After the lifting of the blockade and the signing of the permanent ceasefire agreement in April 1998, a flood of international aid agencies began their assessment missions and feasibility studies for programmes on Bougainville. In this period Bougainvillean control over outside interventions diminished. The wide range of aid agencies working in Bougainville at this stage included the following:
The Australian Government, through its agency AusAID, became the largest donor with A$ 134million committed over 5 years from 1997. AusAID's assistance to Bougainville has been described as a 'peace dividend' and there has been an emphasis on restoration of services through projects that deliver tangible and physical evidence of their reward for peace. In the first instance, support was concentrated in former PNG-controlled areas and included aid for very large projects such as the building of schools and hospitals, to small grants for community projects. The Australian government continued to provide transport assistance for negotiations and has also provided technical and legal advisers to both Port Moresby and Bougainville to assist with the negotiation process.
New Zealand Official Development Assistance (NZODA) gave approximately NZ$ 5.7 million in 2000 and NZ$4.5 million in 2001 to PNG. This was earmarked to support community-based development projects, rehabilitation and re-integration of former combatants through vocational and short term training courses and for infrastructure rehabilitation.
The European Union through various budget lines has committed around 25 million kina (approx. EUR 9.1 million) for 2000 & 2001 largely for cash crop (copra and cocoa) post-conflict rehabilitation and re-building of infrastructure. Funds have been channelled through the UNDP.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been funding a Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Development Programme with an initial grant of US$2 million. The United States and Canada have since made cost-sharing contributions to the project which total approximately US$580,000. The project has three major components – rehabilitation of agricultural production, small business development and social capital enhancement.
International NGO aid programmes in Bougainville, mostly funded by governments, range in size and budget. Australian NGOs have the largest presence. NGO aid programmes vary in the approach they take, although they usually work through or with local communities. NGO aid agencies initially concentrated on meeting basic humanitarian needs and have gradually moved to programmes focusing on community income generation and vocational training. Some international NGOs have set up their own offices and infrastructure in Bougainville at considerable expense and in stark contrast to the comparative lack of resources available to local NGOs and groups. The display of international agency 'wealth' has caused resentment, apparent in the targeting of these groups at various times by local youths who have stolen vehicles and supplies.
PNG's other large donors are the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, the governments of Japan and the People's Republic of China, with relatively modest programmes from the UK, France and Germany.
For an island of approximately 200,000 people unused to dealing with international aid agencies, the number and varying scale of programmes, their different ways of working, and the complexities of negotiating funding support, have presented their own tensions and difficulties. Assessment missions have often raised expectations that later were not met. Agencies choosing to work with some communities over others have caused divisions, and the concentration of aid agency programmes in coastal areas with easier access has resulted in inequality in the spread of outside assistance.
Many international agencies now operating in Bougainville have been criticised by local NGOs and community-based organisations for setting up programmes that cut across and bypass existing local initiatives. It seems in the rush to establish themselves and their programmes, international agencies have often failed to realise or appreciate Bougainvilleans' resourcefulness and their desire to remain in control of their own development destiny. There is widespread criticism by Bougainvilleans of outside aid agency programmes which create a dependency on outside funds and/or follow a model of development which many Bougainvilleans believe was the cause of the crisis in the first place. There are also many examples of inappropriate and ill-conceived assistance from outside such as bags of neckties for mountain people or solar powered cold storage facilities for medication that does not exist.