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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Nov. 7, 2002 - SIBC/PINA Nius Online)---The first Solomon Islands Human Development Report, launched today in Honiara, urges the empowerment of communities and provinces.

"Deriving strength from our traditional systems of governance, government must be made more relevant and closer to the people it serves," said Donald Kudu, the Project Director for the report.

"Otherwise, we risk alienating the citizens of the Solomon Islands, the essential resource upon which successful development depends."

Written by and produced for Solomon Islanders, the report provides up-to-date information and analysis on the major challenges affecting the people of the Solomon Islands.

It is intended to provide a road map for the way ahead after the destructive ethnic conflict of recent years and continuing economic crisis

The report project was funded through support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

It was produced following provincial human development workshops, a student essay competition, and the preparation of detailed background papers.

Human Development Indicators calculated at the provincial level show marked disparities across the country, and between women and men. These included literacy, access to health services, and economic opportunities.

Equally alarming are the many core areas of human development where the Solomons is lagging behind other countries in the South Pacific, the report says.

To reverse present development trends and build a sustainable course for full recovery and meaningful reconciliation, the report advocates the need to:

· Attack poverty head on by increasing food security and access to essential medicines, expanding employment opportunities through the rehabilitation of key sectors of the economy, and empowering people in local and national political processes.

· Protect the environment and subsistence sector so as to limit the further erosion of social safety nets for the most poor and vulnerable in society. This includes countering the pervasive influence of narrow interest groups seeking to get rich quick through often unsustainable and destructive practices.

· Curb corrupt government and political instability to enable clean leadership and a clear vision to chart a new course that responds to the most urgent needs of all citizens and attracts local and foreign investment, as well as international assistance.

· Support appropriate education by strengthening the professional appeal and capacity of home-grown community high schools and rural training centers to introduce relevant rural technology. This would build on traditional human development values and are both ecologically and culturally sensitive.

· Empower women through a national plan of action that encourages women to participate more fully in public life and helps to strengthen girls' educational opportunities. This would emphasize that all areas of employment are open to them.

· Promote awareness about family planning to help combat the continued dangers and decreasing land availability caused by an estimated annual population growth rate of 2.8 percent, one of the highest in the world.

Under the banner "Building a Nation," the report introduces an ambitious number of innovative policy options and strategies. These are to directly engage people in addressing the country's human development agenda for the 21st century.

Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police Morton Sireheti said the government has exerted pressure on him and his officers while performing their duties.

Sireheti made the comments in a statement announcing his resignation from the three-months extension in the post following the expiry of his contract.

Sireheti was to have continued in the position until the arrival of a British expatriate commissioner.

But Sireheti said that on five occasions last month, Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza, other ministers and special advisors paid for by New Zealand have tried to direct him and his officers to re-employ a special constable.

For additional reports from the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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