Outgoing Australian High Commissioner Mr. Peter Hooton signed an agreement last week with UNFPA, United Nations Population Fund to contribute over US$1 million to the Solomon Islands Population and Housing Census 2009.

The contribution will support the National Census Office in effectively carrying out the November Census, drawing on lessons from the 1999 Census and subsequent experiences of other Pacific Island Countries.

UNFPA welcomed the signing. "We are very encouraged by Australia's commitment to this very important national exercise. Accurate population data is crucial for informed policy dialogue, and planning, implementation and monitoring of development programmes in the Solomon Islands," said Dr Annette Sachs Robertson, Director Pacific Sub-Regional Office and UNFPA Representative a.i. UNFPA has a history of working in the area of population and development, specifically in funding and technical assistance with data collection and analysis

Census Commissioner Willington Piduru also expressed his support and thanks to the Australian Government and UNFPA for this partnership. He also acknowledged the assistance of other partners, including SPC who have been supporting the implementation of the Population and Housing Census 2009.

Mr Hooton described the Census as critical to ensuring policy formulation and program development by all decision makers are based on accurate information. "The Australian Government is committed to supporting the Solomon Islands Government in making progress against the Millennium Development Goals. This is a significant challenge, and requires access to current and accurate data."

Official counting for the Solomon Islands Population and Housing Census 2009 will begin on 9th November and end on 30th November 2009. The Census night will be November 22 2009. This night is the reference point for the recording information on all individuals present in a household, even if they are a visitor there. The information gathered will help in comparing how the country changed since the last Census. It will also help planners to identify the new needs of the nation.

Dr Robertson said the Solomon Islands Census will utilise new technologies and approaches in data collection and processing through the use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS), data scanning facilities and pre-census communication. Solomon Islands and Vanuatu will be among the first three Pacific Island countries utilising these new technologies.