A man and a woman take notes on a table with a brightly coloured pink table cloth during the workshop

This workshop took place within the broader context of Bougainville's complex history, marked by the protracted Bougainville Crisis that spanned a decade starting in 1988. The conflict, driven by complex issues including self-determination, land disputes, and environmental damage from mining, claimed the lives of over 20,000 individuals. A peace agreement signed in 2001 conferred Bougainville autonomy, followed by a referendum in 2019 where nearly 98% of voters expressed their desire for independence from Papua New Guinea.

Facilitated by Conciliation Resources in partnership with the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s Department of Bougainville Independence Mission Implementation (ABG-DBIMI), the workshop provided a new connection between representatives from civil society organisations, churches, and the Bougainville government to collectively engage in peacebuilding initiatives.

Sharing and collaboration gives us the opportunity to collaborate, to reflect on our challenges and helps us to identify early warning signs.
Clarence Hakiolo
Nazareth Centre for Rehabilitation MEL and Advocacy Officer

Conducted in November 2023, representatives from Conciliation Resources partner organisations the Bougainville Women’s Federation and the Nazareth Centre for Rehabilitation, as well as key civil society organisations such as the Bougainville Youth Federation, Bougainville Transitional Dialogue, Haku Women’s Collective, North Nasioi Peace Association, Uniting Church Women, Bougainville Catholic Diocese and the Bougainville Veterans Federation convened to share insights on ongoing peacebuilding endeavours.

Charting Bougainville's future 

As Bougainville navigates the delicate post-referendum period, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the Government of Papua New Guinea continue to consult and negotiate steps towards Bougainville’s future political status. Throughout this period, efforts supporting sustainable peace take on heightened importance. The outcomes of the Sharing and Collaboration workshop contribute to ongoing peace efforts during this critical phase. The workshop's participants engaged in a thorough analysis of key conflict risks and challenges facing the region in this period.

Employing a participatory analysis methodology, the participants delved into the complex web of Bougainville's political and social landscape, identifying key groups and conducting a Context, Attitudes, and Behaviours (CAB) analysis. Participants pinpointed existing and emerging conflict issues, brainstorming opportunities for collaboration and action to address these challenges. 

The significance of such workshops lies in their ability to foster understanding, trust, and collaboration among diverse stakeholders, ensuring that the voices of women, youth, and marginalised communities are heard.

Clarence Hakiolo, NCFR MEL and Advocacy officer, emphasised the workshop's significance. She said:  "Sharing and collaboration gives us the opportunity to collaborate, to reflect on our challenges and… helps us to identify early warning signs."

Women's inclusion

Women's inclusion in peacebuilding and political processes is a crucial aspect of Bougainville's ongoing journey. Most communities in Bougainville are matrilineal societies and women play pivotal roles in community leadership and civil society and possess the potential to bridge the divide between communities, civil society, local government and the ABG. Although women in Bougainville are both involved and critical to community governance, limited access to information and support underscores the need for continued efforts to strengthen women’s involvement in governance structures.

While the ongoing series of Sharing and Collaboration workshops represents a component of broader peacebuilding efforts from government and civil society, there is acknowledgment that existing inclusion mechanisms must be strengthened to ensure broader dissemination of information to communities. Input into political decisions from diverse groups in Bougainville, including community government, church leaders, women and youth, and veterans is critical to achieve a lasting peace.

The insights garnered from the Sharing and Collaboration workshop and its predecessors contribute to the mosaic of ongoing peace efforts in Bougainville. The next three years represents a critical juncture, demanding sustained commitment to inclusive dialogue, collaborative problem-solving, and the active participation of all facets of Bougainville society.  

As Bougainville shapes its political future, the collective efforts of organisations, leaders, and individuals highlighted in this workshop present continued hope for a peaceful, inclusive, and resilient Bougainville.