Pacific Regionalism is defined by our common sense of identity and purpose. A desire to work together to overcome our common constraints and build the safe, prosperous and inclusive communities and nations that we pray for each day.
The concept of helpem fren exists across our communities. It is an innate feeling of relationships and responsibility that transcends time and place. When facing an issue that is simply too big for us to deal with alone, we know that we can rely on our neighbours for help.
This is the essence of the Pacific Islands Forum.
The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which will officially come to an end next week, is a perfect example of the benefits of regionalism, embodying more than a decade of partnership and cooperation amongst the members of the Pacific Islands Forum in the true Pacific spirit of helpem fren.
A defining element of RAMSI is its Pacific regional character: RAMSI was mobilised under the Pacific Islands Forum’s Biketawa Declaration, and the way and means by which Forum countries contributed toward the mission.
RAMSI has been, without a doubt, a true regional exercise in solidarity and a shining example of Pacific diplomacy and cooperation.We must acknowledge the people of Solomon Islands themselves for the widespread support for RAMSI, which was essential for the successful operation of the mission.
The success of any armed intervention, particularly in a civilian landscape, relies heavily on the conduct of its personnel. We must, as a region, thank all the thousands of women and men who served under RAMSI over the years, and whose service personified and honoured the commitment made to the Solomon Islands by all Forum countries under the Biketawa Declaration.
The two broad elements of RAMSI, the security component and the civilian component, worked together toward RAMSI’s objective of stabilising Solomon Islands and rebuilding the essential machinery of government, in order to promote longer term economic recovery.
I applaud in particular the early achievements of RAMSI, which enabled the successive reforms and programmes: the swift and peaceful restoration of law and order; recovery and destruction of the bulk of illegal weapons; surrender of militants; and the arrest and prosecution of human rights offenders, are important accomplishments in the history of RAMSI.
These achievements not only restored stability but also contributed toward restoring a sense of peace amongst Solomon Islanders who after more than five years of internal unrest and armed conflict welcomed an end to the violence.
Early accomplishments of RAMSI were closely followed by significant reforms under the three pillars of economic reform, law and justice, and machinery of government,resulting in thegradual shift in focus from its security component to the civilian component.
The recovery journey of the Solomon Islands includes successfully hosting several large and important events in the last few years: the two-week Pacific Arts Festival in 2012; the visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2012; the visit by United States Secretary of State John Kerry in 2014; the Melanesian Spearhead Group Summit in 2015; and having their 2006, 2010 and 2014 national elections.
These are significant achievements by any standards, but more so for a country that only fourteen years ago was faced by considerable challenges to the effective functioning of government as well as the overall law and order situation.
Although it was the embodiment of Pacific solidarity and cooperation, it is important to remember that RAMSI also required considerable resourcing: Australia and New Zealand stepped forward with both financial and personnel contributions, complemented by Pacific nations’ personnel.
The Solomon Islands as a nation must be acknowledged for hosting RAMSI for the last fourteen years. Hosting a large foreign mission for an extended period is not without challenges, and I commend and thank all for the hospitality and continued support of RAMSI over the years.
Moving ahead, the Solomon Islands will continue to require assistance and I’m very pleased that the United Nations, through its Peace Building Fund Programme, will be on hand to help with addressing the challenges that await down the road. And the Forum of course, is always standing by to assist if needed.
RAMSI demonstrates that together, our Blue Continent has the capacity to consider and address socio-economic and cultural issues at national and regional level.
RAMSI is Pacific regionalism manifested. We are a region where the concept of helpem fren is core to existence, and tugs at our communal heartstrings when need arises.
At its heart RAMSI is about people. We must thank the resilient people of the Solomon Islands for the lessons RAMSI has given us.
Let us continue to navigate the global space with the confidence of peoples who still have the gift of placing people in the centre of their development.