21/11/2002
Press Release
SC/7572



Security Council

4647th Meeting (AM)


SECURITY COUNCIL ASKED TO EXTEND MANDATE OF UN POLITICAL OFFICE

IN BOUGAINVILLE, PAPUA NEW GUINEA


Under-Secretary-General Cites Setbacks in Weapons Disposal Plan


Requesting a 12-month mandate extension for the United Nations Political Office in Bougainville (UNPOB), Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council this morning that progress in the Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, peace process had experienced some setbacks since last August.


He said that Stage 2 of the Bougainville weapons containment programme had been delayed, 212 weapons had been removed from containers and the momentum for arms disposal had slowed down.  Those setbacks were the result of delays in disbursing funds to ex-combatants in the 10-year-old conflict and a campaign of misrepresentation by some leaders regarding implementation of the peace process.  However, ex-combatant leaders had decided to make weapons containers more secure and to place arms collection back on track in order to meet a 24-December deadline for the completion of Stage 2.  But even if that deadline was met, he noted, UNPOB must still verify the process.


Turning to the work of the Bougainville Constitutional Commission, he said it had been consulting the local people on the content of the proposed Bougainville constitution.  A target date for completion of the final draft was planned for the end of January 2003.  Noting that elections for an autonomous government must be held before June 2003, he said the actual date would depend on the present programmes remaining on track.


The representative of Papua New Guinea confirmed that the first and second stages of arms collection were near completion, and only the third stage remained.  A one-year extension of UNPOB's mandate would enable the Political Office to complete its work, he said, expressing optimism that the mandate would be fulfilled under the proposed timetable, if not earlier.  Pointing to progress made in reconciliation, arms disposal and constitutional reforms under the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, he said the National Parliament had voted overwhelmingly in support of the Organic Law on Peace-Building in Bougainville, Autonomous Bougainville Government and Bougainville Referendum.


Most speakers supported a one-year mandate extension, with Australia's representative stressing that the United Nations presence in Bougainville must be genuinely catalytic, spurring the parties to re-energize and successfully conclude


the weapons disposal plan.  The parties must understand that the presence of the United Nations and the Peace Monitoring Group of the Pacific Islands Forum was of a limited duration, and every effort should be made to accelerate progress while they were on the ground.  Their presence -- comforting though it might be -- should not become the cause for putting back hard decisions, he said.


Fiji's representative, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, said the Group had given the matter of Bougainville the highest priority.  Calling for a mandate extension, he emphasized that meeting the weapons disposal deadline would not happen automatically, but would require energy and firm commitment on the part of all actors, including UNPOB.  It was in everybody's interest to move forward as quickly as possible and to see the process bring increasing autonomy as it drew to a successful conclusion, he added.


Singapore's representative noted that UNPOB cost around $2 million per annum, less than the daily costs of other peacekeeping missions.  That was a small price to pay in order to implement the peace process.  Although the weapons containment process had been slower than expected, such a process should not be bound too rigidly to a time frame, he stressed, adding that the involvement of the United Nations in Bougainville demonstrated that Security Council efforts could produce the desired results.


However, the representative of the United States said that delay in arms containerization was an insufficient reason to extend UNPOB's mandate by one year.  The 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement had intended to conclude its work no later than year-end, he said, stressing that all efforts should be made to meet goals based on accurate projections.  He called for a Security Council meeting early next month to assess the number of weapons remaining and to consider the phasing out of UNPOB as its mission neared completion.  A six-month extension was adequate to fulfil UNPOB’s mandate, he added.


The Council also heard from the representatives of Mexico, Bulgaria, Mauritius, Norway, Syria, Russian Federation, Guinea, Ireland, France, Cameroon, Colombia, United Kingdom, China and New Zealand.


Today's meeting, which started at 10:40 a.m., adjourned at 12:35 p.m.


Background


When the Security Council met this morning, it had before it a letter dated 31 March 1998 (document S/1998/287) from the Chargé d'affaires at the Permanent Mission of Papua New Guinea to the United Nations, informing the Council President about a truce signed in Burnham, New Zealand, on 10 October 1997 (the Burnham Truce) and an Agreement on Peace, Security and Development on Bougainville signed in Lincoln, New Zealand, in January 1996 (the Lincoln Agreement).


Requesting the Council to endorse the Lincoln Agreement, including the establishment of a neutral regional Peace Monitoring Group, the letter also asks the Secretary-General to appoint and deploy a United Nations observer mission to monitor implementation of the Lincoln Agreement.


In a statement to the press on 29 August this year, the Council President recalled that the Bougainville Peace Agreement, signed in August 2001, had three elements:  autonomy, a referendum and a weapons disposal plan.  Regarding the weapons disposal plan, the President stressed that it must be carried out "in full and on time".  Council members, according to the statement, had called for redoubled efforts "without interruption" to achieve that end.


Briefing by Under-Secretary-General


KIERAN PRENDERGAST, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, recalling the last briefing to the Council on 29 August, said that progress in the Bougainville peace process since August had seen some setbacks.  Stage 2 of the weapons containment programme had been delayed, 212 weapons had been removed from containers, and the momentum for arms disposal had slowed down.


He said the setbacks in the weapons containment could be explained by well intended efforts to address the impatience of ex-combatants.  There had been problems relating to the disbursement of funds intended for them, which had led some of them to refuse to participate in the arms disposal programme.  There had also been a deliberate campaign of misrepresentation by some leaders regarding implementation of the peace process.  However, ex-combatant leaders had responded to those challenges, and on 30 October they had adopted decisions to make containers more secure and to place weapons collection back on track.


Beginning in September, he said, the United Nations Political Office in Bougainville (UNPOB) had held meetings on the island with civil society groups to promote community participation in the weapons disposal process.  The UNPOB had enjoyed a close relationship with the Peace Monitoring Group, which had brought issues requiring joint intervention to its attention.


The Bougainville Constitutional Commission had been consulting the local people on the content of the Bougainville constitution, he said.  A target date for completion of the final draft was planned for the end of January 2003, after which it would be considered by the Constitutional Assembly.  The start of that process would depend on verification by UNPOB upon successful completion of the second stage of weapons disposal.


He said UNPOB had reported that the credibility of the weapons disposal was at stake if the 24 December deadline was not met.  Even if that target was met, UNPOB must still verify the process, which was unlikely to be completed by

31 December.  UNPOB’s continued presence would be required on the island to complete Stage 2, and Stage 3 of the plan still lay ahead.  A decision on the fate of the weapons must be made in four-and-a-half months, and UNPOB must certify compliance with the plan.  Noting that elections for an autonomous government must be held before June 2003, he said the actual date would depend on the present programmes being on track.  The Secretary-General had written to the Council requesting an extension of UNPOB’s mandate for a year, as had the Government of Papua New Guinea.


Statements


ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico), reiterating his support for the peace-building process in Bougainville and its contribution to Papua New Guinea’s economic and social rehabilitation, appealed to donor countries to make the necessary financial contributions to ensure a peaceful transition to democratic governance in Bougainville.  Noting that many questions remained unanswered, nonetheless, he asked how delays in arms collection would affect the adoption of a new constitutional framework and the creation of an autonomous government, to be determined following elections scheduled for June 2003.  Quoting Papua New Guinea’s Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs, he said such setbacks would make the holding of elections in June unlikely.


STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria) said considerable progress had been made in peace-building and in implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement.  But while lauding the progress made thus far in weapons collection, he expressed concern over delays in completing Stage 2 of the weapons disposal plan, which was a prerequisite for elections and for lasting peace and prosperity in the region.


He supported the recommendation by the Secretary-General and the Government of Papau New Guinea to extend UNPOB’s mandate for a year, saying that would enable the parties to implement the Bougainville Agreement in its entirety and ensure free and fair elections.


JAGDISH KOONJUL (Mauritius) welcomed the fact that agreements had been concluded on a referendum to determine the political future of Bougainville within the framework of the Constitution of Papua New Guinea.  The UNPOB had done a remarkable job in actively coordinating and implementing the agreed weapons disposal plan.  However, he was concerned about the growing number of incidents in which trunks and containers had been forced open and guns removed.


Progress in weapons disposal was inextricably linked to the establishment of an autonomous Bougainville government, he said.  It was, therefore, extremely important for every one to ensure the completion of the disposal plan.  Reconciliation and the integration of ex-combatants remained the absolute priorities to ensure long-term peace, and the early reintegration of former combatants and their engagement in gainful employment should, therefore, be addressed urgently.


Regarding reconstruction of the infrastructure and the restoration of civil authority, he said it was important that priority be given to health, education, agriculture and basic infrastructure.  The Council must continue to remain engaged in the process, and Mauritius, therefore, supported extending UNPOB’s mandate by one year.


OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said that, in spite of recent setbacks, the peace process continued on track and had reached its final stage.  The United Nations had maintained its role in promoting peace on the island. Sustained peace-building efforts were crucial in establishing a durable peace, and the scope of such programmes covered a variety of activities, including the integration of ex-combatants.  Success in those initiatives depended on implementation of the weapons disposal programme.


As a means to safeguard investments already made in Bougainville, he supported an extension of UNPOB’s mandate, which would contribute to the finalization of the peace process, he said.  Norway encouraged the Papua New Guinea Government and its Bougainville counterpart to remain committed to the peace process.  Obstacles to weapons disposal must be overcome and all parties must engage in long-term planning to make the current process self-sustaining. Bougainville was an example of the constructive role the United Nations could play in a peace strategy, he added.


RICHARD WILLIAMSON (United States) said that, following nearly a decade of conflict and 10,000 deaths, UNPOB had been successful in returning peace and stability to the region.  The key remaining task was to reduce the risk of a

re-incitement of violence by destroying weapons on the island.  The Bougainville Peace Agreement intended to conclude its work no later than year-end, he said, stressing the need for efforts to meet goals based on accurate projections.


Taking note of delays caused by national elections in Papau New Guinea, problems in arms containerization, and occasional bad weather which had kept inspectors on the ground, he dismissed those as insufficient reasons for extending UNPOB’s mandate.  More than 1,500 weapons had been containerized so far this year, and there was a need for more sustained weapons disposal.  He called for a Security Council meeting early next month to assess the number of weapons remaining and to evaluate the process for phasing out UNPOB’s presence as the Mission neared completion.  The United States believed a six-month extension was adequate to fulfil UNPOB’s mandate.


FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said the Bougainville Agreement had inched towards building genuine peace in three areas:  autonomy, referendum and weapons disposal.  The Papau New Guinea Government had made serious efforts to pursue the peace process and to adopt legislation for its implementation.  He also noted the importance of UNPOB’s role and active engagement in implementation and consolidation.  Syria strongly supported an extension of the UNPOB mandate for  one year.


He said that the commitment of all relevant parties clearly illustrated the progress made to restore normalcy in Bougainville.  Despite some challenges, including those of rehabilitation and economic stability, donor States should continue to provide financial assistance to peace-building.  Syria called for a redoubling of efforts by the United Nations system, with a renewed UNPOB mandate at the forefront.


HOW LIP CHENG (Singapore) said UNPOB had helped in establishing stability on the island and moving the conflict towards a peaceful resolution.  The Papua New Guinea Government had demonstrated its commitment to the peace agreement in concrete ways, including by working on constitutional amendments to clear the way for the implementation of the peace process.  It was clear that the Government had a good insight into the problems and what was required to overcome them.


United Nations involvement in Bougainville was an example of the fact that Security Council efforts often produced the desired results, he said.  The UNPOB cost around $2 million per annum, a small price to pay to ensure that the Government of Papua New Guinea resolved the problem.  Implementation of Stage 2 had been slower than expected, but one should not be overly concerned as long as the delay did not threaten the peace process.  Warning that the process should not be bound to too rigid a time frame, he endorsed the Secretary-General’s intention to extend UNPOB’s mandate by one year.  For peace to be sustainable, an effective administration and viable economy must also be in place, he added.


ALEXANDER V. KONUZIN (Russian Federation) called upon all parties to implement the Peace Agreement, conduct a referendum and carry out steps for weapons disposal.  He said that the effectiveness of UNPOB’S work had led to significant results, but the delay in implementing the weapons disposal plan was a cause of concern.  The Russian Federation hoped that all parties would intensify their efforts for the elimination of weapons in Bougainville.  Success in that matter would have a decisive influence on efforts for sustainable peace.


MAMADY TRAORE (Guinea) noted that the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, despite some delays in weapons collection, was moving forward thanks to the joint efforts of UNPOB and the Government of Papau New Guinea.  He noted the importance of continuing with earnest efforts to achieve reconciliation, re-establish State authority and attain economic and social development.


While noting the need to expedite weapons collection, he stressed the need to restore peace in Bougainville.  National reconciliation should be sought with greater energy.  Guinea supported the extension of UNPOB's mandate for one year, he said, adding that an extension would be advantageous to the peace process and reflect positively on the United Nations.


GERARD CORR (Ireland) supported the proposed one-year extension of the UNPOB mandate, stressing that the peace process, including the referendum enabling Bougainvilleans to determine their future, must remain a national priority.  Much progress had been achieved, including the granting of amnesty and pardon, and a constitution would soon be drafted.


Despite some delays, which was always the case in peace-building processes, UNPOB had done an excellent job, he said.  UNPOB’s modest office was a small financial cost and a great gain for peace, and the Council should not focus on rigid time frames, but rather on benchmarks for the completion of its work.  Implementing the second and third stages of UNPOB's mandate would be a major challenge, and the pre-election period would be a crucial time.  Bougainville's difficult economic situation was a major factor to be considered, he said, calling for full support for the peace process and the completion of UNPOB's mandate.


EMMANUELLE D’ACHON (France), noting that the peace process had experienced delays in the weapons collection plan, said there was also a fragility in the mechanisms for compensation and reintegration of ex-combatants.  The fact that weapons had been stolen was not a sign that fighting would resume, but an effort to obtain funds for compensation.  The period ahead would be decisive for the peace process, and the 24 December deadline for weapons collection must be respected.  Regarding the prospects of elections in 2003, she asked whether, during that period, Stage 3 of the weapons disposal programme could be completed.  What could UNPOB do to ensure elections were held on schedule?


She said the economic situation was still difficult, which could jeopardize lasting peace.  The international community must, therefore, remain engaged.  The UNPOB was playing a major role in the peace process, and it and it was, therefore, hard to imagine that it might not be present at a time of important steps for that process.


IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) said that since 29 August there had been some setbacks in the peace process and in weapons collection.  Those difficulties should, however, not discourage efforts under way.  Expressing appreciation for the quality of cooperation between UNPOB and members of the Pacific Islands Forum in implementing the Peace Agreement, he said that was an illustration of positive interaction between the United Nations and regional organizations.  Cameroon counted on the determination of the parties to settle their dispute and supported the extension of UNPOB’s mandate by one year


ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) expressed concern over the refusal by Francis Ona and the Me'ekamui Defence Force to join the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement and over Bougainville's intractable economic woes.  He asked whether Mr. Ona's stance had since changed and noted that the decade-long conflict had destroyed Bougainvillean industries, forcing the population to rely on a subsistence economy.  The continued lack of economic growth could fuel public mistrust of the Peace Agreement, making the reintegration of ex-combatants difficult.


He said that peace-building had been slow but steady since 1998 and noted that Papua New Guinea's new Prime Minister was committed to the Peace Agreement.  The international community should continue to support peace efforts, including arms collection and certification as a prerequisite to the referendum, provided for in the 2001 Agreement.  Colombia fully supported extending UNPOB's mandate for as long as necessary to complete its work.


ALISTAIR HARRISON (United Kingdom) said it was important not to jeopardize UNPOB’s success with a precipitous end to its mandate.  However, an exit strategy was needed.  UNPOB’s work in weapons destruction was incomplete and the economic situation remained fragile.  Still, the United Kingdom was pleased with UNPOB's focus, he said, noting that ₤25,000 had been diverted from weapons collection to certification projects.


Noting the results of the recent assessment of UNPOB, he supported an extension of its mandate.  However, there was a need for further consideration and discussion of an exit strategy, verification of Stage 2, the Papua New Guinea elections scheduled for June and their likely postponement, before setting a timetable for the completion of UNPOB's work.


Council President WANG YINGFAN (China), speaking in his national capacity, said that since August the peace process had moved forward and expressed the hope that all sides would take a positive and flexible position.  Progress had also been achieved in weapons collection, although some problems had cropped up.


The UNPOB had played an important role in the weapons collection process and had gained the trust of all sides, he said, noting that the peace process was at a critical point.  China, therefore, supported an extension of UNPOB's mandate for one year so that the Political Office could continue to play its due role in the peace process.


ROBERT AISI (Papua New Guinea) said progress had been made in three main areas of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement:  peace reconciliation, arms disposal and unprecedented constitutional reforms.  The National Parliament had voted overwhelmingly in support of the Organic Law on Peace-Building in Bougainville, Autonomous Bougainville Government and Bougainville Referendum.   The UNPOB, as well as various bodies of the United Nations system and other organizations, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and Doctors without Borders (MSF), had contributed greatly to peace-building and reconciliation, as had Member States and regional groups like Japan, United Kingdom and the European Union.  The Security Council and the Pacific Islands Forum, among others, were playing a catalytic role in managing the dialogue process.


He confirmed that the first and second stages of arms collection were near completion, and only the third stage remained.  Requesting a one-year extension of the UNPOB mandate that would enable it to finish its work, he said the Government of Papua New Guinea was confident and optimistic that the mandate, albeit somewhat slowed, would be fulfilled under the proposed timetable, if not earlier.  Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare had reaffirmed that during his 18 October meeting in New York with the Secretary-General.


JOHN DAUTH (Australia) said the United Nations presence in Bougainville must be genuinely catalytic, spurring the parties to re-energize and successfully conclude weapons disposal.  The parties must understand that the presence of the United Nations and the Peace Monitoring Group was of limited duration, and every effort should be made to accelerate progress while they were on the ground.  Under no circumstances should their presence -- comforting though it might be -- become the cause of delay or putting back hard decisions.  The Peace Monitoring Group's presence could not and should not substitute for committed implementation of peace and weapons disposal measures.


He said the recent slowdown in weapons disposal and the removal of weapons from containers had been a setback that could undermine the confidence of the parties and the international community in the peace process.  Calling on the parties to urge all ex-combatants to conclude weapons disposal and destruction as soon as possible within 2003, he welcomed the target date of 24 December 2002 set by Bougainvillean ex-combatants for the conclusion of Stage 2 of weapons disposal.


Pointing out that Stage 3 was to begin within four-and-a-half months of the end of Stage 2, he said that unless current rates of progress were substantially increased, UNPOB would have little prospect of concluding its work until late in 2003.  The UNPOB had monitoring and verification responsibilities for contained weapons throughout Stage 3, and it was vital that the process be quickly advanced for the success and integrity of settlement efforts.  It would be difficult, if not impossible, for the United Nations to depart while weapons remained in containers under its lock and key.  The declaration by UNPOB that Stage 2 was complete would be an important milestone, triggering constitutional amendments giving force to the autonomy provisions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

AMRAIYA NAIDU (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, said that the Peace Monitoring Group had given the matter of Bougainville the highest priority.  Progress in the areas of peace and reconciliation, arms disposal and constitutional reform had been possible due to the diligent efforts of UNPOB.  Enumerating other actors involved in assisting Papua New Guinea, including governments, agencies and non-governmental organizations, he expressed the hope that the second stage of the weapons disposal plan would be completed as planned by 24 December and the third phase by mid-2003.  That would clear the way for the election of an autonomous Bougainville government.

However, he said, meeting the deadlines for weapons disposal would not happen automatically.  It would require energy and firm commitment on the part of all actors, including UNPOB.  It was in everybody's interest to move forward as quickly as possible and to see the process bring increasing autonomy as it drew to a successful conclusion.  The UNPOB mandate should be extended, he added.


DON MACKAY (New Zealand), associating himself with the Pacific Island Forum, said that despite the fact that the peace process had slowed a little, things were heading in the right direction, reflecting a great input by the Government of Papua New Guinea.  There were prospects for a general completion of Stage 2 of the weapons disposal plan by 24 December and Stage 3 could be completed by the middle of next year, paving the way for elections.  Stressing that the Peace Monitoring Group had a vital role to play until the end of the peace process, he supported a mandate extension for a further 12 months.


Concluding Remarks by Under-Secretary-General


Mr. PRENDERGAST, responding to questions and comments, said in regard to the impact of delay in certification on the completion of Stage 2 that the implementation of the autonomy provisions in the Constitution of Papua New Guinea and a guarantee of a referendum in Bougainville depended on verification by UNPOB that Stage 2 of the weapons disposal plan had been achieved.  It would be difficult to meet the 30 June deadline for elections, but it was hoped that the delay would not be long.  The Peace Monitoring Group had an indispensable role to play in weapons disposal and the programme would be difficult to implement if the Group was withdrawn.


Regarding the necessity to extend UNPOB's mandate for 12 months, he said that unfortunately international affairs did not unroll in a tidy and predictable way and Bougainville was not unusual in that respect.  The Council had been understanding in other conflicts where timetables had slipped and it would be unfortunate if it was less understanding in the Bougainville situation, the more so as the yearly cost of the Bougainville operation was little more than the daily cost of other peacekeeping missions.  While agreeing that there should be an exit strategy and that parties should keep to their obligations, progress in those

matters was not linear.  The exit strategy should be linked to the election of an autonomous government.


He said that a mandate extension of 12 months, rather than one of six months, was necessary because certification of the weapons disposal process, if completed by 24 December, could take up to three months.  Certification would also require consultations on the island to determine whether people felt safe and conditions were conducive to the holding of elections.  Certification could be submitted by May, after which preparations for elections could begin.  Elections could take place in the second half of 2003.  Past experience had shown that a mission should stay on after elections as a confidence-building measure.  The peace process would then become irreversible by the end of 2003.  He stressed that the process should be seen through to the end, as experience had also shown that premature withdrawal could lead to the failure of the peace process.


* *** *