UNDP trains peacebuilders to tackle the root causes of violence in Southern Highlands Province

August 6, 2023

Peacebuilders from various communities in Southern Highlands participated in the first-of-its-kind training.

World Vision

Over the past decades, Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands Province has experienced repeated periods of violent intergroup conflict. The ongoing instability has had a devastating impact on local development, which has resulted in increasing demands for peace and conflict mediation from the local communities.

To respond to these calls for support, UNDP and World Vision facilitated a first-of-its-kind “training of trainers” for stakeholders involved in peacebuilding efforts in the province earlier this year. Government officers and community leaders, as well as representatives of community- and faith-based organizations participated in the training.

Throughout the five-day training held in the provincial capital Mendi, the participants analyzed the root causes of conflict in the province and discussed potential interventions for ending cycles of violence in their communities. The need for peacebuilders to introduce non-retributive and non-violent forms of conflict resolution in the communities they work in was especially highlighted during the sessions.  

In addition, particular focus was devoted to discussing ways to address the concerns and frustrations faced by the province’s large and growing youth population. As a result of limited employment opportunities available, young people in Southern Highlands often see their future prospects to be bleak, which results in struggles with self-confidence from an early age. Many young people see engagement in intergroup conflicts or criminal activities as a way to earn respect among their peers, which further perpetuates destructive cycles of violence among the local communities.  

Furthermore, participants highlighted the glaring gaps in support available for survivors of gender-based, domestic and sorcery accusation related violence in the province. As is often the case in regions of conflict, the violence in Southern Highlands has been particularly devastating for the province’s women and girls, which is why the participants strongly advocated for increasing safe houses and strengthening referral system for legal and medical assistance.  

Inspired by the passionate discussions she engaged in during the training, one of the female participants was able to convince her organization to begin hosting community dialogues on violence against women. “Since the training, we have used the skills and knowledge we gained to hold three awareness raising sessions on sorcery accusation relation violence for youth and other members of our community. Our plan is to organize even more sessions in the coming months,” she stated.

The training of trainers was organized with support provided by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund and under the framework of the UNDP-led United Nations Highlands Joint Programme in Hela and Southern Highlands Provinces.

For more information, please contact:
Juho Valta 
Communications Analyst, UNDP Papua New Guinea