Noting that foreign aid accounts for over 60 per cent of the development budget of the Solomon Islands, an independent United Nations expert today called on the Government and its donor partners to design a strategy to help break the cycle of aid dependency.

Cephas Lumina, the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt on the enjoyment of human rights, called for a "medium-term exit strategy for their development assistance programmes," according to a news release issued following his 14 to 18 February visit to the Solomon Islands.

"While it is commendable that this assistance is provided to the country, it is just as important to promote self-sustaining economic growth and development and to ensure that Solomon Islands is able to come out of the cycle of aid dependency," stressed Mr. Lumina.

He stressed the need for a human rights-based approach to guide the design and implementation of aid projects, noting that this will help ensure that development challenges in Solomon Islands are adequately and fairly addressed and that the fundamental rights of the people are fully respected in the process.

Mr. Lumina also highlighted the need to promote the empowerment of local professionals, both in Government and in civil society, and reduce the "excessively large number" of technical advisers - most of whom are nationals of donor countries - currently working in governmental departments in Solomon Islands as part of aid programmes.

"The Government of Solomon Islands needs to take full responsibility for the direction that aid takes in the country and put in place a regulatory environment that guarantees a transparent, accountable and people-centred delivery of aid," stated the expert.

He added that measures to attract foreign investment should be directed to ensuring that the country's resources are used in a sustainable manner and that the benefits of investments accrued to the people, especially the poorest, "rather than one-sidedly enrich the investors."

Mr. Lumina's week-long visit to the Solomon Islands followed a mission to Australia, where he focused on the human rights and development impact of Australia's aid programme and the human rights implications of its regional trade negotiations and development partnerships.

The Independent Expert will submit a preliminary report on his visits to Australia and Solomon Islands to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in June 2011 and a full report in 2012.