Nobel laureate launches UN-backed truth commission in Solomon Islands

Archbishop Desmond Tutu greets Solomon Islands Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua

28 April 2009 – Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu is set to launch the United Nations-backed Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the Solomon Islands, which will help to bring peace to communities still divided by violence during five years of civil unrest.

“Reconciliation is the number one priority of the government, as it affects the ability of thousands of Solomon Islanders to participate fully in social, cultural and economic life,” said Knut Ostby, the UN Resident Coordinator and Resident Representative designate of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) for Solomon Islands.

The Commission will for the first time provide a forum for victims and perpetrators to speak publicly about the violence that took place from 1998 to 2003, according to a UNDP news release.

The signing of the Townsville Peace Agreement in 2000 and the arrival of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands in 2003 – an international peacekeeping and development mission – brought an end to active conflict and restored law and order.

However, outstanding grievances remain unresolved in a society which still places high value on traditional means of reconciliation over formal judicial proceedings, UNDP stated.

The Commission is an independent body, comprising three national and two international commissioners. It is supported by, among others, the Governments of Solomon Islands, Australia and New Zealand; the European Commission; the International Centre for Transitional Justice; the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; and UNDP.

Archbishop Tutu, who arrived in the capital, Honiara, today to officially launch the new body, is deeply revered in the largely Anglican South Pacific country, both for his role in chairing his own country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and for his commitment to promoting human rights and opposing racism.

“We are truly fortunate to have one of the elder statesmen of truth commissions and victims’ rights here to assist with the formal opening of the Solomon Islands Commission,” said Mr. Ostby. “UNDP is proud to support this initiative.”


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