First South Pacific Conference in Suva, Fiji, 1950

This year marks the 70th Anniversary of the Pacific Community – SPC, and we are excited at the timely opportunity to reflect and celebrate the shared progress we have made with our members and partners over the years.

Seventy years ago, the Pacific Community was established by treaty. The Canberra Agreement was signed by the governments of Australia, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States of America in 1947 establishing the organization that came to be known as the South Pacific Commission (SPC), and today – the Pacific Community (SPC). The organization was created to support the administration and welfare of dependent Pacific Island territories and protectorates and bring stability to the Pacific after the turbulence of World War II. In continued commitment and partnership, France agreed to host SPC headquarters in Noumea, New Caledonia where they continue to operate today, after moving from their temporary location in Sydney in 1949.

Seventy years on, through enduring collaboration, cooperation and partnership, SPC has grown into one of the primary regional bodies contributing to the development of the Pacific Island region. This is testimony to the strong leadership, commitment, and effective governance of its members and partners to build and shape their development organization with a strong shared regional vision and purpose for a prosperous and resilient Pacific. With a regional hub hosted by the Government of Fiji, SPC also has offices in Solomon Islands, Vanuatu (MSG) and Federated States of Micronesia improving our physical presence, sub-regionally and nationally, and strengthening on-going engagement.

SPC’s efforts continue to be guided by our Strategic Plan 2016 – 2020, the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, the SAMOA Pathway and the 2030 Development Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals. SPC is the principal scientific and technical agency proudly supporting development in the Pacific region since 1947, working across over 20 sectors. SPC is renowned for its leadership in knowledge and innovation in dealing with cross-cutting issues, such as: Food Security and livelihoods, Climate Change, Disaster Risk Management, Public Health, Data for Policy, Youth and Gender, Human Rights.

Supporting our members’ development aspirations, we provide leading contributions in building a resilient Pacific Islands region. Some notable contributions include:

  • Strengthening food security and livelihoods through its regional Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePACT), which conserves and manages biodiversity and distributes planting material for disease-resistant and climate tolerant varieties of traditional crops;
  • Providing key contributions in fisheries science and conservation management, and continues to manage the region’s tuna data holdings using the Tuna Fisheries Database Management System;
  • Strengthening ocean governance, and the framework for management of deep sea minerals;
  • Strengthening resilience to disaster and the effects of climate change by leading the development of the Strategy for Climate and Disaster Resilient Development in the Pacific and mobilizing support for the Pacific Islands;
  • Increased responsiveness to regional public health challenges by strengthening regional coordination through the Pacific Health Development Framework and the Pacific NCD Partnership;
  • Improving access to water and sanitation across the region;
  • Fostering informed policy and decision-making through the Pacific Regional Statistics Database which provides around 200 indicators on strategic sectors in the Pacific Islands strengthening comparability of data across the region;
  • Developing the region’s capacity in areas of social development – human rights, gender, culture and youth.

Our responsibility and service to our members and partners will not stop at producing good science and technical advice. Collectively, we must continue to ensure that it is making a difference in people’s lives on the ground. SPC’s comparative advantage lies in our deep and nuanced understanding of the Pacific Island context, and our capacity to formulate integrated and targeted programmes that effectively tackle development challenges across the region, which also contribute as well to global benefits.

At SPC we recognize that development issues are complex and multi-dimensional and cannot be solved by a sectoral approach alone. And at SPC, ‘doing business differently’ means moving from a project-based sectoral approach to an integrated programming approach. By taking a multi-sector and integrated approach to responding to the Pacific Islands’ development priorities, we draw upon skills and capabilities from around the region and internationally. As a result, we will continue to empower Pacific communities through sharing of expertise and skills, and lessons learned between countries and territories.

In the face of global and regional challenges, genuine and sustainable partnerships will continue to be crucial to achieving sustainable longer term outcomes. SPC, its members and partners remain united in our shared aspiration for a prosperous and sustainable future for all. To those same ends, SPC will redouble its efforts to ensure the organization is in the best shape to deliver on those outcomes so that all Pacific people can lead free, healthy, and productive lives, leaving no one behind.

Dr Colin Tukuitonga was appointed Pacific Community Director-General in January, 2014.

Dr Tukuitonga, from Niue, is also currently a commissioner for the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity.

He was formerly the Director of SPC’s Public Health Division, and previous roles include: Chief Executive Officer of the New Zealand Government’s Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs; Associate Professor of Public Health and Head of Pacific and International Health at the University of Auckland; Director of Public Health, New Zealand Ministry of Health; and Head of Surveillance and Prevention of Chronic Diseases at the World Health Organization, Geneva.