UK Government supports local solution to address conflict in Papua New Guinea's Highlands

Posted March 24, 2022

UN in PNG RC a.i. Mr Dirk Wagener and British High Commissioner, HE Keith Scott being received at a Sorcery Accusation Related Violence Survivors’ safe house operated by the Catholic Diocese of Mendi with the support of UNDP.

Action to support peace and development in the Highlands has been given a significant boost with the United Kingdom contributing approximately PGK 1 million to services for victims of violence.

This funding will be used to encourage local solutions that aim to prevent future conflict and build sustainable peace. Focusing on Southern Highlands and Hela Provinces, these activities are being implemented in partnership with UNDP and civil society under the United Nations Highlands Joint Programme for Peace and Development.

This funding will provide communities with access to small grants to rebuild livelihoods and community infrastructure. It will also ensure the expansion of operations of a twenty-bed emergency shelter for survivors of sorcery accusation-related violence. This latter focus includes access to medical treatment, trauma counselling, reintegration/relocation support, access to legal services and basic livelihood skills training.

In announcing this contribution, H.E. Keith Scott, British High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea said, “Having seen first-hand how different groups – women, youths, leaders, Churches – are working together in Hela and Southern Highlands to end conflict, I am proud that the United Kingdom’s funding will provide practical help to rebuild local communities.”

In calling for an end to sorcery accusation-related violence, High Commissioner Scott stated that, “Our support will help victims – almost always women – who have fallen victim to an inhuman practice which communities must also address if they are to establish real peace and build a better future for all.”

Dozens of unresolved conflicts across Southern Highlands and Hela Provinces frequently escalate into inter-group violence causing countless deaths and the displacement of thousands of men, women and children from their homes. Without support to create positive local conditions to sustain peace, communities risk being trapped in a cycle of violent conflict.

Accusations of sorcery due to unexplained incidents or phenomena have also led to abhorrent acts of violence, mainly against women. The trend of sorcery accusation-related violence remains unabated with survivors having limited options for emergency shelter and access to essential services.

In welcoming the United Kingdom’s support, Dirk Wagener UNDP’s Resident Representative to Papua New Guinea, reiterated the importance of building peace as a necessary condition for development. He stated, “UNDP is pleased to support communities to re-establish their homes, food gardens and lives following violent conflict and, in some cases, extended displacement from their traditional lands. As we unequivocally reject the practice of sorcery accusation-related violence, UNDP and the United Nations more generally will continue to support local institutions to meet the range of urgent needs of survivors and scale up where possible.”

The United Nations Highlands Joint Programme for Peace and Development is a multi-UN agency initiative supported by the National Government and Provincial Governments of Southern Highlands and Hela Provinces.