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History of UQ solomon island partnershipHistory of the UQ Solomon Islands Partnership (since 1999)

1999-2000

In May 2000 Dr Jim Davie, Senior Lecturer, School of Natural and Rural Systems Management, Dr Peter Dart, Principal Research Fellow, School of Land and Food Sciences, and Mr Gregory Young, Education Officer, Solomon Island Rural Development Trust Board prepared a document called “Research, Education and Training for the Solomon Islands: Scoping for a University of Queensland Strategic Initiative. At the centre of this was a collaborative project begun in October 1999 to develop and implement community development in north New Georgia in the Western province, which involved UQ and the Queensland Government Department of Natural Resources. The project was begun at the request of Rev. Ikani Rove, the Spiritual Leader of the Christian Fellowship Church, to help rehabilitate forested land in order to ensure sustained commercial and environmental values. The RDTB is a charitable trust established in January 2000 under the Solomon Islands law and a Unit Trust of the Pacific Development Fund, a non-profit company established in Brisbane. Meetings were held in Honiara between the Solomon Islands PM Bart Ulufa`alu and his officials, Dr Jim Davie, Mr Ian Prentice (a Brisbane barrister with strong links to Solomon Islands) and Mr Grant Doran (chair of RDTB). Correspondence was subsequently exchanged between PM Ulufa`alu and the UQ VC Professor John Hay, and between the PM and the Government of Queensland concerning technical assistance.

In response, the Premier of Queensland requested a meeting with PM Ulufa`alu in Brisbane, and a meeting was held between Queensland Minister for Natural Resources and Environment Mr Rod Welford, Mr Greg Young and Mr Phil Norman, Principal Scientists with the Department of Natural Resources, and Dr Jim Davie from UQ. The outcome was a request from Minister Welford for Mr Norman to establish a working party to determine an agenda for a Queensland Government technical response. In 15 March 2000 VC Hay responded to the PM by writing to the Executive Deans requesting that they consider their faculty’s participation in a UQ-wide working party to review the scope of activities that the university might bring to a negotiated relationship with the Solomon Islands Government. On 10 May the VC met with Dr Martin Sharp, the Australian High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, and a week later a further meeting was held between Mr Gordon Lilo, Gregory Young, Dr Peter Dart, and Mr Robert Ferraris, AusAID adviser on natural resource management in Solomon Islands. A meeting of the crossfaculty working group was held on 14 April 2000. Unfortunately, PM Ulufa`alu was remove by a coup in June 2000, which stalled further negotiations, but these were again taken up by the new PM Mr Allan Kemakeza.

2003 MOU

The final result was a MOU signed between PM Kemakeza and VC Hay in April 2003. The social conflicts during 2003 overtook the full implementation of the MOU between SIG and UQ. However, Associate Professor Mott visited Honiara in May 2003 as a UQ representative to discuss implementation. The MOU outlined a formal management structure relating to research interaction between SIG and UQ and specified a Collaborative Activities Approval Board (CAAB) to facilitate formal approval of joint projects. Associate Professor Mott called a meeting of all interested parties at UQ on 19 June 2003, which stressed the dangerous situation due to civil unrest in Honiara, discussed the MOU and distanced UQ from the RDTB. An email from Associate Professor Mott, dated 7 November 2003 stated that the Board was chaired by Professor David Siddle (DVC Research) and had as UQ members Mr Robert Coelen, Director of the International Education Directorate, Associate Professor John Mott as Strategic Coordinator Office of the DVC (Research), and the newly-appointed (in September) Professor Kevin Clements, Director of the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. For SIG, the representatives were the Permanent Secretaries to the PM, Minister for Finance, Minister for National Planning, and Minister for National Reconciliation and Peace. The main aim of the Board was to ensure that agreed, development research projects between areas of UQ and the Solomon Island were well integrated and positive in what was still a state of political flux and disturbance in Solomon Islands. A formal schedule of the CAAB was to be developed in 2004, but until that time Associate Professor Mott was to be involved in all planning. Until a formal procedure for developing research projects in the Solomon Islands was implemented, and research projects between UQ and the Solomon Islands needed to be approved by Professor Siddle and the International Educational Directive was to be kept informed.

 

Following on Associate Professor Mott’s visit to Honiara, during 2003/2004 a more structured interaction between UQ and SIG was developed. As part of this, Professor Clement as Director of ACPACS agreed to have more input into the coordination of UQ research workers interested in the Solomon Islands; and ACPACS began to develop increased interaction through a number of Pacific peace and conflict oriented initiatives. One of the outcomes in early 2004 was the formation of the UQ Solomon Islands Partnership for Peace and Development (SIPPD), chaired by Professor Clements, which held its first meeting in February. Another UQ group visited Honiara in November 2004: John Mott and Kevin Clements travelled to Honiara at the same time as Associate Professor Clive Moore who was there on his own research interests. A meeting was arranged with PM Kemakeza other SIG officials and a variety of interested parties. The aim of this visit was to evaluate the political and governmental stability of the region and in conjunction with the current main government stakeholders, review the most effective structures for future interaction between UQ and SIG.

2004–2007

The November 2004 UQ delegation met with the PM, the Chief Justice, the Minister for National Reform and Planning, and the Minister for National Reconciliation and Peace, and representatives of the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education (SICHE). The visit was very positive with all levels of government emphasizing their wish to continue a strong strategic and tactical relationship with UQ. In discussion with the PM, the complexity of the proposed arrangements in the existing MOU were addressed and the PM was strongly in agreement with the development of a more streamlined and effective structure for future interaction under the existing MOU. Professor Clements took on the central coordinating role for UQ, under the aegis of the SBC Executive Dean. In a 21 March 2005 letter Professors Siddle and Trevor Grigg (DVC International & Development) suggested that all future initiatives have a cross-Faculty input and that an advisory panel of relevant Executive Deans might be useful in developing a governance structure; at a minimum there should be close cooperation between SBS and NRAVS. ACPACS mounted a series of occasional seminars relating to Solomon Islands, and held occasional meetings of the UQ Solomon Islands Partnership for Peace and Development. These became more infrequent during 2006 and 2007, and when SIPPD held no meetings in 2007, Clive Moore suggested that he become joint convener with Kevin Clements in 2008. The frequency of meetings remained slight, and when Kevin Clements resigned from UQ in 2008, it was arranged that Professor Moore and Associate Professor Jennifer Corrin become joint conveners of SIPPD for 2009.

2007 and 2008 MOUs

Normally, SIG would have signed the MOU through the Minister for Education, but because the initial signing was by PM Kemakeza, further negotiations have continued at Prime Ministerial level. After Manasseh Sogavare became PM, his Government requested a re-negotiation of the MOU. Because of friction between SIG and the Australian Government, PM Sogavare was unable to come to UQ to sign the new document. Associate professor Moore had discussions with PM Sogavare in Honiara over the MOU. Eventually it was signed in Honiara on 24 September 2007 and brought to UQ by Mr Sam Alasia for counter-signature by VC Hay on 26 September. As part of the package, Professor Grigg authorized the offering of two Masters-level scholarships with tutiton waivers to be awarded to qualified Solomon Islanders. After Dr Derek Sikua became PM in December 2007, he also requested a renegotiation of the MOU, primarily to remove all mention of the Institute for Solomon Islands Studies (a Sogavare Government initiative), and to strengthen the SICHI connection with UQ. On 20 October 2008 UQ appointed Professor Moore to replace Professor Clements as the UQ contact point for the MOU. Professor Moore had discussions with PM Sikua in Honiara in January 2008, and also in Brisbane on 19 June (accompanied by Professor David Brereton) when the MOU was resigned. PM Sikua had promised to advertise the two scholarships, and to bond the recipients to work for SIG for the length of the scholarships, but SIG never did so. On 22 April 2008 Professor Moore followed up on an earlier discussion with Mr Victor Ngele, Solomon Island High Commission to Australia, and suggested expediting the issue, by offering the scholarships to Mr Patrick Pikacha for a MPhil in Science (he had already applied to UQ to complete a PhD) and to Dr Geoffrey Kenilorea who applied to complete a Masters in Community Medicine. The original wording of Professor Grigg’s letter of offer stressed that at least one of the scholarship should be in the area of peace and conflict studies, but this was thought less important than getting the award of the scholarships moving. Both Mr Pikacha and Dr Kenilorea began their studies in 2009. The MOU, which is valid for five years from 18 June 2008, is aimed at creating closer and continuing relations between SIG and UQ.

 

The key clauses are 1 (a) to 1 (d):
 

(a) Promotion and coordination of international academic interests in Solomon Islands affairs with a priority focus on aiding the restoration and maintenance of peace, harmony and well-being (eg. Development and resource sustainability and community resilience) throughout the Solomon Islands.
 

(b) Promotion and coordination of International partnership and linkages with the view to increasing and leveraging resources available for sustainable human and natural resource development throughout the Solomon Islands.
 

(c) Promotion and coordination of the above international academic interests (a) and the resources (b) in a way to maximize practical outcomes. It is highly likely that this will be done through such things as the provision of postgraduate scholarships or fee waivers for Solomon Islanders to undergo Masters of Doctoral Studies at UQ over the period of this MOU and support for the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education within the Ministry of Education and Human Resources.
 

(d) Support and facilitation by the SIG of the UQ Consortium, CONCORD UQ (Community Building and Responsible Resource Management) to undertake such research, consultancy, training and capacity building activities that contribute to conflict prevention and conflict management, community building and sustainable resource development in the context of large-scale natural resource projects within Solomon Islands.

 

The following procedures for developing cooperative activities are to be adopted:


Both parties agreed to establish trans-institutional contact points for promoting cooperative research and practice activities between the UQ and SIG. These contact persons will facilitate communication between the University of Queensland and Solomon Islands Government through the Ministry of Education and the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education on proposed research and practical activities and will facilitate the issue of research approvals to standard SI research procedures. The UQ contact is Professor Clive Moore. The Solomon Islands contact/s will be the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Education and Human Resources and Secretary to the Prime Minister.

2009

A meeting of all interested parties was held on 20 February 2009 at UQ, chaired by Dr Corrin and Professor Moore. The group’s name was changed to UQ Solomon Islands Partnership. A UQ SIP website was to be created, attached to the School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics website. Short biographical data entries were requested from all members of SIP. A decision was made to work towards holding an Inaugural Solomon Islands Seminar (probably on 19 July 2009) at UQ, involving as many Brisbane based Solomon Islanders as possible. Discussions were to be held with UQ authorities to ascertain the best direction for future development of SIP to report to another meeting scheduled for 24 April.