"Nau em taim bel isi bilong wanem tupela lain i wanbel nau," declared local leaders at Pai, in Hela Province of Papua New Guinea. “It is now peaceful, because the two clans are at peace”.
Standing proudly shoulder to shoulder with a declaration signed between rivals, the traditional leaders reflected on the tragic loss of lives and property in years of conflict by Pai and Tumbu clans.
“It is now peaceful, because the two clans are at peace,” said a community leader while observing previously displaced households in Pai now returned to their traditional lands to re-establish homes and food gardens.
“Mi laik givim tenkyu long Katolik church na UNDP,” (I would like to express my gratitude to the Catholic Church and UNDP) added the community leaders.
The Catholic Diocese of Mendi, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme in Papua New Guinea, successfully mediated the conflict at Pai in and maintains regular observance of the peace agreement reached to facilitate a continued process of conflict resolution.
Responding to requests from conflict-affected communities for neutral and impartial mediators, the diocese has actively supported local conflict mediation in Hela and Southern Highlands Provinces. This has created increasingly peaceful and stable conditions in Pai to allow for the return of displaced families.
Identifying unique drivers of conflict in Hela and Southern Highlands Provinces, UNDP is working to implement key peace building interventions. These include working to enhance dialogue and mediation through directly supporting community-level conflict mediation, facilitating local peace conferences to strengthen local governance, and post-conflict recovery efforts while ensuring the participation of women in peacebuilding.
The impact of conflict is particularly serious for women as they are often targeted in ongoing inter-group feuds, tensions and violence.
Built on evidence and growing consensus globally, the project is guided through the UN's experience in the Highlands that highlights that humanitarian, development, and peace building efforts are complementary and need to reinforce each other. This expertise is now being used to respond to the current state of volatility and fragility in Hela and Southern Highlands Provinces by engaging earlier to prevent violent conflict and reduce humanitarian need.
Beyond working across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, the United Nations continues to actively advocate with the Government, development partners, and the private sector on the need for further investment in urgent local peacebuilding efforts.
The United Nations Development Programme has supported the Catholic Diocese of Mendi in conflict mediation efforts since 2019 as part of the United Nations Highlands Joint Programme with funding contributions from the Hela Provincial Government, UNDP, the UN Peacebuilding Fund, and the Republic of Korea.