Honiara, Solomon Islands – Solomon Islanders continue to rely on the traditional justice system however, strong appreciation and trust in justice institutions is clear with suggestions for an increased presence by state institutions in communities.
This was revealed by the Solomon Islands Access to Justice Study launched today by the Solomon Islands Access to Justice Project. The project is funded by the Australian Government and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The Study was conducted in 2018 to 2019 by the project using a mixed method analytical approach combining quantitative and qualitative data across legal needs, perceptions, actions and cost.
The mixed methodology approach included focus groups, case studies and a survey of 2,633 Solomon Islanders (50.3% men and 49.7% women) to understand the perceptions and experiences of Solomon Islanders relating to the justice system. The survey was carried out in all provinces with a cross section of urban, rural and per-urban communities ensuring accurate representation of all provinces.
The study provides an insight into the justice needs and behaviours of Solomon Islanders showing one in five people faced a legal dispute in the past two years. The study also reveals perceptions of justice and level of fulfilment of justice needs; the existing formal and informal justice mechanisms to meet justice needs and the gaps therein; barriers in accessing justice and meeting justice needs, particularly from the perspective of women, people with disabilities and youth; the cost of providing justice services and opportunity costs; and efficiency of institutional practices and systems.
The study makes thirteen recommendations for further efforts to enhance access to justice in the Solomon Islands. The study was led and overseen by the Access to Justice Technical Working Group under the leadership of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry for Justice and Legal Affairs, to provide an insight into the existing justice needs of its citizens in line with its mandate to ensure people have timely and relevant access to a robust and independent justice system.
Speaking during the launch, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry for Justice and Legal Affairs, Dr Paul Mae, expressed his appreciation with the study results adding that the Ministry wanted to better understand the needs of citizens regarding access to justice to feed that information into the Justice Sector Strategic Framework 2014-2020.
“The study will serve as a baseline for monitoring progress of reforms and service delivery in the formal justice system. It will also support the review of the Justice Sector Strategic Framework and feed into reporting against the Sustainable Development Goals and corresponding goals in the Solomon Islands National Development Strategy,” Dr Mae added.
He further stated that the report provides evidence of the shortcomings of the justice sector and presents opportunities for actors to collaborate to improve.
UNDP Resident Representative, Mr Levan Bouadze said, “UNDP supports national partners to address justice through a human rights-based approach, to nurture public participation and expand access to justice especially for women, youth, persons with disabilities, marginalized groups and displaced communities.”
“It is therefore welcoming to see the commitment of the Solomon Islands Government to address justice issues, gender equality and social inclusion. We are all on the same page and moving in the same direction,” Mr Bouadze said.
He added that UNDP is proud to provide the technical support for the study.
“It serves as a base for developing partnerships to improve the experience and confidence for Solomon Islands citizens in accessing the justice system.”
The Australian High Commissioner Dr Lachlan Strahan acknowledged the partnerships.
He said, “Australia is committed to assisting the Solomon Islands deliver a credible justice system that supports the rule of law and strengthens access to justice for all Solomon Islanders.”
He stressed the importance of the access to justice work in ensuring vulnerable groups such as women, children and people with disabilities are aware of, and have equal access to, their rights under the law.
Acknowledging upcoming International Women’s Day on 8 March, Dr. Strahan appealed to all men in the audience to do more to encourage other men to work together to change the ‘macho’ behaviour that can be so damaging to women, children and vulnerable groups in our societies.
The Access to Justice Study was led by the Access to Justice Technical Working Group, under the leadership of the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, supported by UNDP and funded by the Australian Government.
For additional information, please contact:
Mr Ednal R. Palmer, Communications Consultant, Effective Governance Team, UNDP Solomon Islands Office. P: (677) 27446/7336633 E: email@example.com
Ms. Rachel Abi, Information Officer, Public Solicitor’s Office. P: (677) 28406 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. Grace Williams, Third Secretary, Public Diplomacy and Political, Australian High Commission. P: (677) 21561 E: Grace.Williams@dfat.gov.au