Located to the north of the Solomon Islands and south-east of New Britain, Bougainville consists of a large volcanic island, a smaller island, Buka, and a number of associated coral atolls. Culturally and linguistically the people of Bougainville have close links with the people of the northern Solomon Islands. 


Bougainville is part of the state of Papua New Guinea. During the colonial period, and since PNG gained independence in 1975, the people of Bougainville have expressed a strong desire for political independence. Formerly the North Solomons Province of PNG, Bougainville is now administered by the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

Bougainville and the Civil War

Bougainville is recovering from a violent civil conflict that took place during 1989-1998 initiated by dissatisfaction in the unequal share of benefits from the Panguna copper mine. The impact of the crisis was devastating politically, economically and socially, affecting the entire region of Bougainville. Thousands died.The Bougainville Peace Agreement was signed in 2001, followed by the installation of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) in June 2005. Powers are gradually been drawn down from the Papua New Guinea national government to the ABG and a referendum on independence is planned to be held between 2015 and 2020.

VSA and Bougainville

VSA volunteers have worked in Bougainville since 1998. New Zealand volunteers generally receive a warm reception based on the positive relationships forged through New Zealand’s involvement in the Peace Process. Since 2002, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) New Zealand Aid Programme has significantly increased funding and tightened its focus on the Pacific.  In Bougainville VSA works closely with MFAT staff to maximise the impact of New Zealand’s aid assistance to the Solomon Islands.


Social issues


Gender, children & youth inequalities

  • High levels of violence against women and children

  • Lack of opportunity to access healthcare, education, vocational training and employment

  • Women have few opportunities to participate in and be heard in civil society and even less in Government – this hampers their ability to influence policy development

  • Youth and children make up 60 percent of the population

  • Bougainville youth face major challenges related to the civil war including;

    • disrupted education

    •  patterns of trauma and violence

  •  Institutions that are not strong enough to ensure youths grow up in an environment where they can realise their full potential


Rural livelihoods

  • Over 90% of the Bougainville population live in rural areas

  • Unemployment (and under employment) rates are high

  • Very few vocational training opportunities are available to rural poor, especially women and youth



  • Only 4% of the rural population of Papua New Guinea aged 15 and over have a tertiary qualification, compared to 16.6% of those who live in urban areas

  • Low primary and secondary enrolment rates

  • High female illiteracy is a barrier for girls and their education


Social Development