Recently PaCSIA and our local partners in Bougainville completed the Panguna Dialogue Project (PDP) that we conducted in 2015 and 2016. The project was very successful and achieved most of its objectives. The final activity of the project was the launch of the PDP story book and the PDP policy brief in Bougainville. Dr Serge Loode visited the island from 7-16 November to present policy recommendations to the Autonomous Bougainville Government and other stakeholders and to launch the book “Mipela mekim kamap pinis planti rekonsiliesen: stori kam long Panguna Dailog Projek” among the communities of Eivo-Torau, Ioro and Bolave.
The book describes the work carried out by the Panguna Dialogue Project (PDP) in the Central Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Over the last decade and a half, peacebuilding on Bougainville has come a long way. After the devastations of the crisis years in the 1990s, Bougainville peacebuilding is widely acknowledged as a success story all over the world. PDP created an alliance of peacebuilders at village level in the political constituencies of Eivo-Torau, Ioro and Bolave, the area where the Panguna mine is located.
The stories in the book were collected by the PDP team after facilitating community dialogues in Ioro, Bolave and Eivo-Torau in October 2015, March 2016, July 2016 and August 2016. They are stories of strength and stories of change from the communities that engaged with PDP. In addition to the communities that participated in the dialogues, the PDP team also met and shared stories with the Meekamui Government of Unity in Panguna . These stories are also included in the book.
The book was launched in two ceremonies, one in Manetai for the people of Eivo-Torau, and one in Siimalaka for the people of Ioro and Bolave. The book launches included joint prayer, speeches from James Tanis as ABG Secretary of Referendum, Veterans’ Affairs and Peace, speeches by the three local members of the House of Representatives who were also members of the PDP steering group, the Honourables Clarence Dency, Michael Lapolela and Dennis Lokonai, as well as remarks from the leaders of the Councils of Elders, women leaders, youth leaders, church leaders, Meekamui and ex-combatants. Each ceremony concluded with the reading of stories from the three constituencies, and finally community members and leaders were handed copies of the book. Communities responded enthusiastically and were proud that their stories were captured in the book and shared throughout Bougainville and internationally. Thanks to the generous support of the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby, PaCSIA was able to ship 900 copies of the book to Bougainville for wider distribution.
The book launches marked not only the end of PDP, but also the start of a much larger dialogue project led by the Department of Referendum, Veterans’ Affairs and Peace. As its Secretary, James Tanis, remarked, PDP has become a model of dialogical and constructive engagement within and between different communities in Bougainville that has the potential to reach beyond the Panguna area and to help the people of Bougainville prepare for a peaceful and sustainable referendum on the future political status of Bougainville in 2019. From January 2017, PaCSIA will work together with the ABG and groups of local Bougainvillean facilitators to conduct dialogues about the process of referendum, the hopes, expectations and fears that people in Bougainville harbor with regard to the referendum, and their visions for a peaceful and prosperous future after the referendum. The lessons learned from PDP, which are summarised in the PDP policy brief, will be utilised to develop culturally appropriate processes for the Bougainville Referendum Dialogues (BRD).
Dr Loode’s trip also included a meeting with Bishop Bernard Unabali of the Catholic Diocese of Bougainville, and Dr Loode presented him with copies of the PDP story book and the policy brief.
PDP was funded by Misereor e.V. in Germany, and the Bougainville Referendum Dialogues will also be funded by Misereor.