The World's Next Independent State?

On November 15 Christopher Brucker from the University of Jena (Germany) will give a lecture on Bougainville's prospects of becoming an independent state. He will talk about his field trip, summarize the conflict and outline the fundamentals of post-conflict peacebuilding in the region.

In December 2019, the people of Bougainville, an Autonomous Region (AROB) of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the South Pacific, overwhelmingly voted for independence in a legally and internationally approved status referendum.

The vote was the long-delayed hallmark of a peace process that brought an end to the Bougainville crisis, a secession war dragging on for almost ten years from 1988 to 1998 and one of the most tragic and most ignored military conflicts of the troubled 1990s. Although the bloodshed could be stopped in 1998, setting off a remarkable peace process that led to a settlement in 2001, the dispute over Bougainville’s self-determination is far from over. Pursuant to the provisions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, negotiations between PNG and AROB about a possible outcome of the 2019 referendum are currently underway. Authorities in Buka, Bougainville’s capital, are determined to achieve independence by 2027 at the latest. The parliament in Port Moresby (PNG) will have the final say on the matter, however. Several MPs, as well as Prime Minister James Marape, have already signaled that they would like to avert the region’s secession. Bougainville now has a real chance to become the world’s next independent state. Or conflict, violence, and perhaps even unilateral secession can return to the South Pacific – all this in a region that is rapidly becoming a theatre of the great power rivalry between China and the U.S.

Christopher Brucker, Ph.D. candidate at the Chair of International Relations at the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena (Germany) is an expert on secession conflicts in post-colonial states and was in Bougainville in 2022 to conduct field research. The lecture will briefly summarize the conflict, outline the fundamentals of post-conflict peacebuilding in the region, and reflect on Bougainville’s prospects of becoming an independent state in the near future.

The lecture will take place at 6pm on November, 15 2023. One can also join online.