by Anne McCaig
About 1,085 Solomon Islanders across four provinces have been given a strong voice with the launch of the first People’s Survey Pilot 2006 yesterday.
The People’s Survey Pilot involved 58 trained Solomon Islanders conducting questionnaires and focus group discussions with local Solomon Islanders on ten key areas.
The People’s Survey Pilot shows that 59 per cent of people interviewed think that law and order have improved in the last year. However, mixed responses were given in other areas fundamental to people feeling safe, confident and secure within their community, and about their future.
RAMSI commissioned an independent agency ANU Enterprise to conduct the pilot survey.
Acting RAMSI Development Coordinator, Stuart Schaefer, thanked all those involved, noting in particular those who were interviewed. “People have responded to this survey with insight, intelligence and honesty on issues that affect their daily life,” he said.
“The strongest message from the survey is - yes, progress has been made; and yes, there is still a lot of work to be done”, he said.
An important finding was the high value men and women of all ages placed on the opportunity to freely discuss and answer questions on issues of central importance to their lives.
“People in the Solomon Islands get asked a lot of questions about development. It is important that we get the results of this survey back to the community and also adapt our programs to meet their needs. The results in areas such as basic security, health and education are encouraging and show the partnership between the Solomon Islands Government and RAMSI is making real progress. However, poorer results in other areas emphasise the challenges ahead for everyone working towards the development of the Solomon Islands. This means the government, RAMSI, donors, non-government organisations, civil society and the community”, he said.
The People’s Survey Pilot showed that many problems are making life hard for people; problems such as abuse of kwaso, the price of goods, logging, corruption and violent crime. In focus group discussions, people said they felt pessimistic about future prospects.
Key findings from people interviewed in the People’s Survey Pilot include:
On general economic growth and services across the Solomon Islands
• 87% of people said prices were too expensive.
• 92% of people perceived youth employment as a problem. Focus group participants perceived unemployed youth as a threat to security.
• 64% thought that schools had improved, but 28% thought they were worse.
On community confidence
• 36% rated their village as safe and peaceful
• 48% perceived a decrease in the level of violent crime
• 59% said the law and order situation had improved
• There was a large variation by age and gender suggesting that women and young men may feel more vulnerable to crime.
On police and RAMSI
• 92% of people had seen a RAMSI officer in the past three months
• 48% reported a robbery or theft from their garden in the past year
• 28% of these minor crimes were reported to the Solomon Islands Police Force
• 65% thought violent conflict would return to Solomon Islands if RAMSI left in the near future.
On access to justice
• 41% would prefer to use custom law rather than modern law, while 47% said it would depend on the particular circumstances
• 57% of those people who went to court thought the trial was fair.
On parliamentary representation
• 77% had voted in the recent election
Mr Schaefer said the People’s Survey Pilot 2006 provided valuable experience in how to conduct a large survey in the Solomon Islands about community perceptions. The results will be used to inform activities in 2007.
The People’s Survey Pilot took place in selected areas of Guadalcanal, Honiara, Malaita, Western and Choisel from 1-8 May 2006. 1085 people completed questionnaires and 31 focus group discussions were held. Source: RAMSI