Unleashing the Healing Power of Dialogue in Hela Province

As part of their efforts to build bridges for peace in Hela Province, UNDP and the United Church of Papua New Guinea are facilitating a series of Peace and Development dialogues in the Local Level Government (LLG) areas of Hayapuga, Tebi, Hulia, Komo, Upper and Lower Wage, Lake Kopiago and North Koroba this year.

July 11, 2023

Community members from the Local Level Government area of Hayapuga participated in one of the dialogues

United Church Papua New Guinea

By bringing together representatives of Local Level Governments and other community stakeholders, the dialogues seek to foster trust between communities in a Province, which has carried the burden of violent intergroup clashes for decades. So far, participants have included district CEOs, presidents and managers of Local Level Governments, local church representatives, women and youth advocates, and members of the local business community, in particular, women entrepreneurs.

“Few things are more damaging to development than conflict. It prevents ordinary citizens from planning their futures, pursuing their aspirations, and unleashing their potential. By facilitating these dialogues and generating momentum for collective efforts towards peace, UNDP wants to create the conditions for sustainable development in Hela,” UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Mr. Edward Vrkic, said of the aim in hosting these dialogues.

Feedback from the participants has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Women community members have felt particularly empowered by the opportunity to voice their opinions in a public forum. “Because of traditional beliefs in my community, women have not been able to participate in these kinds of discussions in the past. UNDP’s work marks the first time in my life that I have been able to express my thoughts on conflict and other social issues in front of so many men. I hope these dialogues will motivate the Government to address the ongoing violence towards women and girls in Hela,” stated one participants from Komo-Hulia District. 

For some female participants, the dialogues have marked their first opportunity to voice their opinions in a public forum

United Church Papua New Guinea

Moreover, the Government representatives have commended the dialogues for giving constituents a sense of ownership over the development of their communities. “These dialogues have given us a valuable opportunity to bring together community stakeholders and consult them in developing ward, district, and provincial initiatives to build peace. This is crucial for because it gives communities a sense they are being heard by government,” stated the Manager of the Komo Local Level Government, Mr. Pani Liwa.

All the LLG managers and district CEOs who have participated in the dialogues so far have pledged to integrate the concerns expressed by community members into their government’s respective efforts.

The dialogues were held under the “Addressing Conflict and Fragility in the Highlands” project, implemented within the framework of the “UN Highlands Joint Programme for Peace and Development.” The programme seeks to address the root causes of violence, conflict, and fragility in Hela and Southern Highlands Provinces of Papua New Guinea. With generous funding provided by Korea’s International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), this UNDP-led initiative is being implemented in partnership with Papua New Guinea’s national and provincial Governments, and faith-based, non-governmental and civil society organisations.