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Solomon Islands - Australia Relations

Australia has a deep and longstanding relationship with Solomon Islands. Australia is an important economic partner. People-to-people and business links continue to grow steadily and there are estimated to be around 1,500 Australians in Solomon Islands, mainly in Honiara.

On 14 August 2017 Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Milner Tozaka signed a new security treaty between Australia and Solomon Islands. The new treaty will allow Australian police, defence and associated civilian personnel to deploy rapidly to Solomon Islands if the need arises and where both countries consent. It will cover a range of foreseeable security threats, including natural disasters, and will allow for third country contributions. This will be Australia’s first bilateral security treaty in the Pacific and will replace the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) treaty, which expired upon the withdrawal of RAMSI on 30 June 2017.

In December 1998, existing ethnic tensions on Guadalcanal rapidly escalated. Many Guadalcanal people resented the influence of settlers from other islands and their occupation of undeveloped land in and around Honiara. The settlers, mostly from nearby Malaita, were drawn to Honiara and its environs by comparatively greater economic opportunities. Violent clashes involving rival militant groups erupted, destabilising Solomon Islands and undermining national institutions. This situation persisted for more than four years.

In April 2003, then Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza wrote to request Australian assistance in addressing the violence. Following consultations between the Governments of Solomon Islands, Australia and New Zealand, a comprehensive package of strengthened assistance to support the Solomon Islands Government — the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) — was proposed and unanimously endorsed by a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Pacific Islands Forum. RAMSI was debated and unanimously endorsed by the Solomon Islands Parliament, welcomed by the President of the UN Security Council, commended by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and supported by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and then Commonwealth Secretary-General Sir Don McKinnon.

RAMSI was a long-term commitment aimed at creating the conditions necessary for a return to stability, peace and a growing economy. RAMSI arrived in Solomon Islands in July 2003 and was a partnership between Solomon Islands, Australia and fifteen contributing countries of the Pacific region. Australia led a contingent of military personnel, police and civilians. On 1 July 2013, RAMSI's military component was withdrawn and development assistance activities transferred to the programs of other donors, mainly Australia's. RAMSI concluded on 30 June 2017.

Australia has an enduring interest in supporting stability in Solomon Islands, underpinned by a healthy and educated population and a growing economy. Australia is Solomon Islands' main development partner. Australian development assistance to Solomon Islands, focuses on improving health, education, water and sanitation, transport, telecommunications, law and justice, rural livelihoods and effective governance. Australia’s assistance focuses on three objectives:

  1. Supporting stability: governance, law and justice, policing;
  2. Enabling economic growth: resource and economic management, infrastructure, private sector engagement, aid for trade; and
  3. Enhancing human development: health, education, gender equality, disability inclusive development.

A strong partnership with the Solomon Islands Government is key to achieving these objectives. Australia delivers one quarter of bilateral aid to Solomon Islands through partner government systems.

The program draws on expertise from across the Australian Government, including the Australian Federal Police and Australian Electoral Commission, to deliver capacity support and advice to the Solomon Islands Government. The bilateral program continues a shift in focus to investments that facilitate economic growth, including working more with the private sector.

Australia’s support for health and education reached all ten Provinces and Territories, supporting the completion of 74 classrooms, the expansion of 13 schools, and continuing professional development for 1,440 teachers. Australia supported 42 Solomon Islanders (up from 39 in 2016-17, 50% female) to commence tertiary studies in Australia and the Pacific region under the prestigious Australia Awards Scholarships program. In September 2018, Solomon Islands joined the Pacific Labour Scheme. The scheme will enable Solomon Islanders to undertake low and semiskilled work in rural and regional Australia for up to three years. The first cohort of Solomon Islands Pacific Labour Scheme workers will be mobilised by January 2019.

Australian merchandise exports to Solomon Islands in 2016 totaled $107 million. Australia maintains close business relations with Solomon Islands. Shipping and air services directly connect Solomon Islands with Australia and one Australian commercial bank (ANZ) operates in Solomon Islands. A number of Australian legal and accounting firms are represented directly or in association with local firms.

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Page last modified: 28-11-2021 19:20:37 ZULU