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The situation in Bougainville

(New York, November 21, 2002)

Statement by Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso, Permanent Representative of Colombia

 

I want first of all to thank Sir Kieran Prendergast for the valuable information he has given us and for the data sheet circulated. This is undoubtedly a very useful tool to keep this Council up-to-date.

On several occasions, we have received first-hand information from the head of the United Nations Political Office in Bougainville (UNPOB) on the progress in the peace process in Bougainville. In December of last year we received good news about the Peace Agreement that was signed in Arawa in August 2001 and the three components of the Agreement: autonomy, the referendum and the weapons collection programme. On that occasion, the members of the Security Council welcomed the signing of that Agreement.

Adoption by parliament on 27 March in a second round of the constitutional reforms needed for the adoption of the peace agreement was an important step and was highlighted as such by the Security Council. In this regard, we must recognize the positive role that UNPOB has played under Ambassador Noel Sinclair. Members of the Security Council, including our own delegation, have underscored the importance of the prompt and effective implementation of the weapons collection plan. Nonetheless, as has rightly been mentioned, the weapons disposal plan has been stagnating, and all indications are that it will be difficult to complete that process within the new time frame. The account given by Sir Kieran Prendergast in his briefing would seem to bear that out, as the impatience of former combatants and the campaign to discredit the process seem inauspicious in that respect.

Another matter of concern - this, too, was mentioned in earlier statements - is the economic situation in Bougainville, as well as in Papua New Guinea in general. With regard to the economic situation in Bougainville, it has been said that what little there was has been destroyed by the armed conflict. At present, there is no medium-sized or large-scale industry, but merely a subsistence economy. In the past, Ambassador Sinclair has been emphatic in saying that a failure to improve the economic situation would have a negative impact on the attitude of the population towards the Peace Agreement and would make it more difficult to reintegrate former combatants.

Since the signing of the Lincoln Agreement in January 1998, the peace process in Papua New Guinea has been making slow but steady progress. We hope that that trend will not be reversed now. The new Government of Sir Michael Somare is also committed to implementing the Agreement. The international community must continue to support this process. In this regard, we also want to acknowledge the work that has been done by the members of the Peace Monitoring Group - Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu.

The weapons disposal plan is of considerable importance. Some progress has been made, but we know that a great deal remains to be done. Under the Arawa Agreement, UNPOB must certify that the weapons have been collected as a precondition for the holding of the referendum in Bougainville. Having said this, we support the extension of the mandate of UNPOB in terms that will ensure that a further contribution can be made to the process.

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