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UN rights expert urges Solomon Islands to break the cycle of aid dependency

HONIARA / GENEVA (22 February 2011) – UN Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt on the enjoyment of human rights, Cephas Lumina, called on the Government of Solomon Islands and its development partners to design a medium-term exit strategy for their development assistance programmes, in order to achieve sustainable economic, social and human development, and the promotion and protection of human rights.

After his first mission to Solomon Islands, Mr. Lumina noted that foreign aid accounts for over 60 percent of its development budget, and that the international assistance provided in areas such as health and education has helped the country make substantial progress towards achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals on health and education.

However, the Independent Expert stressed, “while it is commendable that this assistance is provided to the country, it is just as important to promote self-sustaining economic growth and development and to ensure that Solomon Islands is able to come out of the cycle of aid dependency”.

The expert also expressed concern at the lack of a human rights-based approach, both in the policies and practices of Government agencies as well as in the design and implementation of aid programmes and projects by development partners. “Human rights are an essential part of any sustainable development strategy,” he stressed.

“A human rights-based approach that guides the design and implementation of development aid projects will enhance the effectiveness of aid programmes and contribute to achieving sustainable results,” Mr. Lumina said. “It will also ensure that development challenges in Solomon Islands are adequately and fairly addressed and that the fundamental rights of the people are fully respected in the process.”

The Independent Expert’s mission to Solomon Islands (14 to 18 February 2011) followed his visit to Australia the previous week, where he focused on the human rights and development impact of Australia’s aid programme and the human rights implications of its regional trade negotiations and development partnerships. In Solomon Islands he looked at the other side of the coin - the effectiveness of foreign aid, provided by multilateral and bilateral agencies, in ensuring the realization of human rights in the country.

“Effective capacity building should promote the empowerment of local professionals, both in Government and in civil society,” said Mr. Lumina highlighting the need to reduce the “excessively large number” of technical advisers – the overwhelming majority of whom are nationals of donor countries - currently working in governmental departments in Solomon Islands, as part of aid programmes.

The Independent Expert urged the Government and the donor community to ensure close and clear alignment between the development agenda of donors with the Government’s development priorities. “The Government should fully own the development process in the country,” said Mr Lumina.

In his view, “the Government of Solomon Islands needs to take full responsibility for the direction that aid takes in the country and put in place a regulatory environment that guarantees a transparent, accountable and people-centred delivery of aid.”

The Independent Expert stressed that aid should not be accompanied by harmful conditionalities, such as reduction of public sector spending in circumstances where the Government is the largest employer, privatization, and liberalization of the trade and financial sectors.

“Any measures to attract foreign investment should be directed to ensuring that the country’s resources are used in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner and that the benefits of investments accrued to the people, especially the poorest, rather than one-sidedly enrich the investors,” Mr. Lumina said.
The Independent Expert will submit a preliminary report on his visits to Australia and Solomon Islands to the Human Rights Council in June 2011 and a full report in 2012.

Mr. Lumina is a Zambian lawyer who holds a PhD in international law/human rights. He was appointed ‘Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights’ by the Human Rights Council in 2008. He is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. The mandate of the Independent Expert covers all countries.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement by the Independent Expert: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10745&LangID=E

Learn more about the mandate of the Independent Expert, please visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/development/debt/index.htm

OHCHR Country Page – Solomon Islands: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/SBIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Brenda Vukovic (Tel: + 41 797520484 / e-mail: ieforeigndebt@ohchr.org).