“This diversity is something extraordinary”: UN Volunteer Supports Post-Referendum Projects in Bougainville
06 July 2021
As one of thirteen UN Volunteers in PNG, Aigul Murat left landloacked Kyrgyzstan for the beaches of Bougainville.
In April 2021, Aigul Murat moved from landlocked Kyrgyzstan to Bougainville, having previously met just one person who had ever been to Papua New Guinea.
“Right before getting the job offer, I met a friend who spent some time in Port Moresby as a child,” she said. “So I heard stories of the tropical climate and the exotic fruits, birds of paradise and beautiful natural environment.”
Despite the distance and the ongoing COVID pandemic, Aigul took up a role with UN Volunteers as a Project Manager with UNDP in Buka, building on her experiences in peacebuilding.
“I had been working with UN peacebuilding project on cross-border cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan,” said Aigul. “I was interested in working on peacebuilding project abroad, and Bougainville was certainly very interesting. I have never lived across Pacific region, let alone on an island in a tropical climate. So that was definitely one of the greatest incentives to take up the role.”
Aigul’s first impressions of Bougainville met her expectations of living on a Pacific island. “The moment the flight starts landing, you see how green everything is,” she said. “There are coconut plantations and greenery everywhere.”
“I posted some photos with the view of the beach and trees around it, and friends commented that this place looks like ‘Paradise on the Earth’.”
In addition to the striking natural beauty of the area, there was one type of diversity that was surprising. “When I arrived, I was really impressed with the diversity of languages. This diversity is something extraordinary.”
Aigul’s role with UNDP involves working with several partners across a diverse portfolio of activities.
“The current programme is now in support of political dialogue in the post-referendum process,” said Aigul. “In addition, there is also an economic component, focused on construction of three innovation hubs across Bougainville and providing trainings on computer literacy, entrepreneurship skills and business development.”
Along with these opportunities, Aigul has also been able to reflect on some of the challenges working in Buka. “Obviously, one of the consequences of climate change can be seen here as well,” she said. “Sometimes, it doesn’t rain in a month, so having sufficient water becomes an issue.”
Another, more personal, challenge, is the distance from her home country of Kyrgyzstan. “One of my concern is due to partially closed borders, because of COVID-19, and uncertainties in terms of being able to travel easily, if I need to.”
Despite these challenges, Aigul is optimistic about how she can make an impact through UNDP’s growing work in Bougainville.
“Through my work, I hope to contribute to successful implementation of the project, and since the project is for people in Bougainville, this should have measurable results, such as increased confidence and trust among population in post-referendum processes, greater engagement among women and youth in outlying fractions in peace processes and others.”
Aigul also encourages others who are looking for opportunities to work in this peace and development space to consider the roles available through UN Volunteers.
“The UN Volunteers programme is an excellent opportunity for us young professionals to acquire work experience with UN development programmes worldwide,” she said. “I note that the pool of volunteers is very diverse, there are a lot of competencies, and through sending UN Volunteers, the organisation is supporting development of local communities, bringing in required expertise and skills.”
Aigul is one of thirteen UN Volunteers working across five UN agencies in Papua New Guinea.
About UN Volunteers
The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide. We work with partners to integrate qualified, highly motivated and well supported UN Volunteers into development programming and promote the value and global recognition of volunteerism.
UN Volunteers provides opportunities for Papua New Guineans from a range of professions to work with UN projects in many countries around the world, in addition to online volunteering projects.