During a three-day visit to the Solomon Islands, UNDP Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Ms. Ligia Elizondo, met with key politicians in the country to discuss strategic national issues such as the upcoming elections, peace building, and the impact of climate change.

UNDP's work in capacity building is very important for the future of the country, said Dr. Derek Sikua during a meeting with Ms. Elizondo yesterday, it is "empowering our people to take control of their own lives, and not rely on others."

The Prime Minister particularly mentioned UNDP/UNCDF's Provincial Governance Strengthening Programme, which is active in all nine provinces. The five-year programme builds capacity in public expenditure management in provincial governments, and is funded by the European Union, RAMSI/AusAID, UNDP and UNCDF.

Ms. Elizondo also visited Horobau village in Aruligo Monday afternoon to inaugurate the rehabilitated water supply for Horobau and surrounding villages. The previous water system had been damaged in last year's flash floods, but the rehabilitated system was undamaged in the flooding which followed Cyclone Ului.

The rehabilitation of the water supply is one of the activities in a UNDP programme to help communities better prepare for natural disasters, which is implemented in partnership with the National Disaster Management Office and jointly funded by UNDP and AusAID. The project has thus far assisted about 2,300 residents of flood-affected areas in West Guadalcanal to better prepare their communities for natural disasters.

Ms. Elizondo was heartily welcomed greeted by residents of Horobau. She was greeted by traditional warriors and presented with custom gifts as a sign of appreciation.

"UNDP and AusAID, your assistance is like a ray of sunlight in our darkest hours. The funding you provide to facilitate a reliable water supply will greatly improve the lives of our people. In short: Water is life, and you have given us hope to be able to live life again," said community representative Julian Chonigolo in her speech at the inauguration.

During her mission, Ms. Elizondo also met with the Speaker of Parliament, Sir Peter Kenilorea to discuss UNDP's ongoing support to the National Parliament, and also the UN's plans to coordinate international observers for the upcoming elections.

Ms. Elizondo also met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Leader of the Opposition. Ms. Elizondo has now traveled to Fiji, as the final leg of her four-country trip.

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