Bellona, October, 2018 – It has been nearly two months since a ship has come to the island of Bellona in Solomon Islands’ south. Today, the wait is over and there are over 100 people on the beach watching the incoming ship and waiting for its arrival. Excitement is high; nearly everyone on the island has turned up – many will be getting crucial supplies, some will be seeing loved ones after a long wait, and the others are just there to watch the spectacle.
A woman on the beach shifts anxiously from foot to foot as the first small boat ferrying the supplies from the ship scrapes onto the sand. A younger woman gets off, and the two embrace, touching their foreheads together in a traditional Polynesian greeting of love and respect. It has obviously been a long wait.
Even by Solomon Islands’ standards, Bellona is particularly isolated. It is a two-day boat trip or a twice-weekly flight from the capital, Honiara.
Addressing community conflict in remote areas
Getting even the most basic of services delivered here is a significant challenge. This is no different for law and order. There are no police on the island; getting justice for a crime, or dealing with disputes can often take years, or in some cases, the disputes are never addressed.
This lack of conflict resolution has serious impacts: a land dispute can lead to work on a road, a school or a clinic stalling; it can do terrible damage to the close-knit communities who may not be able to resolve issues between citizens. Serious criminal cases such as robbery or gender-based violence may not be referred to the police, as many see the police, and more generally, the state, as largely removed from daily life.
If not managed carefully, these issues can lead to more instability, undermining efforts that have gone into stabilizing this post-conflict developing country. The Solomon Islands government recognized this challenge and, with support from the World Bank and the Australian government, it began investigating ways to address this problem at its heart: in the community.
Since 2014, the Community Governance and Grievance Management Program has been building support to address a challenge that goes well beyond Bellona and the Solomons’ nearly 1,000 islands, with potential implications for remote island communities across the Pacific.