Area: Land--27,556 sq. km. (11,599 sq.
mi.). Archipelago--725,197 sq. km. (280,000 sq.
Cities: Capital--Honiara (on the island
of Guadalcanal), pop. 30,000. Other towns--Gizo,
Terrain: Mountainous islands.
Climate: Tropical monsoon.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Solomon
Population (2005): 538,000.
Annual growth rate: 2.68%.
Ethnic groups (2002): Melanesian 93%, Polynesian
4%, Micronesian 1.5%, other 1.5%.
Religions: Christian 95%--more than one-third
Anglican (Archdiocese of Melanesia), Roman
Catholic 19%, South Sea Evangelical 17%, United
Church (Methodist) 11%, Seventh-day Adventist
Languages: English (official); about 120
vernaculars, including Solomon Islands pidgin.
Education (2002): Years compulsory--none.
Attendance--85% primary school; 14%
secondary school. Adult literacy--64%.
Health (2002): Infant mortality rate--21/1,000.
Life expectancy--72.7 yrs.
Work force (264,900, 2002): Agriculture--75%.
Industry and commerce--5%. Services--20%.
Type: Parliamentary democracy within the
Constitution: May 1978.
Independence: July 7,1978.
Branches: Executive--British monarch
represented by a governor general (head of
state); prime minister (head of government).
Legislative--50-member Parliament elected
every 4 years. Judicial--high court plus
magistrates court; system of custom land courts
Subdivisions: Nine provinces and Honiara town.
Political parties: United Party, People's
Alliance Party, National Front for Progress, SAS
Party, Liberal Party.
Suffrage: Universal over 18.
National holiday: July 7.
GDP (2003): $215 million.
Annual growth rate (2001-2003): minus 15%.
Per capita income (2003): $425.
Avg. inflation rate (2002): 9.0%.
Natural resources: Forests, fish, agricultural
land, marine products, gold.
Agriculture: Products--copra, cocoa, palm
oil, palm kernels and subsistence crops of yams,
taro, bananas, pineapple.
Industry: Types--fish canning,
sawmilling, boats, rattan and wood furniture,
fiberglass products, shell jewelry, tobacco,
beer, clothing, soap, nails, handicrafts.
Trade (2003): Exports--$116 million (a
28% drop from 1999): fish, logs and timber,
cocoa, copra. Major markets--China 26%,
Japan 18%, South Korea 14%, Philippines 10%,
Thailand 6%, Singapore 6%. Imports--$120
million: machinery and transport equipment,
fuel, food and beverages. Major suppliers--Australia
28%, Singapore 24%, New Zealand 5%, Papua New
Guinea 4%, Japan 3%, United States 2%.
Exchange rate (2003 average): Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands form an archipelago in the
Southwest Pacific about 1,900 kilometers (1,200
mi.) northeast of Australia. With terrain
ranging from ruggedly mountainous islands to
low-lying coral atolls, the Solomons stretch in
a 1,450-kilometer (900 mi.) chain southeast from
Papua New Guinea across the Coral Sea to
The main islands of Choiseul, New Georgia,
Santa Isabel, Guadalcanal, Malaita, and Makira
have rainforested mountain ranges of mainly
volcanic origin, deep narrow valleys, and
coastal belts lined with coconut palms and
ringed by reefs. The smaller islands are atolls
and raised coral reefs, often spectacularly
beautiful. The Solomon Islands region is
geologically active, and earth tremors are
The islands' ocean-equatorial climate is
extremely humid throughout the year, with a mean
temperature of 27° C (80° F) and few extremes of
temperature or weather. June through August is
the cooler period. Though seasons are not
pronounced, the northwesterly winds of November
through April bring more frequent rainfall and
occasional squalls or cyclones. The annual
rainfall is about 305 centimeters (120 in.).
More than 90% of the islands traditionally
was forested, but this has come under pressure
from current logging operations. The coastal
strips are sheltered by mangrove and coconut
trees. Luxuriant rainforest covers the interiors
of the large islands. Soil quality ranges from
extremely rich volcanic to relatively infertile
limestone. More than 230 varieties of orchids
and other tropical flowers brighten the
The Solomon Islanders comprise diverse cultures,
languages, and customs. Of its 496,000 persons,
93.3% are Melanesian, 4% Polynesian, and 1.5%
Micronesian. In addition, small numbers of
Europeans and Chinese are registered. About 120
vernacular languages are spoken.
Most people reside in small, widely dispersed
settlements along the coasts. Sixty percent live
in localities with fewer than 200 persons, and
only 10% reside in urban areas.
The capital city of Honiara, situated on
Guadalcanal, the largest island, has over 30,000
inhabitants. The other principal towns are Gizo,
Auki, and Kirakira.
Most Solomon Islanders are Christian, with
the Anglican, Roman Catholic, South Seas
Evangelical, and Seventh-day Adventist faiths
predominating. About 5% of the population
maintain traditional beliefs.
The chief characteristics of the traditional
Melanesian social structure are:
Most Solomon Islanders maintain this traditional
social structure and find their roots in village
- The practice of subsistence economy;
- The recognition of bonds of kinship,
with important obligations extending beyond
the immediate family group; local and clan
loyalties far outweigh regional or national
- Generally egalitarian relationships,
emphasizing acquired rather than inherited
- A strong attachment of the people to the
Although little prehistory of the Solomon
Islands is known, material excavated on Santa
Ana, Guadalcanal, and Gawa indicates that a
hunter-gatherer people lived on the larger
islands as early as 1000 B.C. Some Solomon
Islanders are descendants of Neolithic
Austronesian-speaking peoples who migrated from
The European discoverer of the Solomons was
the Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendana Y Neyra,
who set out from Peru in 1567 to seek the
legendary Isles of Solomon. British mariner
Philip Carteret entered Solomon waters in 1767.
In the years that followed, visits by explorers
were more frequent.
Missionaries began visiting the Solomons in
the mid-1800s. They made little progress at
first, because "blackbirding"--the often brutal
recruitment of laborers for the sugar
plantations in Queensland and Fiji--led to a
series of reprisals and massacres. The evils of
the labor trade prompted the United Kingdom to
declare a protectorate over the southern
Solomons in 1893. In 1898 and 1899, more
outlying islands were added to the protectorate;
in 1900 the remainder of the archipelago, an
area previously under German jurisdiction, was
transferred to British administration. Under the
protectorate, missionaries settled in the
Solomons, converting most of the population to
In the early 20th century, several British
and Australian firms began large-scale coconut
planting. Economic growth was slow, however, and
the islanders benefited little. With the
outbreak of World War II, most planters and
traders were evacuated to Australia, and most
From May 1942, when the Battle of the Coral
Sea was fought, until December 1943, the
Solomons were almost constantly a scene of
combat. Although U.S. forces landed on
Guadalcanal virtually unopposed in August 1942,
they were soon engaged in a bloody fight for
control of the islands' airstrip, which the U.S.
forces named Henderson Field. One of the most
furious sea battles ever fought took place off
Savo Island, near Guadalcanal, also in August
1942. Before the Japanese completely withdrew
from Guadalcanal in February 1943, over 7,000
Americans and 21,000 Japanese died. By December
1943, the Allies were in command of the entire
Solomon chain. The large-scale American presence
toward the end of the war, which dwarfed
anything seen before in the islands, triggered
various millennial movements and left a lasting
legacy of friendship.
Following the end of World War II, the British
colonial government returned. The capital was
moved from Tulagi to Honiara to take advantage
of the infrastructure left behind by the U.S.
military. A native movement known as the
Marching Rule defied government authority. There
was much disorder until some of the leaders were
jailed in late 1948. Throughout the 1950s, other
indigenous dissident groups appeared and
disappeared without gaining strength.
In 1960, an advisory council of Solomon
Islanders was superseded by a legislative
council, and an executive council was created as
the protectorate's policymaking body. The
council was given progressively more authority.
In 1974, a new constitution was adopted
establishing a parliamentary democracy and
ministerial system of government. In mid-1975,
the name Solomon Islands officially replaced
that of British Solomon Islands Protectorate. On
January 2, 1976, the Solomons became
self-governing, and independence followed on
July 7, 1978.
The Solomon Islands is a parliamentary democracy
within the Commonwealth, with a unicameral
Parliament and a ministerial system of
government. The British monarch is represented
by a governor general, chosen by the Parliament
for a 5-year term. The national Parliament has
50 members, elected for 4-year terms. However,
Parliament may be dissolved by majority vote of
its members before the completion of its term.
Parliamentary representation is based on
single-member constituencies. Suffrage is
universal for citizens over age 18. The prime
minister, elected by Parliament, chooses the
other members of the cabinet. Each ministry is
headed by a cabinet member, who is assisted by a
permanent secretary, a career public servant,
who directs the staff of the ministry.
For local government, the country is divided
into 10 administrative areas, of which nine are
provinces administered by elected provincial
assemblies, and the 10th is the town of Honiara,
administered by the Honiara Town Council.
Land ownership is reserved for Solomon
Islanders. At the time of independence,
citizenship was granted to all persons whose
parents are or were both British protected
persons and members of a group, tribe, or line
indigenous to the Solomon Islands. The law
provides that resident expatriates, such as the
Chinese and Kiribati, may obtain citizenship
through naturalization. Land generally is still
held on a family or village basis and may be
handed down from mother or father according to
local custom. The islanders are reluctant to
provide land for nontraditional economic
undertakings, and this has resulted in continual
disputes over land ownership.
No military forces are maintained by the
Solomon Islands, although the police force of
nearly 500 includes a border protection element.
The police also have responsibility for fire
service, disaster relief, and maritime
surveillance. The police force is headed by a
commissioner, appointed by the Governor General
and responsible to the prime minister. The
current commissioner is an Australian funded by
Solomon Islands governments are characterized by
weak political parties and highly unstable
parliamentary coalitions. They are subject to
frequent votes of no confidence, and government
leadership changes frequently as a result.
Cabinet changes are common.
The first post-independence government was
elected in August 1980. Prime Minister Peter
Kenilorea was head of government until September
1981, when he was succeeded by Solomon Mamaloni
as the result of a realignment within the
parliamentary coalitions. Following the November
1984 elections, Kenilorea was again elected
Prime Minister, to be replaced in 1986 by his
former deputy Ezekiel Alebua following shifts
within the parliamentary coalitions. The next
election, held in early 1989, returned Solomon
Mamaloni as Prime Minister. Francis Billy Hilly
was elected Prime Minister following the
national elections in June 1993, and headed the
government until November 1994 when a shift in
parliamentary loyalties brought Solomon Mamaloni
back to power.
The national election of August 6, 1997
resulted in Bartholomew Ulufa'alu’s election as
Prime Minister, heading a coalition government,
which christened itself the Solomon Islands
Alliance for Change.
However, governance was slipping as the
performance of the police and other government
agencies deteriorated due to ethnic rivalries.
The capital of Honiara on Guadalcanal was
increasingly populated by migrants from the
island of Malaita. In June 2002, an insurrection
mounted by militants from the island of Malaita
resulted in the brief detention of Ulufa’alu and
his subsequent forced resignation. Manasseh
Sogavare, leader of the People's Progressive
Party, was chosen Prime Minister by a loose
coalition of parties. Guadalcanal militants
retaliated and sought to drive Malaitan settlers
from Guadalcanal, resulting in the closure of a
large oil-palm estate and gold mine which were
vital to exports but whose workforce was largely
New elections in December 2001 brought Sir
Allan Kemakeza into the Prime Minister’s chair
with the support of a coalition of parties.
Kemakeza attempted to address the
deteriorating law and order situation in the
country, but the prevailing atmosphere of
lawlessness, widespread extortion, and
ineffective police, prompted a formal request by
the Solomon Islands Government for outside help.
With the country bankrupt and the capital in
chaos, the request was unanimously supported in
Parliament. In July 2003, Australian and Pacific
Island police and troops arrived in the Solomon
Islands under the auspices of the Australian-led
Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
RAMSI is largely a policing effort with an
important development component. It has restored
order to virtually all parts of the nation and
is now embarked on rebuilding government
institutions, particularly the police, and
reviving the economy, which fell by at least a
third during the troubles. The effort promises
to take many years and Solomon Islands will
continue to require substantial donor support.
Moreover, as militants, former police, and
political leaders are brought to trial for their
crimes during the unrest, some local resentment
is likely to cut somewhat into the
now-widespread support for the intervention.
Principal Government Officials
Governor General--Nathaniel Waena
Prime Minister--Allan Kemakeza
Minister for Foreign Affairs--Laurie Chan
The Solomon Islands mission to the United
Nations is located at 800 Second Avenue, Suite
400L, New York, NY 10017 (tel: 212-599-6192/93;
Its per capita GDP of $340 ranks Solomon Islands
as a lesser developed nation, and more than 75%
of its labor force is engaged in subsistence
farming and fishing. Until 1998, when world
prices for tropical timber fell steeply, timber
was Solomon Islands main export product, and, in
recent years, Solomon Islands forests were
dangerously overexploited. Other important cash
crops and exports include copra and palm oil. In
1998 Ross Mining of Australia began producing
gold at Gold Ridge on Guadalcanal. Minerals
exploration in other areas continued. However in
the wake of the ethnic violence in June 2000,
exports of palm oil and gold ceased while
exports of timber fell.
Exploitation of Solomon Islands' rich
fisheries offers the best prospect for further
export and domestic economic expansion. However,
a Japanese joint venture, Solomon Taiyo Ltd.,
which operated the only fish cannery in the
country, closed in mid-2000 as a result of the
ethnic disturbances. Though the plant has
reopened under local management, the export of
tuna has not resumed. Negotiations are underway
which may lead to the eventual reopening of the
Gold Ridge mine and the major oil-palm
plantation, but each would take years.
Tourism, particularly diving, is an important
service industry for Solomon Islands. Growth in
that industry is hampered, however, by lack of
infrastructure and transportation limitations.
Solomon Islands was particularly hard hit by
the Asian economic crisis even before the ethnic
violence of June 2000. The Asian Development
Bank estimates that the crash of the market for
tropical timber reduced Solomon Island's GDP by
between 15%-25%. About one-half of all jobs in
the timber industry were lost. The government
has said it will reform timber harvesting
policies with the aim of resuming logging on a
more sustainable basis.
The Solomon Islands Government was insolvent
by 2002. Since the RAMSI intervention in 2003,
the government has recast its budget, and has
taken a hard look at priorities. It has
consolidated and renegotiated its domestic debt
and with Australian backing, is now seeking to
renegotiate its foreign obligations. Much work
remains to be done.
Principal aid donors are Australia, New
Zealand, the European Union, Japan, and the
Republic of China.
Countries with diplomatic missions in the
Solomon Islands are Australia, United Kingdom,
New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Japan. The
Solomon Islands also has diplomatic relations
with the Republic of China, which has a resident
representative in Honiara.
The U.S. Ambassador resident in Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea, also is accredited to Solomon
Islands. The Solomon Islands' Permanent
Representative to the United Nations also is
accredited as its ambassador to the United
States and Canada.
Relations with Papua New Guinea, which had
become strained because of an influx of refugees
from the Bougainville rebellion and attacks on
the northern islands of the Solomon Islands by
elements pursuing Bougainvillean rebels, have
been repaired. A peace accord on Bougainville
confirmed in 1998 has removed the armed threat,
and the two nations regularized border
operations in a 2004 agreement.
Membership in International Organizations
Solomon Islands is a member of the United
Nations, Commonwealth, South Pacific Commission,
South Pacific Forum, International Monetary
Fund, and the European Economic
Community/African, Caribbean, Pacific Group
U.S.-SOLOMON ISLANDS RELATIONS
The United States and Solomon Islands
established diplomatic relations following its
independence on July 7, 1978. U.S.
representation is handled by the United States
Embassy at Port Moresby where the Ambassador is
resident. In recognition of the close ties
forged between the United States and the people
of the Solomon Islands during World War II, the
U.S. Congress financed the construction of the
Solomon Islands Parliament building. There are
approximately 95 American citizens residing
permanently in Solomon Islands.
The two nations belong to a variety of
regional organizations, including the South
Pacific Commission and the South Pacific
Regional Environmental Program. The United
States and Solomon Islands also cooperate under
the U.S.-Pacific Islands multilateral Tuna
Fisheries Treaty, under which the U.S. grants
$18 million per year to Pacific island parties
and the latter provide access to U.S. fishing
vessels. A United States National Marine
Fisheries Service Officer works with the South
Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency in Honiara. The
United States also supports efforts to protect
biodiversity in the Solomon Islands. In addition
to supporting the establishment of local
conservation areas, the United States supports
the International Coral Reef Initiative aimed at
protecting reefs in tropical nations such as
U.S. military forces, through the Pacific
Theater Command in Honolulu, Hawaii, carry out
annual bilateral meetings as well as small-scale
exercises with the Solomon Islands Police Border
Protection Force. The U.S. also provides
appropriate military education and training
courses to national security officials.
The U.S. Peace Corps suspended its program in
June 2000 due to the ethnic violence and
breakdown in governance. More than 70
volunteers, serving throughout the country in
rural community development, education,
environmental management, and youth programs,
U.S. trade with Solomon Islands is very
limited. In 2001 U.S. exports to Solomon Islands
were less than 5% of all exports, while Solomon
Islands exports to the United States in that
year were negligible.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Fitts (resident in Port Moresby, Papua New
Consular Agent--Ms. Keithie Sauders (office
phone 677 23426 or mobile 677 94731)
Embassy Port Moresby is located on Douglas
Street, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, P.O. Box
1492, Port Moresby (tel: (675) 321-1455; fax:
(675) 321-3423). The Embassy maintains a web
site dedicated to Solomon Islands at