The Palau Pledge: One Year On

Palau-Hero-PASSPORT-A_1920x1080.jpgAs Cannes Lions pledges €323,280 to the winner of the inaugural Sustainable Development Lions Grand Prix, LBB's Laura Swinton speaks to Palau Pledge co-founder Laura Clarke about the journey, the mission and next steps for a 'tribe of women on a mission'

Palau is the 7th smallest nation in the world by GDP. But the island nation in the Western Pacific Ocean is also one of the biggest innovators when it comes to environmental conservation. In 1979, it became the first country in the world to vote for a nuclear-free constitution, banning nuclear weapons. In 2009, it turned its waters into the world's first shark sanctuary. In 2015 it turned a 500,000 sq km area into a marine reserve, banning oil drilling and fishing by foreign trawlers.
So Palau Pledge is the latest example of the country's commitment to conservation. Launched just over a year ago (with two years of dogged legwork before that), the Pledge was devised in response to tourists littering the beautiful beaches and treating paradise like a garbage dump. It was kick-started by Nanae Singeo, Jennifer Koskelin-Gibbons, Nicolle Fagan and Laura Clarke and is chaired by the First Lady of Palau, Debbie Remengesau - the women had been drawn together over a mutual passion. With the help of Sydney-based agency Host/Havas, they introduced an ingenious perspective-flipping project that turned the country's entry visa stamp into a pledge to protect the local environment - which visitors have to sign. The Pledge has been signed by 150,000 people.

The project is rooted in local cultural wisdom, says co-founder Laura, which values the natural environment. While Pacific island nations will suffer the most acute impact of rising sea levels despite producing minimal CO2 emissions (countries like Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands are at the greatest risk of disappearing completely), places like Palau are leading the way and showing what is possible.

"They have been custodians of a culture of conservation for millennia," says Laura. "I think what we can take away from this and what we try to talk to other politicians around the world about is that this ancient cultural wisdom is something that we need to pay attention to. I think it's in a lot of cultures but we ignore it. That's one of the big lessons: that we need to go back to basics. We need to put the environment before profit."

Of course, Palau's size has also been advantageous when it comes to implementing the Pledge - Laura first met the First Lady at a cocktail party. Now that she is trying to spread Palau's message and ideas with governments in Western countries, Laura says she's keenly aware that the access to politicians and legal bodies in Palau has been incomparable. But despite the relatively small size of the country, enacting the pledge required months of negotiation with government bodies. Though the Pledge launched in December 2017, it has only recently been incorporated into the country's legislature - because whatever the size of a country, changing the law is a slow and tricky process. In November 2018, the government enacted the Responsible Tourism and Education Act, which encompasses the pledge and a host of other measures. Continue reading on LBB...


Thuglife said:

In an indusrty which regularly backpats itself for just doing a normal job, this is one which is truly an amazing idea and potential to have a major impact.

More of this please, ad industry

Ed said:

Host/Havas: One Year On could be a more interesting discussion.

producer said:

Well done Cannes Lions and the team behind this powerful idea.


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