31 March 2003
Security Council Told Peace Agreement Between Papua New Guinea, Bougainville Can Be Fully Implemented by Year's End, Despite Serious Obstacles
NEW YORK, 28 March (UN Headquarters) -- After living through a decade of suffering and destruction, the people of Bougainville were working diligently to achieve a brighter future, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Danilo Türk told the Security Council this morning, during an open meeting on the status of the peace process there.
The Government of Papua New Guinea and the Bougainville parties are in the process of implementing a peace agreement signed in January 1998, which would eventually lead to the formation of an autonomous government on the island of Bougainville.
Continuing, Mr. Türk said that despite the serious obstacles that remained, the Bougainville Peace Agreement could be fully implemented before the end of the year, allowing the United Nations Political Office there to withdraw on schedule. In the months ahead, the support of the international community and regional countries would be more critical than ever.
A major obstacle to the successful conclusion of the peace process, he stated, was the resistance of Francis Ona and his Me'ekamui Defence Force (MDF) to join weapons collection. Unfortunately, he continued to resist appeals by the Government, the Governor of Bougainville, the faction leaders and the United Nations to enter into dialogue. As long as he maintained that posture, a significant obstacle to the completion of weapons collection would remain in place throughout the island.
The representative of Papua New Guinea said that those who continued to be reluctant in the weapons collection process had generally respected the peace process as it had moved from initial truce to the permanent and irrevocable ceasefire, the conclusion of the Bougainville Peace Agreement and implementation of that agreement.
The Bougainville peace process owed much, he said, to the initiative and continuing active support of the people of Bougainville -- leaders, communities, especially women, and ex-combatants who had chosen the path of peace. The initiative and the prospects for implementing the agreed weapons disposal plan depended on leaders, community pressure and, above all, the commitment and cooperation of ex-combatants holding guns.
New Zealand's representative stressed the need to verify that the former combatants had substantially complied with the requirement to surrender their weapons before Bougainville could progress to the next phase of the peace process. There was currently some concern on the part of the United Nations Political Office in Bougainville (UNPOB) that not all weapons would be contained, and the United Nations representative was reluctant to certify "substantial compliance". While he understood that concern, he added that it was unrealistic to expect that every weapon on Bougainville would be removed from the community.
Speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, Fiji's representative said that peace process in Bougainville had now entered its closing stage, which was also a potentially dangerous stage. Care must be taken to ensure that momentum built up was not dissipated, that the hopes of the people of both sides for peace were not disappointed, and that development and re-establishment of a normal life for Bougainville was not delayed. A clear and practical programme was needed to enable all who were involved to finish stages II and III weapons disposal, and move on to reap the full benefits of peace.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Chile, Cameroon, Bulgaria, China, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Syria, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Pakistan, France, United States, Angola, Guinea, Japan and Australia.
The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 12:16 p.m.
The Security Council met this morning to discuss Bougainville.
Following a decade of armed conflict over the issue of independence of the island of Bougainville, the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Bougainville leaders signed, on 23 January 1998, the Lincoln Agreement on Peace, Security and Development of Bougainville. The Agreement established a framework for a peace process, providing for a permanent ceasefire. The main parties involved in the Bougainville peace process are the National Papua New Guinea Government, the Bougainville provincial administration headed by the governor, the Bougainville People's Congress, the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, and the Bougainville Resistance Force.
On 30 April 1998, the parties to the conflict signed the Arawa Agreement Covering Implementation of the Ceasefire. The regional Truce Monitoring Team composed of monitors from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu was transformed into a Peace Monitoring Group. On 30 August 2001, the parties signed the Bougainville Peace Agreement and requested the United Nations and the Peace Monitoring Group to provide assistance in its implementation.
The Lincoln and Arawa Agreements, which were endorsed by the Security Council, also called for the presence of a small United Nations observer mission. The United Nations Political Office in Bougainville (UNPOB) became operational on 1 August 1998. Its mandate included the following: to work in conjunction with the Peace Monitoring Group, to monitor and report on the implementation of the Agreements, to chair the Peace Process Consultative Committee, to develop plans for the disposal of weapons, to promote public awareness and understanding of the peace process, as well as to assist in other areas as agreed by the parties to the Agreements.
The expanded mandate of UNPOB, endorsed by the Council on 31 October 2001, provided, among other things, for the Office to chair the Subcommittee on Weapons Disposal, verify the collection and storage of weapons, hold one of the keys for the dual-locking systems in the containers, and certify substantial compliance by the parties in the handing in of weapons, thereby making it conducive to the holding of the first election for an autonomous Bougainville Government. Its current mandate expires at the end of December 2003.
Before the Council is a letter dated 31 March 1998 from the Chargé d'affaires of Papua New Guinea to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/1998/287). It contains the Lincoln Agreement on Peace, Security and Development on Bougainville and the Burnham Truce.
The Secretary-General's 20 March report on UNPOB (document S/2003/345) was also before the Council. The report reviews the activities of UNPOB since the last briefing in the Council on 21 November 2002, the remaining challenges and benchmarks to be achieved by the parties to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, and the exit strategy of the Office.
According to the report, it had not been possible for Bougainville ex-combatants to meet the 24 December target for completing stage II of the weapons disposal plan. Efforts have been intensified to complete this stage. On 17 February, an Action Plan for the Completion of Weapons Collection was adopted. The Plan focuses on the specific challenges to weapons collection in each district, identifies the actions that need to be taken to overcome them and the individuals who should be made responsible for taking those actions, and sets target dates for their completion.
At the end of February, 80.2 per cent of Bougainville had reached stage II, and two districts had fully completed the process of disarmament. Of the total number of collected weapons, 7.4 per cent have been destroyed in advance of the formal launch of stage III. A major obstacle to the achievement of reasonably complete weapons disposal in Bougainville is the non-involvement of Francis Ona and his Me'ekamui Defence Force (MDF) in the peace process. The UNPOB is seeking to identify ways of facilitating and expediting the completion of weapons collection at stage II in the shortest possible time.
The development of the new Bougainville Constitution is a central part of the implementation of the Peace Agreement. After its establishment in September 2002, the Bougainville Constitutional Commission began a process of consulting the people, developing recommendations and considering successive versions of the draft of the constitution. The draft constitution could be finalized by the end of April and submitted for adoption by a Constituent Assembly of Bougainville. The Constituent Assembly cannot be established, however, until the completion of stage II of weapons disposal has been verified. Assuming that the required certification can be made by UNPOB by the time the work on the constitution is complete, the Bougainville Constitutional Commission expects that elections could be held before the end of 2003.
At the beginning of 2003, the Peace Monitoring Group informed the parties to the Peace Agreement of its intention to cease all operations on the island on 30 June, and to withdraw thereafter. The UNPOB is striving to ensure that, by the time the Group withdraws, weapons disposal will be so far advanced that it will no longer need this level of monitoring group support. At this time, however, it seems unlikely that the process will be completed by 30 June.
As the end of the United Nations political mandate in Bougainville approaches, UNPOB is looking to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other United Nations agencies to take the lead in promoting activities on the island that could facilitate the reintegration and rehabilitation of former combatants and, more generally, the restoration of community services and infrastructure. The UNDP programme in Bougainville is in a transition phase, and UNPOB is holding consultations with the UNDP aimed at ensuring that its valuable contribution to post-conflict peace-building, including the improvement of governance on the island, is sustained.
The peace process is undoubtedly stronger than it has ever been before, but it still needs nurturing. In order to solidify peace in Bougainville, the Secretary-General appeals to the donor community to continue its valuable assistance to the island following the expected departure of the Office at the end of 2003.
DANILO TÜRK, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, provided an update on recent developments to assist the Council in its discussion of the Secretary-General's report. The UNPOB had continued to focus on the implementation of the Plan of Action for the Completion of Weapons Collection, adopted on 17 February. The Action Plan was the result of serious consideration by the parties of the challenges to weapons collection in each district and the actions that needed to be taken to overcome them. The implementation seemed to be proceeding well. Additional weapons had been retrieved and three new containments at stage II had taken place.
Within the framework of the Plan, direct contacts had been initiated with the persons responsible for the previous break-ins into the containers. As a result, he expected that weapons removed from one of the containers would soon be returned. Altogether, there were 22 containers on the island. The resistance of Francis Ona and his Me'ekamui Defence Force (MDF) to join weapons collection represented a major obstacle to the successful conclusion of the peace process. Unfortunately, he continued to resist appeals by the Government, the Governor of Bougainville, the faction leaders and UNPOB to enter into dialogue. As long as he maintained that posture, a significant obstacle to the completion of weapons collection would remain in place throughout the island.
He was encouraged by the work done so far by the Bougainville Constitutional Commission, which on 1 February released for island-wide consultation an official draft of the Bougainville Constitution. A second draft would soon be prepared and reviewed by the Papua New Guinea Government and Bougainville. Provided the Commission was able to complete the required internal consultations, the draft could be finalized by the end of April and submitted for adoption by a Constituent Assembly of Bougainville. However, the Assembly could not be established until stage II of weapons disposal had been verified as having been completed. Assuming that the required certification could be made by UNPOB by the time the work on the constitution was complete, the Commission expected that elections could be held before the end of 2003.
To enhance security and facilitate the constitutional process, the Papua New Guinea Government and the Bougainville parties had signed a memorandum of understanding that established a mechanism for consultation between them on all aspects of the autonomy arrangements. The functioning of that mechanism, along with the introduction, as early as possible, of a weapons regulation and control regime would significantly contribute to the achievement of that level of security and confidence.
Given the announced withdrawal of the Peace Monitoring Group from Bougainville by 30 June, he expressed his deep appreciation to the contributing countries of the Group -- Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu -- for their essential role in the peace process. The Group had played a crucial role in facilitating the talks that led to the signing of the peace process. He hoped that by the end of June, when the Group was expected to leave the island, most of the weapons collection process would have been completed. However, he could not be certain at this point that that would be the case.
Therefore, it would be helpful if, prior to the Group's withdrawal, the parties to the Agreement reviewed the progress of weapons disposal and, if necessary, considered the feasibility of establishing some stand-by arrangement that could continue providing technical and logistical support to UNPOB to enable it to fulfil its mandate and start withdrawing by the end of 2003.
After living through a decade of suffering and destruction, the people of Bougainville were working diligently to achieve a brighter future, he said. That yearning for peace provided confidence that despite the serious obstacles that remained and existence of potential spoilers like Francis Ona, the Bougainville Peace Agreement could be fully implemented before the end of the year, allowing UNPOB to withdraw, as requested by the Council. The UNPOB would spare no effort to ensure that its mandate was completed on time. In the critical months ahead, the support of the international community and of the regional countries that had participated in the Peace Monitoring Group would be more critical than ever.
As the formal peace process drew to an end, it would be particularly important to demonstrate to the people of Bougainville that peace would bring rewards in the form of concrete assistance to rebuild the island and facilitate the reintegration of the former combatants into society. Progress in those areas would help to ensure that peace was being built on firm foundations.
JUAN GABRIEL VALDES (Chile) welcomed the progress made by UNPOB in the second phase of the plan to dispose of weapons under which more than 80 per cent of weapons had been destroyed, and urged all parties involved to continue their active cooperation with a view to bringing the process to a successful conclusion.
He said the increased cooperation between Papua New Guinea and Bougainville and the spirit of commitment and trust between them was demonstrated by the signing last February of a memorandum of understanding that had established the mechanism for consultations on all aspects of the granting of autonomy. In that regard, Chile welcomed Papua New Guinea's decision to withdraw its defence force from the island.
While he commended the Peace Monitoring Group's work in providing ongoing support for the peace process in Bougainville and whose withdrawal was planned for next June, he said Chile shared the concern of UNPOB on the need to assess developments in the weapons disposal process. In order for peace to be sustainable over time, it was necessary to establish an efficient administration and viable economy, he added.
IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) said the key to the Bougainville peace process was the collection of weapons and reintegration of former combatants. Drafting a new constitution would also be a fundamental milestone in implementing the peace agreement. However, the essential prerequisite for the Constituent Assembly depended on the genuine elimination of weapons. To be truly effective, that process should enjoy full participation from all parties, and he regretted the non-participation of Francis Ona. He appealed to Mr. Ona to give peace a chance by participating in the present process.
Just as collecting the weapons was vital, reintegrating combatants was also a priority within the peace process. He welcomed every contribution that had been made to that end. He hoped parties would take measures to ensure that work continued in the future, after UNPOB had withdrawn. To consolidate the peace process, donor commitment must not cease at that time, but maintained or even enhanced.
STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria) welcomed the Plan of Action for Weapons Collection and the progress made so far in its implementation, which was the basis for the holding of elections and the adoption of the constitution. He also welcomed the preparedness of the Papua New Guinea Government to settle the dispute through peaceful means and implement the Peace Agreement. He was gratified by the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Government and the Bougainville parties. He supported the efforts of UNPOB to involve the UNDP and other agencies in the post-conflict rehabilitation period.
ZHANG YISHAN (China) recalled that last November the Council had finally reached agreement on the extension of the mandate of UNPOB. At present, with the cooperation of the parties, the peace process was proceeding. For various reasons, the weapons collection process was not proceeding on schedule. That had an important bearing on the peace process. He welcomed the Plan of Action and urged the parties to take the necessary action to implement it. The Peace Monitoring Group had played an important role in assisting UNPOB to fulfil its mandate. He supported the Office, which, for a long time, had carried out fruitful work.
HANNS SCHUMACHER (Germany) said that the positive overall assessment of the Bougainville peace process should not be impaired by a recent shootout that had killed an MDF combatant. Development of the island's constitution was central to peace agreement, and the holding of free elections should follow full disarmament. However, elections could not go ahead until stage II of the weapons disposal process had been completed. Efforts should be focused on the verification of stage II immediately and on contingency plans, should that not be completed on time.
The peace process was stronger than ever before, he said, but the international community should give its continued support to solidify and consolidate it, even after the departure of UNPOB at the end of 2003.
Ms. GARCIA GUERRA (Mexico) said the Secretary-General's report contained optimistic information about the peace process in Bougainville. It was encouraging that a plan of action had been adopted for arms collection at the meeting on 17 February. Her country, however, was concerned that the Peace Monitoring Group would be leaving Bougainville and of the possible consequences of that on the peace process.
Progress accomplished in drafting the new constitution showed unequivocally the determination of the people of Bougainville to achieve peace, she said. Cooperation with the authorities of Papua New Guinea was absolutely essential , and she was pleased that the Memorandum of Understanding had been signed. It would establish a mechanism of consultation on all aspects of the peace agreement.
PABLO SANZ (Spain) said that disarmament remained key to the successful completion of the peace process. He appealed to Francis Ona and his followers to participate in the weapons collection process and in the path towards autonomy. He hoped the draft constitution would be presented to the Constituent Assembly within the deadline, and elections would be held on time. He also welcomed the Memorandum of Understanding on the implementation of all aspects of the autonomy agreement. He valued the contribution of the Peace Monitoring Group and supported UNPOB's consideration of finding a substitute for the Group. As progress was being achieved in the peace process, he emphasized the need to focus on the demobilization and reintegration of former combatants and the rebuilding of infrastructure.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said that the implementation of stage II of the Plan of Action for weapons collection and delay therein was a source of concern. Despite reports of efforts to achieve that stage, Francis Ona and the MDF had not participated in the peace process. He hoped that the appeals and efforts made in that regard would convince him to join the process. Also, he hoped to get a clear commitment that no action would be taken to obstruct the peace agreement.
He was optimistic regarding the preparation of the draft constitution. He hoped the second draft would be discussed soon. He agreed with the report that no Constituent Assembly could be established before verifying the completion of stage II of the weapons disposal. He had hoped that the report would have had more details on the exit strategy and the completion of the mandate of the UNPOB. He thanked the Peace Monitoring Group and regional donors for supporting the peace process. He encouraged them to continue providing assistance in the future.
ALISTAR HARRISON (United Kingdom) said he was pleased that an action plan for the completion of weapons collection was being taken forward, and that progress was being monitored. He hoped there would be speedy progress. Timely completion of stage II in the weapons collections process was vital to ensure the entry into force of constitutional amendments before the UNPOB mandate ended. He supported the engagement of all parties to the Bougainville Peace Agreement in pressing to involve Francis Ona and his MDF in the peace process, but that should not be allowed to delay speedy progress to phase III of the weapons disposal programme.
He was disappointed to learn that weapons disposal was unlikely to be completed by the end of June, when the Peace Monitoring Group would cease operations in Bougainville. He would be interested to know what UNPOB had in mind, as an alternative to the Peace Monitoring Group after their withdrawal, as no provision for additional resources had been made.
VADIM SMIRNOV (Russian Federation) welcomed the commitment of the Papua New Guinea Government and the Bougainville parties to the peace process. Having approved the continuation of the mandate of UNPOB, the Council had proceeded from the need to maintain the positive momentum of the peace process on the island. He agreed with the concern expressed about continuing problems associated with weapons collection, and welcomed the adoption of the Plan of Action in that regard. The assistance being given to the parties by UNPOB and the Peace Monitoring Group deserved continued support. He expressed gratitude to the countries in the region for their assistance.
He hoped that agreement on the draft constitution would be completed as soon as possible. He welcomed the Memorandum of Understanding establishing the machinery for consultation on all aspects of the autonomy arrangements. He agreed with the need for assistance on the part of the UNDP and other agencies in the post-conflict rehabilitation period, particularly with regard to the reintegration of ex-combatants and the rebuilding of infrastructure.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said that the courageous decision of the Government of Papua New Guinea to follow the path of peace and its strong commitment to the peace process deserved special praise. He supported UNPOB's mandate to complete the verification of stage II of the weapons disposal plan. That was an important prerequisite for the subsequent holding of elections of an autonomous government in Bougainville.
He agreed with the report that the peace process, while stronger than ever before, still needed nurturing. Those groups that continued to remain outside the peace process must be encouraged to join it. Peace was the only solution and that process, painstaking though it was, still remained its best guarantor. He hoped the international community, including the United Nations, would remain engaged, even beyond the expiry of UNPOB's mandate, to facilitate the peace process in achieving its goals through peaceful means and to help all the parties fulfil their obligations.
The UNPOB's mandate was crucial for building peace, as well as trust in that territory, he said. He hoped that UNPOB would be allowed sufficient time and resources to complete that task. He also hoped the withdrawal of the Peace Monitoring Group after 30 June would not adversely affect the work of UNPOB in the implementation of its mandate. Lastly, he hoped that the role of the United Nations in Bougainville would not end with the expiry of UNPOB's mandate and the United Nations would continue to work there and to stay the course in facilitating the full implementation of the peace process.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France) noted that the success of stage II weapons disposal in Bougainville would determine holding of a constituent assembly. The draft constitution in its amended form should be ready in a matter of days. The completed constitution would be a major accomplishment, opening the way for elections by the end of 2003. However, he had some concerns, particularly the fact that Francis Ona was not participating in the peace process. The UNPOB would close at the end of the year, and an effort must be made to determine how United Nations agencies and the donor community could take over. Bougainville would need broad support to stay on the path of sustainable development, which would be the best way to maintain peace.
RICHARD WILLIAMSON (United States) welcomed progress made towards concluding stage II of the weapons disposal process. The UNPOB was to be commended for its role in that achievement, as were all of the factions in Bougainville involved in the peace process. He noted that the report raised concerns about the renegade group led by Francis Ona and his decision to remain outside the peace process, but questioned the severity of that threat. Mr. Ona had remained outside the peace process for five years, and it seemed too unrealistic to expect that to change.
The completion of a draft constitution was clear evidence that the people were eager for peace, he continued. One small band should not be allowed to hold the entire peace process hostage. He believed the focus must be on driving the process forward, not on lowering expectations. All must remember that the clock was moving and the Peace Monitoring Group was leaving in June, UNPOB would leave in December, and progress was too vital to be further delayed.
ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) welcomed the assessment made by the report on the progress achieved so far in the peace process and the work done towards the drafting of the constitution. It was important that the people of Bougainville had been consulted on the future of the territory, a fundamental step towards democracy. Implementation of the Plan of Action was also an important step to achieve stability in the region, concluding the peace process and holding the elections planned for later in the year.
He welcomed, in particular, the efforts of the Government of Papua New Guinea in implementing the Peace Agreement. He stressed the role of UNPOB in the peace process. That Office should continue to play the pivotal role it had so far until the end of its mandate. He recalled with appreciation the valuable and sustained support given by regional donors to facilitate the implementation of the Plan of Action for weapons disposal.
Council President MAMADY TRAORE (Guinea), speaking in his national capacity, said that the latest developments in the implementation of the Peace Agreement were worthy of the Council's full attention. He especially welcomed the significant progress achieved in the implementation of stage II in the Plan of Action. That should be consolidated in order to foster the entry into force of the next stage. It was essential for Bougainville parties still outside the peace process to return to the table. The reintegration of ex-combatants was also crucial. He hoped elections would be held by end of 2003.
He welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding. The decision of the national Government to withdraw its forces on 26 March would also contribute to confidence building. Such political achievements could also contribute to economic growth. He appealed to the donor community to further mobilize for the economic development of the island. He also encouraged all parties to show the necessary determination to conclude on schedule the stages leading to autonomy.
ROBERT AISI (Papua New Guinea) said those who continued to be reluctant in the weapons collection process had generally respected the peace process, as it had moved from initial truce to the permanent and irrevocable ceasefire, the conclusion of the Bougainville Peace Agreement and implementation of that agreement. The peace process was a national priority for Papua New Guinea. The arrangements in the Peace Agreement for autonomy and the guarantee of a referendum were not part of the Papua New Guinea Constitution. Those arrangements were directly linked to weapons disposal by a constitutional provision, which could be unique in the world. The provision ensured that the autonomy and referendum arrangement swung into operation when UNPOB verified, certified and then notified the Government of Papua New Guinea that stage II of the weapons disposal process had been achieved.
The Bougainville peace process owed much to the initiative and continuing active support of the people of Bougainville -- leaders, communities, especially women, and ex-combatants who had chosen the path of peace. The initiative and the prospects for implementing the agreed weapons disposal plan depended on leaders, community pressure and, above all, the commitment and cooperation of ex-combatants holding guns. With the active cooperation of ex-combatants, the break-ins and removal of weapons from containers that had caused so much concern late last year appeared to have ended. In cooperation with the police, the Government was providing financial and other support for their efforts to provide security.
Following from the Bougainville Peace Agreement, a constitutional commission had been established, held wide public consultations, and prepared a second draft of the proposed constitution, which was to be presented to the Government for consideration this week. The Government had appointed a high-level bipartisan national committee to advisee on its response to the Bougainville Constitutional Commission's proposals. The committee includes five senior ministers, as well as two opposition members of Parliament. The committee is expected to travel to Bougainville next week.
DON MACKAY (New Zealand) said UNPOB needed to verify that the former combatants had substantially complied with the requirement to surrender their weapons before Bougainville could progress to the next phase of the peace process. There was currently some concern on the part of UNPOB that not all weapons would be contained, and the United Nations Representative was reluctant to certify "substantial compliance". The UNPOB was also concerned that the "Me'ekamui" faction leader, Francis Ona, had remained outside the peace process and had the potential to disrupt its progress, especially once the Peace Monitoring Group had departed after 30 June.
New Zealand understood that concern, he said, but it was unrealistic to expect that every weapon on Bougainville would be removed from the community. Furthermore, since Francis Ona had not been party to the peace process, he should not be allowed effectively to veto the whole process, frustrating the aspirations of the vast majority of Bougainvilleans when the process was so close to completion. New Zealand welcomed efforts to engage with Francis Ona, but the process must move on without him if he would not participate constructively.
The UNPOB had indicated that it intended to certify "substantial compliance" on the basis of affirmation from the village and district communities on Bougainville that they were satisfied that weapons in their areas had been contained, he continued. New Zealand would accept that criterion for verification and accept a judgement on verification by UNPOB on that basis. It was important that UNPOB formally declare that criterion without further delay and move quickly to certify that the former combatants were in "substantial compliance" regarding stage II of weapons disposal, as set out in the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
Once UNPOB had certified that stage II of weapons disposal was complete, it was vital that stage III, a decision on the final fate of the weapons, be made without further delay, he said. His country strongly believed that all weapons should be destroyed, so that the people of Bougainville could be assured that their safety and security would not be compromised by the return of weapons into the hands of those with criminal intent.
KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said that because the peace and stability of the Pacific region, including Bougainville, were of profound interest to Japan, his country had undertaken several efforts to promote peace-building there. Those included the provision of several four-wheel drive vehicles for the promotion of peace activities to improve access to rural areas for those engaged in the weapons disposal project, and the financing last year of a United Nations fact-finding mission in connection with the project.
Also, Japan convened the Pacific Island Countries Regional Seminar on Small Arms last January to share expertise on the subject among countries of the region. The country was also contributing to long-term social stability by extending assistance to expand the College of Distance Education in Bougainville in order to provide access to education to as many Bougainvillian youth as possible. He said that it was now important to accelerate the efforts in stage II of the weapons disposal plans and ensure that there was a prompt transition to the political process.
JOHN DAUTH (Australia) said Australia had been a consistent supporter of the peace process in the last five years through its leadership of the four-country regional Peace Monitoring Group. The Group had supported the UNPOB, particularly in implementing the agreed weapons disposal plan. Most recently, Australia had agreed to fund the withdrawal of the final Papua New Guinea Defence Force elements from the province -- a key provision of the Peace Agreement. Since the Bougainville Peace Agreement was signed in August 2001, much progress had been made towards weapons disposal and autonomy. He welcomed the unanimous Papua New Guinea parliamentary vote for the provisions of the Agreement, and recent moves by all parties to engage with those who remained outside the peace process.
In recent weeks, the constitutional drafting and weapons disposal processes had drawn closer to concluding, with the parties agreeing to establish an interim joint supervisory body, he said. It was essential that all parties push towards the finish line. While the recent unfortunate shooting incident near Morgans Junction was a reminder that tensions remained, there was no indication that the incident reflected any efforts to undermine the peace process. Such incidents must not be allowed to derail the process.
Weapons disposal remained the key issue, he said. Australia welcomed Director Sinclair's recent trial of stage II verification in Siwai district. Time was fast running out and prompt completion of stage II verification was needed. Every effort should be made to ensure that a decision on the final fate of the weapons, stage III of the agreed weapons disposal plan, was soon reached and that there was a credible process in place to ensure weapons were permanently removed from circulation. It was essential that those decisions be made before 30 June, when Australia's participation in the Peace Monitoring Group would close.
The majority of people on Bougainville wanted to have their effective containment of weapons formally recognized, he continued. That must also be the international community's objective. Firm timelines and benchmarks should be set. All parties must redouble their efforts to conclude both stage II and stage III of the weapons disposal process. Without verification of stage II, the draft constitution could not come into being. The Peace Agreement required that UNPOB verify that weapons registered as collected were in secure, double-locked containers. He urged Director Sinclair not to allow the issues of long-term security of weapons to distract the parties from achieving the more limited goals of stage II verification process. Australia would remain engaged in Bougainville beyond the Peace Monitoring Group. Its focus would be on supporting economic development, service delivery and on the establishment and functioning of the administration and autonomous government on Bougainville.
ISIKIA SAVUA (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, said the peace process in Bougainville had now entered its closing stage. That was also, however, a potentially dangerous stage. Care must be taken to ensure that momentum built up was not dissipated, that the hopes of the people of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville for peace were not disappointed, and that development and re-establishment of a normal life for Bougainville was not delayed.
What was needed from the United Nations Secretariat was also what the Council had asked for in December -- a clear and practical programme to enable all who were involved to finish stages II and III weapons disposal, and move on to reap the full benefits of peace. In extending the mandate to December 2003, the Council also threw down the challenge to the parties to set realistic objectives, which they would achieve with continuing support of the international community.
With the benefit of such a programme, all involved could be confident that the peace process could conclude successfully this year, not least because the parties were determined and committed. The Peace Monitoring Group, having been in Bougainville for five years, would remain for three more months. The UNPOB must use that time wisely.
Mr. TÜRK thanked speakers who had expressed support for UNPOB and the efforts of Special Representative Sinclair. He was also pleased to hear renewed expressions of commitment to support the peace process in its final stages. He noted that this was the final phase of the process begun with the Lincoln Agreement. Today's discussion had shown the centrality of weapons disposal, which had two aspects, technical and political. The approach currently in place, based on district-by-district and bottoms-up approach, promised further success in the area of weapons collection.
He had taken note of the remarks concerning the role of Francis Ona and his followers, particularly that they should not be allowed to derail the peace process. Regarding the period following the withdrawal of the Peace Monitoring Group, he was pleased that donors would remain committed and continue their support to move the process forward. Some specific ideas in that regard would be elaborated on as the withdrawal drew closer, including the establishment of a trust fund.
He was also pleased to hear renewed commitments regarding the future sustainable development of Bougainville, which was becoming more important as the peace process continued. In light of the wish of Council members to be provided with further information on the way in which the peace process was proceeding, he would brief the Council on specific benchmarks and timetables regarding the continuing disarmament process.
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