Supporting Peace in Papua

Wednesday 7 April 2004


In January 2002 Alternatives initiated the CIDA-sponsored “Supporting Peace in Papua” project, intervening alongside local partners to address the root causes of conflict in Papua and to support local forces that aim to reach a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict. The goal has been to provide timely technical assistance to help consolidate the peacebuilding efforts of faith-based groups and NGOs, and to reinforce democratic reforms underway in Papua and Indonesia as a whole. The success of this program stems from the partners’ strong community mandate, sound understanding of the local context and commitment to peaceful dialogues rather than violent resistance.

Papua faces multiple risks of conflict between the indigenous community and the state, and between the predominantly Christian indigenous Papuans and migrant settlers from other Indonesian provinces, who are mostly Muslim. Indigenous Papuans face extreme poverty and a loss of their land rights which have lead to a deterioration of their traditional culture, health and economic well-being. In response to local demands for change, Jakarta has often reacted harshly, using military actions to put down resistance and limiting expressions of indigenous Papuan culture. This has created an unstable situation that threatens to spill over into conflict between the indigenous population and the migrant community.

Since its incorporation into Indonesia in 1969, the indigenous Papuan community has questioned the credibility of Indonesian control over the region. The fall of the Suharto regime in 1997 opened new spaces for discussing these concerns. Increased political and economic powers have since been granted to the provincial government in an attempt to define a fairer relationship between Papua and the central government, wherein a greater portion of the benefits of the resource extraction industries are returned to the local community. A range of local forces (church leaders, NGOs, tribal leaders, politicians and the police) have been working to find ways to abate conflict and support peaceful dialogues over Papua’s future. It is within this context that Alternatives began its project to support those engaged in dialogues and strengthen local capacities for peaceful reconciliation of the ongoing conflict in Papua.

A number of new political developments shaped the peacebuilding terrain. These included the implementation of provincial autonomy, the presidential directive to split Papua into three provinces, the expansion of resource extraction industries and military campaigns around Wamena and Wasior. Alternatives’ cooperated with its partners to assess the changing political context, react to each new development and identify appropriate responses. This allowed Alternatives’ partners to play a significant role in defusing the conflicts that arose (particularly in Wamena and Wasior) and to encourage grassroots participation in peaceful political debates.

Papua is continuing its transformation toward a democratic and pluralistic society, along with the rest of the Republic of Indonesia in the post-Suharto reform era. Alternatives’ “Supporting Peace in Papua” project is making a significant contribution to these efforts and pointed to the successful role Canada can play in encouraging peaceful dialogues and abating violent conflict. As the partners continue their efforts toward establishing a lasting peace in Papua, there is an ongoing need for Canadian participation to demonstrate examples of equitable and responsive governance, and engage local forces in further dialogues concerning the future of this resource rich and culturally diverse region. Considering the significant contribution that Papua makes to Indonesia’s economy and society, it is a critical point of action if stability is to be maintained across the country and the entire region.

Partners et projects

Alternatives works alongside four local partners with a strong community mandate to carry out the following initiatives:

 The Peace and Justice Secretariat-Jayapura (SKP-Jayapura) coordinates dialogues over provincial governance and human rights in remote indigenous communities, publishes information on critical issues in Papua (such as provincial autonomy and reports on human rights abuses), plays a key role in the Zone of Peace movement (including a march for peace with local religious leaders, the police and community leaders), and performs skills training for local peace practitioners.

YBAW works with Lani tribespeople in the central highlands, developing cooperative marketing groups and building a storehouse as a centre for new economic activities. YBAW also contributed to investigations and reconciliation around the military campaign around Wamena (April 2003) that took place after the theft of weapons from an army base.

LP3BH assists communities around the new BP natural gas facility in Bintuni Bay to determine their economic and social needs, develop new economic prospects, establish dialogues over human rights and negotiate with BP to reach a fair agreement concerning the use of traditional lands and the development assistance offered by BP to the community.

YALHIMO is carrying out an economic strengthening project with communities in the Bird’s Head region. Their activities include establishing production and marketing coops, writing a business plan to identify products with the best potential for profit and making a revolving fund available to purchase needed tools and supplies for the new economic activities. This provides a valuable entry point for YALHIMO to support reconciliation efforts around the conflict between the military and community members in Wasior, as well as initiating dialogues over traditional land rights, environmental sustainability and equitable land management practices.

These four projects are coupled with a series of exchanges between Canadian experts and local groups concerning peacebuilding practices, sustainable livelihoods and provincial governance. The results are a significant strengthening of local capacities for peaceful reconciliation of conflict in Papua and the development of new networks upon which further peacebuilding programming can be built.

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