Koror: The Republic of Palau in the Western Pacific has today launched the Palau Pledge, a world-first eco-initiative that asks all inbound visitors to make a compulsory promise, directly to the children of Palau, to preserve their home before they can enter the country.
Palau has become the first country to update its immigration policy and landing procedures to implement such legislation, aimed at preserving its vibrant culture and the beauty of its natural environment for future generations. It also hopes that other countries will follow suit to protect the planet for children worldwide.
Based on the Palauan tradition of BUL* and written with the help of Palau’s children, the Palau Pledge will be stamped and signed in the passports of every visitor. The initiative puts an onus on ‘responsible, sustainable tourism’ from the growing number of tourists who have visited the island in recent years.
Palau is the thirteenth smallest nation in the world with a population of less than 20,000 people but it sees over 160,000 visitors to its shores each year. The Pledge was deemed necessary after careless behaviour from visitors started to erode Palau’s pristine environment and have a negative impact on its culture. Policy has also been put in place by the Palauan Government enabling action to be taken against those who break the conditions of the Pledge, with fines of up to $1 million USD for offences committed.
The pioneering project draws attention to the ecological challenges related to tourism, with the future of the Palauan children in mind. It further seeks to change the damaging impact of human activity on the local ecosystem, especially as the number of visitors to the island continues to rise.
Palau has a long history of world-firsts in conservation. It was the first country to create a shark sanctuary in its national waters, it was the first to ban the destructive practice of bottom trawling, and in 2015, its leadership created the Palau National Marine Sanctuary: the largest fully-protected, no-take zone in the world.
Tommy E. Remengesau Jr, President of Palau, and long-time advocate for conservation and sustainability, believes everybody holds responsibility for enacting change.
“It is our responsibility to show our guests how to respect Palau, just as it is their duty to uphold the signed pledge when visiting,” said President Remengesau. “While Palau may be a small-island nation, we are a large ocean-state and conservation is at the heart of our culture. We rely on our environment to survive and if our beautiful country is lost to environmental degradation, we will be the last generation to enjoy both its beauty and life-sustaining biodiversity. This is not only true of Palau. Human impact on our earth’s environment is one of the biggest challenges facing our world today. As a small country we feel the impact of these actions acutely. We hope that the Palau Pledge raises global awareness of the responsibility that this generation has to the next.”
The Palau Pledge is further brought to life with an imaginative in-flight video that features the children of Palau explaining the massive impact that visitors can have on their home. Signage and information packs will also be placed around Palau’s airport terminal and throughout the country to remind visitors about the conditions of the Pledge once they arrive. The Palau Pledge and its philosophy is also being integrated into the children’s education by the Ministry of Education, to help the children understand the essential role they play in protecting their country’s future.
The local community and businesses, including tour operators, will also be encouraged to take the Pledge to commit to upholding Palau’s conservation laws, helping visitors understand them and celebrating Palau’s unique beauty.
The Palau Pledge was created by Australian communications agency, Host/Havas, in partnership with the Palau Legacy Project, a local group of voluntary business and marketing professionals that work alongside the government to help communicate Palau’s conservation message.
Laura Clarke, one of the four co-founders of the Palau Legacy Project who was originally a visitor to the island says, “The Palau Pledge is about helping guests understand the vital role they play in protecting Palau for the next generation. Most visitors are unaware of the serious impact their actions have or even what they can do to help. The Palau Legacy Project team came together to help communicate these important messages in a way that all guests would understand.”
A dedicated website has been set up to provide information for visitors about the Palau Pledge prior to their trip. For more information, visit palaupledge.com
*BUL is a moratorium declared by Palau’s traditional leaders that places an immediate halt to the over-consumption or destruction of a species, place or thing. It has become the symbol of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary and the Palau Pledge, which are modern-day applications of a traditional BUL.