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Solomon Islands: Giving urban youth and the vulnerable a second chance

April 4, 2013


Community group building a concrete ladder.

Photo: Rapid Employment Project Office

In the Solomon Islands’ capital of Honiara, the World Bank developed a rapid-response project to help provide temporary work and training for urban youth and vulnerable residents to soften the blow of the economic crisis and reduce tensions. From June 2010 to end September 2012, the Rapid Employment Project (REP) trained and created jobs for over 4,500 people, of whom 57 percent are women and over 50 percent are youth.


The Solomon Islands is a fragile, post-conflict country. The small nation went through a period of conflict from 1998-2003, known as ‘the tensions,’ which led to deployment of a regional peacekeeping and assistance mission in 2003. Long standing unresolved disputes remained however, and violent riots occurred again in 2006. The government was already grappling with a confluence of continued fragility, high population growth in Honiara (with an estimated 33 percent of the population living below the poverty line), and high unemployment when the 2009 global economic crisis hit its shores. Against this backdrop, the government sought support from the international community to help address the effects of the crisis, including social unrest associated with the economic downturn. Urban under-employment, especially among youth, remains a large problem in the capital of Honiara.


The project aims to assist the most vulnerable of Honiara’s population, particularly youth and women, by increasing their income through short-term, labor-intensive employment activities.

The project was processed as a Rapid Response to Crises and Emergencies Operation, and financed by the International Development Association (IDA), the State and Peace-Building Fund (SPF), and the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility (PRIF). This mix of funding allowed the World Bank team to mobilize funds rapidly and to focus on executing a small portion of the overall initiative. This approach ensured that the project reached beneficiaries quickly, as many start-up activities were undertaken in parallel with IDA grant processing. Work activities are primarily focused on rubbish collection, stream and coastal cleanup, road upgrading and maintenance.


From June 2010 to end September 2012, the project has:

  • Created over 287,000 person-days of work (about 60 percent of its targeted 500,000 person days of work)
  • Paid out approximately US$1,153,735 to urban poor in Honiara
    Provided over 4,500 people with workplace training and employment, working an average of 60 days each
  • Included the participation of about 57 percent women
  • Included the participation of about 51 percent youth
  • Involved more than 570 youth, women and community groups throughout the city
  • Completed 870 meters of community concrete footpaths at 15 sites.

Most of the job creation has been in rubbish collection and the clearing of streams and beaches, road rehabilitation and maintenance, and other urban renewal work. A program of basic pre-employment training is providing skills, attitudes and practices valued by employers in the formal economy and job market.



Youth maintaining a road.

Photo: Rapid Employment Project Office

Bank Group Contribution

The overall cost of the five-year project is estimated at US$7.2 million, which is being met through a US$3.2 million IDA grant, a US$2.0 million grant from the World Bank-managed State and Peace-Building Fund, and US$2.0 million from the World Bank-administered Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility (supported by theAustralian Agency for International Development –AusAID-- and the New Zealand Government). An estimated US$5.8 million will go toward the Rapid Employment Scheme, US$800,000 for pre-employment training, and US$600,000 for project management.


In addition to the national counterpart agencies (the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development and the Honiara City Council) that are responsible for implementation, the project works closely with and relies on the parallel support of AusAID, and the Asian Development Bank(primarily in the transport sector), and the New Zealand Government.


" For six years, I couldn’t find a job in Honiara. Life was very difficult, especially when I have four kids that I need to feed and send to school. I was very happy to have the opportunity to be part of the Rapid Employment Project training and work program. I use my wages to meet my family’s basic needs and school fees. I really enjoy seeing changes in our surroundings. There were many dirty corners which we cleaned up. "


a mother of four from the White River community

Photo: Alison Ofotalau/World Bank

Moving Forward

The project was designed as a short-term response to the economic crisis and to help prevent social unrest. As such, the long-term sustainability of the project was not a primary concern. Nonetheless, aspects of the project’s approach and systems for allocating and tracking wage transfers are relevant to any future social protection scheme that might consider similar short-term measures (in either the capital or in provincial centers).



People, mostly women and youth, were given short-term jobs and training.