The Solomon Islands and Australian Governments met in Brisbane last week for the annual bilateral talks on the Solomon Islands-Australia Partnership for Development.The talks discussed how Solomon Islands and Australia will work in partnership to strengthen development outcomes in the Solomon Islands for the benefit of all.
The transition of selected Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands (RAMSI) development programs to Australia's bilateral program in mid-2013 was an important part of discussions.
The Minister for Development, Planning and Aid Coordination, Snyder Rini led the Solomon Islands delegation, while AusAID Director General, Peter Baxter led the Australian delegation.
Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, Matt Anderson and Solomon Islands High Commissioner to Australia, Beraki Jino also participated in the talks.
Minister Rini said the Partnership for Development established a vision for the governments of Solomon Islands and Australia to work together to achieve sustainable development outcomes.
"I wish to reiterate our strong commitment to work closely with Australia within the spirit and principles of our Partnership for Development. We will continue to build on the progress achieved and accommodate each other's needs, as we deliberate on the future shape of our development cooperation," Minister Rini said.
Mr Anderson said the talks emphasised the importance of recent AusAID reforms including the new Comprehensive Aid Policy Framework which confirms Solomon Islands as a priority aid partner for Australia into the future.
"Our intention is that the enhanced Partnership for Development will align with Solomon Islands' National Development Strategy. Together, we commit to maximise the effectiveness of Australia's aid under Solomon Islands Government leadership," he said.
Both delegations noted the achievements of the Solomon Islands Government in addressing development challenges with the support of Partnership. These include good progress in fighting malaria, improvements in infrastructure and better fiscal management.
The talks also noted that the RAMSI transition marks a new chapter in the relationship between the two countries.
"The Solomon Islands Government remains committed to and has stepped up to taking leadership of the RAMSI transition process, including managing the transition. Managing RAMSI transition and the aid relationship should be based on a spirit of mutual understanding, partnership and respect for one another," Minister Rini said.
Mr Anderson said RAMSI is entering a transition phase, but it is not ending.
"Most critically, Australian support to policing and law and order is enduring. We recognise that development cannot occur in an unstable, fragile environment," Mr Anderson said.
The two governments agreed in-principle to a new structure for the Solomon Islands Australia Partnership for Development which includes new areas of support which were previously covered by RAMSI.
Both governments agreed the importance of addressing violence against women and gender equality in Solomon Islands. It was agreed that both the Solomon Islands and Australian Governments would use their positions on the UN Women Executive board to advocate for greater gender equality and to implement programs such at the UN Women Critical Services Initiative.
The talks reviewed the progress and results delivered by the Partnership for Development and set goals for the next 12 months. Australia agreed to support the Solomon Islands Government's efforts to improve financial services, quarantine and rural development. Clear targets for improving health, education and transport services were agreed.
In the health sector, a new target of reducing the malaria incidence rate to less than 40 cases per 1000 people was agreed. This follows the success of the malaria incidence rate for Solomon Islands dropping to 46 cases per 1000 people (down from 199 cases per 1000 in 2003). Australia will also support the Solomon Islands Government to increase immunisation rates for children to 90 per cent in most provinces, and improve water and sanitation facilities in rural communities.
In transport infrastructure, Australian will support the Solomon Islands Government to improve the quality of road transport through increased maintenance. Australian funding will continue to improve access to clean water in urban and rural areas and affordable telecommunications.
The talks also endorsed Australia's support for education and the Government's National Education Action Plan. The National Education Action Plan aims to increase enrolment rates of students, improve literacy and numeracy for young school children, and improve the trade and work skills for Solomon Islanders.
Australia will provide an estimated SBD1 billion (A$135.1 million) in development assistance to Solomon Islands in 2012-13. This includes support through the bilateral aid program of SBD528 million (A$70.3 million), aid contributions to RAMSI of SBD 348 million (A$46.4 million) and regional/global programs of SBD138 million (A$18.4 million).
Source: Press Release, Australian High Commission, Solomon Islands