Established in 2009, the Justice for the Poor (J4P) program in Solomon Islands works to support the emergence of legitimate institutions for mitigating conflict and redressing grievance. Current activities focus on three critical areas: Justice Delivered Locally (JDL), Access to Advisory Services, and Urban Public Land Governance.
Following seven years of civil conflict, stability returned to the Solomon Islands in 2003, underwritten by the regional security and justice presence in the form of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands. This stability has enabled the return of economic growth largely fuelled by an expansion of logging and increases in aid flows. But many of the stresses that precipitated the conflict remain, including: resentment at the centralization of power and resources, uneven development, the retraction of state social services and governance institutions, the weakening of community level social cohesion and systems of authority, and disputes over land.
Areas of EngagementJustice Delivered Locally
The J4P program supports invigorating local-level justice and governance systems through the JDL initiative of Solomon Islands’ Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs. The initial phase of JDL (2009-2011) included: research and community consultation on local justice across five provinces; an evaluation of a Community Officer program designed by the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) to trial a new model of community policing; and a South-South learning event on hybrid justice systems. Building off this initial work, current activities include (1) working to develop a more structured and supported phase two of the community officer program and (2) supporting national level policy dialogue around the functioning of state justice systems at the local level.
Access to Advisory Services
A key challenge associated with generating growth while managing risks of conflict in Solomon Islands will centre on improving the equity and durability of dealings in land and natural resources that are held under customary ownership. J4P research on access to advisory services examined the impact of access to advice during the negotiation of access agreements in relation to mining, marine resources and forestry, for both customary landholders and investors. This research demonstrated that landholders negotiating transactions rarely have access to quality advice. Future activities focus on the development of governance arrangements, financing and capacities that are required to increase parties’ access to good advice around land and natural resource transactions.
Urban Public Land Governance
Managing growth in Honiara in a way that supports the economic and social development of Solomon Islands as a whole, and mitigates against the prospect of conflict and grievance is critical. J4P is collaborating with AusAID and UN-HABITAT to support the Solomon Islands Government to establish a national Taskforce on Urban Public Land Governance which would provide a platform for addressing issues relating to the poor management of urban land (the underlying title of which belongs to the state).
Partnership and Dialogue
J4P works with local and international partners to conduct context specific empirical research that then forms the basis for evidenced-based policy dialogue and reform as well as project design. In Solomon Islands, J4P works with the following organizations and institutions:
The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands
The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force
The Australian Agency for International Development
- Researchers attached to the Australian National University, the University of Western Australia, Macquarie University and the University of the South Pacific
The Solomon Islands team recently completed its evaluation of the Solomon Islands’ Community Officer project, a trial community policing mechanism initiated by the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force with assistance from the Participating Police Force of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands. The Evaluation finds that the Community Officer project holds considerable potential for improving access to justice in rural communities and presents recommendations for the future possible expansion of the project. Read the Evaluation of the Commuinty Officer Project in Solomon Islands. The World Bank’s September Praxis session featured Ali Tuhanuku, J4P Team Leader of the Justice Delivered Locally Project in Solomon Islands, who explored the role of justice institutions in Solomon Islands and what can be done to support fair and equitable outcomes for all citizens of Solomon Islands. Praxis - World Bank Panel Discussion on Law and Justice.
- In October, 2011 J4P hosted a State-Supported Community Justice Workshop in Honiara. The workshop brought together local justice officials from across Melanesia, East Asia, and Africa to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of state-supported community justice systems.
In April 2011 fieldwork commenced in Malaita and the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal under J4P’s 'Access to Advisory Resources by Parties to Customary Land Dealings and Natural Resources Access Agreements' project. This involved two research teams meeting with government, communities and business in order to identify and assess the sources of advisory resources available to the parties to customary land dealings, timber right agreements and or surface access agreements. A goal of the work is to assess the need to mobilize appropriate additional advisory resources to compensate for asymmetrical access to information, commercial experience and local knowledge as between parties.