Aid To Solomons Shifting From RAMSI To Bilateral Development

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RAMSI still tasked with training, educating Solomon Islands police force

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, July 3, 2012, 2012) – International assistance to Solomon Islands is to move away from the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) military presence towards increased bilateral development aid, delivered through donor countries.

Australia's parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles has met with Solomons Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo on the sidelines of the Festival of Pacific Arts in Honiara.

He's told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program it makes sense to move the delivery of aid away from the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands.

"The civilian presence in terms of the development assistance side of the program, will largely transfer to bilateral aid programs over the next couple of years," he said.

"What will continue beyond that will be the engagement with the police...I think that does have a longer-term involvement, and I think it's everyone's view that's where the focus of efforts now needs to be."

The Australian-led mission was deployed to Solomon Islands at the request of the Solomons Government, in 2003, but the military is likely to withdraw in the second half of 2013.

Mr. Marles says there's still a role for it to play.

"I think there's still work for RAMSI to do, and I think that is acknowledged by everyone – the Solomon Islands Government, the Pacific Islands Forum... the Australian Government and the RAMSI mission itself," he said.

"The real priority... is unquestionably to continue to work with the police. There is still more work to be done on that, although again there's been enormous progress that's been made with the police over the last nine years.

"I think in other areas there has been significant progress, and we've made it clear that in terms of security and law and order, we've made it clear that the military presence here is really no longer the guarantor of law and order."

UN seat

During the talks, Solomon Islands also affirmed its backing for Australia's bid for a place on the United Nations (UN) security council.

Elections for temporary seats on the UN security council will be held in October.

Mr. Marles says Australia is grateful for the region's support.

"We don't see ourselves simply as this being about Australia getting on the security council, if we're ultimately successful," he said.

"We absolutely see that our bid is very much one representing the region and we're really not taking anything for granted and just as humbly as we can putting forward Australia's case."

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