BOUGAINVILLE PEACE PROCESS CAN PROCEED WITH
REMAINING STEPS, AS SECOND STAGE OF WEAPONS
COLLECTION COMPLETED, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
NEW YORK, 6 August (UN Headquarters) -- With the completion of the second stage of weapons collection, the Bougainville peace process could proceed with the remaining tasks, including the finalization of the constitution and the holding of elections, leading to the establishment of an autonomous government, the Security Council was told this morning, as it met to discuss the situation on the island.
Briefing the Council on recent developments, Noel Sinclair, Head of the United Nations Political Office in Bougainville (UNPOB), said that stage II of the Weapons Disposal Plan had been declared completed. Stage III, involving the final fate of those weapons and for which the parties had a mid-December deadline, had already begun to be seriously discussed. While the Bougainvilleans worked in that area, they were, at the same time, working to advance the autonomy aspects of the Peace Agreement, most importantly, the finalization of the constitution and the holding of elections.
The United Nations Office would continue to work hard to ensure that the peace process kept moving forward, he said. In that process, he was happy to have the cooperation and assistance of the newly established Bougainville Transition Team, the successor to the Peace Monitoring Group, which completed its mission on 30 June. With UNPOB’s withdrawal at the end of the year, a special responsibility would devolve to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in terms of providing continuing international support for Bougainville’s peace consolidation efforts.
The Government of Papua New Guinea, stated its representative, firmly believed that destroying the guns at the earliest opportunity was the only truly effective option for stage III. It was the only way in which the guns would be removed not only physically, but also from the minds of people in Bougainville. It was also by far the best way to ensure that scarce human and financial resources were not wasted on providing security for guns and containers.
He also noted that the most significant gap in practical weapons disposal and the peace process arose from the way in which Francis Ona and his group had chosen to remain outside the process. At the same time, the Government continued to recognize the positive contribution he and his followers had made to the peace process by not deliberately disrupting it on the ground.
Several speakers this morning emphasized the need to continue contacts with Mr. Ona to bring him into the peace process. At the same time, it was agreed that those efforts should not lead to a delay in the implementation of the Peace Agreement. “Mr. Ona must know that the peace process and the people of Bougainville would not wait for him”, stated Germany’s representative.
Expressing satisfaction at the completion of stage II of weapons disposal, delegations stressed the need to move to stage III, and reach a final decision on weapons disposal without delay. It was felt by many that complete destruction of all weapons was the best option. Without an agreement on that issue, the peace process might be held up unnecessarily.
The representative of New Zealand welcomed plans to hold a meeting to discuss the final fate of the weapons on Nissan Island, off the Bougainville coast, and urged that it take place as soon as possible. The devastating effects of the ready availability of small arms had been felt for too many years in Bougainville. The damage they could do to a society was now readily apparent in Papua New Guinea’s neighbour, the Solomon Islands. To enhance future security for all Bougainvilleans, he urged the factions to agree that the final fate of the weapons collected should be no less than total destruction.
Another concern expressed this morning focused on the future of the United Nations in Bougainville. It was the hope of some that the United Nations role would not end with the expiration of UNPOB’s mandate and that the Organization would continue to work there and to stay the course in facilitating the full implementation of the peace process.
Speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, Fiji’s representative noted that the establishment of an effective, affordable and autonomous administration of Bougainville would bring many challenges with it. The Forum requested the Council to remain engaged with the Bougainville peace process in the crucial months ahead. The support of the international community and the United Nations system would also remain important, as work to build a credible law and justice system, an effective administration and a viable economic base in Bougainville continued.
Statements were also made by the representatives of France, United Kingdom, Mexico, Russian Federation, Angola, Spain, Chile, Pakistan, United States, Cameroon, Guinea, China, Bulgaria, Australia and Japan. The President of the Council, Mikhail Wehbe (Syria), made a statement in his national capacity.
The meeting began at 10:40 a.m. and ended at 12:44 p.m.
The Security Council met this morning to discuss Bougainville.
Following a decade of armed conflict over the issue of the independence of the island of Bougainville, the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Bougainville leaders signed, on 23 January 1998, the Lincoln Agreement on Peace, Security and Development of Bougainville. The Agreement established a framework for a peace process, providing for a permanent ceasefire. The main parties involved in the Bougainville peace process are the National Papua New Guinea Government, the Bougainville provincial administration headed by the Governor, the Bougainville People’s Congress, the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, and the Bougainville Resistance Force.
On 30 April 1998, the parties to the conflict signed the Arawa Agreement Covering Implementation of the Ceasefire. The regional Truce Monitoring Team composed of monitors from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu was transformed into a Peace Monitoring Group. On 30 August 2001, the parties signed the Bougainville Peace Agreement and requested the United Nations and the Peace Monitoring Group to provide assistance in its implementation.
The Lincoln and Arawa Agreements, which were endorsed by the Security Council, also called for the presence of a small United Nations observer mission. The United Nations Political Office in Bougainville (UNPOB) became operational on 1 August 1998. Its mandate included the following: to work in conjunction with the Peace Monitoring Group; to monitor and report on the implementation of the Agreements; to chair the Peace Process Consultative Committee; to develop plans for the disposal of weapons; to promote public awareness and understanding of the peace process; and to assist in other areas as agreed by the parties to the Agreements.
The expanded mandate of UNPOB, endorsed by the Council on 31 October 2001, provided, among other things, for the Office to chair the Subcommittee on Weapons Disposal, verify the collection and storage of weapons, hold one of the keys for the dual-locking systems in the containers, and certify substantial compliance by the parties in the handing in of weapons, thereby making it conducive to the holding of the first election for an autonomous Bougainville Government. Its current mandate expires at the end of December 2003.
When the Council last met on Bougainville, on 28 March, it had before it the Secretary-General’s 20 March report on UNPOB (document S/2003/345), which reviewed the remaining challenges and benchmarks to be achieved by the parties to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, and the exit strategy of the Office. (For a full summary of the report, see Press Release SC/7709 of 28 March.)
That report stated that the development of the new Bougainville Constitution is a central part of the implementation of the Peace Agreement. After its establishment in September 2002, the Bougainville Constitutional Commission began a process of consulting the people, developing recommendations and considering successive versions of the draft of the constitution. The draft constitution would be submitted for adoption to the Constituent Assembly of Bougainville. However, the Constituent Assembly cannot be established until the completion of stage II of weapons disposal has been verified. Assuming that the required certification can be made by UNPOB by the time the work on the constitution is complete, the Bougainville Constitutional Commission expects that elections could be held before the end of 2003.
Also, at the beginning of 2003, the Peace Monitoring Group informed the parties to the Peace Agreement of its intention to cease all operations on the island on 30 June, and to withdraw thereafter. The UNPOB is striving to ensure that, by the time the Group withdraws, weapons disposal will be so far advanced that it will no longer need this level of monitoring group support.
Since the issuance of that report, the Bougainville Constitutional Commission has submitted to the National Government in May the second draft of the Bougainville Constitution. Also, the Peace Monitoring Group, whose mandate expired on 30 June, was succeeded by the Bougainville Transition Team, which will be comprised of 15 to 17 civilian monitors from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu. In addition, UNPOB verified and certified the completion of stage II of the Weapons Disposal Plan in July, thereby triggering the constitutional process of bringing the Constitutional Amendment and the Organic Law on Peace-Building in Bougainville into full operation.
Also before the Council is a letter dated 31 March 1998 from the Chargé d’affaires of Papua New Guinea to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/1998/287), containing the Lincoln Agreement on Peace, Security and Development on Bougainville and the Burnham Truce.
NOEL SINCLAIR, Head of the United Nations Political Office in Bougainville (UNPOB), said that since the last briefing on 28 March, implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement had taken some dramatic steps forward. The most significant of those was the completion of stage II of weapons disposal, as required by the Agreement. Since there could be no numerical criterion to follow to determine that completion, UNPOB decided to base itself on the principle of effectiveness -- how the people of Bougainville felt, as a result of what had been achieved. The UNPOB, therefore, undertook an island-wide process of consultation, in the course of which it ascertained that the people of the island felt a level of confidence and security that they had never felt at any time since the crisis ended.
The people, he continued, expressed a uniform desire for UNPOB to verify the end of stage II of weapons disposal, so that elections for their autonomous government could be held as soon as possible. They were aware of the presence of uncollected weapons in the various communities, held by former combatants, by businessmen, by criminals, and also by supporters of Francis Ona, whose continuing separation from the peace process was a source of concern. But, they did not consider that those factors should delay implementation of the Peace Agreement. They expressed much faith in what their autonomous government could do to deal with the challenges posed by outstanding weapons and by Francis Ona.
He said that UNPOB informed the Peace Process Consultative Committee that stage II of weapons disposal had come to an end and that the Weapons Disposal Plan had served its purpose. On 30 July, UNPOB made that verification and certification to the National Government. It was expected that very shortly the Constitutional Amendments and the Organic Law on Peace-Building on Bougainville would become fully operational. With that act, a new era would have dawned in the relations between the National Government and Bougainville, and a significant milestone reached in the implementation of the Peace Agreement. The stage would have been set for the next steps to be taken, including the holding of elections for a Bougainville Autonomous Government, in the context of the autonomy arrangements.
As to preparations for autonomy, consultations had been taking place between the National Government and the Bougainville Administration on a number of fronts simultaneously -- on the making of a constitution, on law and justice, and on the Interim Joint Supervisory Body, which was responsible for overseeing the implementation of arrangements for the establishment and operation of the Autonomous Bougainville Government. Regarding funding for those activities, a detailed budget that would cover further meetings of the Bougainville Constitution Commission, and of a Constituent Assembly, which would finalize and adopt a constitution, as well as other election-related expenses.
Following the approval of the budget by the provincial authorities, decisions needed to be made on the sources of funding, he said. The Minister for Bougainville Affairs was due to visit the island very shortly, and UNPOB expected that that visit would be an opportunity for all outstanding obligations to be cleared, so that movement towards the full implementation of the autonomy arrangements could proceed speedily.
Meanwhile, the process of weapons collection continued, for verification of stage II did not mean the end of it, he said. The UNPOB was, therefore, pushing ahead with its Operation Continuing Vigilance and Final Phase programmes, which sought the collection of greater numbers of uncontained weapons and their storage in secure conditions. According to the Peace Agreement, the parties had four-and-a-half months after the coming into effect of the Constitutional Amendments to make a decision on the final fate of the contained weapons.
The National Government and the Bougainville Resistance Force had both indicated a preference for destruction, while the Bougainville Revolutionary Army preferred secure storage, he continued. The two factions were due to meet shortly to seek a unified position on the question of the final fate option. The UNPOB had been requested to preside over that consultation. It was essential, he stressed, that efforts be intensified to ensure Mr. Ona’s participation in the peace process, or at the very least, that he maintained his position of respect for it.
In the remaining months of its mandate, UNPOB would continue to work hard to ensure that the peace process kept moving forward, he said. That would require sustained effort and continuing commitment by the parties to the Peace Agreement. In that process, he was happy to have the cooperation and assistance of the newly established Bougainville Transition Team, the successor to the Peace Monitoring Group, which completed its mission on 30 June.
With UNPOB’s withdrawal at the end of the year, a special responsibility would devolve to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in terms of providing continuing international support for Bougainville’s peace consolidation efforts. It was essential that UNPOB and the Department of Political Affairs work closely with the UNDP to ensure the continuity of United Nations activities on a sound and sustainable basis after December.
In conclusion, he said that stage II of the Weapons Disposal Plan had been declared completed. Stage III, for which the parties had a deadline until the middle of December, had already begun to be discussed in a serious manner. While the Bougainvilleans worked in that area, they were, at the same time, working to advance the autonomy aspects of the Agreement, most importantly the finalization of the constitution and the holding of elections. There were challenges in both areas, but the will was there to persevere and overcome.
Within the limitation imposed by its current financial situation, the National Government was showing a high level of sensitivity to maintaining its record of compliance with its obligations under the Agreement. The people of the island were showing a determination to move beyond weapons and concentrate on elections, on building institutions, and on taking charge of their destiny.
ROBERT AISI (Papua New Guinea) said UNPOB had judged that implementation of the agreed weapons disposal plan had progressed to the point at which it could verify that stage II of the plan had been achieved. Consistent with the requirements of the new part 14 of the Papua New Guinea Constitution, which gave legal effect to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, the responsible minister officially advised the Governor-General of Papua New Guinea that the report had been received. The framework for the establishment, gradual assumption of increasing responsibility for the exercise of powers, functions and control over resources would then be in place, as would the guarantee of a referendum among Bougainvilleans on Bougainville’s political future in another 10 to 15 years, when certain agreed conditions applied. The referendum would include a separate independence for Bougainville as an option.
A significant feature of the new Constitutional Arrangements was that they could be changed only if a proposal for change was supported by a two-thirds absolute majority of members of the National Parliament and by the Bougainville Legislature set up under the arrangements, he said. The way in which the parties had maintained such confidence at a critical turning point in the peace process was very much to the credit of the United Nations bodies involved.
Papua New Guinea had always believed, he said, that verification should be based on the widest possible consultations. Genuine verification could not be a matter of counting the number of guns handed in. The final step in the process before the Director of UNPOB formally submitted the final report to the National Government was the presentation of the Peace Process Consultative Committee. The only significant absentee from the consultations was Francis Ona and his remaining supporters outside the peace process in the “No-Go Zone” around Panguna.
The most significant gap in practical weapons disposal and the Bougainville peace process arose from the way in which Francis Ona and his supporters close to Panguna had decided to remain outside the process, he said. In practice, those who continue to remain outside the Bougainville peace process had generally respected the peace that had been achieved. It was distressing to see various documents circulating in Bougainville expressing the views of Francis Ona and the remaining hardcore of Me’ekamui supporters that there was a conspiracy to undermine the Bougainville peace process. The alleged conspiracy was said to be between the Government of Papua New Guinea and others. That was why the Government continued to call for reconciliation and the active involvement of Francis Ona and Me’ekamui in practical peace-building. Now was the time for them to play a direct part in shaping the future government of Bougainville.
He said the Government continued to recognize the positive contribution Francis Ona and his group had made to the Bougainville peace process by not deliberately disrupting it on the ground. The Government continued to urge the Bougainville parties to decide on the final fate of the weapons without further unnecessary delay. He was pleased to inform the United Nations that the Peace Process Consultative Committee had agreed that the meeting would be held on Nissan Island, in the Bougainville Province, as soon as the necessary arrangements could be made.
The Government firmly believed that destroying the guns at the earliest opportunity was the only truly effective option, he said. It was the only way in which the guns would be removed not only physically, but also from the minds of people in Bougainville. It was also by far the best way to ensure that scarce human and financial resources were not wasted on providing security for guns and containers. Verification and certification of stage II did not mark the end of UNPOB’s role and responsibilities on the ground.
Not only did UNPOB remain responsible for supervising and holding one of the keys to each stage II container, it had a continuing role in relation to the implementation of the decision at stage III of the agreed weapons disposal plan, he said. If the parties did not reach a mutually acceptable agreement at stage III, then UNPOB had a further possible role in determining whether elections should be held or be deferred. UNPOB’s ongoing role underlined the urgency of implementing the outcome of the stage III meeting between the parties to the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
On the issue of regional support for the peace process, he said he was pleased to report that the contributing countries had agreed to provide a Bougainville Transition Team to support the peace process until the end of the year. The Transition Team would be much smaller and would have a more narrowly focused mandate than the Peace Monitoring Group. Papua New Guinea was grateful for the positive way in which the Transition Team-contributing countries had responded to the request the national Government had made for the continuing availability of a neutral, regional body to support the peace process and assist UNPOB logistically.
While weapons disposal and the full operation of new constitutional arrangements were the foundations for progress in other areas, they did not build peace on their own, he said. The Government was working closely with leaders in Bougainville to finalize arrangements to improve policing, access to courts and availability of correctional services.
The peace process in Bougainville remains a national priority in Papua New Guinea, he said. The Government had accepted UNPOB’s verification report and certification as the Constitutional Amendment implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement required. The Government was conscious of the need to maintain consistency with the letter and spirit of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. Papua New Guinea was grateful for the international community’s support.
MICHEL DUCLOS (France) said that the conclusion of stage II of weapons disposal was a point of satisfaction, after successive delays of more than a year. It was necessary to now move to stage III, and reach a final decision on weapons disposal without delay. Also, regarding Mr. Ona, contacts with him to bring him into the peace process should be continued. In no case, however, should that lead to a delay in the implementation of the Peace Agreement. In addition, he encouraged the efforts of Papua New Guinea and of all the parties, which must be directed towards setting a date for elections in Bougainville and the holding of those elections, leading to the establishment of an autonomous government.
GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) said he was very pleased that stage II had been finally completed, and appreciated UNPOB’s commitment in that matter. He also expressed his appreciation to the countries of the Peace Monitoring Group. In addition, he welcomed the further engagement of regional countries with the establishment of the Bougainville Transition Team. He also commended the active involvement of the people of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville, without which the ongoing peace process could not succeed. Their support of the peace process and active participation in weapons collection had led to the verification of stage II.
The departure of the United Nations Office at the end of the year would be the right next step, he noted. The UNPOB should set out a rigid timetable to ensure the progress of constitutional work. All possible assistance should be made to Mr. Sinclair and his staff. A strong involvement of the Secretariat was indispensable in that regard. On stage III of weapons disposal, he recommended the complete destruction of all weapons. Without an agreement in that regard, the peace process might be held up and elections delayed unnecessarily. The achievements reached so far showed that the peace process was under way and would not be stopped. Efforts to have Mr. Ona and his movement to join the peace process should be maintained. At the same time, Mr. Ona must know that the peace process and the people of Bougainville would not wait for him.
ADAM THOMSON (United Kingdom) said he was pleased that stage II had taken place. The new constitutional arrangements were historic for Papua New Guinea. The continuing separation of Francis Ona and his supporters from the peace process must be a source of concern to all. He welcomed efforts of all concerned in trying to bring Francis Ona and his supporters on board the peace process. He also agreed, however, that such efforts must not delay the peace process.
Regarding the need for continued focus on delivering progress in stage III, he said he did not wish to see further delays in that process. There were a tight four-and-one-half months in which to work. It had been good to hear the commitment of the Papua New Guinea Government to briskly move forward on arrangements for autonomy on the finalization of the constitution, the transfer of resources to Bougainville and preparations for early elections. In addition to the weapons disposal, those, too, were essential for building self-sustaining peace.
DIEGO SIMANCAS (Mexico) he welcomed the decision to send the Bougainville Transition Team to follow through with the peace process. It was a clear message of the importance that the international community placed on the peace process. Stage II of the action plan had finally been successfully concluded. It was essential for the Council to urge the peace process consultative committee to begin disposal of weapons as soon as possible.
Throughout the peace process, the cooperation of the Government of Papua New Guinea was essential, he said. It was important for State congresses to agree, in order to draft a constitution for the island. The political process was not sufficient, however, if it did not go hand in hand with socio-economic development. The donor community must support the establishment of sustainable economic conditions by promoting health, educational and developmental projects. The reintegration of ex-combatants should also be promoted.
VADIM S. SMIRNOV (Russian Federation) said he supported the efforts of the parties in implementing the Peace Agreement. He was pleased to see the peace process move into the constitutional phase, as a result of the completion of stage II of weapons disposal. He also positively assessed the work of UNPOB on moving the peace process forward. There was still much work to be done, as well as concerns that not everyone was involved in the peace process. The efforts of UNPOB and the Government of Papua New Guinea must be continued. He was confident that the mandate of UNPOB would be successfully completed in the established time frame. He hoped that the Bougainville Transition Team would succeed in its task and make its contribution to the successful conclusion of the peace process.
TETE ANTONIO (Angola) said that a new Bougainville constitution was a central part of the implementation of the Peace Agreement. The draft constitution must be finalized and submitted for adoption by a Constituent Assembly of Bougainville, as one of the goals set for the transitional period and an essential element in shaping the future of Bougainville. With the completion of stage II of weapons disposal, the constitutional process could proceed, with the holding of elections before the end of 2003.
Peacemaking and peace-building were often closely interrelated, and that relationship required a comprehensive approach to preserve the results achieved, he continued. He was convinced that the United Nations must continue sustained peace-building efforts in Bougainville, in particular, to address pressing issue of security and stability through establishing and increasing the capacity of the local political structures. He encouraged UNPOB to work to achieve the goals set in the Peace Agreement.
ANA MARIA MENENDEZ (Spain) welcomed positive developments in weapons disposal and political preparations for Bougainville’s autonomy. She found the question of cooperation between UNPOB and the UNDP to ensure a fair transition, post-UNPOB, as particularly interesting. A series of consultations had been held on a number of issues to develop a joint approach. She asked for more information on what those areas of cooperation would be, to ensure an effective and smooth transition in the future.
HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile) welcomed the culmination of stage II of the weapons disposal plan. He also welcomed the holding of broader consultations with the Government, political leaders, faction leaders and the people of Bougainville themselves. One of the most important elements of the process was strengthening the sense of trust and security in the community. The culmination of the process had allowed for section 14 of the national Constitution, namely, the new Organic Law on Peace-Building, to enter into force. The new Constitution was the heart of the implementation of the August 2001 Peace Agreement.
Similarly, he welcomed the active participation of the population of the island. The second draft was of great importance and it was essential for the Constitutional Committee to continue its work using that text as a basis. He shared the view that the international community must provide the necessary resources in priority areas, such as the finalization of the establishment of the Constituent Assembly and assistance for the preparation of elections. For peace to be sustainable, an effective administration and a viable economy must be established. Relevant United Nations bodies must coordinate efforts in Bougainville with the international donor community. He welcomed the activities of the UNDP and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in that regard.
MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) welcomed the completion and verification of stage II of the Weapons Disposal Plan under UNPOB’s supervision, which took place last month. That was a crucial step in triggering the constitutional process. That process would then clear the way for elections for an autonomous government in Bougainville in 2004, as well as the eventual holding of a referendum, in which the people of Bougainville would exercise their right of self-determination, in accordance with the provisions of the Lincoln and Arawa Agreements.
He strongly supported that path, which the parties had courageously agreed to follow. However, more needed to be done to encourage groups that remained outside the peace process to join it. Peace was the only solution and that process, painstaking though it was, still remained its best guarantor. However, to sustain peace, it was crucial to promote and sustain socio-economic development. The two were indivisible. Therefore, he urged the donor community to contribute generously, not only for the financing of the peace process, but also in promoting long-term socio-economic development in an area that so badly needed it.
The mandate of UNPOB, which would expire at the end of the year, was crucial for building peace, as well as trust in that territory, he said. He hoped the United Nations role in Bougainville would not end with the expiry of UNPOB’s mandate and the United Nations would continue to work there and to stay the course in facilitating the full implementation of the peace process.
JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) said he was encouraged by the progress being made and welcomed the fact that stage II of weapons disposal had been verified. He supported moving forward with stage III expeditiously and, hopefully, with all those concerned. He commended Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu for their positive initiative to support the peace process with the creation of the Bougainville Transition Team. With less than six months before the end of UNPOB’s mandate, he knew that the United Nations and UNPOB would work hard to complete the remaining tasks, helping to create the basis for the establishment of Bougainville’s autonomy.
CHUNGONG AYAFOR (Cameroon) said that while challenges remained, the peace process had now achieved irreversible momentum. Ending stage II of the weapons collection reflected significant progress towards peace. He was pleased with the firm commitment of the parties to the conflict, including their willingness to act to restore peace and to develop a new political space that was more respective of the personalities and deep convictions of the people of Bougainville. UNPOB’s work remained critical in implementing that objective. He appreciated the useful role played by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in speeding up the weapons collection and in promoting the constitutional process.
Regarding the Papua New Guinea Government, its commitment for peace had been transformed into several favourable initiatives, he said. He appreciated the excellent work done by the States of the Monitoring Group that had contributed to stability and trust in the process. He commended the Pacific States for their noticeable commitment to peace in Bougainville, and he called on them to continue their efforts. The population of Bougainville needed to give the international community a sign of their willingness for peace. Finishing the constitutional process, stage III of weapons disposal and the holding elections should help to establish an autonomous government.
The ultimate objective of the peace processes was the development and well–being of the people of Bougainville, he said. The international community must make more of a commitment to the future economic processes, without which peace would be illusory. The reintegration of ex-combatants must be incorporated into such efforts. Peace was possible in Bougainville. One final effort was needed to achieve it, and he was confident that the international community and the people of Bougainville would be able to do so.
BOUBACAR DIALLO (Guinea) said he was pleased to note recent developments, which confirmed the hope seen with the completion of stage II of weapons disposal. He emphasized the importance of concluding stage II, which opened the way for the constitutional process leading to autonomy. The recent deployment of the Bougainville Transition Team, after the departure of the Peace Monitoring Group, was welcomed. While he was pleased with the progress made, there were still important challenges that needed to be met, such as the effective participation of all concerned and the effective reintegration of ex-combatants. Also, it was crucial to provide for the economic development of the island, without which peace could not be sustained. In that regard, he reiterated the appeal to the donor community to get more involved. He was grateful to UNPOB for the tangible results achieved in implementing the Peace Agreement.
ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that on 29 July Mr. Sinclair had submitted the report on verification and certification of the completion of stage II to the Government of Papua New Guinea. Thus, the relevant Papua New Guinea Constitutional Amendment and Organic Law began to be implemented. The implementation of the Peace Agreement had yielded results. Presently, the peace process was continuing to be faced with the task of weapons disposal in stage III, the establishment of a Constituent Assembly, and the holding of elections.
Efforts should be continued to step up weapons collection, he said. Success in drafting the constitution and holding elections would hinge on the success of the weapons collection programme. He appealed to all factions to demonstrate flexibility on how to dispose of the collected weapons. That would help promote the establishment of confidence among the factions and a sense of security among the people of Bougainville. Former combatants should be reintegrated into society. Weapons disposal was only one dimension of providing security. Only by reintegrating former combatants would the risks to security be eliminated.
The UNPOB and the Bougainville Transition Team should continue to play an important role, he added. The UNPOB had made positive contributions to the peace process in Bougainville. China would continue to support its work. He also appreciated the role played by the recently concluded Peace Monitoring Group. He encouraged UNPOB to continue to conduct full consultations with the Government of Papua New Guinea and relevant parties to positively promote the realization of the goals in the Peace Agreement.
RAYKO RAYTCHEV (Bulgaria) said he welcomed the completion of stage II of the weapons disposal plan. The official presentation of the verification report had opened new opportunities for the people of Bougainville to achieve autonomy. He also welcomed the efforts of the Bougainville Constitutional Commission. The Peace Monitoring Group provided active support for the Bougainville peace process. He appreciated the readiness of the members of the Peace Monitoring Group to continue their efforts through the Bougainville Transition Team. He shared the view that the neutral verification of stage II did not mark the end to challenges to the peace process in Bougainville. He urged Francis Ona to join the peace process. Progress towards stage III should not be hindered.
Continuing, he welcomed the contributions of United Nations bodies, including the UNDP and UNICEF, to the peace process. In that regard, he requested more information on their contribution to the post-conflict peace-building phase of the process. He was interested particularly with their contribution to the reintegration of ex combatants.
MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) said that, since the last briefing on 28 March, important developments had taken place. Those developments had created a sense of optimism in implementing the necessary procedures to prepare the new Constitution, the holding of elections, the completion of the Peace Monitoring Group’s mandate last June, and the adoption by UNPOB of the second phase of collection and disposal. He looked with some sense of optimism for the implementation of stage III of the weapons plan.
Despite the prevailing sense of optimism, however, the fact that certain parties were still not participating in the peace process, namely, Francis Ona, was a source of great concern, he added. He hoped that the different appeals and efforts being deployed would result in a clear commitment by those parties to the peace process, by refraining from taking any actions to hinder the process. He urged Mr. Ona to participate in the Bougainville peace process. He also reiterated his support for UNPOB.
ISIKIA R. SAVUA (Fiji), on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, said the countries of the Pacific Island Forum had been actively engaged in supporting the Bougainville peace process for nearly five years. The Peace Monitoring Group worked closely with UNPOB. The Forum’s support for the peace process was continuing through the deployment of the Bougainville Transition Team. Both the Peace Monitoring Group and the Bougainville Transition Team reflected the willingness of the region to work together to find solutions to problems facing one of the Group’s members. The Forum’s role was to facilitate the process by assisting the host nation realize its own goals.
An important milestone had been passed with the recent verification of stage II of the weapons disposal process by UNPOB, he continued. With that, the road was clear for the necessary legal changes to be made to allow for Bougainville’s autonomy. He encouraged all parties to work to reach an early decision on the final fate of the weapons in stage III, which permanently removed the weapons from Bougainville communities.
He said the role of UNPOB was even more critical at that stage. It must remain seized of the importance of concluding the formal peace process before its mandate expired at the end of the year. The UNPOB would need to work more closely with the United Nations to find the best way forward in the remaining months of its time in Bougainville.
The establishment of an effective, affordable and autonomous administration of Bougainville would bring many challenges with it, he continued. The Pacific Islands Forum region requested the Council to remain engaged with the Bougainville peace process in the crucial months ahead. The support of the international community and the United Nations system would also remain important, as work to build a credible law and justice system, an effective administration and a viable economic base in Bougainville continued.
JOHN DAUTH (Australia) said Australia had been a proud supporter throughout the peace process, including leadership of the four-country regional Peace Monitoring Group. During its five-year deployment, the Peace Monitoring Group had helped to promote stability and build confidence in the peace process, including crucial support to UNPOB, particularly in implementing the agreed weapons disposal plan. On 1 July, following requests for a continued regional presence beyond the Peace Monitoring Group, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu had deployed the small, unarmed civilian-led Bougainville Transition Team. The decision to deploy the Team demonstrated the capacity of the South Pacific community to work together to meet challenges to peace and security in the region.
The decision to withdraw the Peace Monitoring Group and deploy the Team reflected progress that had been made to date, he continued, including the negotiation and signature of the comprehensive Bougainville Peace Agreement and strong moves towards its implementation. Since the Peace Agreement was signed about two years ago, some 1,900 weapons had been contained, a constitution drafted and the Peace Monitoring Group Defence Force had formally withdrawn from Bougainville.
Australia welcomed the recent verification of stage II of the weapons disposal process, he said. Verification would bring into effect Papua New Guinea laws implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement and allow for Bougainville’s autonomy. Commending all parties for their commitment shown to date, he urged them to press forward with the final stages of the peace process. Parties must focus on reaching an early and credible decision on the final fate of the weapons in stage III that permanently removes the weapons from Bougainvillean communities. They should also move swiftly to plan for free and fair elections for their autonomous government.
There was no room for complacency, he said. The UNPOB must remain seized of the importance of concluding the formal peace process before its mandate expired at the end of the year. The UNPOB should, in particular, focus on promoting an early and credible stage III decision. The United Nations Secretariat must be closely engaged and provide the guidance to ensure that that occurred. The challenges facing Bougainville in the coming period were numerous and included establishing an effective and affordable autonomous administration, developing credible legal and judicial arrangements and encouraging economic development. Australia urged all parties to remain seized of those challenges and was committed to providing the parties with ongoing support.
DON MACKAY (New Zealand) said he was pleased to learn of the plans to hold a meeting to discuss the final fate of the weapons (stage III) on Nissan Island off the Bougainville coast. That meeting should take place as soon as possible. The devastating effects of the ready availability of small arms had been felt for too many years in Bougainville. The damage which they could do to a society was now readily apparent in Papua New Guinea’s neighbour, the Solomon Islands. To enhance future security for all Bougainvilleans, New Zealand urged the factions to agree that the final fate of the weapons collected should be no less than total destruction. The UNPOB should strongly reinforce and encourage that approach.
He welcomed efforts to bring Francis Ona and his small group of followers into the peace process. He stressed, however, that the peace process could not wait for Mr. Ona. He had chosen to remain on the sidelines, and the process had progressed without him. If Mr. Ona wanted to play a future role in the new Bougainville, the best way for him to do that was to engage in the peace process. But he should not be allowed to hold a veto over it, nor should his remaining outside of the process become a pretext for choosing a course other than the total destruction of weapons at stage III.
He drew the Council’s attention to the establishment of the Bougainville Transition Team, which was created to provide ongoing support to the peace process following the departure of the Peace Monitoring Group on 30 June. Team members from Australia, New Zealand and Vanuatu were now in place and working well with the Bougainville community. They would shortly be joined by personnel from Fiji. While much smaller than the Peace Monitoring Group, the Transition Team demonstrated the ongoing commitment of regional States to the peace process. Bougainville, he noted, was well on the road to lasting peace; the momentum now established by the declaration of stage II needed to be maintained while UNPOB worked towards the completion of its mandate at the end of this year.
YOSHIYUKI MOTOMURA (Japan) welcomed the report confirming the completion of stage II of weapons disposal. That achievement was all the more important, as it opened a new stage in the peace process and accelerated the progress towards the establishment of autonomy in Bougainville. He hoped the process would proceed smoothly, so that an election to establish an autonomous Bougainville government could take place as soon as possible, hopefully, sometime next year. He also expected that UNPOB would make the utmost effort to support that process as fully as possible, until the conclusion of its mandate at the end of this year.
During the Third Japan-Pacific Islands Forum Summit Meeting, held in Okinawa in May, participating leaders set “Enhanced Security in the Pacific Region” as one of the priority policy targets in the document adopted, entitled “The Okinawa Initiative”. Discussions aimed at taking substantive action followed based on that document, and the “Joint Action Plan” was also formulated, which included concrete measures to be taken to enhance security in the region.
Based on that plan, his Government intended to support the promotion of weapons collection in Bougainville. In addition, it was now considering extending specific assistance to Bougainville in the areas of education and human resources development, stabilizing the life of Bougainvilleans, and strengthening their economy. His Government continued to play close attention to developments related to peace in Bougainville and reiterated its readiness to extend assistance that it deemed appropriate.
Mr. SINCLAIR, responding to questions and comments, first expressed gratitude for the generous words addressed to the mission and its staff. What the Office had accomplished would not have been possible without the Council’s support. He also expressed gratitude for the support of the Peace Monitoring Group and the Governments of Japan and Papua New Guinea.
Regarding consultations between UNPOB and the UNDP, he said Bougainville at the current time had the international presence of UNPOB, the UNDP and the Bougainville Transition Team. At the end of December, however, UNPOB will withdraw, and the Transition Team will also have withdrawn. That would mean a significant change for the people of Bougainville. The UNDP would remain. He had been trying to get the UNDP accustomed to the fact that it would be alone in fulfilling the expectations that Bougainvilleans had of the international community.
He said he had not forgotten that Bougainville was emerging out of a very serious crisis, which had destroyed not only physical infrastructure, but also social and intellectual infrastructure. One of the first challenges the island would face was that of capacity-building. UNDP’s presence would have an important role to play in developing their capacity. The administration in Bougainville had been effectively destroyed. Some had left, others had been killed. There was a small group of people working under the Administrator. It was a huge challenge for the small resource base the country now had. The UNDP would be in a unique position to use its technical and other expertise in strengthening Bougainville’s technical capacity.
Regarding the question of law and justice, he said putting in place a police force was one of the most important challenges facing Bougainville. It was not a question of restoring former service, as it had become so much a part of the crisis. Bougainvilleans wanted something different. The former force did not enjoy any credibility on the island. It must be a law and justice system that made use of Bougainvilleans traditions and cultural experience. It was one thing to conceptualize that, however, and another to put it into practice. The UNDP was well placed to provide the necessary resources in that regard.
Bougainville was receiving a great deal of assistance from Australia and New Zealand, he said. It was clear that, after the end of the year, when UNPOB and the Transition Team withdraw, there would be room for greater coordinating efforts for the UNDP. There was no shortage of offers for assistance to Bougainville. Good cooperation among aid offers was needed, and the UNDP was best placed to play that coordinating role.
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