A new report on a decade of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) says Pacific Island Forum representatives were largely shut-out of oversight bodies and reforms were pressed on Honiara by Canberra.
The assistance mission, supported by Pacific Island nations and led by Australia and New Zealand, was sent into Solomon Islands in 2003 to help the government and security forces regain control after a crippling civil war and threats from militants.
One of the authors of the latest assessment of RAMSI, Professor Jon Fraenkel from Victoria University in New Zealand, says Pacific Island nations were left out of critical mission strategy-making.
"There were lots of oversight policies that were established back in Canberra, bringing together people from various agencies, ministries, often some of the New Zealand diplomatic representatives were attending these gatherings, but oddly not those from the Pacific Islands Forum despite the Forum being the key mandating authority," Professor Fraenkel told Pacific Beat.
He says RAMSI's substitution of local security for Australian and New Zealand personnel was also flawed.
"The Australian Federal Police, and Australian Defence Force largely substituted for local authorities in improving the security situation, arresting the militants, getting rid of the weapons. And then when they were confronted with the much more difficult task of training and creating a new police force, of course this was where the problems really started to eventuate, particularly because the then-Australian government of (Prime Minister) John Howard and (Foreign Minister) Alexander Downer believed they had to force these things down the throat of the Solomon Islands government.
"Even if there was no consent about these reforms, they were going to push them ahead regardless of the price to be paid for security sector assistance. This didn't really work."
Professor Fraenkel says when compared to other international security missions, such as in East Timor or Afghanistan, an assessment of the Solomon Islands intervention is mixed.
"The comparative cases don't paint a pretty picture. If you look at Iraq, if you look at Afghanistan, if you look at Bosnia, even if you look at Sierra Leone, there are many cases where intervention missions have been very unsuccessful. There have been massive local conflict, police forces have rampaged killing their own citizens.
"One has to remember RAMSI commmenced in a very different conflict setting... it was relatively straight forward to disarm the militants and get rid of the guns. So that was widely acclaimed, very popular within the Solomon Islands and a largely successful element of the mission.
"The difficulty was: the method of achieving success in phase one made phase two, the longer term objectives (of security), more difficult.
"Those changes can't be imposed from the outside simply as a price to be paid for getting some security assistance, they need some political buy in and genuine cooperation between donors and government representatives."
Many of the personnel employed under RAMSI remain in Solomon Islands under the supervision of Australia, New Zealand or multilateral agencies, but the review looked at RAMSI's presence from 2003 to 2013 and it's long-term impact on Solomon Islands.
"There are still serious difficulties with the Solomon Islands police force and many of the achievements (of) performance indicators in the various ministries have been achieved by RAMSI personnel themselves," Professor Fraenkel said.
"Their impact will continue for some time, but there's not a great degree of evidence that the local civil service has been dramatically up-skilled as a result of this decade of capacity building."
The report, prepared by an independent review team commissioned by Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo and the Pacific Islands Forum, was presented to Pacific leaders at their summit retreat in Palau on Thursday.