, and improves our standing as a credible organisation to prospective donors.
There are currently 121 BirdLife International partners around the world. These Birdlife partners are regularly provided with the opportunity to work together in a co-ordinated fashion across national boundaries. From these opportunities partners can learn from one another and share ideas for effective strategic operation. In the Pacific region, apart from Australia and New Zealand, only four other countries are Birdlife partner organisations (Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Palau).
Satisfying the criteria for full partnership by TIS is a major achievement for such a small organisation, and for the Cook Islands, which has the lowest population of any country with a Birdlife member organisation.
This weekly column is supplied by Te Ipukarea Society. It deals with environmental and conservation issues of interest to the Cook Islands.