Solomon Islands youth entrepreneurs have a key role to play in tackling corruption and building business integrity as the country strengthens its economy and tackles COVID-19, according to local participants of the three-day Business Integrity for Youth Entrepreneurs Workshop.

According to the Solomon Islands Youth Status Report, there are more young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world today than at any other time in human history. Solomon Islands reflects this global trend. Similarly, young entrepreneurs are a key part of the COVID-19 recovery journey and navigating corruption in economies that are affected by the pandemic can prove difficult.

As such, a Business Integrity Toolkit for Young Entrepreneurs developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Bangkok Regional Hub, walks young entrepreneurs through the challenges and costs of corruption and offers practical steps and resources on how to create and ensure business integrity.

The workshop encourages “collective action” and opens an important dialogue with existing and potential young entrepreneurs in Solomon Islands on how they can do business with integrity, to create a fair business environment with minimal risk of corruption and a level playing field for all.

"My integrity is not for sale at any price. [In the face of corruption], I value the moral high ground and zero dollars in the bank - we always have a choice!” said Chair of the Youth Entrepreneurs Council Solomon Islands (YECSI), Ms. Millicent Barty, as she reflects on her own experiences.

Echoing the same sentiments, local tour operator, Mr. Patrick Aluta, was appreciative of the opportunity to share similar experiences with other young entrepreneurs and agreed that other budding youth entrepreneurs would benefit from this similar training.

“I have experienced the impacts of the lack of integrity. It is poisonous to start and maintain a business in such environment. Young entrepreneurs must learn to adapt integrity in business undertakings, uphold accepted business practices and be more meticulous in dealing with corruption,” said Aluta.

The workshop is being supported by the United Nations Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption (UNPRAC) Project, the UNDP’s Transparency and Accountability Project for Solomon Islands and the Youth Entrepreneurs Council Solomon Islands (YECSI).

“One agency alone cannot fight corruption, the participation of youth and the private sector are of paramount importance,” said Deputy Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, Dr Derrick Mane.

The UNDP Solomon Islands Country Manager, Mr. Berdi Berdiyev said, “Corruption and fraud misdirects public funds away from the people they are supposed to support.

He added, “The reality is that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are unlikely to be attained without also achieving SDG Target 16.5 – to “substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms. Youth in the Solomon Islands are key partners in the country reaching all its goals.”

In a 2014 survey led by World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), showed that 72 percent of millennials – defined as young people aged between 18 and 34 – believe corruption is holding back their country, while 72 percent thinks it is causing lost opportunities for their generation. This reality has been made more devastating by the COVID-19 crisis as young people are among the hardest hit.

“It is important to promote networking between existing and potential young entrepreneurs, along with SICCI and Government, and joint advocacy for transparent, effective and efficient services, in keeping with UN-PRAC’s whole-of-society approach to integrity,” said UNODC Regional Anti-Corruption Adviser in the Pacific, Ms. Annika Wythes.

More than 20 young entrepreneurs from various industries including fashion, music, performing arts, information technology, agriculture, manufacturing and others are attending the three - day workshop which ends today, Thursday 8 October 2020.

At the end of the workshop, young entrepreneurs - members of YECSI, have committed to voluntarily sign a Code of Conduct, thus pledging to run their business with full integrity and transparency.

A similar workshop was also organised for young entrepreneurs in Nadi, Fiji in September 2020.

The UN-PRAC Project, a joint initiative by UNODC and UNDP supported by the Australian Government and the New Zealand Aid Programme and is working on private sector integrity issues affecting, youth, women and all entrepreneurs with SICCI and the UNDP Solomon Islands Office.

The Transparency and Accountability Project is implemented by UNDP in Solomon Islands and supported by the Solomon Islands Government and the British High Commission in Honiara with an aim to strengthen the capacities of Solomon Islands’ society to combat corruption.

Source: Joint Media Release UNODC and UNDP