Churches to undertake fact-finding mission to Bougainville

Buka – Church leaders from across Papua New Guinea have travelled to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville next week on a fact-finding mission to better understand their role in contributing to a peaceful and violence-free referendum in 2019.

The mission, organised with thanks to support from UN Women, saw 24 participants comprised of representatives from the PNG Council of Churches (PNGCC), government, civil society and research organisations in Buka from 20-23 August.

Following an earlier-held forum in Goroka the message of achieving peace by peaceful means was a sentiment shared by all in attendance. The forum discussed cross-sectoral partnerships to address conflict prevention and how as a unified group the PNGCC can continue to raise awareness on the upcoming referendum in Bougainville.

It is hoped that the mission will continue to address broader issues around peace and security in the spirit of better coordination.

Churches played a vital role in the provision of services during the Bougainville conflict and in recognising these past contributions, and assessing current needs, it remains evident that the various religious denominations across Bougainville have a role to play in the wider peace building space.

A series of open dialogues were held throughout the mission with President Momis and members of the Bougainville Executive Council, with Chief Secretary Joseph Nobetau and departmental heads from across the Autonomous Bougainville Government, and another with development partners and civil society organisations working in the Autonomous Region.

Beatrice Tabeau, National Programme Specialist with UN Women, said that she hopes this is the first of many such meetings moving forward.

"The link between churches, peace building, gender equality and women’s empowerment is a vital one. We hope that the mission to Bougainville will not only provide a better understanding of Bougainville in general, but also provide an opportunity for church leaders to learn from successful peace and security initiatives that can be replicated throughout other parts of PNG,” she said.

The mission was staged with thanks to support from the UN Peacebuilding Fund and the Gender and Youth Promotion Initiative. The initiative focuses on the empowerment of disenfranchised groups in Bougainville, mainly women and youth, and persons with disabilities.

ENDS

Media Contact:

Nicholas Turner – Communications Specialist (Buka)

+675 7003 9252

nicholas.turner@undp.org