PEACE Foundation Melanesia Bougainville Project (2007)
Bougainville is a Melanesian island that geographically and ethnically is part of the Solomon Islands but politically is part of Papua New Guinea because of decisions made in the last century by colonial powers.
A bloody civil war – known locally as "the crisis" – took place in Bougainville between the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. A peace agreement was negotiated internationally in 1997. But very early in the negotiations it became clear that top-down peacemaking was not enough. For genuine peace to take hold, healing and reconciliation among the Bougainvilleans themselves was essential.
PEACE Foundation Melanesia’s strategy, driven by both philosophy and resource limitations, has been to train village leaders to be listeners, facilitators, negotiators and mediators. Although there was initial suspicion by some local leaders, this gave way to support over time as they saw the positive results in the districts in which PEACE Foundation Melanesia trained mediators.
Peacebuilding can be dangerous. In 1995 and 1996, three trainers – Tony Kasia, Tony Kaima and Angelina Nuguitu – were killed in separate incidents by armed forces because of their peacemaking efforts.
John Braithwaite has commented: “The peace [in Bougainville] looks sustainable and secure…. No one in the Northern hemisphere knows much about the war. But I do not know of a war where restorative justice played a more central role in building peace. There is still much to be learned about indigenous Bougainvillean contributions to restorative justice. I often feel disappointed about how little Western restorative justice learns from restorative justice in obscure developing countries. There is certainly much to learn from Bougainville.”
Perhaps this Prize will help draw some attention to the remarkable story of Bougainville and the work of PEACE Foundation Melanesia there.