Following Solomon Islands Government Cabinet endorsement in November 2011, RAMSI is currently transitioning its military, police and civilian components.
What is Transition?
“Transition” is the word used to describe the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) getting smaller and changing its focus. Transition does not mean RAMSI is leaving Solomon Islands completely. Rather, transition refers to ongoing changes across the mission’s civil, military and policing components. Coming changes will best position the delivery of long-term assistance to Solomon Islands into the future.
It is envisaged that the key elements of transition will be as follows.
• From mid-2013, RAMSI will concentrate on continuing to build the capacity of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF).
• RAMSI is now discussing with the Solomon Islands Government (SIG) how the development assistance currently conducted under the SIG-RAMSI Partnership Framework will move to Australia, New Zealand, and other donors from mid-2013.
• RAMSI, SIG and Pacific Islands contributing nations have also begun discussing the withdrawal of the mission’s military component from Solomon Islands, sometime after 1 July 2013.
Why is Transition Needed?
Solomon Islands has made a tremendous amount of progress since RAMSI was first invited in in 2003. Endorsed by the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and the Solomon Islands’ Parliament, RAMSI’s focus on arrival was to stabilise a country that had experienced significant conflict. The challenges and opportunities facing Solomon Islands now, almost ten years later, are very different. Today, Solomon Islands needs more normal, long-term development assistance, rather than the post-conflict type of assistance provided by RAMSI.
Transition is necessary for the future development of Solomon Islands. RAMSI not changing, or staying longer than needed, risks undermining Solomon Islanders’ sense of responsibility for leading and shaping their nation. In fact, RAMSI’s transition is one of the ways the rest of the world can see that Solomon Islands is now a safe place to visit and to do business.
What timeframe is RAMSI working to?
The next phase of RAMSI’s assistance will start on 1 July 2013 and last for four years (2013-17).
During 2013-17, it is anticipated that RAMSI’s main role will be to work with RSIPF to strengthen its capacity and further develop it as a modern and effective police force.
Transition and Policing
The Solomon Islands security environment has changed dramatically for the better since RAMSI arrived in 2003. Today, the security challenges faced by the Solomon Islands are the same as those faced in other countries in the region. They require a well-run, modern police force capable of a strong policing response. This is where RAMSI can most effectively target its capacity-building effort for the period 2013-17.
RAMSI’s Participating Police Force (PPF), including police from throughout the Pacific, will be staying in Solomon Islands and will continue to support the RSIPF. The policing support provided by the PPF has already been transitioning for some time. For example, the PPF have stepped back from front-line or “everyday” policing, and are now focused on building RSIPF capabilities, especially in leadership development, public order management and the crucial logistics, human resources and administrative functions needed to support front-line RSIPF officers. This transition strategy was developed jointly by the PPF and the RSIPF and agreed in November 2011.
Another very visible part of transition is the ongoing withdrawal of PPF personnel from most provincial police posts. Long-term PPF support for provincial policing will continue through the provision of leadership and mentoring programs, communications and logistics support, and station refurbishments.
Transition and Development
Within RAMSI’s three development programs in Economic Governance, Machinery of Government, and Law and Justice, the challenges have been - for some time - long-term ones. These challenges are better addressed through broader development partnerships, at a more realistic pace. Moving RAMSI’s development programs to bilateral aid arrangements from 1 July 2013 will allow both longer term planning and funding, as well as more flexible support than is possible under RAMSI, which is constrained by the uncertainty of four-year budget cycles.
RAMSI is currently talking with SIG and donors on the future shape of development programs. From July 2013, ongoing support in the areas currently supported by RAMSI will continue to be provided by Australia and New Zealand, as well as by other donors including the EU, World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
Such support will also be more strongly in line with international aid effectiveness principles. Assistance will support SIG-defined strategies in mutually-agreed areas of assistance; and will involve a smooth transition from RAMSI to longer-term development support mechanisms.
Transition and the Military Contingent
RAMSI’s military contingent, the Combined Task Force (CTF) includes soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Tonga.
The security focus in Solomon Islands has shifted to general public order and law and order issues, which are police functions. From 2013-17, RAMSI will be almost entirely focused on strengthening the capacity of the RSIPF, so that the RSIPF will have the training, equipment and skills needed to take the lead in maintaining order and addressing crime.
Under the “RAMSI Treaty”, the assisting countries may at any time withdraw any or all of their visiting contingent, and a significant withdrawal will only take place after consultation with the Government of Solomon Islands. With no sign of a return to militancy, law and order restored and a much improved RSIPF, RAMSI has begun discussions with SIG and with Pacific Islands contributing nations on the future withdrawal of the CTF. This withdrawal would not occur before mid-2013.
RAMSI will remain a partnership with the people and government of Solomon Islands, and a regional mission drawing police from Pacific Island contributing countries. Close consultation with SIG, the Pacific Islands Forum and all other stakeholders will remain central to the way RAMSI operates in the country.
Solomon Islands has improved greatly over the past nine years. Transition is the way to recognise these improvements. Transition is providing the opportunity for Solomon Islanders to step forward as RAMSI takes a step back.