Participants attending the regional workshop on peace building, of which Solomon Islands were a part of, have formed a virtual community to continue working together on local, national and regional peace building initiatives.

Made up of civil society, members of the government, regional organizations and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Pacific Peace Community has set itself some national and regional level follow on activities.

More than fifty participants from Bougainville, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tonga attended the UNDP Pacific Centre organised workshop that started on May 3 and finished today.

Simon Mannie, a member of Solomon Islands based civil society organisation, Sycamore Foundation, said he found the workshop very useful.

"One of the key things I learnt through this workshop is the way in which a consultative policy development process can help address the contributing factors of conflict. As highlighted during this workshop, it is important also that the individual, the community and the institutions link together and work for peace building," said Mr. Mannie.

The Bougainville Autonomous Government's Chief Executive Officer of the Division of Peace, Reconciliation and Weapons Disposal, Dennis Kuiai found the workshop encouraging.

"I see this workshop as a motivator and a driving force to proceed with the policy decisions that the Autonomous Bougainville Government had decided. It is a policy direction on a co-ordinated approach to peace and development in Bougainville," said Mr. Kuiai.

The peace building work that will follow on from this workshop will include regional initiatives like a regional consultation with the private sector, and a regional workshop on peace journalism. National level consultations are also planned over the coming year.

Siosio Po'oi Pohiva of the Friendly Islands Human Rights and Democracy Movement in Tonga found the workshop timely and relevant to situations like that in his country.

"Having identified the importance of engaging relevant stakeholder in the peace building process, that is a challenge that needs to be addressed in order to apply the strategies and lessons learnt during this workshop," said Mr. Pohiva.

UNDP Pacific Centre's Conflict Prevention and Peace Building Expert and organiser of the workshop, Tracy Vienings said she was particularly impressed with the dialogue that has started between the government and the CSOs on linking peace and development.

"I believe that this workshop has a created a broader understanding of the linkages between peace and development. The implications of this are that participants are thinking about how to also address the underlying causes of conflict, not only mediating them as they occur," said Ms.Vienings.

The workshop was part of the Strengthening Capacities for Peace and Development in the Pacific project. It's objectives are to strengthen the cadre of peace practitioners from the Pacific whose work and approach will hopefully be further strengthened through skills building, up-scaled policy interventions, the regional sharing of good practices and effective peace building mechanisms suited to the Pacific - and through improved access to resources and expertise made available through a Pacific Peace Community supported by the project.

One of the key issues is not to duplicate work being done at the regional level or the national level, but rather to complement and add resources to current initiatives.

Source: Press Release, UNDP Pacific Centre