Canberra Agreement 1947

While the acronym “SPC” has been consistent since the organizations` inception in 1947, the name and logo have evolved over the years. The original name of the organization was the South Pacific Commission, which represented the limited nature of its membership and activities. The name was changed in 1997 in the Pacific Community, reflecting the increase in membership throughout the Pacific. The current logo was officially adopted in 2015. From the beginning, the role of SPC has been limited. The invitation of Australia and New Zealand to the United States, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom to attend a south Sea Commission conference in 1947 contained the statement that “the [South Pacific] Commission to be headed should not be empowered to deal in any way with political or defence or security issues.” [10] This restriction of debate (particularly the limitation of the debate on nuclear testing in the region) led in 1971 to the creation of the Pacific Forum (now the Pacific Islands Forum), which excluded not only the more distant “metropolises” of France, the United Kingdom and the United States, but also their Pacific Island territories. The Canberra Pact was greeted by the United Kingdom in an indest and hostile manner by the United States. The British saw it as a feature of their loss of influence in the region, while the Americans, who were now the dominant power in the Pacific, were furious that they had not been consulted. Even the promise of closer cooperation between Australia and New Zealand has not been kept. But the two countries were closely associated with the creation of the United Nations and a South Pacific commission was established in 1947.

The work of William Douglass Forsyth (1909-1993) contains much information on the creation of the Secretariat in 1947 and the first twenty years of the South Pacific Commission. Documents include diary documents, reports, correspondence, work programs, speeches, newsletters and photographs. Forsyth`s lifelong interest in the Pacific and the collection contains later work on the South Pacific Conference and a manuscript he wrote in 1971-73 entitled “The Post-Colonial Pacific.” His unpublished memoirs are also an important source within the South Pacific Commission. The South Pacific Commission was established in 1947, when six industrialized countries with a strong interest in the Pacific signed the Canberra Agreement. These included Australia, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. They aim to “strengthen international cooperation to promote economic and social well-being and to promote the well-being of the peoples of the territories without autonomy in the South Pacific.”