Papua New Guinea faces high rates of domestic and gender-based violence, as well as intercommunal violence in its mountainous highlands region, while climate change further exacerbates drivers of conflict. Papua New Guinea is in the process of negotiating the future political status of Bougainville, an autonomous region that is seeking independence, while both sides strive to uphold the 2001 peace agreement that ended a decade of civil conflict. USIP supports research, policy discussions and in-country programming to address drivers of violence in Papua New Guinea.
A USIP pilot program, called the Male Behavior Change Program in the eastern province of Morobe, seeks to not only understand the core reasons behind the violence but to change the social norms and structures that perpetuate it.
While the Pacific Islands are responsible for less than 1 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, they face disproportionate impacts from climate change. These impacts are wide ranging: rising sea levels, salinization and dwindling availability of fresh water, increasing and more intense tropical storms, floods, drought, ocean acidification and coral reef bleaching. Already, NASA finds that sea level rise in Tuvalu is 1.5 times faster than the global average — and is expected to more than double by 2100.
“In 2019, our people voted — we believe in democracy,” Ishmael Toroama, president of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, said in a speech at Georgetown University in Washington on November 9. Toroama was referring to the 2019 referendum in which 97.7 percent of Bougainvilleans, with 87.4 percent turnout, voted for independence from Papua New Guinea in a powerful confirmation of their long-held desire for self-determination. This desire has been largely ignored by the world, but in order to realize it, Bougainville needs strong international partners.
Senior Biden administration officials are back in the Pacific Islands region this week. Once a seemingly far-flung corner of the globe, the United States has in recent years prioritized engagement to counter China’s foothold in a region Washington long neglected. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is the first U.S. defense chief to visit Papua New Guinea, where Secretary of State Antony Blinken went in late May and signed a bilateral defense cooperation deal. Meanwhile, Blinken is Tonga this week to open a new U.S. embassy in the island nation. The top U.S. diplomat will also visit New Zealand before heading to Australia where he will be joined by Austin for the annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations.
The Global Fragility Act (GFA) is an ambitious law that makes preventing conflicts and promoting stability in countries prone to conflict a U.S. foreign policy priority. Following years of efforts that overemphasized military operations in response to extremist violence and insurgencies, the GFA requires a long-term investment to address the underlying drivers of conflict. The Biden administration has released a new strategy to implement the GFA with 10-year commitments of assistance to a group of fragile states. The GFA and the new strategy rely, in part, on recommendations made by the USIP-convened Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States.