Between 1998 and 2003, Solomon Islands was wracked by violence between different communities. More than 100 people were killed and around 40,000 were driven from their homes.
The signing of the Townsville Peace Agreement in October 2000 promised to bring an end to the conflict. This called for the deployment of an unarmed 47-person International Peace Monitoring Team (IPMT) to observe the peace, monitor surrendered weapons locked in shipping containers, and work with the newly formed Peace Monitoring Council. The mission was Australian-led, with New Zealand providing the deputy commander and a number of Defence Force and civilian personnel.
In June 2002 the IPMT was withdrawn from the Solomon Islands. Violence had declined but few weapons had been surrendered and the underlying causes of the conflict had not been addressed.
The situation worsened again in 2003. The Solomon Islands government faced collapse and asked for help. In July, following discussions among Pacific leaders, the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) was sent to restore order.
Like the East Timor intervention, RAMSI was conducted with the consent of the host government. This mission did not have UN approval, but was nominally conducted under the auspices of the Pacific Islands Forum.
Immediate and long-term effects
The initial RAMSI force was made up of some 2,200 military and police officers, primarily from Australia and New Zealand but with representation from several Pacific Island states. RAMSI had an immediate impact on the security situation. Law and order was restored, many violent offenders were arrested and by the end of 2003, more than 3,700 illegal weapons had been collected and destroyed.
The long-term goal of building a sustainable peace in the Solomon Islands was more challenging. In 2011, eight years after the initial RAMSI deployment, New Zealand maintained an infantry platoon and police officers in Solomon Islands. RAMSI's military task force departed in 2013 and its policing role ended in 2017.