24 Jul 2013

Solomons government watchdogs in good shape - RAMSI

5:07 pm on 24 July 2013

The special co-ordinator of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, or RAMSI, says the bodies charged with tackling government corruption are in good shape following a decade of institutional strengthening.

Nicholas Coppel's comment comes as Solomon Islands marks RAMSI's downsizing to a policing-only operation as well as 10 years since its deployment to quell a civil conflict that resulted in the deaths of 200 people and the displacement of up to 30,000.

Thousands of soldiers, police and civilians from Australia and New Zealand have taken part in the multi-billion dollar mission, along with military and police from other countries in the Pacific Islands Forum.

Mr Coppel says although Solomon Islands has made significant progress, the development problems that underpinned the tensions remain.

He spoke to Annell Husband:

NICHOLAS COPPEL: Those underlying issues are the sorts of problems we see in most developing countries. We see inequitable economic development, some parts of the country are growing faster than others. We see poor, weak infrastructure inability for government to deliver services to many parts of the community which can lead to feelings of frustration and of neglect. Those issues are challenges which many developing countries face and the solutions to those lie in strong governance institutions which RAMSI has rebuilt. Not just the police force but also the Leadership Code Commission, the Ombudsman's Office, the Electoral Commission, the Auditor General, all of those institutions. The entire legal sector, the High Court, the Magistrates Court, correctional services, director of Public Prosecutions, office of the Public Solicitor, they've all been the focus of RAMSI's work over the last 10 years and those institutions are in good shape and they are if you like a bulwark against the development of corruption.

ANNELL HUSBAND: There would be some who would say that they need a lot more strengthening.

NC: Solomons Islands is a low income country and like many other countries in a similar situation, and it will require just like those other countries external assistance for many years to come. And RAMSI's development assistance programmes haven't ended. What we've done is move them across to the bilateral programmes managed by AUSAid and NZAid and some by the European Union. So what's changed is who delivers those programmes of assistance and in some ways the nature of that assistance, where at the beginning it was very much about RAMSI officials coming in doing the work, they were in-line, they were actually sitting at desks in government ministries providing those services. And now the focus is very much more on traditional type of development assistance which is focused on building up the capacity of local Solomon Islanders and that's best done through the normal donor programmes. So assistance is not coming to an end it's just changing and that reflects the progress that's been made but it also reflects the point you're making which is that these institutions will require support into the future.