On 1 January 2019 our new project in Bougainville, the Bougainville Transition Dialogues (BTD), commenced. The Bougainville Transition Dialogues are a continuation of the Bougainville Referendum Dialogues (BRD) and aim to assist with the next step in Bougainville’s ongoing peacebuilding process and to encourage constructive and informed discussions among Bougainvilleans to quell some of their fears and to ensure a peaceful transition. After the outcome of the referendum is announced a transition period in the relationship between Bougainville and PNG will start, and Bougainvilleans will have to negotiate their future relationship with the government of PNG. The project aims to inform people at the grassroots about the progress of these negotiations and to allow them to make their voices heard. The aim of the project (like the last project – the BRD) is not to encourage a particular referendum outcome. The decision on the future political status of Bougainville is only for Bougainvilleans themselves to make. The aim of the project is to provide a space for Bougainvilleans to participate in peaceful dialogue about their political future. Through this, the project seeks to prevent old conflicts from breaking out again and to support Bougainville’s leaders in building a more developed, peaceful and sustainable Bougainville together with, and according to the vision of the people of Bougainville.
The core activities of the project are the ongoing transition community dialogues. Facilitator teams deliver two rounds of dialogues in each of the 33 constituencies, one round per years starting in February 2019. On average they conduct between 6 and 15 dialogues in each constituency, often one in each local ward. Facilitators document each dialogue with a report and also provide a participant list to document the number of people reached and the percentage of women and men who participate. Transition community dialogues are facilitated by local Bougainvillean facilitators and are mostly held in Tok Pisin (lingua franca of PNG/Bougainville) and Tok Ples (local language of the area). On average about 30-40 people from different village assemblies in the local area participate in a community dialogue. The dialogues are led by facilitators from the particular area who speak the Tok Ples of the communities involved.
The Bougainville Transition Dialogues are a partnership between the Bougainville Christian Churches Association (BCCA), the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), the BTD Facilitator Team and PaCSIA. They are funded by Misereor e.V., the development agency of the Catholic Bishops Conference in Germany and the United Nations Development Programme through the UN Peacebuilding Fund for Bougainville. BTD facilitators receive the information shared with communities from the Bougainville Referendum Commission, the ABG and the GoPNG. All information shared is approved by these organisations. The aim of the project is not to replicate the awareness for the upcoming referendum but to engage communities in discussion about the peaceful future of Bougainville and to allow participants from all backgrounds to express their views, ask questions and voice concerns and hopes. The project runs from 2019 to the end of 2020.