Australia and the Pacific Community Renew Ties

Australia and the Pacific Community Renew Ties
Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne speaks during a news conference at Australian Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, on Jan. 10, 2019. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Australia has renewed its strategic partnership with SPC, a preeminent Pacific regional science organisation, and will provide $42.5 million for its core funding over the next three years.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced the new funding agreement on Nov. 16 in a virtual meeting with SPC Director-General Stuart Minchin.
“Australia is proud to be a long-term strong supporter of the Pacific Community or SPC, a lead regional organisation delivering critical services to our region,” Payne said in a joint video with SPC. “It is one of the preeminent organisations in our region and makes a significant contribution to our regional economy, environment and community.”
SPC was one of the frontline organisations that Australia worked closely with during the initial stages of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic (novel coronavirus), helping with the organisation and training of health personnel, virus testing and infection control, building laboratory capacity, and aiding the procurement of essential equipment.

Minchin said that SPC’s renewed partnership with Australia was evidence of the strong and reliable long-term support Australia has provided to the organisation.

“Together with Australia’s new funding commitment, it will allow SPC to continue to help the Pacific recover and rebuild from the impacts of COVID-19 by tackling overarching economic, environmental, and health development challenges,” Minchin said.

Formerly known as the South Pacific Commission, SPC is one of the Pacific’s leading scientific and technical development organisations with 26 member states, including 22 Pacific island nations as well as Australia, France, the United States, and New Zealand.

SPC is primarily focused on providing technical and scientific advice in fisheries science, public health surveillance, geoscience, human rights, and the conservation of plant genetics. Additionally, the organisation is regarded as a knowledge bank to its member governments who may be too small to maintain purely national personnel for expertise.

In 2014, Australia and the SPC signed an agreement to become a key financing partner of the organisation and to provide access to a broad range of Australian-based knowledge and expertise until 2023.

According to the agreement, the goal of the partnership is to enhance SPC’s financial management and to pursue regional cooperation in the Pacific.

Australia has become increasingly engaged in the Pacific since 2016 after launching the Pacific Step-up policy. Payne said in 2019 that Australia has long been the Pacific’s largest development partner, security partner, and friend in time of need.

“But our conversations in the Pacific over the past several years have made it clear that we can and should all do more together to rise to the challenge and opportunities of our new Blue Pacific Continent,” said Payne.

Victoria Kelly-Clark is an Australian based reporter who focuses on national politics and the geopolitical environment in the Asia-pacific region, the Middle East and Central Asia.