The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), or Operation Helpem Fren, is a partnership between the people and government of Solomon Islands and fifteen contributing countries of the Pacific region. The Mission is majority-funded and led by Australia.
RAMSI arrived in Solomon Islands in July 2003 at the request of the Solomon Islands Government. Since then, RAMSI has been helping the Solomon Islands lay the foundations for long-term stability, security and prosperity.
The partnership forged between the people and Government of Solomon Islands and RAMSI has achieved much in the years since. Law and order have been restored, national institutions have been rebuilt and the Solomon Islands economy has been reformed.
Since mid-2013, RAMSI has been solely a policing mission, working in partnership with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) to build a modern, effective and independent police force that has the full confidence and support of the community.
RAMSI’s regional identity is its core underlying strength. Every Pacific Island Forum country participates in RAMSI and the Mission benefits from the diverse cultures and experience of the 15 contributing members. Since 2003, thousands of police, military and civilian personnel from across the region have served with RAMSI and worked side by side with Solomon Islanders. The individual efforts of those who have worked with RAMSI have combined to make a great contribution to the success of the Mission and the continuing peace in Solomon Islands.
After five years of ethnic tensions, and a coup in 2000, the problems facing Solomon Islands were many and serious. Law and order had broken down, officials and private citizens were subject to intimidation and violence, and corruption was unfettered. The Government and its institutions had ceased to function effectively. Corruption was widespread. Public finances were in ruin and many of the most basic services such as health and education were not being delivered to the people.
RAMSI was formed to help lay the foundations for long-term stability and prosperity in Solomon Islands, with a mandate to:
- restore civil order in Honiara and throughout the rest of the country;
- rebuild and reform the machinery of government, improve government accountability and improve the delivery of services in urban and provincial areas;
- stabilise government finances, balance the budget and fight corruption; and
- help rebuild the economy and encourage sustainable broad-based growth.
In April 2003, the then Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Sir Allan Kemakeza, made an urgent request for international assistance. In response, the countries of the Pacific region, through the Pacific Islands Forum, agreed to support the formation of a regional assistance mission to be led and funded by Australia and New Zealand with membership from all Forum countries.
The Mission would be enabled under the Biketawa Declaration, which Forum Leaders had agreed to in 2000. Under the Declaration, Forum countries could form such a mission and send it into a member country upon the request of the affected nation.
In June 2003, Sir Allan flew to Australia to formally receive an offer of assistance. Together with the Solomon Islands Government, the Forum countries then agreed on the Mission’s mandate to address civil unrest and lawlessness, economic decline, corruption and a dramatic drop in service delivery and government administrative standards. This formed the basis of the RAMSI Treaty, signed on 24 July 2013, which allowed for the deployment of police and military forces to Solomon Islands.
On 17 July 2003, the Solomon Islands National Parliament unanimously passed the Facilitation of International Assistance Act 2003, which provided the authority under Solomon Islands domestic law for RAMSI’s activities.
These documents are available in the News and Resources section of the website.
Shortly after the first rays of dawn struck the tarmac of Solomon Islands Henderson International Airport on Thursday 24 July 2003, soldiers, police and civilians from Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu began to arrive in their hundreds.
Eventually amassing over two thousand personnel, these security forces came not in anger but rather as friends determined to assist a neighbour in need. In what was to become one of the most successful experiments in regional cooperation, RAMSI – the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands – was born.
In order to achieve the goals of RAMSI, the Mission was originally made up of four main components: the Office of the Special Coordinator (OSC), the Participating Police Force (PPF), the Combined Task Force (CTF) and the civilian development programs.
Office of the Special Coordinator – The Special Coordinator (an Australian diplomat), and their office, is responsible for the overall policy coordination, oversight and strategic direction of all aspects of RAMSI. The office is also responsible for liaising with Solomon Islands Government, the Pacific Islands Forum and the contributing Pacific countries.
Participating Police Force – The initial focus of the PPF was on restoring law and order, collecting weapons and arresting suspected criminals. As the security environment has improved in Solomon Islands, the PPF has stepped back to allow the RSIPF to take the lead on frontline policing. The PPF is now focussed on building the capabilities of the RSIPF.
Combined Task Force – In the initial period following RAMSI’s arrival in 2003, the key role of RAMSI’s military component was to provide protection for the PPF and other parts of the Mission. This was necessary due to the serious law and order situation and the large number of illegally-held weapons present in the Solomon Islands community at the time. The CTF was withdrawn as part of ‘transition’ in 2013.
Development Programs – Under RAMSI, there were three main civilian development programs; the Law and Justice program; the Machinery of Government program; and the Economic Governance program. These programs were shifted to bilateral aid partners on 1 July 2013 as part of ‘transition’.
More details regarding the past and current work of each of these components is detailed in the Our Work section of the website.
The challenges and opportunities facing Solomon Islands now are very different to those when RAMSI first arrived in 2003. The security environment has stabilised and many of the challenges are similar to those faced in other countries in the region.
Both the Pacific Islands Forum and Solomon Islands’ Government recognised this change in Solomon Islands and decided there was a need for more normal, long-term development assistance, rather than the post-conflict assistance provided by RAMSI. In November 2011, the Solomon Islands Cabinet agreed that RAMSI should ‘transition’ – meaning the Mission would become smaller and solely a policing mission, focussed on strengthening the capacity of the RSIPF.
Transition occurred on 1 July 2013. As part of ‘transition’, RAMSI’s civilian development programs were shifted to the Australian High Commission and other bilateral aid partners as this allowed for both longer term planning and funding arrangements to be put in place. In recognition of the improved security environment, RAMSI’s military component, the Combined Task Force, was withdrawn. The Participating Police Force also stepped back from frontline “everyday” policing and withdrew personnel from most provincial police posts.
It was agreed that ‘transition’ was necessary for the future development of Solomon Islands. RAMSI not changing, or staying longer than needed, risked undermining Solomon Islanders’ sense of responsibility for leading and shaping their nation. ‘Transition’ was also a signal to the rest of the world that Solomon Islands was a safe place to visit and to do business once again.
RAMSI today is solely a policing mission, comprised of the Office of the Special Coordinator and the Participating Police Force. The current phase of RAMSI’s assistance started on 1 July 2013 and will last for four years until 30 June 2017. Australia remained the largest contributor of personnel and funding.
Since mid- 2013, RAMSI’s main role has been to working with RSIPF to strengthen its capacity and further develop it as a modern, effective and self-reliant police force. The Mission is focused on building RSIPF capabilities, especially in leadership development, public order management and the crucial logistics, human resources and administrative functions needed to support frontline RSIPF officers. An important element of RAMSI’s work has been supporting a Solomon Islands Government decision to rearm a small number of specialist police officers.
Many challenges still lie ahead, but RAMSI remains committed to addressing them and working in partnership with the people and Government of Solomon Islands so that together we can give all Solomon Islanders hope of a better future.