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Regional Institutional Framework

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On 17 October 2007, at the 38th Pacific Islands Forum, Leaders expressed "the need to rationalise the functions of the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) with the work programmes of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) with the view to absorbing those functions of SOPAC into SPC and SPREP" (para. 19b of the Forum Leaders' Communique of 2007).

Following that, at the 36th SOPAC Session (AS36) in November 2007, the SOPAC Governing Council decided on a way forward <Decision> in response to Para.19b of the Forum Leaders’ 2007 Communiqué. This page was created to track milestone events and associated documentation for the SOPAC Secretariat.

On 21 August 2008 (Fiji Time) the Forum Leaders' Communique 2008 released after the Leaders met in Niue reaffirmed the Leaders' 2007 decision, clarified timelines, and issued directives to governing councils of affected organisations to take final decisions on the new institutional arrangements during 2009, and for implementation to commence immediately following those decisions (Para. 20 of 2008 Communique).

In July 2009, at an unprecedented joint SPC, SPREP and SOPAC governing councils' meeting, chaired by the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Members apportioned the SOPAC functions and programmes that would transfer to SPC and those that would transfer to SPREP.

On 6 August 2009, the Pacific Forum Leaders at their 40th Meeting in Cairns, Australia, noted the decisions of the governing bodies of SPC, SPREP and SOPAC that met jointly in July 2009.

At the 38th SOPAC Session in October 2009, the SOPAC Governing Council in recognising the challenge to meet the January 2010 timeline set by Leaders in Niue in 2008, while complying with the timelines and legal requirements of the “Agreement Establishing SOPAC” adopted a resolution that called for the development of integration agreements between SOPAC and the receiving organisations (SPC and SPREP).

On 6 August 2010, at the 41st Forum Leaders' Meeting, Leaders "welcomed the signing at their Plenary Session on 4 August 2010 of the Letter of Agreement between SPC and SOPAC relating to the final transfer of the core functions. Leaders acknowledged the importance of ensuring adequate resources for SOPAC's functions beyond the RIF to ensure that the overall level of service is not diminished."

In October 2010, the SOPAC Governing Council took the decision to suspend the Commission, delegating the role to oversee the closure of the Commission to the Director General of SPC assisted by a troika comprising the past Chair (Vanuatu), the current Chair (Australia) and the 2010 Vice-Chair (Cook Islands).

Suspension of SOPAC Commission

On 7 August 2012, “Director-General [of the SPC] Dr Jimmie Rodgers, presented to [a] Special Session of [the] CRGA a joint letter signed between Dr Russell Howorth in his capacity as Director of SOPAC Commission and himself confirming the full and effective closure of the SOPAC Commission. The Director General advised the meeting that all the requirements for the formal closure of the Commission had now been completed with the finalisation of its closing audit. In this regard the joint letter was the final communication confirming the ‘Letter of Agreement of August 2010’ [as] fully implemented.”









    • Presentations at First Programme Trilateral, 15-16 May 2008











Pre-AS36 Documentation, August-November? 2007

AS36, Nuku’alofa Tonga, 22-28 November 2007

Post AS36, December 2007 to February 2008


1st Meeting of the SOPAC Council Committee of the Whole (SCW)
SOPAC Secretariat, 19th March 2008


1 Adoption of Agenda

2 Documentation
3 Actions since Council Meeting
4 Purpose of the SCW
5 Terms of Reference for the work of the SCW

6 Institutional Arrangement Options

7 Timelines and Constraints

8 SOPAC Director Work Programme
**Initial Tasks to be Completed

9 Proposed Schedule of Committee Meetings and Reporting

10 Other Business

2nd Meeting of the SOPAC Council of the Whole (SCW)
Banyan Room, Holiday Inn, Suva, 4th June 2008


1 Welcome and Introduction of Observers

2 Adoption of Agenda

3 Minutes of SCW01

4 Documentation

5 Actions since SCW01

6 Rationalisation-Beyond-a-Glance?

7 Roadmap for a Way Forward

8 Update on Timelines and Constraints

9 SOPAC Director Work Programme between SCW02 and SCW03
o Tasks to be Completed

10 Date of SCW03

11 Other Business

12 Closing

3rd Meeting of the SOPAC Council of the Whole (SCW)
Banyan Room, Holiday Inn, Suva, 16th July 2008


1 Welcome

2 Adoption of Agenda

3 Approval of Minutes of SCW02

4 Matters Arising

5 Update since SCW02

6 Consideration of Progress Report to the Forum

7 Consideration of Council Chair Covering Letter

8 Date of Next Meeting, Update on Timelines and Constraints

9 Other Business

10 Closing

4th Meeting of the SOPAC Council of the Whole (SCW)
SOPAC Secretariat, Suva, 16th September 2008


1 Welcome

2 Adoption of Agenda

3 Approval of Minutes of SCW03

4 Matters Arising

5 Consideration of Forum Communique on the RIF

6 Consideration SPREP Council on the RIF

7 Timelines and Constraints

8 Committee Report to Council, and recommendations for way forward

9 Closing

SOPAC 37th Session (2008) RIF Documentation



Pacific Energy Ministers’ Meeting (PEMM2009)
Regional Energy Officials’ Meeting (REM2009)
Fa’onelua Convention Centre, Nuku’alofa, Tonga, 20-24 April 2009



Joint Meeting of SPC, SOPAC and SPREP Governing Bodies
Tradewinds Convention Centre, Suva, 7-8 July 2009




i) Joint SPC-SPREP-SOPAC Governing Bodies Summary of Decisions
ii) SOPAC Special Session Summary Record

SOPAC 38th Session (2009) RIF Documentation
Le Lagon Resort, Port Vila, Vanuatu, 21-30 October 2009


SOPAC Governing Council Sub-Committee? Meeting, SOPAC Secretariat, 23 February 2010

Signing Ceremony for the transfer of certain SOPAC functions and activities into SPREP & SPC, 31 March 2010

SOPAC 39th Session (2010), the Commission's final Governing Council meeting, Tanoa International Hotel, Nadi, Fiji, 16-21 October 2010

The bulk of the work programmes of the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission started operations from 1 January 2011, in the new Applied Geoscience and Technology Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

This update concludes the business and purpose of establishing this special RIF page on the SOPAC website.

Last Updated on Monday, 20 August 2012 10:33  


In the years leading up to 2010, the Pacific Island leaders decided to integrate the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (formerly known as CCOP/SOPAC) into the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. To implement this historical alignment of the two organisations, the leaders called to arms an internationally renowned geoscientist, who immediately left his well deserved retirement on Viti Levu's Coral Coast and reported to duty at Mead Road, Suva.

The then-incumbent, Dr. Russell Howorth, had been an integral part of SOPAC from its early years in the 70's, and still continues to be one of the main stalwarts of the organisation. Over the years, he has been instrumental in bringing about the prestige and recognition that SOPAC has in the region today.

A native of Yorkshire, Great Britain, Dr. Howorth did his PhD. in Geology from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, after a brief stint as a mining geologist in Zambia. He first visited the fledgling CCOP/SOPAC while on secondment at the University of South Pacific (USP) in early 1979. CCOP/SOPAC was then a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional project with less than 10 staff members.

During his early years in the South Pacific, he was best known for his achievement in establishing the Certificate in Earth Science and Marine Geology. The Certificate brought three organizations -- CCOP/SOPAC, USP, and Victoria University of Wellington -- together in the early eighties to offer what was a unique opportunity for an academic course with a practical focus for geologists and technicians in the region.