Nine years of civil war in Papua New Guinea cost the lives of approximately 20,000 people in the region. Key triggers of the conflict were grievances, political conflicts and disagreements about the unequal distribution of the revenue from and the environmental effects of the Panguna copper mine in Bougainville. Sustained peace cannot be reached without addressing the underlying causes of the conflict.
Supporting the implementation of the Peace Agreement
The UN have been supporting the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, including the referendum on the future political status of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, the area where the civil war raged until a 1997 truce and a permanent ceasefire in 1998. Since the signing of the Bougainville Peace Agreement in 2001, the former combatants, the National Government of Papua New Guinea, the Autonomous Bougainville Government and various political factions within Bougainville, have been working to achieve lasting peace in Bougainville.
The PBF funding has come at a crucial time as the UN supports the Governments and people of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville to engage in formal and informal talks. The aim is to advance the implementation of the Peace Agreement and strengthen the relations between the two Governments. Another focus is on establishing good governance and promoting fiscal selfreliance. In this regard, the PBF has allocated more than $9 million since 2014 to help address key remaining issues and support the implementation of the Peace Agreement. UN agencies on the ground implement the projects in partnership with the Government and the civil society, with guidance from the UN Peacebuilding Support Office and the Department of Political Affairs.
With PBF support, the UN is also helping to facilitate dialogue between the Me’ekamui faction, which did not sign the 2001 Peace Agreement, and the Autonomous Bougainville Government. This led to the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between the parties.
Another much-awaited breakthrough took place following a meeting between senior officials and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and the President of Bougainville in May 2016. The parties agreed to set a target date of 15 June 2019 for holding the referendum. They also agreed on a referendum work plan and the establishment of an independent agency to oversee the referendum.
“It shows that the commitment to achieving peace by peaceful means, evident ever since the Bougainville peace process began in 1997, continues to flourish in Papua New Guinea”, said Chief Dr. John Momis, President of the Autonomous Region, after the talks. “I salute the Prime Minister for his very positive contribution to this historic outcome.”
The UN have been giving significant prominence to the role of women in political decision-making and their participation in referendum preparations. One important achievement in 2016, facilitated by UN Women, has been the Bougainville Government’s decision to establish the Office for Gender Equality in the Office of the Chief Secretary, paving the way for greater attention to women’s needs.