Prior to ‘transition’, RAMSI’s Community Outreach program was the main way the Mission consulted Solomon Islanders about the work RAMSI was doing.
The outreach program aimed to visit as many communities as possible throughout Solomon Islands, and gave them a chance to learn more about how RAMSI was working in partnership with their Government and to raise any questions or concerns they had.
RAMSI’s Community Outreach teams were drawn from the three contingents that made up the Mission – civilian, police and military – together with relevant Solomon Islands Government personnel.
Since RAMSI has downsized and is now solely a policing mission, rather than a large-scale development mission, RAMSI’s community outreach program has been wound back. The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force now has the lead on community consultation on policing issues. RAMSI continues to support the RSIPF in their community consultation efforts, particularly through the provision of training and logistical support.
In a country where the vast majority of people only have access to information through word of mouth, the Community Outreach program was indispensable for reaching ordinary Solomon Islanders.
Over 100 outreaches were held on average each year prior to ‘transition’, with every outreach aiming to simply and sincerely exchange information with each community. Each community in Solomon Islands is unique, and has its own set of concerns, ensuring that no outreach session was ever the same and that the discussion was always lively.
People were also encouraged to use outreach meetings as an opportunity to ask questions directly of RAMSI and government personnel so they could hear the answers to their concerns on the spot. Feedback collected during the sessions was integral for decision-making about the future of the Mission and Solomon Islands
Wokabaot TokToks were larger-scale RAMSI community outreach meetings that were held once every few months throughout Solomon Islands. These meetings were designed to encourage even greater discussion and debate in communities about the work of RAMSI, and how it operated in partnership with the Solomon Islands Government. Each Wokabaot TokTok lasted for around five hours and involved workshops and discussions primarily led by the communities themselves.
These discussions involved communities putting tough questions to Solomon Islands Government and RAMSI participants and feedback was not always positive. The community outreach team always used these opportunities to ensure there was an understanding of what RAMSI was doing and what the Mission was achieving in Solomon Islands.
Today, RAMSI’s Participating Police Force’s (PPF) community policing team support the RSIPF to engage in community outreach activities all over Solomon Islands. As of 30 June 2014, the RSIPF community policing and family violence team had spoken to almost 113,000 Solomon Islanders as part of the outreach program. This is out of a total population of around 580,000. The outreach included the RSIPF visiting 176 schools, 244 villages, 49 churches, and holding 85 community consultations and 24 community events.
Long range community patrols are another tool that RAMSI is supporting to allow the RSIPF to effectively engage with remote communities. While the PPF provide the logistical support, through the use of maritime vessels, the patrols themselves are led by RSIPF community policing officers. During these patrols the RSIPF conducts education and awareness sessions on family violence, criminal law and other issues, such as alcohol and substance abuse. To get their messages across, RSIPF officers use training aids, including flip charts, to convey key messages and prompt discussion.