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Challenges of communicating sensitive issues in fragile settings

The Papua New Guinea National Research Institute (PNG NRI) has released its new Issues Paper 29. The paper commissioned under the Bougainville Referendum Research Project is titled; Challenges of communicating sensitive issues in fragile settings.

The paper was written by Julie Marks, a Communications Specialist who has worked with the United Nations based in Africa, Afghanistan, Europe and the United States of America where she led communication for the UN’s different programs in post-conflict settings.

The paper will inform PNG NRI practices in communicating its research findings relating to the Bougainville referendum to other stakeholders engaged in the referendum awareness
programs in Bougainville. Contents reviewed in the study are in the areas of post-conflict, peace building, mediation and media.

The paper discusses the roles and challenges of communicating information in fragile settings. It gives clear explanations on the management of information flow, civic and voter education for elections, referendums and mitigating likely risks. This paper makes recommendations for stakeholders including media organisations and individuals involved in civic and voter education information in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea. Some of these are;

  • Prioritising the development and implementation of joint, coordinated and intensive civic and voter education and voter information programmes for the Bougainville referendum;
  • Updated strategy that promotes universal coverage in all electorates through the engagement of the different parties involved including women, youth, veterans, and to improve relationships between all referendum stakeholders;
  • Requirement to have all voter education information materials to be vetted by a referendum management body to ensure accuracy and consistency of information;
  • The need for specific training programs for media representatives and communicators at the time they commence work in Bougainville for the referendum. Journalism education and training especially in the fields of peacebuilding and conflict reporting to be given a priority to enhance their ability to report with accuracy in violent and postconflict situations.

PNG NRI as an independent institute works in researching and analysing strategic issue fornational development and considers the upcoming referendum on Bougainville to be a significant event that will impact the wellbeing of Bougainvilleans and Papua New Guineans.


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