Working directly with communities across the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, we are helping to prevent violence – particularly in more remote, isolated areas. Such areas have high levels of community division and a limited access to peacebuilding information.
In 2018, we developed the abilities of a range of community leaders – including youth, chiefs, women, religious leaders and ex-combatants – to respond to conflict in their communities. Training courses delivered by the Nazareth Centre for Rehabilitation, with our support, were held across Bougainville. In particular, we focused on reaching areas which have significant post-conflict division such as Panguna and Konnou. These areas are experiencing multiple challenges – including divisions over mining, post-crisis trauma, crisis-related factionalism and the presence of weapons. Similarly, we engaged with 85 community members in Biros and Sovele, two locations in the Bana district of Bougainville, that have suffered sorcery-related violence and extended community divisions.
The workshops have improved the capacity of community leaders to respond to and prevent violent conflicts in their areas – through covering topics such as how to analyse conflict, how to facilitate dialogue, peacebuilding theory, trauma awareness and community awareness activities. This means that local leadership can now understand some of the causes of conflict, and identify the responses needed to address related grievances. One participant explains how the training has helped them:
Everyone must help and work together to find solutions for the issue of land disputes here. Both adults and youth who are attending this workshop now have the knowledge of creating solutions for the problem and also have identified other parties who can help to achieve peace in our community.
Following the training, discussions between different community leaders took place which looked at how to respond to conflict issues and contribute to peace and security in the long-term. In particular, they focused on the need to improve the involvement of women, youth and church leaders in consultations and decision-making processes.
On the final day of the workshops, some of the participants developed action plans, which included activities to raise awareness of peacebuilding approaches, advocacy campaigns and a non-violent protest to highlight issues around district conflicts with the local administration. One participant said:
We can see the link in the land disputes with drugs and alcohol. We need to educate our communities because parents and youth are not well educated and the community is not taking ownership to settle these issues. This session has shown us this.