While the peace process in Bougainville is stronger than ever, it still needs nurturing, the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report issued today on progress made by the United Nations mission to the island in Papua New Guinea.
Mr. Annan's report to the Security Council reviews the activities of the UN Political Office in Bougainville (UNPOB) since last November. Bougainville fought a 10-year war of independence against the archipelago before a ceasefire was brokered in 1998. The election of an autonomous government is expected to take place before the end of the year.
The report specifically discusses the remaining challenges and benchmarks to be achieved by the parties to the Bougainville Peace Agreement signed in August 2001. The Agreement has three elements: autonomy, a referendum and a weapons disposal plan. Mr. Annan also addresses the exit strategy of the UNPOB upon completion of its mission at the end of the year.
"The peace process is undoubtedly stronger than it has ever been before, but it still needs nurturing," states Mr. Annan. "With the Office's bridge-building, brokering and facilitating role, they have significantly advanced the process of change that has been under way since the Agreement was signed."
Mr. Annan says that "the divisions, suspicions and mistrust created by the war," compounded the complexity of Bougainville, a small society with a great diversity of clans and language groups.
"Their leaders have a unity of purpose and action, although that has not yet permeated the whole society, which still bears the deep scars of war," he says, adding that it is not difficult to understand this slow pace of change given "the extremely low level of the island's development".
In order to solidify peace in Bougainville, the Secretary-General is appealing to the donor community to continue its giving assistance to the island following the expected departure of UNPOB.