TO discuss the importance of integrity and good governance in Solomon Islands, more than 60 university students and youth members of civil society participated in the Anti-Corruption and Integrity Dialogue for Youths, which concluded on Wednesday.
According to the 2015 World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators, Solomon Islands is very corrupt and has weak accountability and integrity institutions.
As corruption remains a broad social and economic challenge, anti-corruption efforts require the participation of all sectors, including young members of the community.
Interactive sessions during the two-day youth dialogue facilitated by the UN Peacebuilding Fund (UNPBF) project in partnership with the UN Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption (UN-PRAC) Project, the Pacific Youth Forum Against Corruption (PYFAC) and Solomon Islands National University (SINU) allowed participants to increase their awareness of issues related to corruption and good governance in the country.
The dialogue also enabled youth to establish a network to advocate for integrity and advance anti-corruption efforts.
In opening the dialogue, Acting Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic) and Dean of the SINU School of Natural Resources and Applied Sciences Professor Prem Rai highlighted the prevalence of corruption.
“We need to acknowledge that corruption is widespread and part of everyday life. Society has learned to live with it. Some even accept it as an integral part of their culture. But we must figure out how to deal with it, how to eradicate it. Some say corruption is like cancer; it will kill us one day if not treated. Some say it is like termites that make the society hollow from within, a society that cannot grow out of poverty and misery because of corruption.”
Professor Rai added, “I believe young people have a fundamental role to play in bringing a new culture to society, but they are also vulnerable. It is therefore important to empower youth, raise their awareness and understanding about corruption and to build their capacity to stand up against it.”
Echoing a similar sentiment at the opening, UNDP Country Manager Azusa Kubota emphasised that young people have the agency to combat corruption in the country.
“Corruption is not unique to Solomon Islands. However, to a certain extent, cultures and social norms can make it difficult for these practices to exist and persist. Such environments start with individuals who value honesty and integrity. I’d like you to think about the roles that young people can play in achieving a society and the future that we all want.
“To foster positive change in the country, it is critical to listen to the voices of youth. Youth want to be heard, and they want to be part of the solution, not the problem,” Kubota said.
Representatives from the religious community, government ministries and NGOs were among the presenters who challenged participants to envision that solution.
Irimah Johnlee, a second-year law student at the University of the South Pacific Solomon Islands Campus, said the dialogue showed her how she can use her skills and collaborate with her peers to impact the country.
“Most of the youths and people in the village are not aware of anti-corruption efforts. Maybe I can be the voice in that area to tell them about what anti-corruption is,” Johnlee said.
The Anti-Corruption and Integrity Dialogue for Youths made possible through UNPBF, UN-PRAC, PYFAC and SINU was the first in a series of discussions on the role of governance in shaping the future.
–UNDP & UN WOMEN JOINT PRESS