chairman - SPC history

Founded in 1947

Originally called the South Pacific Commission, our unique organisation was founded in Australia in 1947 by the six ‘participating governments’ that then administered territories in the Pacific Islands region: Australia, France, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

They established our organisation under the Canberra Agreement to restore stability to a region that had experienced the turbulence of the Second World War, to assist in administering their dependent territories and to benefit the people of the Pacific.

Expansion of membership

In 1962, Samoa was the first island nation to become an independent state and in 1965 was the first to become a full member of SPC. Other island nations in turn became independent or largely self-governing. In 1983, at the 23rd South Pacific Conference in Saipan, all 22 Pacific Island member countries and territories were recognised as full voting and contributing members of our SPC family.

The Saipan decision, which followed a long period of Pacific leaders taking greater ownership of the organisation, marked our organisation’s coming of age with its now comprehensive regional membership and equal vote for all members regardless of their political situation. The decision also reaffirmed our organisation’s status as a non-political body. Despite this status, many of the Pacific’s best known leaders – such as Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara of Fiji – took a deep interest in our affairs and contributed strongly to our organisation’s evolution.

Change of name

The name, South Pacific Commission, was changed to the Pacific Community at the 50th anniversary conference in 1997 to reflect the organisation’s Pacific-wide membership. Now, our 26-strong membership includes the 22 Pacific Island countries and territories along with four of the original founders (the Netherlands and United Kingdom withdrew in 1962 and 2004 respectively when they relinquished their Pacific interests).

In November 2015, the organisation’s legal name, the Pacific Community, was adopted for general use. The abbreviation ‘SPC’ was retained, given its wide use and recognition throughout the Pacific. Our organisation’s logo was also updated to reflect this change.


Key dates

  • 2017: Pacific Community is celebrating 70 years of service to Pacific people
  • 2011: The Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) transferred its core functions to SPC
  • 2010: The South Pacific Board for Educational Assessment merged with SPC, and is now our Educational Quality and Assessment Programme
  • 2006: The First Pacific Youth Festival was held in French Polynesia with support from SPC and UNESCO
  • 2004: The United Kingdom withdrew from the Pacific Community
  • 1999: Lourdes Pangelinan, from Guam, was the first woman to be appointed Director-General of SPC
  • 1997: 50th anniversary conference held in Canberra; organisation’s name was changed to the ‘Pacific Community’
  • 1995: SPC moved into specially designed new headquarters in Noumea, New Caledonia
  • 1983: At the annual conference held in Saipan, all countries and territories in the area served by SPC became full and equal members and the SPC Conference became the governing body
  • 1972: The First Festival of Pacific Arts was held in Fiji (SPC led its establishment)
  • 1965: Samoa joined SPC as a full member, and first Pacific Island member
  • 1963: The First South Pacific Games were held in Suva (SPC played a leading role in the process)
  • 1962: Netherlands withdrew from Irian Jaya and from membership of SPC
  • 1962: Samoa (then known as (Western Samoa) reclaimed its independence, becoming the first Pacific Island country to achieve independence in the modern era
  • 1951: The area served by SPC was expanded to include Guam and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (Micronesia)
  • 1950: The First South Pacific Conference was held in Noumea
  • 1949: SPC headquarters were transferred from their temporary location in Sydney to Noumea
  • 1947: Following the end of World War II, the South Pacific Commission was established in Australia with the signing of the Canberra Agreement between Australia, France, Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and United States of America