The Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands (RAMSI) was an intervention force requested by the Solomon Islands Government to help stabilise the country after a period of civil strife. It became an experiment in ‘cooperative intervention’ – at a time of uninvited intervention, elsewhere – and exercised the imagination of a number of ‘failed state’ theorists. After more than five years, and with the evaporation of initial rationales that instability in the Solomon Islands might pose a ‘terrorist’ threat, much uncertainty remains over its future. On the one hand, RAMSI as a security force still enjoys broad support. On the other hand, it has brought a number of new problems.
This article explains the origins of RAMSI, including the tensions of 2006-2007 and surveys of Solomon Islander responses to the mission. Using the evidence of informed local voices, it discusses ‘aid trauma’, the harmful side-effects of a long term, conspicuously wealthy foreign occupation. The elements of aid trauma are: an inflationary bubble economy, failures in domestic institution building and training, and relative deprivation. The article addresses the question, raised by ‘deep interventionists’, as to weather the Solomon Islands has progressed in living standards since independence. As a means of reflecting on the future of RAMSI , I juxtapose Australian ‘state building’ notions with Solomon Islander views on the role of RAMSI in their relatively new self-governing society. This leads to concluding reflections on the future of RAMSI.
Journal of Australian Political Economy 62