Tuesday, 22 April 2008 8:37 AM

Giving Young People Space to Talk

Over 60 Honiara youth came together recently to discuss what it is that RAMSI does in partnership with the people and government of Solomon Islands.

As part of RAMSI's Community Outreach Program, the 'open space' workshops have been designed to let the workshop participants 'set the agenda' for the discussions on RAMSI's development activities.

RAMSI's Community Outreach Officer Chris Tarohimae was impressed by the approach of many young people when talking with RAMSI advisers and their Solomon Islands counterparts about how they were tackling issues like corruption, economic management, law and order and development.

"Some people have just one idea about RAMSI, which is 'law and order'," Mr Tarohimae said.

"The workshop is a chance for young people from different settlements and backgrounds to meet real people both Solomon Islanders and their RAMSI advisers working on issues that are helping the country move forward like the economy, corruption, governance and development."

One participant Laisa Elisha challenged her peers on the issue of corruption.

"The responsibility of addressing corruption starts with us all. If we accept money when we elect our leaders for votes then we are feeding the system of corruption," she said.

RAMSI Governance adviser Tony Prescott agreed saying that corruption or the misuse of power, ended up costing everyone.

"The Auditor-General's report last year into corruption in the Solomon Islands identified over SBD $400 million was lost to the people of Solomon Islands," Mr Prescott said.

"This means that the government has less money to spend on things that everyone needs like medical clinics and schools," he said.

Agnes Tuiai, a RAMSI adviser working to train a new generation of government auditors in the Office of the Auditor General, said that one of the achievements of Solomon Islanders since RAMSI is that reports on how government is spending money now go to Parliament for checking.

"This means that for the first time in many years it is easier for people who are doing the wrong thing to be found out."

Mr Tarohimae said the success of the 'open space' workshop has confirmed RAMSI's plan to take the open space workshop theme to the provinces - the program will be known as Wokabot Tok Tok.

"The Wokabot Tok Tok tour plans to go to every province where we will again invite people to attend, set the agenda and then sit down with RAMSI advisers and discuss issues that are important to people."

"Our main message is that RAMSI is working together with the government, not to over-rule or dominate but to assist Solomon Islands, and advisors are trying to help us make wise decisions for everyone with the resources that we have," Mr Tarohimae said.

RAMSI aims to visit every province with the Wokabot Tok Tok program over the next year.

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