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Radio Australia PACIFIC BEAT May 6, 2002 Melbourne, Australia

Does the Bougainville experience provide a radical new model for peace monitoring in the Pacific region?

Peace monitors from around the Pacific region helped bring calm to Bougainville after a decade-long conflict between separatists and the Papua New Guinea government.

The book, "Without a Gun," looks at the 1997 to 2001 peace monitoring experience from an Australian perspective.

Peacekeepers from Pacific Island countries also played an important role in Bougainville, and their contribution has not been ignored.

As one of the editors of the book, Professor Donald Denoon, explained to Pacific Beat’s Graeme Dobell, the multinational force was a challenging experience for those involved.

"There were a lot of tensions which had to be dealt with face-to-face and defused within the peace monitoring groups, and they handled that very well."

Politics, ethnicity and gender

"There were people from the New Zealand army, predominantly Maori and often quite separatist minded, that was one source of tension.

"There were very tough Fijians with a long experience of peacekeeping rather than peace monitoring in the Middle East and elsewhere. They were much the most experienced of the peace monitors.

"There were ni-Vanuatu who were culturally much closer to Bougainvilleans than anybody else.

"There were men and women within these peace monitoring groups, and the army is not particularly talented at dealing with gender equality in those situations."

Continuing violence

"Then they had to deal with the fact that Bougainvilleans had only recently stopped killing each other, apart from trying to resist the Papua New Guinea defence force.

"And at every single moment there was a possibility of violence breaking out again.

"There were many people in Bougainville still armed and there were family feuds and lineage feuds going on which had to be resolved while the peace monitors stood by and simply facilitated that.

"That was a remarkably difficult task for people drawn more or less at random from the Australian public service and the Australian army. This is not the kind of job description of people in the Australian public service as a rule.

A new and unrecognized model for the future

The Chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant General Peter Cosgrove, "picked these lines from the end of the book when he launched it, and I don’t think it’s possible to improve on that selection.

"General Cosgrove quoted as follows:

"Australians arrived unarmed, neither eluding to nor relying on superior coercive force. For the first time they came with no evident financial interest, a feature that puzzled the villagers. For the first time again they depended entirely on the goodwill of village people, for the first time they formed part of a multinational enterprise, which was not merely an expression of Australian strategic or financial interests.

"Few monitors recognized how radically they departed from the precedents known to and expected among villagers. They may not have achieved the millennial condition of post-colonialism, but they have come close.

"And on the larger stage of regional relations they’ve provided an exemplary model for the creative projection of Australian authority. While Australia’s political leaders clamored and jostled to be photographed in flap-jackets alongside armed members of (the East Timor peace keeping force) INTERFET, I’m grateful to these peace monitors for presenting a very different image of Australia."

"Without a Gun," published by Pandanus Press, Australian National University

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