I was fortunate enough to be in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 2017 when a deal was being hammered out regarding Bougainville’s 2019 independence referendum. Bougainville, a group of islands with a population of 250,000 and an area of 9,300 km2 belonging to PNG, had fought a bloody civil war with PNG resulting in up to 20,000 casualties.The islanders on Bougainville -ethnically distinct from PNG and geographically closer to the Solomon Islands- always felt discriminated against and without a proper say in their internal affairs.
A few days ago the result of the independence referendum was announced: Almost 98% of people voted for independence. However,the referendum result is non-binding, with the final say resting with the Parliament of PNG. Yet, with such a majority, it’s going to be hard for PNG not to honor the result.
Bougainville is not alone. Today there are more than 100 movements in the world trying to either achieve more autonomy or independence. Scotland may be the next one. Why hasn’t globalization make separatist and independence movements around the world a thing of the past? These movements want to create separate states, not to put an end to global cooperation. They want to cooperate with others on what they deem more favorable terms. Secondly, many of these movements have been able to convince the majority of their communities that they have capable people to correctly manage the business of the peoples, once they gain independence.
This is exactly what the Curaçao independence movement lacks: trust of the people.
Congratulations to the people of Bougainville.