Conflict in Melanesia: Themes and Lessons

Sinclair Dinnen, Douglas Porter, Caroline Sage

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


    This case study examines contemporary experiences of conflict in four contexts: Papua New Guinea, with particular reference to the island of Bougainville and the Highlands region; Solomon Islands; and Vanuatu. We find common themes in these experiences, despite the regions famous sociolinguistic diversity, fragmented geography and varied experience of globalization. Melanesia offers distinctive lessons about how conflict may be understood, promoted and avoided. The paper is organized in two broad parts. The first part is contextual. It provides a brief account of conflict and violence in social life before and after colonization. It then tracks, largely chronologically, through the local, national and transnational dimensions of contemporary conflict, how it was avoided, how it has changed, and how it has been managed in different contexts. Particular attention is given to global and regional influences, and to how governments, local people, and external security, development and commercial actors, have worked to mitigate and, at times, exacerbate conflict. The second part of the case study is more analytical. It steps back from the particulars to address themes and propositions in the overall conceptual framing of World Development Report (WDR) 2011 about the nature of conflict, and the underlying stresses and interests that may render it more likely. Part two draws lessons from the histories and contexts discussed in part one. The report organizes these around three themes that reflect views shared with us by people during consultations. The first highlights the need to recognize conflict as an inherent part of social change and thus the need to distinguish between socially generative social contest, and forms of conflict that are corrosive and destructive. The second examines how the ways people 'see' and understand the world directly shapes systems of regulation and 'the rules of the game' and thus directly affect responses to conflict. The third theme argues that capable and legitimate institutions to regulate social contest requires not just capable state institutions, but as much, relationships with local and international agents and organizations operating below and above the state.
    Original languageEnglish
    Commissioning bodyWorld Bank
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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