Pacific Community
Logo of the Pacific Community
SPC 2016 member map
SPC 2016 member map
Headquarters LocationNouméa, New Caledonia
• Committee of Representatives
Annual Chair Rotation
• Director-General
Australia Stuart Minchin
• as South Pacific Commission
• as the Pacific Community
Time zone

The Pacific Community (PC), formerly the South Pacific Commission (SPC), is an international development organisation governed by 27 members, including 22 Pacific island countries and territories around the Pacific Ocean. The organisation's headquarters are in Nouméa, New Caledonia, and it has regional offices in Suva, Pohnpei, and Port Vila, as well as field staff in other locations in the Pacific.[1] 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.[2] Unlike the slightly smaller Pacific Islands Forum, the SPC is not a trade bloc, and does not deal with military or security issues.

The SPC's regional development issues include climate change, disaster risk management, fisheries, food security,[3] 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, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.[4]

The SPC's founding charter is the Canberra Agreement.[5][6] 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interests in the postwar Pacific.[7][8] Two founding members, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, have since withdrawn from the SPC as the Pacific territories they controlled either gained independence or the right to represent themselves in the organization.

From the start, the SPC's role was constrained. The invitation from Australia and New Zealand to the US, France, the 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".[9] 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 US, but also at the time their Pacific island territories.

In 1949, the Pacific Community established its permanent headquarters in Nouméa, New Caledonia, at a former American military base. In 1995, a new headquarters was constructed close to the same location and the military base was demolished.[10] A monument and plaque commemorating SPC's original headquarters location can be found on site of the Le Promenade complex at Anse Vata.[11]

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 four following the Tumon Games in Guam.

Dutch New Guinea, formerly represented in the SPC by the Netherlands, was transferred to United Nations authority in 1962 and to Indonesia the following year. Without any territory remaining in the region, the Netherlands withdrew from the SPC in 1962.[12][13]

Governance of the 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.[14]

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.[15]

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."[16]

In 1983, at the Saipan Conference, unequal voting was abandoned, once again establishing a "one member, one vote" principle for SPC.[17] 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.[18]

In 1988, the SPC become a founding member of the 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".[19]

The United Kingdom withdrew from the organisation in 1996 and rejoined in 1998.[20] The UK withdrew a second time in 2004. 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] The UK rejoined in 2021 after reopening its high commissions in Tonga, Samoa and its embassy in Vanuatu in the past two years.[21]

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".[22] 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.[23]

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.

Pacific Way television series

The SPC began producing a television program, known as The Pacific Way, 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 organization's 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.

SPC Logo 1960
SPC Logo 1970
South Pacific Commission ― Pacific Community


The Pacific Community today includes 22 Pacific island countries and territories, which were all previously territories (or, in the case of Tonga, a protectorate) of the original founding members of the SPC, along with the developed countries of Australia, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States:[24]

Headquarters of the Pacific Community in 2018
Member Population
EEZ Area
GDP per capita
(USD, 2020)
Currency UN Membership Sovereign State /
Associated with
Status Date of Admission
 American Samoa 56,813 200 404,391.00 $11,245 USD No United States Unorganized Unincorporated Territory 1983
 Australia 25,882,100 7,692,024 8,148,250.00 $53,321 AUD Yes 1947
 Cook Islands 17,459 237 1,830,000.00 $24,913 NZD No New Zealand Freely Associated State 1980
 Fiji 926,276 18,276 1,282,980.00 $6,152 FJD Yes 1971
 France 67,100,000 675,000 1,100,000.00 $49,435 EUR Yes 1947
 French Polynesia 275,918 4,167 4,767,240.00 $22,308 XPF No France Overseas Country 1983
 Guam 168,801 540 221,504.00 $34,153 USD No United States Organized Unincorporated Territory 1983
 Kiribati 119,940 811 3,441,810.00 $1,636 AUD Yes 1983
 Marshall Islands 54,590 181 1,990,530.00 $4,337 USD Yes United States Freely Associated State 1983
 Micronesia 105,503 701 2,996,420.00 $3,830 USD Yes United States Freely Associated State 1983
 Nauru 11,690 21 308,480.00 $11,666 AUD Yes 1969
 New Caledonia 273,015 18,576 1,422,540.00 $37,448 XPF No France Sui Generis Collectivity 1983
 New Zealand 4,900,000 270,500 4,000,000.00 $43,953 NZD Yes 1947
 Niue 1,562 261 450,000.00 $18,757 NZD No New Zealand Freely Associated State 1980
 Northern Mariana Islands 56,608 464 749,268.00 $23,550 USD No United States Commonwealth 1983
 Palau 17,930 444 603,978.00 $2,854 USD Yes United States Freely Associated State 1983
 Papua New Guinea 8,934,475 462,840 2,402,290.00 $2,854 PGK Yes 1975
 Pitcairn Islands 50 47 836,108.00 N/A NZD No United Kingdom Overseas Territory 1983
 Samoa 198,646 2,934 127,950.00 $4,284 SAT Yes 1965
 Solomon Islands 712,071 28,230 1,553,440.00 $2,295 SBD Yes 1978
 Tokelau 1,506 12 319,031.00 $6,882 NZD No New Zealand Dependent Territory 1983
 Tonga 99,780 749 659,558.00 $5,081 TOP Yes 1983
 Tuvalu 10,580 26 749,790.00 $4,223 AUD Yes 1978
 United Kingdom 66,000,000 242,495 6,805,586.00 $40,284 GBP Yes 2021
 United States 324,000,000 9,800,000 11,700,000.00 $55,800 USD Yes 1947
 Vanuatu 294,688 12,281 663,251.00 $3,260 VUV Yes 1983
 Wallis and Futuna 11,441 142 258,269.00 $12,848 XPF No France Overseas Collectivity 1983

The 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 the Pacific Community in 2018 was approximately €82 million.[25] The organization is financially supported through a combination of membership fees and donor funding. Its major funding partners include the European Union, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the governments of France and the United States. Additional funding and knowledge partners include:[26]


The 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.[27]

SPC currently has nine divisions:[28]

Original SPC HQ in Nouméa

SPC Directors-General

South Pacific Commission ― Pacific Community
The Director General serves for a two-year term of office. [29]
Directors-General Country Start Date End Date Comment
Stuart Minchin Australia 23 Jan 2020 present
Colin Tukuitonga Niue 5 Jan 2014 23 Jan 2020
Jimmie Rodgers Solomon Islands 6 Jan 2006 5 Jan 2014
Lourdes T. Pangelinan Guam 6 Jan 2000 5 Jan 2006
Robert B. Dun Australia 8 Jan 1996 5 Jan 2000
Ati George Sokomanu Vanuatu 6 Jan 1993 7 Jan 1996
M. Jacques Iékawé New Caledonia 10 Mar 1992 10 Mar 1992 Died before assuming office
Atanraoi Baiteke Kiribati 16 Jun 1989 5 Jan 1993
Jon Tikivanotau Jonassen Cook Islands 1 Jan 1989 15 Jun 1989 Interim
Palauni M. Tuiasosopo American Samoa 9 Dec 1986 31 Dec 1988
Francis Bugotu Solomon Islands 1 Jul 1982 30 Nov 1986
Mititaiagimene Young Vivian Niue 1 Jul 1979 3 Jun 1982
E. Macu Salato Fiji 9 Dec 1975 30 Jun 1979
Fred Betham Western Samoa 1 Nov 1971 30 Nov 1975
Afoafouvale Misimoa Western Samoa 1 Jan 1970 18 Feb 1971
John E. de Young United States 18 Feb 1971 31 Oct 1971 Interim
Gawain Westray Bell United Kingdom 1 Jan 1967 11 Dec 1969
William D. Forsyth Australia 24 Mar 1963 31 Dec 1966 reappointed[30]
Thomas Richard Smith New Zealand 1 Mar 1958 2 Mar 1963
Ralph Clairon Bedell United States 1 Mar 1955 28 Feb 1958
Sir Brian Freeston United Kingdom 12 Nov 1951 12 Nov 1954
William D. Forsyth Australia 1 Nov 1948 3 Jun 1951 Founding official[30]

See also

CROP agencies



  1. ^ "Contact Us". The Pacific Community. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  2. ^ Pacific Community Strategic Plan, 2016-2020
  3. ^ "SPC promotes food security". Fiji Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  4. ^ "South Pacific Commission | National Library of Australia". Retrieved 25 March 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ SPC Governance Compendium
  6. ^ "Agreement establishing the South Pacific Commission (Canberra, 6 February 1947)". Australian Treaty Series 1948 No. 15 (First ed.). Australian Government Publishing Service. August 1984. Retrieved 11 August 2008. The first edition document hosted on the Australasian Legal Information Institute web site.
  7. ^ Stearns, Peter N., ed. (June 2002). "The Pacific Region, 1944–2000: The Islands, 1946–2000: 1947". The Encyclopedia of World History: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern. Archived from the original on 23 June 2008. Retrieved 13 August 2008. A licensed reproduction of Peter N. Stearns; et al., eds. (2001). "H, 1, 1947". The Pacific Region, 1944–2000: The Islands, 1946–2000: 1947. The Encyclopedia of World History: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern. Boston: Houghton Mifflen Company. pp. xxvii, 1243p., maps, 25 cm. ISBN 0-395-65237-5.
  8. ^ "Secretariat of the Pacific Community". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2008. Retrieved 16 August 2008. Supports SPC's formation "to advise on economic, social, health matters affecting the South Pacific Island territories..."
  9. ^ A.H. McLintock, ed. (1966). Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 2007-09-18. International Relations: The South Pacific Commission. ISBN 978-0-478-18451-8. Retrieved 16 August 2008. "From the outset political and security matters were excluded from consideration; the proposed Commission was to act in a consultative capacity on questions of welfare of the peoples in the area and social and economic development."
  10. ^ Lal, Brij V.; Fortune, Kate (2000). The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 9780824822651.
  11. ^ "Important dates". Ville de Nouméa. 31 July 2013. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  12. ^ Henningham, S.; Kovac, Velibor Bobo (25 October 1995). The Pacific Island States: Security and Sovereignty in the Post-Cold War World. Springer. ISBN 9780230372436.
  13. ^ Lal, Brij V.; Fortune, Kate (2000). The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 9780824822651.
  14. ^ Lal, Brij V.; Fortune, Kate (2000). The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 9780824822651.
  15. ^ Meeting House of the Pacific. SPC Library, Noumea, New Caledonia: Secretariat of the Pacific Community. 2007. p. 90. ISBN 978-982-00-0221-0.
  16. ^ Gover, Kirsty (5 February 2016), "Indigenous membership and human rights", Handbook of Indigenous Peoples' Rights, Routledge, pp. 35–48, doi:10.4324/9780203119235-4, ISBN 9780203119235
  17. ^ "Secretariat of the Pacific Community | international organization". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  18. ^ Meeting House of the Pacific. SPC Library, Noumea, New Caledonia: Secretariat of the Pacific Community. 2007. p. 108. ISBN 978-982-00-0221-0.
  19. ^ "Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific". Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  20. ^ Lal, Brij V.; Fortune, Kate (2000). The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 9780824822651.
  21. ^ "Britain rejoins major Pacific body". Radio New Zealand. 2 December 2021. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  22. ^ "The Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT)". Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  23. ^ "Minister to attend Winston service". Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  24. ^ "SPC – Pacific Community: Our Members". SPC – Pacific Community. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  25. ^ SPC budget, FY 2019
  26. ^ "Our Partners". The Pacific Community. Archived from the original on 13 August 2022. Retrieved 23 August 2022.
  27. ^ "SPC Strategic Plan 2016-2020". SPC website.
  28. ^ "SPC's Divisions". The Pacific Community. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  29. ^ "Recruitment process for the next Director-General of the Pacific Community is now underway | the Pacific Community".
  30. ^ a b Chad Mitcham, ‘Forsyth, William Douglass (Bill)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2018

Further reading