The CGRA47 and 10th Conference was another highlight event for our organization and a fitting celebration of the Pacific Community’s 70th birthday. While our CGRA’s and Conferences are always highpoints in the SPC’s calendar, this year’s event was particularly special, demonstrating the strength, dedication and support of our members and partners, and setting us on a solid path towards the future.

The week began with a very successful training and orientation day for members of the Committee of Representatives of Governments and Administrations (CRGA) and SPC Conference. The aim of the training was to assist CRGA members to better understand their roles on the Committee. We were fortunate to have Mr John Davidson, former Counsellor for the Government of Australia and regular representative to CRGA, as facilitator for this session. Lessons and good practices were both delivered and received, thanks to the active engagement of our members, who offered ideas and provided feedback on ways to ensure that they could be most effective while serving on the Committee.

The training and orientation day was followed by two busy days of CRGA meetings, where a number of significant and in some cases difficult, issues were discussed. The Pacific Community transformation and change agenda, including the financial situation and prioritisation process, was the main focus for these days, however important staffing and financial issues (including agreement on a policy for dealing with members in arrears) were also raised. I had the pleasure of presenting a detailed comprehensive report of the challenges, and the achievements of SPC in 2016. The report was well received.

As always, I was impressed with open and honest interaction within our membership, and grateful for the positive response and support expressed about the work we are doing. Implementing organization wide change and reform is never an easy path to take, but knowing that SPC’s membership is fully supportive of our journey gives us confidence that we will reach our objectives. As the old saying goes, ‘if you want to go fast walk alone, but if you want to go far go together.’

CRGA was followed by the 10th Conference of SPC. Ministers and Leaders from across the Pacific region were on hand to celebrate the work of our organization and mark our 70th anniversary. The President of the Government of New Caledonia was welcomed as Conference Chair for 2017-2019. The Conference then heard from high-level guests including President Hilda Heine (President of RMI), Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Pascal Lamy, EU High Level Facilitator for Outreach Activities on Post-Cotonou Agreement.

In keeping with the theme of this years Conference, ‘Innovative Partnerships for Sustainable Development’, two innovative initiatives were endorsed.

First, the conference agreed to the establishment of the Pacific Centre for Ocean Science at SPC and a Learning and Innovation Hub for the region. This initiative will see the SPC expand its impact and effectiveness, bringing together our scientific expertise in all areas of ocean research and enabling us to better and more quickly communicate our growing resource library.

The second initiative saw a strategic agreement between SPC and the IAEA endorsed. The IAEA is already working closely with several SPC members on development areas such as agriculture, medicine and is doing global work in support of pollution data measurement, controlling illegal trade, and creating early detection systems for viruses such as Zika. I am looking forward to seeing the benefits this partnership will bring to the Pacific.

The Conference closed with the announcement that the 11th SPC Conference will be held in the Cook Islands in 2019. Everyone at the SPC Secretariat is looking forward to working with the Cook Islands in support of the next meeting and we welcome the opportunity to bring the CRGA and Conference to this beautiful location.

The week culminated in a wonderful celebration for the 70th anniversary of the Pacific Community. Leaders and distinguished guests enjoyed the hospitality of the Government of New Caledonia, with an evening of thanks for the continuing support of our members, our partners and our friends.

While the CGRA and Conference are now over, our work at SPC continues. We look forward to working closely with our members, as the SPC builds new partnerships, explores innovations and strengthens the Pacific Community’s position as the leader in scientific research and knowledge resources for all the people of the Pacific.