Preventing Armed Conflict In Solomon Islands

Preventing Armed Conflict In Solomon Islands

Year(s): 1999 – 2001.

Location: Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.

UN Regional Group: Asia-Pacific.

Type of Conflict: Risk of a Horizontal (non-state) Intrastate Conflict.

Type of Initiative: Diplomacy, the mediation of a peace agreement, a monitoring mission, and peace infrastructure.

Main Implementing Organisation(s): The Commonwealth and the governments of Australia and New Zealand.

Impact: Lasting.

Summary: Negotiations facilitated by the Commonwealth and the Government of Australia combined with the deployment of an international monitoring mission and the creation of a peace infrastructure to prevent intercommunal violence from escalating into war in Solomon Islands in 2000.

Description of Case 

In 1999, the small Pacific state of Solomon Islands stood at the precipice of an armed conflict which threatened to engulf the largest island in the country, Guadalcanal. In January 1999, the Guadalcanal Provincial Assembly issued a declaration reiterating decade-old demands for increased autonomy and land reform. A few months later, an armed group formed of local Guale people known as the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM) launched a series of attacks against migrant populations from other islands in the Solomons, displacing 35,000 people.[1] The international effort to prevent an armed conflict was initially led by the Commonwealth, which dispatched the former prime minister of Fiji to mediate negotiations.[2] After three days of talks, the IFM signed the Honiara Peace Accord with the Government of Solomon Islands on 28 June 1999, and a month later the parties negotiated the Panatina Agreement.[3] The agreements addressed many of the concerns of the Guale people and established peace between the IFM and the government. By the end of the year, however, a rival militia (the Malaita Eagle Force, MEF) emerged from the displaced population in the capital city, Honiara. MEF fostered close links with the Solomon Islands security forces and, in June 2000, seized power in a coup d’état and took control of the city.[4]

The MEF was party to neither the Honiara or Panatina Agreement, and its seizure of power threatened to undo the peace process. A ceasefire between the IFM and MEF signed aboard an Australian Navy ship in August 2000 provided a window for the Government of Australia to fly 130 delegates from across Solomon Islands society to Australia for negotiations. The talks culminated on 15 October 2000 with the signing of the Townsville Peace Agreement, a comprehensive accord which provided a framework for extensive reforms as well as an end to the nascent conflict.[5] The Agreement also called for the establishment of the International Peace Monitoring Team and the local Peace Monitoring Council to oversee its implementation.[6] Although Solomon Islands was left in an extremely fragile condition by the crisis, an armed conflict was prevented thanks to the diplomatic and mediation efforts of the Commonwealth and the governments of Australia and New Zealand. 

[1] Matthew G. Allen. “Land, Identity and Conflict on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.” Australian Geographer, Vol. 43, No. 2. (2012) p.166

[2] BBC. “Peace deal in Solomon Islands.” BBC News. (1999) Available at: (Accessed 23/11/2020)

[3] Honiara Peace Accord, 1999. Available at: (Accessed 23/11/2020)

[4] Derek McDougall. “Intervention in Solomon Islands.” The Round Table, Vol. 93, No. 374. (2004) p.215

[5] Townsville Peace Agreement, 2000. Available at: (Accessed 23/11/2020)

[6] McDougall. “Intervention in Solomon Islands.” p.216