SPC 2016 member map
|Headquarters Location||Nouméa, New Caledonia|
o Committee of Representatives
|Annual Chair Rotation|
o as South Pacific Commission
o as the Pacific Community
The Pacific Community (SPC) is an international development organisation owned and governed by its 26 country and territory members. The organisation's headquarters are in Nouméa, New Caledonia, and it has regional offices in Suva, Fiji, and Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, and Port Vila, Vanuatu, and field staff in other Pacific locations. Its working languages are English and French. It primarily provides technical and scientific advice, and acts as a conduit for funding of development projects from donor nations. Unlike the slightly smaller Pacific Islands Forum, SPC is not a trade bloc, and does not deal with military or security issues.
SPC regional development issues include climate change, disaster risk management, fisheries, food security, education, gender equality, human rights, non-communicable diseases, agriculture, forestry and land use, water resources, and youth employment.
The Pacific Community was founded in 1947 as the South Pacific Commission by six developed countries with strategic interests and territories in the region: Australia, France, Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
SPC's founding charter is the Canberra Agreement. In the aftermath of World War II, the six colonial powers which created the SPC arguably intended it to secure Western political and military interests in the postwar Pacific. Two founding members, the Netherlands and Great Britain have since withdrawn from SPC as the Pacific territories they controlled either gained independence or the right to represent themselves in the organization.
From the start, SPC's role was constrained. The invitation from Australia and New Zealand to the US, France, Netherlands and the UK to participate in a South Seas Commission Conference in 1947 included the statement that "the [South Pacific] Commission to be set up should not be empowered to deal in any way with political matters or questions of defense or security". This constraint on discussion (particularly the constraint on discussing nuclear weapons testing in the region) led to the 1971 creation of the South Pacific Forum (now Pacific Islands Forum), which not only excluded the more distant "metropolitan" powers of France, UK and USA, but also their Pacific Island territories.
In 1949 the Pacific Community established its permanent headquarters in Nouméa, New Caledonia, at the former American military base known as the Pentagon. In 1995 a new headquarters was constructed close to the same location and the military base was demolished. A monument and plaque commemorating SPC's original headquarter location can be found on site of the Le Promenade complex at Anse Vata.
In 1962, the Pacific Community created the South Pacific Games Council with the goal of holding a regular Pacific wide sporting event. The first games Games were held in Suva, Fiji in 1963, with 646 participants from 13 Pacific territories taking part. Initially the Games were held at three-year intervals although this was subsequently expanded to 4 following the Tumon Games in Guam.
Dutch New Guinea, formerly represented in the SPC by the Netherlands, was transferred to the United Nations in 1962 and to Indonesia in 1969. Without any territory remaining in the region, the Netherlands withdrew from SPC in 1962.
Governance of SPC reflected the changing political environment. At inception, each member had equal representation and a single vote. When Western Samoa joined as newly independent state in 1965 the rules were changed to ensure that the Western foundation nations would maintain firm control over the organization. Australia was given five votes, France, Britain, New Zealand, and the United States four and Western Samoa just one.
In 1972 the first South Pacific Arts Festival was convened by SPC in Suva, Fiji. The event drew more than 1000 participants from 14 countries. In 1975 SPC created a Council of Pacific Arts, permanently making culture issues a part of the SPC mandate and establishing the Festival of Pacific Arts as a regular event.
In response to demand to rapid development of the Pacific regions media industry, SPC established a Regional Media Center in 1973 in collaboration with the recently created University of the South Pacific. The center produced audio material for the regions radio stations and provided training in video production.
With decolonization efforts expanding, newly independent states and nonindependent territories were also allowed to apply for membership. "As its membership grew, the character and scope of the SPC evolved to incorporate the indigenous peoples of the Pacific."
In 1983 at the Saipan Conference, unequal voting was abandoned, once again establishing a "one member, one vote" principle for SPC. However, this decision did not come without criticism as some pointed out that the combination of allowing membership to non-independent territories and establishing a one-vote per member principle effectively provided additional votes to France and the United States who continued to maintain control over Pacific territories. It was also during the Saipan Conference that the Committee of Representatives of Governments and Administrations (CRGA) was established, creating the only Pacific regional organization that was both fully representative of the Pacific, and fully governed by its membership.
In 1988, SPC become a founding member of Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific or CROP (formerly the South Pacific Organisations Coordinating Committee, SPOCC) "to improve cooperation, coordination, and collaboration among the various intergovernmental regional organisations to work toward achieving the common goal of sustainable development in the Pacific region".
The United Kingdom withdrew from the organisation in 1996 and rejoined in 1998. The UK withdrew a second time in 2004, and has not been a member of SPC since that time. The UK's interests in the Pacific Community were prior to Brexit primarily managed through the European Union, although the UK also is a direct donor for some projects.[needs update]
In 1996 the Pacific Heads of Agriculture and Livestock Programmes asked "to put in place, both in their countries and through regional cooperation, policies to conserve, protect and best utilize their plant genetic resources". As these resources were considered a shared regional responsibility, it made sense for a regional organization to respond to this need. SPC established the Regional Germplasm Centre (RGC) in 1998. The facility grew rapidly and in 2007 was renamed Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT). It currently holds more than 2000 varieties of genetic material on Pacific strains of taro, banana, breadfruit and others, and has been instrumental in helping to rebuild island agriculture after disasters.
In 2000, SPC became the first CROP organization to be headed by a woman, Lourdes Pangelinan of Guam, who served in the role from 2000 to 2006.
SPC began producing The Pacific Way television program in 1995. Supported by UNESCO as a trial for exchanging news stories the first season was shared freely with just one tape circulated between TV stations in several Pacific Island nations. The programs' regional and local focus made it popular addition to local television schedules and at its height was producing and distributing 26 annual episodes to 21 TV stations around the region. Since 2017 the Pacific Way has been developing 10 episodes per season for television and has been reintroduced to radio through its complementary podcasts. The half-hour show shares development stories about the Pacific for the Pacific. It covers important topics and key issues, such as climate change adaptation, health, youth employment, innovation in agriculture, fisheries management and the protection of cultural heritage.
While the acronym "SPC" has been consistent since the organizations founding in 1947, the name and logo have evolved over the years. The organization's original name was the South Pacific Commission, which represented the limited nature of its membership and activities. The name was changed in 1997 to the Pacific Community, reflecting the growth of membership across the entire Pacific region. The current logo was officially adopted in 2015.
The Pacific Community membership includes 22 Pacific island countries and territories, which were all territories (or, in the case of Tonga, a protectorate) of the original founder members of SPC. Along with larger states of Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States, SPC now has 26 members:
SPC is concentrated on providing technical and scientific advice to its member governments and administrations, particularly in areas where small island states lack the wherewithal to maintain purely national cadres of expertise, or in areas where regional co-operation or interaction is necessary.
The operational budget of SPC in 2018 was approximately EUR82 million. The organization is financially supported through a combination of membership fees and donor funding. SPC's main funding partners include the European Union, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia), Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (New Zealand), the Government of France and the United States.
SPC works across more than 25 sectors. It is involved in such areas as fisheries science, public health surveillance, geoscience and conservation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, statistics and education. Using a multi-sector approach in responding to its members' development priorities, SPC draws on skills and capabilities from around the region and internationally, and supports the empowerment of Pacific communities and sharing of expertise and skills between countries and territories.
SPC currently has nine divisions: