FOLLOWING 15 JUNE INAUGURATION OF BOUGAINVILLE’S AUTONOMOUS GOVERNMENT, UNITED NATIONS MANDATE FULLY IMPLEMENTED, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
FOLLOWING 15 JUNE INAUGURATION OF BOUGAINVILLE’S AUTONOMOUS GOVERNMENT, UNITED NATIONS MANDATE FULLY IMPLEMENTED, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
5222nd Meeting (AM)
FOLLOWING 15 JUNE INAUGURATION OF BOUGAINVILLE’S AUTONOMOUS GOVERNMENT,
UNITED NATIONS MANDATE FULLY IMPLEMENTED, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
Assistant Secretary-General Briefs on Successful Elections;
Culmination of Peace Process Begun in 1997 after Brutal Civil Conflict
The mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Papua New Guinea had been implemented fully and the parties had taken the most significant step in the Bougainville peace agreement, Danilo Türk, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council this morning.
Providing an update on developments since 7 April, when the Council last heard a briefing on the situation in Bougainville, he said that, following the establishment of the Autonomous Government –- inaugurated on 15 June -- that entity and the Government of Papua New Guinea would deal with matters relating to implementation of the peace agreement and the national constitution through already established procedures. Mechanisms were also in place to deal with any disagreements that might emerge. While it was up to Bougainville’s Autonomous Government to plan its priorities, the two Governments intended to work together in addressing future challenges.
Regarding weapons disposal, he said the parties had been informed in May that the weapons disposal agreement had been implemented with the destruction of more than 2,000 arms. The United Nations Observer Mission in Bougainville (UNOMB) had determined that a substantial level of compliance had been achieved by the parties and that, consequently, the security situation on the ground was conducive to the holding of elections as planned from May through June. The Papua New Guinea Government, in concurrence with the Bougainville leaders, had asked the United Nations to coordinate the work of the international electoral observers, and the United Nations election coordination unit had been set up in response. It had provided extensive briefings to electoral observers prior to their deployment in Bougainville and, in close cooperation with the Mission, it had also facilitated the movement by helicopter of observers to most of the constituencies throughout Bougainville.
In addition, the United Nations had also supported the airlifting of polling boxes, electoral officers and observers, thereby ensuring the timely and orderly conduct of the elections, he said. International observers from Australia, Fiji, Japan, New Zealand and elsewhere, as well as representatives of the Commonwealth and Pacific Islands Forum secretariats, had participated. Despite some minor reported incidents, all eligible voters had been given the opportunity to vote in a calm and peaceful environment, and the outcome had reflected accurately the will of the people of Bougainville.
He said that 62 per cent of the electorate had convincingly selected Joseph Kabui, former President of the Bougainville People’s Congress, whose approach recognized human rights and focused on meeting the basic needs of the people at the grass-roots level. There now remained the third main pillar of the peace agreements –- the holding of a referendum on Bougainville’s future status. Included in the referendum would be a choice of separate independence, and the final decision on that outcome would be left to Papua New Guinea’s Parliament and subsequent consultations with the Autonomous Bougainville Government.
The war in Bougainville had been little noticed, but brutal, he said, noting that some 15,000 people had lost their lives between the 1980s and 1990s. The conflict had started over the use of natural resources, but had developed features seen in conflicts in many parts of the world, including a mixture of military and criminal objectives and the suffering of innocent people. The peace process had begun in 1997, and the peace agreement of 2001 finally offered an opportunity for healing.
Also addressing the Council, the representative of Papua New Guinea said that practical peacebuilding in Bougainville was obviously not yet complete, pointing out that peace and good governance required ongoing attention and effort, if they were to be part of the legacy to succeeding generations. Papua New Guinea was pleased to note the continuing presence of United Nations personnel on the ground, which helped to remove any doubt or uncertainty about whether the international community was still concerned and would continue to be involved after the United Nations Observer Mission in Bougainville (UNOMB) had completed its mandate. It was for that reason that the appropriate bodies should consider retaining the Mission’s existing assets in Bougainville, and handing them on to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other arms of the Organization that would continue to operate in Bougainville.
New Zealand’s representative expressed deep appreciation for the work of UNOMB, saying that even by United Nations standards Bougainville had been a difficult operating environment due to its remoteness. Nevertheless, the United Nations had succeeded in establishing a light and responsive presence, which had usefully complemented regional initiatives, including the New Zealand-led Truce Monitoring Group and its successor, the Australian-led Peace Monitoring Group. The United Nations Mission had been a good example of a successful, demand-driven United Nations action in the field, and New Zealand was particularly grateful for the contributions of United Nations staff both from the Department of Political Affairs and those who had served in Bougainville itself.
Australia’s representative said that the continuous presence of the United Nations in Bougainville for more than seven years had been an important source of reassurance and support. Australia had been pleased to have worked alongside the United Nations and regional partners, and remained strongly committed to efforts to ensure lasting peace and development in Bougainville, including by working with the agencies and programmes of the United Nations.
Before adjourning the meeting, Adamantios Th. Vassilakis (Greece), Council President for the month of July, expressed members’ thanks and appreciation to Assistant Secretary-General Türk for his cooperation with them and wished him the best in his future endeavours.
Other speakers included the representatives of Japan, Brazil, Philippines, Russian Federation, China, United Republic of Tanzania, Romania, Argentina, United States, France, United Kingdom, Algeria, Denmark, Benin and Greece.
The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 12 noon.
The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Bougainville, for which it was expected to hear a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Danilo Türk.
DANILO TÜRK, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, updated the Council on developments since the last briefing on the situation on 7 April. He was pleased to report on behalf of the Secretary-General that the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Papua New Guinea had been “fully implemented” and the parties had taken the most significant step in the Bougainville peace agreement. He proceeded to summarize the main developments since 7 April and he highlighted the challenges facing the Autonomous Bougainville Government, which had been inaugurated on 15 June.
Turning to weapons disposal, he said that the parties had been informed in May that the weapons disposal agreement had been implemented with the destruction of more than 2,000 arms. The Observer Mission had determined that a substantial level of compliance by the parties had been achieved and that, consequently, the security situation on the ground was conducive to the holding of elections as planned. Concerning the elections, the national Government of Papua New Guinea, in concurrence with the Bougainville leaders, had asked the United Nations to coordinate the work of the international electoral observers. The United Nations election coordination unit was set up in response. It provided extensive briefings to electoral observers prior to their deployment in Bougainville, and, in close cooperation with the United Nations Mission, it facilitated the movement by helicopter the observers to most of the constituencies throughout Bougainville.
In addition, he explained that the United Nations had also supported the airlifting of polling boxes, electoral officers and observers, thereby ensuring the elections’ timely and orderly conduct. International observers from Australia, Fiji, Japan, New Zealand and elsewhere, as well as representatives of the Commonwealth and Pacific Islands Forum Secretariats, had participated. Despite some minor reported incidents, all eligible voters had been given the opportunity to vote in a calm and peaceful environment, and the outcome had accurately reflected the will of the people of Bougainville. Sixty-two per cent of the whole electorate had convincingly selected the former President of the Bougainville People’s Congress, whose approach recognized human rights and focused on meeting the basic needs of the people at the grass-roots level.
On 14 June, the parties to the peace agreements convened a final meeting of the peace process consultative committee, which resolved that its objectives under the agreements had been achieved, he noted. They agreed to dissolve the committee and, in so doing, had expressed sincere appreciation for the United Nations Observer Mission in Bougainville (UNOMB). Following the establishment of the Autonomous Government, relations would now be managed through the permanent joint supervisory body. With that, the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Papua New Guinea national Government would deal with matters related to implementation of the peace agreement and the national constitution through already established procedures. Mechanisms were also in place to deal with any disagreements that might emerge. While it was up to the Autonomous Bougainville Government to plan its priorities, the Governments intended to work together to address future challenges.
He said that, following completion of the weapons disposal and the current implementation of the autonomous arrangements, there remained the third main pillar of the peace agreements –- the holding of a referendum on Bougainville’s status in another 10 to 15 years. Included in the referendum would be a choice of separate independence for Bougainville. The final decision on the outcome would be left to Papua New Guinea’s Parliament and subsequent consultations with the Bougainville Government. Mr. Türk also detailed the involvement of the wider United Nations system in the peacebuilding tasks, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The war in Bougainville had been little noticed, but brutal, he said. Some 15,000 people had lost their lives in the conflict of the 1980s and 1990s. The conflict had started over the use of natural resources, but it developed features seen in conflicts in many parts of the world, including a mixture of military and criminal objectives and the suffering of innocent people. The peace process began in 1997, and the peace agreement of 2001 finally offered an opportunity for healing. Reconciliation and restorative justice had been essential. For the United Nations, that process had been a learning experience and one which taught a great deal about post-conflict peacebuilding and the need to fully respect and incorporate local culture and traditions. The classical approach had been “breaking spears and mending hearts”, but now the United Nations system had developed additional elements. The foundations established so far gave reason to believe that the United Nations system, with the support of donor countries, would again be able to help.
KENZO OSHIMA (Japan) stressed that it had been through the efforts of the people of Bougainville and the Government of Papua New Guinea that a satisfactory outcome had been achieved. The Government of Japan paid tribute to them for their accomplishments and expressed its best wishes to the President and other elected officials, as they began to undertake future efforts for sustainable peace and the region’s economic development. Japan had been part of international and regional assistance in the form of a dispatch of monitors and the provision of necessary equipment through grant aid.
While the successful outcome of the elections marked a turning point in the peace process there, challenges remained, he said. First and foremost, the strengthening of law and order in the region was a top priority. Even after the inauguration of the Autonomous Government, the security situation continued to be fragile. If law and order were to be firmly established, international cooperation was required, such as for the improvement of the police force and the retrieval of uncollected weapons in the “No-Go Zone”.
Second, sustained economic development of Bougainville was critically important for the region, he stressed. The continued commitment of assistance by the international community would be required until such time that the economy became more self-sufficient. And such support should come not only from within the region, but also from the broader range of countries. Japan, through close consultation with the Papua New Guinea Government, would remain committed to continued support and economic and technical cooperation in areas where the needs were greatest, such as infrastructure, education and health.
Third, the promotion of reconciliation with those remaining in the No-Go Zone was equally important, he said. For the stability of Bougainville to be sustained, all the people in the region should employ the benefits of peace, and participation in the Autonomous Government should be inclusive. To that end, the Mekamui should respect the results of the elections and actively cooperate with the Government for the economic development of their region.
HENRIQUE VALLE (Brazil), joining previous speakers in welcoming the first general elections and wishing the best to the new elected authorities, said that winning the peace was quite often more difficult and challenging than winning a conflict. In the case of Bougainville, there were neither winners nor losers. The Autonomous Bougainville Government to be led by President Joseph Kabui inaugurated a new phase in the implementation of the peace agreement. Brazil recognized the essential role played by the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Bougainville leaders to solve their differences in a consistent and mutually acceptable manner.
He urged all those who had freely chosen not to participate in the electoral process to respect the outcome of the free and fair elections and invited all Bougainvilleans to join efforts to support the new elected Government in its peacebuilding initiatives. He also paid special tribute to other international partners to a peaceful resolution to the unfortunately bloody conflict, namely, the Commonwealth and the countries of the region, including members of the Pacific Islands Forum.
As recognized in the presidential statement adopted by the Security Council on 15 June, he said, the experiences of the United Nations Political Office in Bougainville (UNPOB) and the United Nations Observer Mission in Bougainville (UNOMB) constituted quite successful examples of how the constitution of United Nations political missions, although extremely small, but with clear mandates and benefiting from the acceptance of the local political actors, could provide an invaluable contribution to the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts, in an efficient and effective manner. Brazil called upon the international financial institutions, the donor community and the United Nations specialized agencies to assist the local actors and the Government of Papua New Guinea in the pursuit of their economic and social development goals, which were essential for a sustainable peace in the region.
LAURO L. BAJA (Philippines) said that Bougainville was an example of the key role played by the United Nations in encouraging and implementing the peace agreement forged by the conflicting parties. It had not been an easy road. From the time the United Nations was requested by the Government of Papua New Guinea to play a role in the peace process and the United Nations established the United Nations Political Office in Bougainville (UNPOB) in August 1998, the United Nations had been at the forefront of the peace and reconciliation process, acting as mediator to the parties to the conflict. It had supervised the weapons disposal programme, thereby contributing significantly to the stabilization of the security situation. That, in turn, had provided the climate conductive for the elections.
He noted that the United Nations had also contributed to the political aspect of the peace process by overseeing implementation of the constitutional process leading to the adoption of the Constitution of the Autonomous Government and elections preparations. The two successive United Nations missions, though small, had clearly demonstrated the critical contribution that a United Nations special political mission with a clear mandate could make to a regional conflict resolution. He commended the people of Bougainville and the Autonomous Bougainville Government for the successful conduct of the first general elections for President and House of Representatives, held from 20 May to 9 June. That had indeed been a milestone in the peace process and opened a new stage for further implementation of the peace agreement.
ANDREY DENISOV (Russian Federation) welcomed the efforts of the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Bougainvillean leaders for the timely implementation of their obligations. The Russian Federation also congratulated UNOMB and its predecessor, UNPOB, for their efforts.
He said the Autonomous Government needed assistance in providing long-term capacity-building, and it was to be hoped that the relevant specialized United Nations agencies, as well as other regional and international bodies, would help in that regard. The Russian Federation also offered best wishes for the future to Assistant Secretary-General Türk, who would be ending his tenure as Assistant Secretary-General.
ZHANG YISHAN (China) said he was pleased to note that over the last month the general elections of the President and the Autonomous Government and House of Representatives had been held successfully and the elected leaders and representatives had been sworn in smoothly. He congratulated the Autonomous Government and the people of Bougainville and expressed his appreciation for the unremitting efforts of the Government of Papua New Guinea to implement the peace agreement. Today’s meeting was the last in the Council to deliberate on the issue of Bougainville. He congratulated the Council for having successfully concluded its mission in the Bougainville peace process. He also congratulated the two United Nations missions, which, over the years, had done a great job, including by establishing credibility and trust among the parties to the peace process.
He said that those missions had also represented a model for small United Nations missions in handling regional conflicts. It had brought credit to the United Nations and shown a useful light on how to improve peacebuilding efforts in the year of reform. In the new historical phase, reconstruction would not be easy, given the challenging tasks facing the Autonomous Government. He sincerely hoped that the Government would live up to the expectations of its people and remain committed to political reconciliation and economic development. He urged the different political forces in Bougainville to respect the choices of the people and support the Autonomous Government in its work. He also called on the international community to remain interested in helping Bougainville to upgrade its governance and effectively improve the lives of its people.
AUGUSTINE MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) congratulated Joseph Kabui and the newly elected members of the Bougainville House of Representatives on their success in the elections, as well as the Government and people of Papua New Guinea for their understanding and cooperation that had enabled the elections for the presidency and the Bougainville legislature to proceed competently, transparently and peacefully, as certified by the international observer mission.
He expressed the hope that the newly inaugurated Bougainville Government would honour the commitments made during the elections to find ways to keep other leaders, including competing candidates, actively involved in contributing to the country’s common aspirations. In the same spirit, the new leadership should seek to form an inclusive government, drawing on the experience, commitment and abilities of other leaders.
Bougainville faced many future challenges, including the need to develop an administrative capacity and an economy capable of sustaining autonomy by providing the people with the opportunities for self-advancement and wider community prosperity. As the Autonomous Government took office, it was to be hoped that it would maintain close cooperation and understanding with the National Government to ensure that the agreed arrangements for Bougainville autonomy operated efficiently for their mutual interest and accommodation.
MIHNEA IOAN MOTOC (Romania) concurred that the successful elections and establishment of the new Autonomous Government allowed for a natural ending of the United Nations mission and the effective discharge of its mandate. He emphasized the need for ongoing international assistance at a meaningful level, including by United Nations agencies and programmes. Aid was still necessary for the rehabilitation and capacity-building efforts of the Bougainville authorities, with a view to consolidating the progress achieved so far.
He expressed his appreciation for all the efforts undertaken by the Government of Papua New Guinea, as well as the Bougainville parties, in the peace process. He also commended the role played by the countries of the region, as well as by the United Nations’ specialized agencies and the international donors, in supporting the peace process and turning Bougainville into a success story. Bougainville set a positive example for the possibility of success of United Nations peacekeeping missions at a time when the international community was debating the United Nations reform process, aiming to improve its effectiveness and relevance for protecting freedom and improving lives.
CESAR MAYORAL (Argentina) said that the latest developments in Bougainville were significant landmarks in the peace process and allowed the international community to move forward with the implementation of sustainable development. Argentina was grateful to countries of the region, as well as the donor community, for their important contributions. While the present stage of United Nations participation had been successfully concluded, Bougainville must now embark on a new phase of consolidation. The recent results achieved had added considerably to the past investment made by the international community. The people of Bougainville and the Government of Papua New Guinea should now embark on the task of consolidating the peace, as well as on economic and social development.
GERALD SCOTT (United States) said that the inauguration of the first Autonomous Government in Bougainville marked a milestone, after a decade of conflict. The international electoral monitoring team had reported no significant violence or intimidation during the elections of 31 May, despite the absence of foreign police or military support. To the credit of the people of Bougainville, the elections came off without undue disruption or fraud. The successful inauguration of the new Government was one of the last steps in the peace process. He congratulated the President-elect and members of the House of Representatives and wished them success in fulfilling the aspirations of the people of Bougainville.
He called on the elected representatives to respect the democratic outcome of the elections and to cooperate constructively with the legitimate new Government for a peaceful and prosperous future. At the same time, he commended the Government of Papua New Guinea for its commitment to the peace agreement’s full implementation. That would not have been possible without the support of the international community, especially the PacificIsland countries and Forum, as well as the Security Council’s engagement. The United Nations Political Office in Bougainville and its successor had also played key roles, deserving of the Council’s special thanks. Hopefully, years of hard work and conflict resolution would yield lasting peace in Bougainville.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France) commended the holding of the first elections in Bougainville, which were an expression of the will of its people, marking a historical turning point. France appreciated the contributions of countries of the region to the peace process, as well as the efforts of UNOMB, whose mandate had expired on 30 June. At the present stage, there was a need to ensure that there was good coordination between the efforts of United Nations specialized agencies, as well as international and regional players who would play an important role in peacebuilding and in promoting consolidation.
ROSMARY DAVIS (United Kingdom) said that the successor mission in Bougainville had been one of the smallest, but also one of the most successful. She also recognized the central role played by the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Bougainville parties, as well as that of neighbouring States and the Bougainville people, culminating in last month’s elections. While those had signalled the end of the political role of the United Nations in Bougainville, there remained a sizeable role for the international community in consolidating the gains and helping the Autonomous Government and people face up to the future challenges.
She said she looked forward to the sustained engagement and support of the United Nations system, neighbouring States and the donor community. Reconstruction and development should now be given a high priority. She also welcomed the President’s commitment to tackle the growing problem of HIV/AIDS, which, if not contained, had the ability to undermine Bougainville’s prosperity.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria) said that, since the signing of the peace agreement, the peace process had undergone considerable success. He welcomed the holding of the elections last month and the selection of President and members of the House of Representatives. He paid particular tribute to the political will and constructive attitude of the Government of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville leaders. It was now important for peace and stability to take hold and be maintained. He supported international efforts, particularly the important contributions of the countries of the region, the donor partners, and the United Nations system. He asked them to continue to assist post-conflict reconstruction. The international community must pursue its efforts to assist the people and Government of Bougainville to improve economic development and ensure stability. He congratulated all for the successful implementation of the peace agreement.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark) said her country was encouraged by the latest developments in the political process. The swearing in of the new Autonomous Government marked another milestone for the Bougainville peace process, and Denmark encouraged the new Government to continue on its way back towards peace and the rule of law. In addition, Denmark commended the constructive role played by Papua New Guinea.
She said Bougainville’s success would not be complete until its social and economic development was on the right track. Assistance was irreplaceable and would be a prerequisite for further progress. Without commitment, regional cooperation and the involvement of the United Nations, peace and development could not prevail.
JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU (Benin) said the United Nations had just made a clear and undisputed success with the steps taken to ensure ongoing mediation and in extracting a new and trusting relationship between the parties involved in the Bougainville peace process. Each phase had been marked by genuine challenges, and the process had succeeded because those challenges had been met, under the watchful eye of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and UNOMB.
He thanked the donors who had met their obligations, adding that the United Nations needed to draw lessons from the Bougainville peace process. However, the completion of the peace process had not met all the challenges, as the parties needed to ensure the viability of the new Autonomous Government and strengthen the regional autonomy regime so as to reduce its heavy dependence on subsidies from the central Government. Benin was confident that the new Government would best manage its relationship with those in the No-Go Zone, so that the collection of arms still in circulation there could be completed.
ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece), in his national capacity, thanked Mr. Türk for his final briefing on the work of UNOMB. Today’s meeting was intended to officially celebrate the successful completion of the Mission’s mandate on 30 June. He joined other speakers in paying tribute to its vital contribution to consolidating peace and democratic governance in the province. The road to peace and democracy had been long for the people of Bougainville. In their journey, however, they had had a most faithful and reliable ally: UNOMB, which had effectively chaired the peace process consultative committee, facilitated dialogue between the rival parties, and contributed to the successful conclusion of the weapons disposal plan and the destruction of some 2,000 weapons. He commended the members of UNOMB on their dedication to the cause of peace and their overall work, and wished the people of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea a prosperous and peaceful future.
ROSEMARY BANKS (New Zealand) said that since the signing of the Bougainville peace process in 1997, her country had welcomed the steps forward and urged the parties to address issues where progress had lagged. New Zealand had, on several occasions, encouraged Security Council members to approve extensions to the small United Nations political mission in Bougainville that had been on the ground since 1998. It was with pleasure, therefore, that New Zealand marked the end of the work of UNOMB. The successful and peaceful conduct of the elections meant that UNOMB could exit having discharged its mandate fully. Past and present members of the Security Council could feel vindicated that their decision to extend that mandate had indeed been the right one.
She expressed deep appreciation for the work of UNOMB, saying that even by United Nations standards Bougainville had been a difficult operating environment due to its remoteness. Nevertheless, the United Nations had succeeded in establishing a light and responsive presence, which had usefully complemented regional initiatives, including the New Zealand-led Truce Monitoring Group and its successor, the Australian-led Peace Monitoring Group. The United Nations Mission had been a good example of a successful, demand-driven United Nations action in the field, and New Zealand was particularly grateful for the contributions of United Nations staff both from the Department of Political Affairs and those who had served in Bougainville itself. Their commitment had been a major factor in the success of the United Nations Mission.
JOHN DAUTH (Australia) recalled that Bougainville had been one of the South Pacific’s longest-running and bloodiest conflicts. From 1989 to 1998, an estimated 10,000 to 18,000 people died as a result of the conflict, and of a population of approximately 200,000, up to 70,000 people had been displaced from their homes into care centres and camps. Establishment of the Autonomous Government last month, following successful elections, had been a momentous event in the process of establishing and consolidating peace in Bougainville. The UNOMB had been small, but it made a strong contribution to the peace process.
He recalled that, at the request of the signatories to the 2001 peace agreement –- and in partnership with the Australian-led Peace Monitoring Group -– the Mission had assisted in implementing a weapons disposal plan, which had significantly enhanced trust among the parties. The Mission had also been mandated to announce whether the security situation was conducive to holding the election. It made that announcement in May. The continuous presence of the United Nations in Bougainville for more than seven years had been an important source of reassurance and support. He congratulated the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Bougainville leaders. His country had been pleased to have worked alongside the United Nations and regional partners, and it remained strongly committed to efforts to ensure lasting peace and development in Bougainville, including by working with the agencies and programmes of the United Nations.
ROBERT AISI (Papua New Guinea) said today was a day for which people throughout Papua New Guinea and the international community had been working, hoping and praying: the day when UNPOB/UNOMB completed its assignment. Almost seven years after its establishment, that day had finally arrived. It was an occasion for celebration by everyone involved -- the people of Bougainville who had experienced both conflict and now peace; their fellow citizens around Papua New Guinea; as well as friends of the peace process at the United Nations and in Member States.
However, practical peacebuilding in Bougainville was obviously not yet complete, he pointed out. Peace and good governance required ongoing attention and effort if they were to be sustained and made part of a legacy to succeeding generations. But, so far at least, the peace process in the newly autonomous region was a success and would require continuing commitments to keep it that way. The United Nations could be truly proud of the role it had played on the ground, as could the Member States who had contributed truce and peace monitors at an earlier stage –- Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Vanuatu.
He said the peace process had been a people’s process at every stage -- from the truce reached almost eight years ago, through the entry into force of the permanent and irrevocable ceasefire, to the negotiation and signing of the Bougainville Peace Agreement in August 2001, to the making and adoption of the Bougainville Constitution just before last Christmas, weapons disposal and now the election of the Autonomous Government. It was also a source of its strength, as was the depth of the commitment that successive national governments had shown to the principle of working to secure lasting peace by peaceful means -- and doing so on a bipartisan, national basis.
The people at the grass-roots and the national leadership had been well matched, he said. Having experienced the losses, suffering and pains of a violent conflict, they had cooperated for the sake of peace. While there had been occasional setbacks and delays, there had been no turning back. The people’s involvement explained both the strength and the time the process had taken. In that regard, Papua New Guinea, on behalf of the all parties involved in the peace process, offered sincere thanks for the understanding and patience of its friends in the international community and for the willingness of the Security Council and the Secretary-General to agree to repeated extensions of UNPOB/UNOMB’s mandate.
He said that the national Government congratulated President Joseph Kabui, the Vice-President, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Bougainville House of Representatives, the newly appointed ministers and all other elected members. The Government was especially pleased to note that a senior minister and the Deputy Speaker were women. The election of a number of former combatants as constituency members was a further, positive sign that peace and normalcy were no longer just dreams. However, challenges remained, including developing an economy capable of sustaining autonomy; promoting the kinds of development that would provide opportunities for individuals and communities to help themselves; encouraging and facilitating ongoing reconciliation and mutual respect in the community; and ensuring good governance so that the first two objectives, as well as others, could be achieved.
Papua New Guinea was pleased, he said, to note the continuing presence of United Nations personnel on the ground, not as participants in a peace process, but as partners in building the capacity for a better future. Their presence helped to remove any doubt or uncertainty about whether the international community was still concerned and would continue to be involved after UNOMB had completed its mandated. It was for that reason that the appropriate bodies should consider retaining the Mission’s existing assets in Bougainville, and handing them on to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other arms of the Organization that would continue to operate in Bougainville. A continued United Nations presence in Arawa, in particular, would help provide assurance in the area where the Bougainville crisis had begun -- close to the area that Francis Ona and his supporters continued to regard as a No-Go Zone exclusive to themselves and those to whom they allowed entry and transit. The mention of Francis Ona and his supporters in the No-Go Zone around Panguna highlighted one of the areas in which the Bougainville peace process was not yet complete, even though UNOMB had come to an end.
Mr. VASSILAKIS (Greece), Council President, then expressed the Council’s thanks and appreciation to Assistant Secretary-General Türk for his cooperation and wished him the best in his future endeavours.
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