United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced it would support the Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC) with targeted material assistance at the request of the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government.
The contribution, valued at just over K500,000, will purchase essential communications and IT equipment as well as transportation services to support the Bougainville Referendum scheduled for October and November of this year, and implemented by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
Sean Callahan, USAID’s Deputy Mission Director for the Pacific Islands, handed over the first of more than 20 satellite telephones as part of USAID and IFES support. Other donated items will include computers and printers for use during referendum operations as well as transportation services to assist with moving polling materials and BRC personnel.
“We are pleased to be able to respond to this request and support the referendum process in this way,” Callahan said. “With hundreds of remote villages in the mountains and distant atolls, Bougainville is a challenging place to run a referendum and communications are crucial to operations such as voter enrollment, polling and counting. That’s why we are contributing satellite phones like this one.”
U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, Bernard Link said, “The United States, along with other international development partners, is committed to continuing to support the peace process in Bougainville, and a credible and peaceful referendum is an important milestone in that process.”
The contribution is part of a larger program of technical assistance to the referendum that the US government is supporting, through the Strengthening Democratic Governance in the Pacific Islands program. This program is implemented by a consortium that includes IFES, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI).
Program implementation began in February 2019, and has been largely focused on the Bougainville referendum and is providing technical support to the Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC) to deliver a credible referendum,promotes citizen understanding and engagement in the referendum, and promotes the inclusion of women, youth, and persons with disabilities in the electoral process.