It took 41 years for the fastest developing 20 countries in the 20th century to achieve basic transformations in the rule of law. However, the World Development Report 2011 suggests that fragile countries cannot afford to wait that long. Instead, in managing disputes, it is imperative for governments and the international community to support arrangements that fit each country context, take into account capacity constraints in government and the local level, and respond to the needs of users. Justice reform should be measured accordingly from a functional perspective—based on the needs of users—rather than abstract modeling of institutions on western approaches.
Pacific Island small states (PSS)
|The Goldridge Mine pit in Solomon Islands|
History records that the first European to come to Solomon Islands, Alvaro De Mendana, in 1568 gave the archipelago its name because he believed this area of the South Pacific was where King Solomon got the gold he used to build the Temple of Jerusalem. The Spaniards did search for gold during their exploration of the islands, but somewhat fruitlessly such that they left and never returned.
|Map courtesy of Wikipedia through a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.|
Taking development to the outlying provinces of Solomon Islands is not an easy ride. I found this out when going on a site visit to the Rural Development Program (RDP) at the country’s far western province of Choiseul.
At the Northwest region of Choiseul province where the island faces open waters that span to the Micronesian archipelago of the Pacific lies a village called Polo. The Polo community has a primary school that was established in 1957 when Solomon Islands was still a British Protectorate, prior to independence in 1978. Since its inception, the Polo school never had a permanent classroom building until two years ago when through the RDP participatory process, the community identified the school as their main need.
During a recent ‘Justice for the Poor’ mission to Vanuatu, our team had an illuminating meeting with a group of forty village chiefs in a community hall. The chiefs are the primary source of order and justice across the many islands within the archipelago. Most of them have received little, if any, formal education, their authority resting on their traditional status within the community.
On the surface, the pace of life in the Pacific island country of Samoa is slow. Island time. That’s an impression that’s reinforced when touring the idyllic string of resorts and beach fales (small timber and thatch tourist cottages, often without walls and open to the tropical breeze) along the South East coast of Upolu, Samoa. You can watch the heat rise in a haze across the ridiculously tranquil blue waters and golden sands, as coconut palms wave, and tourists enjoy a weekend drink in the seafront restaurant of the locally-owned and recently rebuilt Tafua beach fales.
|Because boats to and from Tikopia are infrequent, William Kesi had to wait a couple of months before he could leave the island.|
William Kesi had to hitch a ride with a passing cruise ship to get from Tikopia back to Lata, the capital of Solomon Islands’ easternmost province, Temotu. William is a community helper with the Solomon Islands Rural Development Program (RDP), which uses community driven development to support small-scale community infrastructure. The program was officially launched in 2008, and is supported by Solomon Islands Government, AusAID, European Union, IFAD, and the World Bank. Now in its third cycle of grants, the program is beginning to reach not only the more densely populated areas of the six main islands of the country, but also some of the most remote and underserved communities in the country.
|Rainfall is essential to recharge the freshwater lens that lies beneath coral atolls in Kiribati. Without it, the i-Kiribati people would not be able to grow plants and crops vital to their livelihood.|
Freshwater can be extremely scarce in the Republic of Kiribati, home to over 100,000 people scattered across 22 islands in the Central Pacific. Each year after a long dry season, significant rainfall is generally expected to arrive during November or December. Yet over the last few months only a tiny amount of rain has fallen. The islands are dry.
This is consistent with forecasts that predict La Niña conditions will result in below normal rainfall during the 2010-11 wet season across the Gilbert Islands of Kiribati.
The World Bank employs a variety of specialists in different disciplines, often with abstract and hard to understand titles. Not me. When people ask what I do for the Bank I say “I build roads”. This often brings laughs from other Bank staff, but it’s true.
Competition in the telecommunications sector in Solomon Islands has officially arrived. bemobile held its launching ceremony on Aug 31, making it the first competitor to Solomon Telekom (known as “Our Telekom”) effectively ending the previous monopoly. This is the result of the Government’s policy of reforming the telecoms market in Solomon Islands including promoting competition, developing a new legal framework, and setting up a new regulator, the Telecommunications Commission of Solomon Islands (TCSI).
|Hayleen Dusaru is the Moli clinic's registered nurse|
I recently spent almost a week calf deep in mud, shooting around islands, and speaking to beneficiaries and community helpers of the Solomon Islands Rural Development Program (RDP). The trip was an illuminating and uplifting opportunity to get out into rural areas and meet the people that are experiencing the direct benefits of one of the World Bank’s most dynamic projects within Solomon Islands.
Terms like ‘bottom up approach’ and ‘grass roots focus’ are catch-cries that are often heard but not always followed within development projects. However, spending some time in villages that are controlling the funds and direction of infrastructure projects and seeing clear and sometimes astounding benefits from them reinforces the principle that this program is not offering simple lip-service or superficial checklists of community involvement. This is really what community direction of projects looks like. (The Country Manager in Solomon Islands, Edith Bowles, has blogged about this program before, read her views on its agricultural aspects and on the effects of the islands’ remoteness.)
|Everyone was on their phone—ringing loved ones, ringing offices, ringing those that mattered—to get reassurance that people are okay, to check on damage, to ring for advice on the threat of a tsunami.|
Over time I have developed certain ‘home truths’. Among them is that the size of the country is inversely proportional to the length of the immigration and customs form, and the aggressiveness of dogs encountered when running is a reflection of their owners. In both cases this was proved true during my first mission to Kiribati. A tiny country in the Pacific ocean some half-way between Sydney and Honolulu, it has the largest immigration and customs form imaginable.