I see it every time I come back to Honiara, Solomon Island’s bustling capital, soon after I arrive. Young people on the streets, wandering around in groups or by themselves with nothing to do. It’s the same thing my local friends and colleagues mention. Solomon Islanders also ask, “What kind of future lies ahead for our kids?”
Solomon Islands face new economic challenges and a rapidly expanding, youthful population. Seven out of 10 Solomon Islanders are under the age of 29.
Those unfamiliar with the fast growing emerging economies of East Asia are likely to think that governments in these countries let market forces and capitalism roam free, red in tooth and claw. That was certainly my impression before coming to work in the region, and generally that held at the outset of our work by the group of us that wrote a new World Bank report “East Asia Pacific At Work: Employment, Enterprise and Wellbeing” .
The report shows just how wrong we were. We could be forgiven this impression—many of us had come from assignments in Latin America and the Caribbean or in Europe and Central Asia, where the distortions and rigidities from labor regulation and poorly designed social protection are rife, and where policy makers cast envious looks at the stellar and sustained employment outcomes in East Asia.
Well, it turns out that although they came relatively late to labor regulation and social protection, many governments in the region have entered this arena with gusto. We were surprised to find that, going just by what is written in their labor codes, the average level of employment protection in East Asia is actually higher than the OECD average.
- Social Development
- Law and Regulation
- Labor and Social Protection
- Financial Sector
- East Asia and Pacific
- Solomon Islands
- Papua New Guinea
- Micronesia, Federated States of
- Marshall Islands
- Lao People's Democratic Republic
- Korea, Republic of
On gender equality – it is no secret that the Pacific Islands is lagging.
The region is home to some of the world’s highest domestic violence rates. Economic empowerment of women in many countries, particularly in Melanesia, is desperately low. Women lack access to finance, land, jobs and income. In my country, Solomon Islands, there is only one woman in parliament, and there are none in Vanuatu and Federated States of Micronesia – a country which has never yet seen a woman elected.
has access to some form of modern
Recently my 10 year old son invited me to be friends with him on Facebook. “Hi mum I’m here too, can we be friends?” was the message I got. I was shocked and worried at the same time, and my initial reaction was fear of the perceived harm social media could do to a person as young as he.
We finally agreed that his father would have access to his Facebook account to monitor his online activities until he reaches 18. But the moment he gets or posts something inappropriate, the deal is off. That’s a fair deal, I told myself and interacting through social media could actually enrich my son’s life.
What I’m going through is also experienced by other families in the Solomon Islands. It started when mobile phone technology began revolutionizing the lives of ordinary Solomon Islanders in the last five years, when the telecommunications industry was opened for competition. Previously, only business executives and senior government officials owned or had access to mobile phones – a luxury only the rich and the influential would enjoy.
|Availability of work has provided new opportunities for people in Honiara.|
We were shooting a film in the main street of Honiara about the Rapid Employment Project wh
|The soon to be completed women's meeting hall will house various activities to help women develop themselves.|
While leaving leaving the LoLoMo eco-resort, the rain seemed to carefully time its return for our last leg of the trip. We were heading back towards Munda, and then turned to yet another island to visit the Buni Village Women’s Project. This was project was in its first year of implementation. A large hall, together with rooms for guests, toilets (not standard in the rural Solomons), benches and a large blackboard was almost complete. The local carpenter was busy there in the building, planing wood for tables and benches.
|The garden behind the LoLoMo Resort, where hundreds of flowering wild orchids thrive.|
We walked down through mud and coral as we headed back to our boat. This marked the end of the first part of our trip – visiting health posts in Temarae and Baeroko. Our boat now went back through the narrow channel leading towards Munda, and then turned again into a series of spectacular lagoons. Several simple tourist resorts had been built on the islands here and one of these was our next destination.
The rain stopped as we approached LoLoMo eco-resort. “Idyllic” is an over-used word in the Pacific, but this resort, with eight rooms built from local materials on stilts at the edge of a sheltered channel between two islands, with hundreds of fish easily visible in the clear emerald blue water, an extraordinary “garden” of hundreds of flowering wild orchids behind the huts, oaths into the thick forest for bird-watchers to explore and a restaurant area where we were served a magnificent spread of lobster, shellfish and sea-fish really was something out of a tourist brochure's dream world. (and for me the kittens running around were yet another attraction).
The bow of the open aluminium boat jumped from wave to wave, cutting deeply into the white-topped wave crests and adding salt spray to the rain that was showering us constantly with wind-blown pin prick-like strikes. The helmsman then turned towards the shore, slowly bringing the boat into shallow water beside a small wooden pier, where we were able to climb gingerly ashore.
The helmsman was Wilson, Team Leader for the Solomon Islands Rural Development Project (RDP) in the Western Province, and he was accompanied by Lottie, the RDP Project Manager. RDP is a Solomon Islands government project supported by the World Bank, Australia, the European Union and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Graham (my colleague on this mission) and I were in the Solomon Islands as part of an evaluation of the World Bank's work in the Pacific, funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). The RDP had been selected as a case study project for us to visit.
As a junior member of the team who produced the forthcoming East Asia and Pacific companion to the World Development Report 2012 “Toward Gender Equality in East Asia and the Pacific”, I was excited to present its findings in the Pacific. After spending months reading, writing, reviewing and revising our findings and content, I had a plethora of questions waiting to be answered about the impact of our work: How would our audience receive it? Will our findings, based on painstakingly collected data and research, be adapted to the reality of gender and development in their country? Will they be able to use these reports to continue working toward gender equality in all aspects of life? Will our reports help people, namely women, lead more productive and fulfilling lives?
Last month I went to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Fiji with the rest of the team to share and discuss our findings with members of government, the media, civil society, students and our donor partners.
In my previous entry, I asked what role the World Bank and other donors might be able to play in exploring whether hybrid courts might help enhance access to justice. I believe there are three key areas where we in the international community might be able to support country discussions of whether and how to incorporate community justice systems through hybrid courts.