The Republic of Palau, an archipelago of 500 islands located in the Western Pacific, has become the first country in the world to ask all inbound visitors to sign a declaration in their passports, pledging to protect the environment and respect local traditions.
Named the ‘Palau Pledge’, and based on the Palauan tradition of BUL*, this ongoing eco-initiative was written with the help of Palau’s children, and asks visitors to commit to responsible and sustainable tourism, making a promise to future generations.
With less than 20,000 residents, Palau is the thirteenth smallest nation in the world, yet welcomes more than 160,000 visitors every year, making the initiative a crucial one.
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.
“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 of PalauTommy E. Remengesau Jr says.
Palau also hopes other countries will follow suit to protect the planet for children worldwide.
“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. Human impact on our earth’s environment is one of the biggest challenges facing our world today, and 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 move has been applauded and supported by the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, The Rolling Stones and former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who have all taken the pledge.
Back home in Australia, St Kilda Primary School children have become some of the first in the country to back pledge after learning about the importance of responsible and sustainable tourism.
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.
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.
Take the pledge here: 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.