Solomon Islands is a Melanesian archipelago in the southwest Pacific Ocean comprising two volcanic chains of six major islands, and many hundreds of outer islands and atolls. A former British Protectorate, the Solomon Islands achieved independence in 1978. The population of 720,956 (2019 Census Report, Solomon Islands National Statistics Office) is young, dispersed, and multi-lingual. The majority of people live in rural areas and maintain subsistence livelihoods in villages of only a few hundred people.
Solomon Islands, while facing economic challenges, has demonstrated resilience in overcoming obstacles, particularly in the aftermath of the civil conflict known as "The Tensions" (1998-2003). The country received vital support from the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands from 2003 to 2013, contributing to the restoration of law and order, rebuilding the government, stabilizing national finances, and jumpstarting the economy.
Despite economic disparities, Solomon Islands boasts a unique cultural richness and natural beauty. While the country relies on development assistance and a few primary commodities, there is potential for diversification and sustainable growth. Efforts to address youth unemployment are underway, recognizing the need to provide education and opportunities for the younger population.
The journey towards gender equality in Solomon Islands is ongoing. Although the country has ratified The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, there are still challenges, especially in female enrollment in secondary and tertiary education. The low participation of women in electoral processes is acknowledged, and there is a growing awareness of the importance of empowering women in all spheres of life.
While environmental sustainability remains a concern, there is a collective effort to address issues in the logging industry. Allegations of illegality and environmental abuse are being addressed through increased awareness and improved controls. Additionally, the country is actively addressing the impacts of climate change, recognizing the need for a sustainable and resilient future.
In promoting a positive outlook, Solomon Islands is a nation with great growth potential, and ongoing efforts are dedicated to addressing challenges and building a brighter future for its people.
UN presence in Solomon Islands
The UN has been present in Solomon Islands since 1978, with 20 agencies implementing programs: FAO, IFAD, ILO, IOM, OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNCDF, UNDP, UN Environment, UNESCAP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNESCO, UN-Habitat, UNISDR, UNOCHA, UN Women, WFP, WHO and WMO. Currently, there are nine in-country agencies - FAO, IOM, UNCDF, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNRCO, UN Women, and WHO.
Development goals and objectives
Solomon Islands has been recognized for its progress by the UN's Committee for Development Policy (CDC) and was initially recommended to graduate from the Least Developed Country (LDC) category by 2024. However, acknowledging the various challenges the country has faced in recent years, which have affected the government's ability to prepare a national Smooth Transition Strategy, the UN has agreed to the government's request for an additional three years to get ready for graduation, extending the deadline to 2027.
This extension is granted with the understanding that Solomon Islands needs more time to navigate and address challenges effectively. During this period, the focus will be on implementing thoughtful policies that not only safeguard against negative impacts from external shocks but also foster productive capacity. It reflects a collaborative effort to ensure a smoother and more successful transition for Solomon Islands, acknowledging the unique circumstances and providing the necessary support for sustained growth and development.
Solomon Islands’ main economic growth sectors include agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism, and mining sectors. Although the country faces significant economic and governance obstacles shaped by geographical characteristics such as distance from international markets and vulnerability to natural disasters; lack of infrastructure; and high dependence on development assistance, a World Bank assessment (World Bank Macro Poverty Outlook 2022) predicts a growth rate of 2.4% in 2024.
Solomon Islands has made important gains in health outcomes over the last two decades. Priorities include detection and treatment of non-communicable diseases; addressing shortages of health workers; and increasing the availability of treatment facilities across all health centres. Ensuring access to basic education and improving the quality of education remain an important priority for the Solomon Islands. The Government has implemented free education, and other targeted policy measures, which have increased primary and secondary school enrolment rates, and improved gender parity with more girls starting, and remaining, in school.
The Government of Solomon Islands views climate change as the single greatest threat to development and security. The World Risk Index 2020 ranks Solomon Islands as the fifth most ‘at risk’ country in the world with regards to extreme natural events and climate change and extremes impacts, with minimal coping capacities and a severe lack of adaptive capacities.
Progress towards the 2030 Agenda
The Solomon Islands Government embedded and localised the SDGs in its National Development Strategy 2016 – 2035 in addition to policies and processes as guided by the National Parliament and a review by the Office of the Auditor General. The Solomon Islands Government has also used the Voluntary National Review (VNR) process to capture stakeholder views, facilitated through a dedicated national coordinating committee.
A major challenge in achieving the SDGs lies in institutional capacity and effectiveness to manage the rapidly changing development context, including through population growth, socio-cultural and environmental change, and global economic systems. A deeper integration of legislation, policies, plans, budgets, and activities for transformative change is necessary, underpinned by financing and genuine partnerships.
The National Development Strategy (NDS) 2016 – 2035 is the blueprint for sustainable development in the Solomon Islands. It sets out the vision and priorities for advancing human and economic development, ensuring peace and security and the protection of the natural environment. Relevant elements of the 2030 Development Agenda, the SAMOA Pathway, the Istanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries, and other relevant international and regional frameworks have been integrated into the NDS, through the five long-term objectives of: inclusive economic growth; poverty reduction; access to quality health and education; resilient and environmentally sustainable development; and effective governance.
Development Interventions of the United Nations
Following the United Nations Pacific Strategy (UNPS) 2018-2022 and in continuity of complementing the National Development Strategy 2016-2035 “Improving the Social and Economic Livelihoods of all Solomon Islands”; the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) 2023-2027 is closely aligned with the National Development Strategy (NDS) through the four pillars – Planet, People, Prosperity, Peace. Under the UNSDCF, and within the Country Implementation Framework for Solomon Islands 2023-2024, the United Nations’ interventions in Solomon Islands fall into two broad categories: interventions by operational agencies working closely with national counterparts; and interventions that seek to include Solomon Islands within both regional and international processes and bodies.
- Under the Planet pillar, a strong focus is on enhanced climate change adaptation and resilience and effective disaster management – through ecosystem and biodiversity management; climate change mitigation adaptation and resilience; and effective disaster management.
- Under the People pillar, upgrading Solomon Islands National Public Health Laboratory and supporting the implementation of policies on equitable access to housing are priorities – through child and social protection; public health systems; nutrition, food systems and security; education and WASH; and combatting gender-based violence.
- Under the Prosperity pillar, priorities include strengthening the tourism sector, bridging the digital divide, and setting up facilities for key priority sectors such as downstream processing in agriculture. Specific initiatives include moving to a low-carbon and blue economy; transformation of agri-food systems; and decent work for enhanced livelihoods for all Solomon Islanders.
- Under the Peace pillar, the National Development Strategy states that the objective is to unify the nation with stable and effective governance and public order. UN interventions seek to support this national objective by mapping the gap in youth work and support; reviewing traditional governance systems; and facilitating fair and free elections ahead of the 2024 national elections. Furthermore, UN agencies are working in the areas of access to justice and human rights, multi-level governance institutions and practices, effective public resources management, and women and youth empowerment.
The UN also plays a key convening role in bringing the development partners together to coordinate various development programmes and engage in bilateral and multilateral dialogues to enhance the journey of Solomon Islands towards the 2030 Agenda.