What fighting corruption looks like in Solomon Islands

April 23, 2019

International Anti-Corruption Day 2018 in Honiara, Solomon Islands. (Photo: UNDP/Tomoko Kashiwazaki)

Fighting corruption — sounds vague and daunting, right?

Corruption is rampant in Solomon Islands. But citizens have a reputation of being complacent in efforts to end it — or at least hard to coordinate.

Transparency and Accountability for People of Solomon Islands, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) anti-corruption project, proved that wrong.

The call for ideas we launched in July 2018 fit into one line: Wanna fight corruption?

A few failures, restarts, workshops and heaps of stationery later, we had a team. They told us what worked, what didn’t and how that related to corruption.

We discussed big integrity principles and how to go from a problem to a solution. We talked about legislation, drafted recommendations for the Prime Minister and finally, after months of work, had actual results.

So, want to know how we’re fighting corruption?

Nudge behaviors: an official commitment can impact your actions

Who: Philip. He heads the Department of Business and Management at Solomon Islands National University.

Proud of: Collecting 1,000 signatures against corruption during the university’s orientation week. The Vice-Chancellor, Acting Dean and all professors joined students in promising not to bribe, take a bribe or engage in corruption. 

Philip Ariki. (Photo: UNDP/Tomoko Kashiwazaki)

A WEKAP integrity commitment

Accountability 101: To hold people accountable for promises, you need promises

Who: John and the WEKAP group. They’re from West Are’Are, a constituency near the capital of Solomon Islands’ most populous province.

Proud of: Being the only youth group to demand signed political and integrity commitments from all the candidates running in their constituency — 40 percent of them agreed to sign. Would you elect the others?

Bringing the investigative back into journalism: sources, stories and impact

Who: Francisca and the Media Association of Solomon Islands. They’re supporting the country’s two print newspapers, handful of radio stations and TV channel.

Proud of: Publishing ten stories on corruption last year. And we’re talking real stories, not transcripts of speeches from angry politicians. Stories with multiple sources including integrity agencies (did you know how much information can be found in an Auditor General’s report?). Stories developed over multiple days. Stories with an impact.

Francisca Tamu. (Photo: UNDP/Tomoko Kashiwazaki)

A member of the Solomon Islands Deaf Association conveys an anti-corruption message in sign language

Solomon Islands enacted the Anti Corruption and Whistle Blowers Bills, in efforts to continuously fight corruption.

Power of the people: changing perceptions about public and civil society in Solomon Islands

Who: Karl, James and Lovelyn. Karl has a small production company for music videos (and a drone), James is a radio presenter, and Lovelyn is the sign language translator for the Solomon Islands Deaf Association. They didn’t know each other six months ago, but now they’re a tight-knit team.

Proud of: Documenting the fabulous history of the Anti-Corruption Act — twice withdrawn from Parliament, three times tabled under two governments and one of the first successful civil society campaigns in Solomon Islands.

Featuring: heroes, hope and a great night

Who: Philip, Regina and the Pacific Youth Forum Against Corruption (PYFAC). Don’t think they’re new to this space because they’re young. They’ve been talking about corruption in Solomon Islands, the Pacific and the World (thanks UNPRAC!).

Proud of: The first Solomon Islands Anti-Corruption Film Festival. It starts with a movie, a big Hollywood one about whistleblowing or an arty documentary about villas built on school grounds, and it ends with heated conversations about leadership, votes and heroes. So far, they’ve taken their projector to the capital’s library, church buildings and whoever would host them.

Members of the Pacific Youth Forum Against Corruption on International Anti-Corruption Day 2018

Jennifer Wate

Can a gift make me corrupt? A clearer picture of the Penal Code can smooth discussions

Who: Jennifer. She heads Development Services Exchange, a civil society coordination platform in the capital city, Honiara.

Proud of: The Solomon Islands guide to corruption offences, a colorful compilation of cartoons clarifying what’s considered corruption. 

Tracking the trickle down: corruption is everywhere but different in each place

Who: Selwyn. He works with forestry rangers and communities against unsustainable logging in Makira — one of the country’s largest islands (zoom in on Google Maps).

Proud of: Documenting the impact of corruption from the perspective of its silent victims. Selwyn collected testimonials from more than 1,000 rural community members in the most isolated parts of Makira Province.

Do you think about corruption in terms of bank statements and cash transactions? Selwyn and his team heard about how many boats are missing from the villages, how much of the wood bought for the school was used to build family houses and where the road ends because there were no funds to finish. He has facts and figures on corruption’s impact on schools, health, transport, communication and the environment.

Selwyn and the Tawatana Community Conservation Development Association of Makira-Ulawa Province

What’s next?

UNDP Solomon Islands is launching the full-fledged phase of the anti-corruption project on May 1. This means more engagement with the champions above. We’re looking forward to building on their ideas — from Selwyn’s rural anti-corruption committees to PYFAC’s amazing call for accountability in leadership. Our aim is to change the perception of civil society and citizens in Solomon Islands and challenge the culture of impunity by talking about accountability.

Besides those important partnerships, our first step will be to support the revision of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (due in June 2019). We also hope to be there when the government launches the Solomon Islands Independent Commission Against Corruption in the second half of 2019, building on all the behind-the-scenes technical support over the past few months.