Ending The Armed Conflict In Papua New Guinea (Bougainville)

Ending The Armed Conflict In Papua New Guinea (Bougainville)

Year(s): 1994 – 2001.

Location: Autonomous Region of Bougainville, (de jure) Papua New Guinea.

UN Regional Group: Asia-Pacific.

Type of Conflict: Vertical (state-based) Intrastate Conflict.

Type of Initiative: A peacekeeping mission, a monitoring mission, and the mediation of a peace agreement.

Main Implementing Organisation(s): The governments of Pacific states and the UN.

Impact: Lasting.

Summary: The armed conflict in Bougainville was ended after a decade of fighting by the deployment of a series of regionally led peacekeeping missions and negotiations.

Description of Case 

In 1988, a dispute over the construction of a large copper mine erupted into violence in the Bougainville region of Papua New Guinea. The local population saw little benefit from the mining operation (the profits were split between an Australian company and the Government of Papua New Guinea) and resented the environmental destruction caused by the mine. As a result, some locals sabotaged equipment and facilities. In response, the Government of Papua New Guinea launched a violent military crackdown. By 1989, the mine had ceased operating due to the pervasive instability and the area was subject to an armed conflict between the newly formed Bougainville Revolutionary Army and Papua New Guinean security forces.[1] The election of a new Papua New Guinean prime minister in 1994 opened a window for peace talks to take place. To facilitate the talks, a pan-Pacific initiative led by the Government of Australia and including the Papua New Guinean administration agreed to establish a peacekeeping mission.[2] The South Pacific Peacekeeping Force operated in Bougainville for a month while the negotiations took place.[3] While some progress was made in establishing an interim government for Bougainville, the peace process ultimately collapsed, and the fighting continued.

Negotiations between rival Bougainvillean groups were held in Canberra in 1995, but it was not until talks were held in New Zealand in 1997 between the Bougainville Interim Government and the Government of Papua New Guinea that the fighting finally abated. The talks culminated in a cease-fire and the deployment of the Truce Monitoring Group (TMG), a New Zealand-led unarmed peacekeeping mission tasked with employing the “Pacific Way” to verify that the terms of the truce were followed.[4] The peace process continued into 1998, with talks held in Australia and New Zealand culminating in additional agreements.[5] One such accord, the Lincoln Agreement, called for the formation of the Peace Monitoring Group to continue the work of the TMG.[6] In addition, the United Nations Political Office Bougainville was established to serve as another observer of the ongoing peace process.[7] Negotiations continued for many years, with a series of agreements gradually consolidating the peace. These efforts concluded in August 2001 with the signing of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, which brought a permanent end to the conflict.[8]

[1] Mary-Louise O’Callaghan. “The origins of the conflict.” in Andy Carl & Sr. Lorraine Garasu. Weaving consensus: The Papua New Guinea – Bougainville peace process. (London: Conciliation Resources, 2002) p.9 Available at: https://www.c-r.org/accord/papua-new-guinea%E2%80%93bougainville/origins-conflict (Accessed 17/11/2020)

[2] Agreement between Papua New Guinea and Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Australia and New Zealand, concerning the Status of Elements of the Defence Forces of those countries deployed in the North Solomons Province of Papua New Guinea as part of the South Pacific Peacekeeping Force, 1994. Available at: https://www.peaceagreements.org/view/232 (Accessed 17/11/2020)

[3] Bob Breen. Giving Peace a Chance – Operation Lagoon, Bougainville, 1994: A Case of Military Action and Diplomacy. (Canberra: Australian National University, 2001)

[4] Burnham Declaration by Bougainville Leaders on the Re-establishment of a Process for Lasting Peace and Justice on Bougainville, 1997. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/png-burnham-declaration97 (Accessed 17/11/2020); Rebecca Adams, ed. Peace on Bougainville – Truce Monitoring Group – Gudpela Nius Bilong Peace. (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2001); Jim Rolfe. “Peacekeeping the Pacific Way in Bougainville.” International Peacekeeping, Vol. 8, No. 4. (2001) 

[5] Robert Tapi. “From Burnham to Buin.” in Andy Carl & Sr. Lorraine Garasu. Weaving consensus: The Papua New Guinea – Bougainville peace process. (London: Conciliation Resources, 2002) p.27

[6] Lincoln Agreement on Peace Security and Development on Bougainville, 1998. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/png-lincolnagreement98 (Accessed 17/11/2020); Richard Gehrmann, Matt Grant, & Samantha Rose. “Australian Unarmed Peacekeepers on Bougainville, 1997-2003.” Peace Review, Vol. 27, No. 1. (2015)

[7] Scott S. Smith. “The role of the United Nations Observer Mission.” in Andy Carl & Sr. Lorraine Garasu. Weaving consensus: The Papua New Guinea – Bougainville peace process. (London: Conciliation Resources, 2002) p.54

[8] Bougainville Peace Agreement, 2001. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/png-bougainville-agreement2001 (Accessed 17/11/2020)