The opinions of nearly 5,000 Solomon Islanders were given voice yesterday to an audience of Government, RAMSI, donor and development representatives at the launch of the People's Survey 2008.

The survey is the third annual independent nationwide study conducted by Australian National University Enterprise with the support of the Solomon Islands National Statistics Office.

The survey involved Solomon Islanders interviewing 4,304 Solomon Islanders in five provinces and Honiara, as well as 74 focus group discussions.

The areas of focus are: household economy; access to basic services; law and order; Solomon Islands Police Force; general questions about RAMSI; public accountability representation and civic awareness, and access to justice.

In launching the People's Survey 2008, Acting Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Finance and Treasury, Elizabeth Kausimae, said the survey was more than just a tool to help measure the performance of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands.

"The need to understand and respond to the views of the community extends far beyond RAMSI to every government, non-government and civil society agency working to improve people's lives in Solomon Islands."

"This third survey, conducted in partnership with the National Statistics Office, also provides valuable insight into the hearts and minds of our people," Ms. Kausimae said.

RAMSI Special Coordinator, Tim George, said RAMSI placed a high priority on consulting directly with Solomon Islanders and measuring its work.

"The support of the people of Solomon Islands is vital for the success of RAMSI's work - through the restoration of peace and now through the much more difficult and longer term work of developing the capacity of government institutions to provide effective and sustainable services across the country," Mr George said.

"We want to ensure that RAMSI, the Government and the mission's contributing countries have access to reliable information on how people view our work and how they feel about key progress and development issues."

Seventy Solomon Islanders were trained by Australian National University Enterprise to conduct the survey, travelling to five provinces and Honiara.

A member of the survey team, Osborne Cains, said that a lot of work went into making sure the survey accurately captured the opinions of Solomon Islanders.

"The aim of the pre-survey training all interviewers undertook is to learn the correct interview technique so as not to influence people's responses," Mr Cains.

Mr Cains said that before asking any of the questions, the interviewers would always explain the purpose of the visit and assure participants that all answers would be kept confidential.

"We talked with people in villages about how the survey was independent and how their names wouldn't be disclosed", Mr Cains said.

RAMSI Development Coordinator, Paul Kelly, said that RAMSI was keen for the Government and other development stakeholders to use the survey as a tool to guide their work.

"The results are generally encouraging for RAMSI's partnership with Government and people of Solomon Islands, but show significant development challenges exist for people trying to improve their lives," Mr Kelly said.

"The survey suggests that while people's lives are improving across many areas, access to information and services, particularly in rural areas, is still limited."

Source: RAMSI Media