Monday, 25 February 2008 6:48 AM

Smith Optimistic of RAMSI - SIG Development Partnership

The Australian Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, last week attended the inaugural Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Standing Committee (PIFMSC) meeting held in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

The PIFMSC is made up of the Foreign Ministers of Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Niue, Solomon Islands and Australia.

"The meeting was productive and positive and provided an opportunity for me to underscore Australia's ongoing commitment to RAMSI and close cooperation with the region and Solomon Islands Government" stated Stephen Smith in a press statement.

"RAMSI has had great success in restoring law and order in Solomon Islands and this allows the possibility of moving forward on capacity building in line with the intentions of the Solomon Islands Government"

Mr Smith was also optimistic of a recommendation put forth by the committee that would essentially give rise to a joint development strategy between RAMSI and the Solomon Islands government.

"The Committee underlined the importance of consultation between the Solomon Islands Government and RAMSI to develop jointly agreed development strategies, and endorsed the proposal to jointly develop a Solomon Islands Government-RAMSI Partnership Framework"

The Framework will provide a mechanism for mutual responsibility in setting priorities to achieve the Solomon Islands Government's broader policy objectives. It will develop mutually-agreed, conditions-based timelines with a view to reducing the Mission's engagement in critical areas of government as the capacity of the Solomon Islands Government continues to grow.

Mr Smith was adamant that such a new approach "marked the beginning of a new partnership between RAMSI and the Solomon Islands looking to the future."

Mr Smith was joined by Parliamentary Secretaries Duncan Kerr and Bob McMullan, a clear sign of a new beginning to the bilateral relationship between Australia and Solomon Islands.