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B.N. Lilo: Address to World Summit 2013

Permit me at the outset to say a few words about my country, the Solomon Islands. It is a collection of nearly 1,000 islands in the South Pacific east of Papua New Guinea and covers an area of 28,400 square kilometers. We gained independence from Great Britain in 1978. The population, according to the 2010 census, stands at around 550,000. In the global order, we are classified as small island developing state.

I think peace and security are conditions for human development. It is self-evident in any society that peace and security are important for development to take place. The absence of both often results in damage to society and could easily lead to the collapse of any country’s economy.

Take my own country as a case in point. From 1998 to 2003 my country went through a period of ethnic tension and social unrest between two of Solomon Islands’ main islands. The militants became so powerful that it resulted in the effective breakdown of the country’s economy. Government resources were not distributed equally, which resulted in delays of payments of school grants, salaries of public servants, and other obligations for three or four months. This led to the closure of many schools and contributed to teacher absenteeism and lack of good governance at all levels in Solomon Islands. Ten years later, we still see the effect of such practices.

As we know, armed conflicts create major obstacles to sustainable development. Such a collapse resulted in some academics going to the extreme of describing my country as a failed state and part of an "arc of instability" which stretched from East Timor to Fiji.

The extent of lawlessness chased many investors out of the country because we could not guarantee them peace and security, let alone the environment for them to undertake their business activities with confidence. While foreigners fled, our very own people dug deeper to find homegrown solutions to the problems, in search of which we saw the rise of new actors.

One group was the Solomon Islands Women for Peace. The Solomon Islands women were empowered to promote peace at the frontline of the conflict, encouraging former combatants to lay down their arms and talk peace. Our women were an extremely helpful part of the community-wide approach to disband the conflict, which resulted in both parties agreeing to surrender their arms and observe a ceasefire. In 2003 a regional assistance mission led by the Australians finally put the lawlessness to an end.

Today my country enjoys peace and security and is now one of the three fastest growing economies in the Pacific region. In other words, peace and security are necessary for economic and human development, which the Solomon Islands now enjoy.

As we ponder global problems and attempt to find right solutions to these challenges, we must not forget the effort of our women in helping to solve these challenges as partners in development. This can be advanced by empowering women to take up leadership roles and participate in key decision-making. A trend of change is slowly taking place in my country, and there are now more women taking senior positions in government and the private sector than before.

Our attempt to promote peace and security in such global platforms as this is critical. In the interdependence between security and development, poverty reduction is at the crossroads.

I am convinced that my country has gone past the crossroads, but there are more challenges ahead. Thus, we must continue to support our women to create new partnerships with development partners to advance our economic growth and impart a strong financial management style.

The return of law and order is represented in the progress we have made, and future efforts will increase our economic prospects. Our people are committed to this process, and it is their wish to be fully engaged in government-sponsored programs. My country is committed to peace and security in order to promote human and economic development.