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Bougainville: Govt in Place, Mandate Complete

Bougainville: With Autonomous Government in Place, UN Mandate Complete – UN Official

New York, Jul 6 2005 5:00PM

With the swearing in of Bougainville's first autonomous provincial government last month, the United Nations Observer Mission (UNOMB) had successfully completed its work and Papua New Guinea had taken a milestone step, which ended years-long secessionist fighting on the island, a senior UN official told the Security Council today.

Briefing the Council on the latest developments in Bougainville, Danilo Türk, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs following the establishment of the Autonomous Government – inaugurated on 15 June – that entity and the Government of Papua New Guinea would deal with matters relating to implementation of the peace agreement and the national constitution through already established procedures.

Mechanisms were also in place to deal with any disagreements that might emerge. While it was up to Bougainville’s Autonomous Government to plan its priorities, the two Governments intended to work together in addressing future challenges, he said.

The war in Bougainville had been little noticed, but brutal, he said. Some 15,000 people had lost their lives in the conflict of the 1980s and 1990s. The conflict had started over the use of natural resources, but it developed features seen in conflicts in many parts of the world, including a mixture of military and criminal objectives and the suffering of innocent people.

The peace process began in 1997, and a 2001 peace agreement finally offered an opportunity for healing. Reconciliation and restorative justice had been essential. For the United Nations, that process had been a learning experience and one which taught a great deal about post-conflict peace-building and the need to fully respect and incorporate local culture and traditions. The classical approach had been “breaking spears and mending hearts”, but the foundations established so far gave reason to believe that the United Nations system, with the support of donor countries, would again be able to help.

Regarding weapons disposal, he said the parties had been informed in May that the weapons disposal agreement had been implemented with the destruction of more than 2,000 arms. The UNOMB had determined that a substantial level of compliance had been achieved by the parties and that, consequently, the security situation on the ground was conducive to the holding of elections as planned from May through June.

There now remained the third main pillar of the peace agreements – the holding of a referendum on Bougainville’s future status. Included in the referendum would be a choice of separate independence, and the final decision on that outcome would be left to Papua New Guinea’s Parliament and subsequent consultations with the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

Also addressing the Council, Ambassador Robert Aisi of Papua New Guinea said that practical peace-building in Bougainville was obviously not yet complete, pointing out that peace and good governance required ongoing attention and effort, if they were to be part of the legacy to succeeding generations.

Papua New Guinea was pleased to note the continuing presence of United Nations personnel on the ground, which helped to remove any doubt or uncertainty about whether the international community was still concerned and would continue to be involved after the UNOMB had completed its mandate. It was for that reason that the appropriate bodies should consider retaining the Mission’s existing assets in Bougainville, and handing them on to the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and other arms of the Organization that would continue to operate in Bougainville.

ENDS

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