Friday, July 15, 2011

Time to recolour RAMSI?

With clear indications that RAMSI is already somewhat reduced, there are appearing a range of different positions of what its future would look like.

NZ's Foreign Affairs Minister McCully has made a clear call: a new emphasis on development. Australia has been a little more guarded with both Stephen Smith (once Foreign Minister, now Defence Minister) and Richard Marles (Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Islands Affairs) toeing the same line in media reports to ABC and Radio Australia respectively: this is a period of transition.

In his interview, Marles emphasised that development work was always part of RAMSI's work, but also that policing remained key. When asked whether development emphasis meant a reduction in policing emphasis, he demurred:
Oh no, I wouldn't say that. I think the policing role is very important and that was acknowledged yesterday and I actually think the role that has been played with the Royal Solomon Islands police force is incredibly important and that is going to be an ongoing role and I think that will persist for as long as any of the elements of RAMSI. So policing still remains a very important part of the RAMSI mission and will continue to do so for sometime. But I think it is right to focus on development as well and development within the country and within the capacity of the government, but also very much within the police force itself.
Clearly when facing a public relations "selling" exercise, politicians cannot be expected to admit trade-offs, so we can look forward to a continuation of this sort of rhetoric contending a sort of "concentration on everything".

But for development actors and private investors wanting a clear picture of the actual distribution of emphasis, we need a more objective measure of relative focus, preferably one which is comparable over time. We propose one that measures RAMSI in workforce terms: green, blue and white collar groups.

Green collar - the military component which was in strongest evidence early on in RAMSI. This is what is now down to 80 (mainly reservists) from Australia, 43 NZDF personnel from NZ and an unspecified number from the other 13 RAMSI participating countries.

Blue collar - the policing component which originally were conceived as "leading" the RAMSI effort in 2003 to restore law and order.  This is currently at 250 from the RAMSI participating countries according to their website.

White collar - the development component consisting of technical advisors and consultants working in government ministries and in more traditional aid/development roles.

Obviously tasks like strengthening the SI police will probably involve both white- and blue- collar workforces of RAMSI, but for monitoring purposes perhaps it would be simpler to assign annual spend levels and staffing allocations to one of the three colour-labels to get a clear view of what emphasis RAMSI has in the future, especially when compared to the past.