The Public Solicitor’s Office (PSO) has launched its new five-year strategic plan which provides a roadmap to strengthen access to justice across the provinces in Solomon Islands.
The strategic plan 2020-2025 was officially launched on Thursday 29 August by the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, Dr Paul Mae, Acting Public Solicitor, Mr. George Gray, the Australian High Commissioner, Dr Lachlan Strahan, and the UNDP Country Manager, Mr. Berdi Berdiyev. This event was attended by key justice sector stakeholders and PSO staff.
The strategic plan was developed through consultations with key justice sector stakeholders and PSO staff, who contributed to shaping our vision for the growth of the PSO. The strategic plan process was led by the PSO and MJLA and supported by the Solomon Islands Access to Justice Project (A2J).
A2J Project is funded by the Australian Government and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the PSO and the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs. It seeks to strengthen the capacity of the PSO office and enhance access to justice.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, Dr Paul Mae, said “as the Public Solicitor’s office expands and grows in size, complexity and relevance, the need for it to evolve to meet these emerging challenges will also grow, making this 5 year plan very timely to direct the PSO plan its activities for both now and the future. The Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs is committed to the needs of Solomon Islanders to access legal support. The strategic framework provides that roadmap for ensuring all citizens have equal access to basic legal support”.
The PSO’s strategic approach focuses on three key priority areas. First, making PSO services accessible and inclusive for all. Second, strengthening governance, infrastructure and organisational capacities. Third, contributing to a coordinated justice sector capable of delivering quality services working collaboratively with strategic partners.
This approach includes strengthening free legal advice, representation in court, the provision of transportation to reach far-off communities, the re-establishment of the legal clinic for persons with disabilities, and upscaling community awareness programs which help legally empower Solomon Islanders.
The strategic plan aligns with the Justice Sector Strategic Framework, the Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Strategy and the principles set out in the United Nations Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems.
The Solomon Islands’ Acting Public Solicitor, Mr. George Gray, said the five-year strategic plan provides the PSO with an ambitious direction in terms of effectively realising its mission to defend the rights of the disadvantaged peoples of Solomon Islands by providing professional and accessible legal services in an open, efficient and accountable way.
The UNDP Country Manager, Mr. Berdi Berdiyev, expressed his appreciation at the partnership between MJLA, PSO and UNDP in enhancing access to justice.
He highlighted, that “Just as the agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals guides our actions in all fields of endeavour, so does the PSO strategic plan. Meaningful access to justice for the disadvantaged groups in the Solomon Islands cannot exist without their legal empowerment”.
In delivering his remarks, Australia’s High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, Dr Lachlan Strahan, noted that “inclusive access to justice is a key focus of Australia’s investment in the justice sector. Our programs aim to support the Solomon Islands Government’s commitment to strengthening the delivery of justice services throughout the country, ensuring that the most disadvantaged and vulnerable, including in rural and remote areas, are not left behind.”
The PSO is an independent constitutional body which provides legal aid, advice and assistance to persons in need when they are charged with a criminal offence. It is a key actor in enabling Solomon Islanders access to justice.