Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


Having successfully completed its mandate, it was “mission accomplished” for the United Nations Observer Mission in Bougainville (UNOMB), the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference today. 

The elements for the Mission’s success included its size and personnel, he continued.  At the height of the Mission, which had been established in 1998 and concluded in August this year, there had been six international staff.  Since 2004, there had been only four.  The Mission had also managed to establish trust and continuity in its activities -- trust within the Mission and between the Mission and the parties to the conflict. 

A third element in the Mission’s success, he said, was that the Mission had encouraged deliberate speed in the peace process.  The Mission’s good leadership and cost-effectiveness had also contributed to its success.  In specific terms, the Mission had been able to promote disarmament and weapons destruction.  It had also facilitated international observation of the electoral process. 

With the facilitation of the peace agreement between the parties, the Security Council’s mandate for the Mission had been fulfilled, he said.  As a result of its success, politically motivated violence had ended.  The Mission’s regional partners -- Australia and the Pacific Islands Forum -- were also pleased with the Mission’s outcome. 

Starting from scratch in a remote part of the world, the Office had worked to build trust with the parties, Tor Stenbock, the Head of the Observer Mission, said.  Indeed, building trust had been one of the Mission’s major issues.  The key to the Mission’s success had been its ability to bridge differences between the parties. 

With the signing of the Bougainville Peace Agreement in August 2001, the responsibility of the United Nations Office was to facilitate that agreement, he said.  The peace agreement included three main pillars, namely weapons’ disposal, the election of an autonomous government and a referendum on the future political status of the island. 

The Mission had facilitated the weapons-disposal plan, supervising the collection and destruction of some 2,000 weapons, he explained.  In the lead-up to the elections, the Office had pushed the parties to meet deadlines for the drafting of a home-grown Bougainville constitution.  It had also facilitated the holding of elections.  The United Nations had contributed vastly to the elections by providing helicopter support and coordinating the international observation team, which concluded that the elections had been free and fair, reflecting the true will of the people of Bougainville.

Responding to a question, he said the Mission provided an example of a mission small enough to be effective and accomplish its mandate.  Small political missions, like the one in Bougainville, “had the right to life”.  Changing with the conditions on the ground, the UNOMB also provided an example of flexibility. 

Also responding to the question, Mr. Gambari said the clarity of the Security Council’s mandate, namely to facilitate the implementation of the peace agreement between the parties, had contributed to its success.  Another “lesson learned” was the need for constant encouragement and consultations with regional partners. 

Now that he was leaving, how confident was Mr. Stenbock that the peace agreement would hold? a correspondent asked.

Responding, he said he was confident that it would hold.  While it would be difficult for Bougainville to establish a viable economy, both the National Government of Papua New Guinea and the Bougainville parties were committed to the agreement.  Some 10 per cent of the total population had been killed as a result of the dispute there.  The attitude now was “enough is enough”, he said.

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For information media • not an official record