I was in Canberra this week for one of our High Level Meetings with senior officials from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).  During the meeting, I was delighted to meet with the Honourable Julie Bishop, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and we signed the new strategic partnership between the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Government of Australia.  The partnership is an important agreement for SPC and the Government of Australia.

The partnership seeks to consolidate the joint efforts of SPC and the Government of Australia to address regional development challenges in a strategic and planned way, rather than rely on short-term project based agreements.  It also enables us to focus on delivering outcomes rather than a relationship based on transactions.  An independent evaluation of the partnership in 2016 showed demonstrable improvements and benefits of the new arrangement.

We were also pleased to sign a separate funding agreement to support the business systems behind the change agenda and transformation of SPC.

In amongst the serious discussions, we were also able to celebrate SPC’s 70th birthday with a cake in the presence of DFAT staff and friends.  It is important to recall that Canberra is the place where SPC was founded in 1947 and we operate as an international organisation under the Canberra Agreement.  Australia is a founding member of SPC and our largest core funder.  Their support is critical in our work for and with island members.

I was also able to meet with the CEO of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and some of the staff.  ACIAR and SPC have a well-established relationship supporting agricultural and coastal fisheries activities in the region.  ACIAR has a global reach and we are able to obtain the benefits of their experience and knowledge generated in other parts of the world.  We are strengthening our partnership with additional funding support from ACIAR.

Overall, a wonderful and constructive few days with one of founding members and long term partner and supporter.