New RAMSI Special Coordinator commits to continue the fight against gender-based violence

An op-ed by RAMSI Special Coordinator, Quinton Devlin

During my first week in Solomon Islands as the new RAMSI Special Coordinator, I have been overwhelmed by the warm welcome of Solomon Islanders. You have greeted me with friendship and I feel very humbled and honoured to be here.

It has been very heartening to hear about the importance RAMSI has played in shaping Solomon Islands into the safe and peaceful country it is today.

Even though I am new to the role of Special Coordinator, RAMSI’s job has not changed. The Mission will continue to focus on strengthening the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) to ensure Solomon Islands is a secure and prosperous country well into the future.

My first impressions of the RSIPF have been very positive. I have been very impressed with the professionalism of the RSIPF officers that I have met to date and been told repeatedly of the RSIPF’s commitment and courage to strengthening their skills and tactics for the good of the country.

As Special Coordinator, I look forward to progressing RAMSI’s work in very close partnership with the Solomon Islands Government and the people of Solomon Islands. We continue to be here to helpem fren.

RAMSI, the Solomon Islands Government and regional partners have already begun constructive conversations on the Mission’s drawdown, which is currently underway, and what further assistance Solomon Islands might need after mid-2017. No decisions have been made regarding what shape this assistance might take, but I am very confident there will be ongoing support to the RSIPF once RAMSI leaves.

Today is Human Rights Day – the final day of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign. The fight against gender-based violence was one of the top priorities for RAMSI under the leadership of the previous Special Coordinator, Justine Braithwaite. I want to thank her for personally championing this issue and wish to recommit – personally and on behalf of RAMSI – to addressing gender-based violence.

The importance of the fight against gender-based violence in Solomon Islands is clear. Around two-thirds of women experience violence from an intimate partner at some point during their lives. The impact of this on each of their lives and on the well-being of families and communities is devastating. It breeds insecurity, contributes to poverty, and adversely impacts on development and the nation’s economic growth. RAMSI was established to prevent these kinds of outcomes, and for this reason the fight against gender-based violence will remain one of the Mission’s highest priorities.

RAMSI is playing its part in this fight. We are providing training, educational tools and logistical support, to help the RSIPF build stronger linkages with communities and to tackle violence within the home. However, it is the RSIPF that is on the frontline. The RSIPF’s work is critical. Police officers work to attend and investigate reports of abuse and violence, keep survivors and families safe, engage with communities and hold offenders accountable.

The RSIPF has worked tirelessly and admirably during the 16 Days of Activism to show its commitment to stamping out gender-based violence. On White Ribbon Day, the RSIPF was one of the most visible participants in the parade through Honiara City. The Community Policing and Family Violence team have also been very active during the campaign, holding a series of outreach sessions throughout Honiara, with the support of the local community.

It has also been very pleasing to see progress being made towards the implementation of the Family Protection Act across government agencies, including through a RSIPF ‘train-the-trainer’ course, so that the Act can come into force on 1 April 2016 as planned.

This year’s theme for the 16 Days of Activism is ‘Iumi stan togeta for endim vaelens agenst women’. This is a very important message. All Solomon Islanders have an important role to play in eliminating gender-based violence. It is not only a law enforcement issue. It is also a health issue, an economic issue, a development issue and a social issue. We cannot expect the RSIPF to be able to solve this problem on its own. All Solomon Islanders need to stand up and, alongside their police force, combat gender-based violence if a long-lasting difference is to be made.

The equality and security of women, both young and old, should be in everyone’s minds to ensure that Solomon Islands can grow and prosper into the future. Women’s rights are human rights. Iumi nid fo stanap tugeta fo endim vaelens agenstim ogeta woman – it is in the best interests of the nation.