US officials in talks over Bougainville poll

UNITED States diplomatic officials visited Bougainville this week “to meet with partners of ongoing US government support in the region”.
US officials in talks over Bougainville poll US officials in talks over Bougainville poll US officials in talks over Bougainville poll US officials in talks over Bougainville poll US officials in talks over Bougainville poll

The diplomats were Catherine Ebert-Gray (US ambassador to Papua New Guinea) and Dr Susan Brems, who is the US Agency for International Development for the Pacific Islands.

During their visit, Ebert-Gray and Brems met with representatives of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville Government and other official organisations to learn about ongoing preparations for the elections and the referendum.

The governments of PNG and the ABG recently agreed on a target date of June 15, 2019, for an independence referendum to determine the status of Bougainville, as set out in the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

"The US government and Papua New Guinea are strong partners in achieving sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the country. We are committed to working with the people of Bougainville to prepare for upcoming electoral events that are open, transparent and peaceful," Ebert-Gray said.

To support these events, the US government, through USAID, launched the Peaceful and Inclusive Elections and Referendum (PIER) project in February 2015.

The PIER project, implemented in partnership with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, is increasing awareness of, and supporting preparation for, electoral processes. USAID, through the PIER project, provides technical assistance and training to referendum and election administration officials, and promotes women's participation in politics, decision-making bodies, and conflict mitigation.

Ebert-Gray and Brems also consulted with women leaders from civil society organisations. The women had participated in USAID-supported advocacy and communication training, and the meeting served as an opportunity for them to share how USAID can further support their contributions to reconciliation and peacebuilding.

At the meeting, Brems said: "Women are proven to be effective peacemakers, community leaders, and champions of civil and human rights. We continue to work with our partners to unlock the potential of women to inspire and lead development in their communities."

While in PNG, Brems also led the signing of a new project assistance agreement between the US and PNG that grants $1.5 million from USAID to strengthen Papua New Guinea's environmental resilience. The agreement is aligned with Papua New Guinea's priorities to conserve biodiversity, improve its management of natural resources, and adapt to climate change.

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