This blog originally appeared on the Griffith Asia Institute website, it has been reposted here with permission.
Cultural Etiquette in the Pacific
The recent launch of the second edition of Cultural Etiquette in the Pacific by the Pacific Community (SPC) has sparked a renewed interest in this field amongst SPC staff and its partners. This iteration is a refreshed version of the original, published fifteen years ago, in 2005 by SPC’s Cultural Affairs Programme. Earlier this year, SPC’s Senior Leadership Team commissioned this as part of its efforts to strengthen its work culture and service delivery in the Pacific. the Social Development Programme (now forming a part of the newly merged Human Rights and Social Development division), with responsibility for culture, led the exercise to update and redesign this book, in collaboration with Pacific island countries and territories (PICTs).
Why is cultural etiquette important?
As the one member of the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) with a mandate to deliver cultural development across its 22 island members, it is our duty and obligation as an organisation to know and understand Pacific cultural etiquette. Understanding and applying this in the Pacific is an opportunity to enhancing our engagement and communication with the people that we serve; and is a basic courtesy given our mandate which offers services to Pacific people across various sectors of sustainable development.
How, and for who, was this resource developed?
This second edition was developed with input from representatives from PICTs in the culture sector and from Ministries of Foreign Affairs as the SPC official focal points in countries. This process ensured that the content was developed from the viewpoints of our people, and captured the nuances of our diverse Pacific cultures and who we are. This resource was therefore developed for the use of SPC staff, particularly those who come from other regions of our global family, and provides a great orientation on Pacific people, who we are and how we relate with each other and with the rest of the world.
Why is it important?
This piece of work is important because we are a Pacific regional organisation, and our mandate is to deliver science, knowledge and innovation, framed and designed with our deep understanding of Pacific cultures and context. Without our basic knowledge of cultural etiquette in the Pacific, we cannot expect to engage with Pacific people at the level which will allow us to get a better understanding of their needs and realities. For us to be responsive in our service delivery we need to understand those realities and cultural contexts to enable framing and designing of services that resonate with Pacific communities.
The current sustainable development discourse is increasingly pointing to the importance of our Pacific ways of knowing and being in addressing our developmental challenges. SPC, being the premier scientific organisation of the Pacific, prides itself on its mandate to lead cultural development in the region. This is in recognition of our capabilities to embed Pacific cultural values, ways of knowing and ways of being, across our science, knowledge and innovation, to ensure relevance and contextualised services for Pacific people.
This booklet is a resource that our staff, partners and our stakeholders can use to assist in their engagement with our people and communities. It is symbolic of the value we place on our relationship with our members and reflects a strong sense of ownership amongst our leadership and staff to genuinely engage and serve the people of the Blue Pacific. Furthermore, it conveys a message that although we are the lead CROP agency on culture, the expertise on culture still rests with our Pacific people and learning about Pacific cultures is a lifetime undertaking that we need to embrace. COVID-19 has reminded us about the importance of our cultural heritage and our ways of knowing and being to ensure our survival in such unprecedented times; and this resource provides an entry point for regional civil servants to gain a better understanding of these elements of Pacific cultures, through basic Pacific cultural etiquette.