RAMSI’s plans for transition are a reflection of the very real progress made by Solomon Islands over the past nine years, RAMSI Special Coordinator, Nicholas Coppel said today.
Addressing the Fourth Australia-Solomon Islands Business Forum in Brisbane, Mr Coppel said it was important to recognise the current transition plans - the most significant change in the mission since its arrival in the Solomons on 24 July 2003 - as a sign of success.
“RAMSI’s transition is a clear signal that Solomon Islands is back in business, that Solomons is a country that no longer needs an extraordinary intervention involving a foreign military force and an interventionist, post-conflict model of development assistance,” Mr Coppel told business and government officials present at the Forum.
The plans for a smaller, police-focused mission from mid 2013 was the direct result of the great gains that have been made under the SI-RAMSI partnership in restoring security, government finances, economic growth, and a functioning bureaucracy he said.
“Solomon Islands today is very different from the country that less than a decade ago was being referred to as a failing state, its people prone to violence and intimidation, and a government and a police force that were unable to perform many of their basic functions including managing the economy and upholding the rule of law.
“Today, law and order has been restored and Solomon Islands is a safe place to live, visit, and do business,” he said. “
National budgets and the government’s cash position have been stabilised, the country’s sovereign debt rating improved and the Parliament strengthened. Elections have been held successfully, the Office of the Auditor General is functioning, backlogs in the court system have been cut, significant tension era trials have concluded, and all prisons now meet United Nations standards,” he said.
As this progress was achieved, RAMSI has been changing its focus to capacity building but now it was time to make the next, more fundamental change to step back even further.
Different transition timetables have been developed for each of RAMSI’s three components, military, police and development assistance.
Subject to the final decision of the governments involved, RAMSI’s Participating Police Force will stay in Solomon Islands for at least another four years while the military will leave in the second half of next year.
From 1 July next year, most of RAMSI’s development assistance will be absorbed into the bilateral program run out of the Australian High Commission . and the aid programs of New Zealand and other interested donors he said.
“With RAMSI’s development assistance transferring, and the military component withdrawing, the mission, at least for the next four years, will focus on strengthening local policing.
This reflects the assessment that the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force has made much progress, but would benefit from further assistance he said.
Mr Coppel said that the restoration of security had happened relatively quickly in Solomon Islands, but long term social and economic development is a much harder task.
“Australia, and other development partners, are not only committed to building on the great gains made under the SI-RAMSI partnership, but to a strong and enduring partnership with Solomon Islands into the future.”