UN wants international backing to curb PNG violence

The United Nations is seeking more international assistance as it strives to help Papua New Guinea (PNG) overcome the violence that frequently erupts in the country.

Most recently, tribal fighting in Enga Province claimed dozens of lives, but there were also deadly riots in Port Moresby and other cities in January, and other flare ups throughout 2022 and 2023.

UNDP’s resident director in PNG, Nicholas Booth, said since the earthquakes in 2017 in Hela Province the agency has been involved in trying to tackle the seeds of the violence there.

He said they recognise that before any development can take place peace building needs to be strengthened.

“As we know from all our work around the world, in the UN that’s a really multifactorial thing. So it involves core peacebuilding work.

For example, now, in Southern Highlands and Hela, we’ve been creating networks of mediators.

“We work very closely with the Catholic Church and the United Church and they have been creating teams of mediators.”

He said what those mediators do is they reach out into communities which are engaged in tribal fighting, and they find the people who actually want to stop the fighting.

“And they actually give them the skills to act as mediators inside that community, ‘insider mediators’ as we call them, and use those skills to end conflicts.”

Booth said every tribal fight not only leaves large numbers dead, but there is an unquantifiable number of sexual assaults and thousands are displaced.

“So if there’s going to be peace, we have to help them – men and women, young and old, find sustainable livelihoods.”

He said UNDP’s project in the Highlands also involves helping women and young people.

“Especially as I say young people because what you’ll hear when you go speak to people in the Highlands, was as long as we don’t find livelihoods for young people, they’re going to get drawn into violence.

“They need to be kept active, they need to be given productive livelihoods, a sense of dignity and a stake in their communities. If we can’t do that for them, then of course, they’re likely to get attracted into being drawn into the violence.”

He said increasingly their work is focussed on creating employment, setting up markets, and taking notice of the impacts of climate change.

Booth said the UN knows this is not work that can be done in a day and they recognise a need for more international help.

“We are going around to all the partners in the area, of course to Australia and New Zealand, to the Peace Building Fund in New York, and saying, ‘we need more resources and we need to conntinue this work for the next five years, because we need to strengthen our efforts and continue our efforts for the next few years if we are going to turn the corner in addressing this’.”

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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