Bougainville scenery

History of the conflict in Bougainville

From 1988 to 1998 the most violent conflict in the Pacific region since the Second World War erupted on the islands of Bougainville, now an autonomous region in Papua New Guinea. 

A decade of violent conflict

A desire for self-determination, land disputes and environmental damage related to mining all helped fuel the conflict. In 1989 these grievances resulted in the outbreak of a number of localised violent incidents and the closure of the Panguna copper mine. The intervention of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) escalated the violence into eight years of conflict. 
 
Over the years of fighting, different armed factions emerged, including the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and the Bougainville Resistance Forces. A large proportion of the population was displaced as a result of the conflict, and over 15,000 people were killed. 

The Bougainville Peace Agreement

From the mid-1990s, accompanied by a ceasefire, a series of peace negotiations took place, which led to the signing of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) in 2001. The BPA granted Bougainville autonomous status, establishing the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG). The agreement also stipulated that there would be a referendum on Bougainville’s political status, planned for 2019. 

Our work in Bougainville

Traditional methods of conflict-resolution have been used to build peace in many parts of Bougainville. Yet serious challenges remain. Communities are still divided, and post-conflict issues have not yet been dealt with. Considerable work is underway, including by individual Bougainvilleans, civil society and faith-based groups, and by the ABG, to address these challenges and to prepare communities for the upcoming referendum. 

Alongside our partners, we work to strengthen the peacebuilding skills of community leadership groups – including women, youth and faith-based groups, as well as ex-combatant leaders. Through training we provide individuals with the ability to analyse and manage conflict in their communities. 

We also work with the Department for Peace Agreement Implementation within the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), to help veterans – from the rank and file and senior leadership – to transition into non-militarised community and leadership roles. 

Conciliation Resources first worked in Bougainville in 2001, documenting the Bougainville peace process in an Accord publication and supporting civil society to share information about the peace process with communities across the island.