Friday, 18 March 2011 8:46 AM

Solomon Islands Entering High Risk Period, Says Expert

A new report says Solomon Islands are entering a high-risk period for conflict and needs an external security guarantee to ensure stability.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has been examining the long-term future of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands. It concludes that support for the gradual withdrawal of RAMSI has been building but it would be premature to leave Solomon Islands without any external security back-up.

Speaking to Radio Australia the report's author, Dr Mathew Allen, says the impending collapse of the logging industry will only increase the risk of violent conflict.

"The most recent technical assessment is that the logs will dry up by 2014 and certainly by 2015 and log exports will effectively fall to zero. Now Solomons is more dependent than it's ever been on the export of round logs. They're currently accounting for around 70 per cent of export income, so this collapse in logging really is going to cause a severe macro-economic shock," said Dr Allen.

"My fundamental argument is that because Solomons is moving into a high risk period for conflict and that's likely to remain the case for at least the next ten to 15 years, an external security guarantee - perhaps guarantee isn't the term - but a credible deterrent effect and will need to be kept in place over that time frame."

Dr Allen has suggested that it would be important to retain a small security presence on the ground in Solomon Islands and its essential "that the regional character of the mission remains in place as well."

"I would argue that there are two options in terms of maintaining that...one option is to maintain the current RAMSI enabling framework if you like or the second one is to perhaps work with the Pacific Island Forum and to work with regional partners' maybe to come up with a more streamlined enabling framework."

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