A multi-stakeholder partnership spearheaded by Barrick’s Porgera Joint Venture mine is showing real results as it works to tackle poverty, crime, tribal conflict and gender-based violence in the Porgera district of Papua New Guinea.
Known as the Restoring Justice Initiative, the project brings together government, businesses, community leaders and non-governmental organizations, who are focused on peace-building, conflict resolution, social justice and community development.
Barrick has been active in Papua New Guinea since 2006, when it acquired a majority interest in the Porgera Joint Venture mine. The mine is located in Enga province in northern Papua New Guinea, which is home to 73,000 people. Social and economic challenges in the region have been exacerbated over time by in-migration to the region, inadequate law enforcement capacity, and limited government services and infrastructure.
Working together, Restoring Justice partners have been responsible for numerous law and order improvements in the community. The number of police permanently stationed in the district has more than tripled, from 14 to 50, and a number of civil society groups have been created by business and community leaders to promote community development and improved law and order services. These groups have played a major role in defusing tribal conflict and other violence in the district.
“The Restoring Justice Initiative builds on the concept that, without meaningful law and order, without some protection for community members from random acts of crime and violence, society breaks down,” says Jonathan Drimmer, Barrick’s Vice President and Deputy General Counsel.
Gender-based violence continues to be a serious problem in many parts of Papua New Guinea. As part of a 2011 study, Austrian researcher Dr. Margit Ganster-Breidler interviewed 138 women in the Porgera region and found that 86 percent reported being victims of physical abuse, while 79 percent said they had been victims of sexual violence.
The Porgera Joint Venture itself terminated a number of employees in 2011 when credible allegations of sexual assaults by mine employees came to light. Since that time, the mine has implemented human rights training for employees, conducted a review of security practices and implemented new safeguards. The mine is also supporting community programs and research aimed at preventing gender-based violence.
In addition to these programs, Restoring Justice was a key driver behind the establishment of a Family and Sexual Violence Unit to serve the Porgera District. This specialized branch of the local police receives and investigates complaints of family and sexual violence and engages in awareness-raising and education in the community. The Unit’s establishment is a significant step in addressing the problem of gender-based violence. Restoring Justice is now working with local authorities to establish a Family Support Center that will provide medical and social support to victims of family and sexual violence, in addition to counseling.
Since the Family and Sexual Violence Unit opened in June, it has received almost 300 complaints with about 30 people presented to the District Court for various offences, including sexual assaults and psychological abuse. The District Court Magistrate has issued Interim Protection Orders prohibiting alleged offenders from engaging in violent or other unlawful conduct toward victims or their families.
The Family and Sexual Violence Unit, which has a staff of four, and the community have benefited from the support of Restoring Justice’s broad network of partners. For instance, in June, family and sexual violence prevention experts, including the Papua New Guinea Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee, the Australian High Commission and the Papua New Guinea-Australia Law and Justice Partnership, visited Porgera for six days and conducted focused family and sexual violence training, awareness, prevention and investigation sessions for a broad range of audiences. Attendees at the sessions included Family and Sexual Violence Unit members and other local law enforcement officers, Village Courts officials, District Court officials, local community leaders, civil society groups, women’s groups, business representatives and Barrick staff.
The project’s ability to build successful relationships with its partners has underpinned the Initiative’s achievements. “Effective prevention services involve a broad group of entities working together and the support of our development partners has been invaluable,” says Whayman, who oversees Restoring Justice with Steve Paterson, Superintendent of the Initiative.
Restoring Justice continues to amass support in local communities. The Initiative is now working with Joe Kuala, the Acting District Law and Order Co-ordinator and Chairman of Restoring Justice’s Leaders Interest Group, to have local Village Court officials receive much-needed training and development on contemporary Village Court laws and practices. This training will better prepare Village Court officials to address gender-based violence and effect cultural change in their respective villages.
While these programs are still taking shape, Restoring Justice has other achievements to its credit. Among the more notable and widely felt actions is the successful lobbying of the provincial government to ban alcohol — a major cause of law and order breakdowns in the Porgera District. Restoring Justice collected 10,000 signatures from local residents on a petition calling for an alcohol ban, and the provincial government listened.
The ban was imposed in the summer of 2013 and the community reports a significant decrease in public drunkenness, making for a safer environment. Together with the increase in regular police numbers, the streets are safer than they have been in the past, Whayman says.
Restoring Justice also successfully lobbied for increased penalties for illegal mining, which remains a serious issue at the Porgera mine and in the community. That’s because the influx of illegal miners from across Papua New Guinea to the Porgera District has led to a corresponding increase in crime, violence, alcohol use and other law and order issues.
Two groups that helped drive these changes, and other law and order improvements in the Porgera District, are the Business Interest Group and the Leaders Interest Group. Both groups were established by Restoring Justice as a way for communities and businesses to connect with each other and with government, and share resources to address law and order challenges. The Leaders Interest Group draws its members from community and clan leaders representing several local communities in the Porgera District. The Business Interest Group counts some of the most prominent businesses in the area among its members, including Ela Motors, the largest car manufacturer in Papua New Guinea, Bank South Pacific and Ipili Porgera Investments.
The momentum that Restoring Justice projects are generating is helping it expand its network of partners, which include the International Committee for the Red Cross, the Papua New Guinea Chamber of Mines, and international NGOs such as Fund for Peace and White Ribbon.
Restoring Justice has developed into something that has the potential to seriously contribute a whole range of community development opportunities that the people of Porgera have not seen in the past, Whayman says. “The Restoring Justice Initiative does not belong to any one group, it belongs to everyone – it is everyone and that is exactly the way it has to be for it to be sustainable.”