The project will be co-funded by the Australian government's overseas assistance arm AusAid, the European Union, and the UN Development Programme.'
UNDP Resident Pacific Representative, Knut Ostby, says one of the priorities will to be fix the electoral roll, to reduce the risk of multiple and out of date registrations.
Speaker:Knut Ostby, UNDP Resident Pacific Representative
OSTBY: For us development is our primary business, but this year a very close links between peace and development, and for a country to continue development it needs also a democratic setup and for people to be able to participate properly. So when we got the request from the government to send an assessment mission and to … assign a project which is going to be funded by some funds from us and some from Australia and some from the EU.
EWART: Can you give me an outline of the particular areas that you intend this money to be used for?
OSTBY: Yes this is called an electoral cycle project, so we start now and we'll finish only a good year after the election. The most important thing that previous elections have shown in the Solomon Islands is to try to improve the voter registration system. There have been many complaints about the voter registrations in the past, and that's probably the first thing this project will start working on. There is also the capacity of the office of the Election Commission in the Solomon Islands, and the project will put a lot of work into improving that capacity and also helping to train polling officials so that the people and officers in place to manage the 2014 election and the future elections, that that capacity will be there in a stronger way. And then I think for an election to be credible and for a process to go very well, it's not enough that officials and systems are in place, but people themselves need to be full participants and they can only do that if they have full knowledge of what the process is about. And that's why the product has provisions for specific allocation and voter awareness. And then finally there are many issues related to the legislation that the department and government is considering to change. There has been for example a political party bill in parliament that has not been passed, but it's still under discussion whether this political party bill should be relaunched or is the question of improving the arrangements for voter registrations, for the setup and independence of the Election Commission for nominations. And there's also been discussions about temporary special measures to allow for stronger women's participation in parliament. But I need to stress that we are not going to change anything in the Solomon Islands legislation. We will help the capacity of the Election Commission, those in government to deal with legal drafting so that they can draft whatever legislation is wanted by the Solomon Islands parliament.
EWART: You make the point that you don't intend to be involved in changing legislation as it were, but presumably you do as an organisation want to ensure that the money that you're putting into this project is well spent. So I'm just wondering to what degree the whole process will be monitored and how you will ensure that the money is being spent wisely?
OSTBY: We have a relatively detailed project plan that has been developed together with the office of the Election Commission, and we will have project staff in place to manage the project. But they will work hand in hand with people of the office of the Solomon Islands Election Commission. We're going to have a detailed work plan that will be followed up, we will have a board overseeing the project proceeds as it should in collaboration between us and the Solomon Islands government.
EWART: Will there be any linkup as far as this project is concerned with the Regional Assistance mission?
OSTBY: Yes the Regional Assistance mission has been providing a lot of support to the Solomon Islands election systems in the past. They are going through a transition, some of the previous things that they were doing they will stop doing. For example the support through the Election Commission is expected to end this year. So this project will take over providing support to the Election Commission after RAMSI has stopped doing so.
EWART: So come 2014 and the next national elections in Solomon Islands, the objective I suppose will be to make them as free and fair as possible, and certainly maybe freer and fairer than in the past?
OSTBY: Yes the objective is to correct some of the problems from the past, the objective that the votes cast by the Solomon Islands people will have the impact that they want to have, that they have a democratically elected and fair representation in parliament.
EWART: And are you able to put a cost on this in terms of how much money the UNDP is putting into the program?
OSTBY: The project is about eight-point-nine-million dollars. It's funded by UNDP, but also supported with funding from AusAid and from the European Union.