Papua New Guinea

To improve electoral processes in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) supports the Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission (PNGEC) and the Office of the Bougainville Electoral Commissioner (OBEC) to implement transparent, credible and inclusive elections – including the 2015 Bougainville election, 2017 PNG national election, upcoming 2018 local-level government elections and other future electoral events. The country is currently preparing for a referendum on the status of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, which is required to be held by 2020. IFES also works in partnership with civil society and supports government agencies to promote the inclusion of all electoral stakeholders. IFES provides technical expertise and international best practices in the areas of election operations and planning, gender inclusion, civic education, voter enrollment and institutional capacity building. IFES has been engaged in PNG since 2001.


As part of preparations for the 2017 national election, IFES’ support to the PNGEC resulted in the implementation of more than 43 electoral reforms centered on electoral operations and inclusion efforts. IFES has worked to institutionalize a “systems thinking” approach to election planning within the PNGEC and spearheaded the establishment of a strategic planning unit to lead the development of the first-ever National Election Implementation Plan which promoted collaboration across branches and offices in election preparation. IFES also supported the PNGEC to develop and execute a voter awareness campaign which included an election song and music video featuring prominent local artists and materials with real Papuans instead of cartoons for the first time to highlight the diversity of the electorate. The PNGEC, with IFES’ support, piloted a mobile enrollment program targeting youth in schools. In the post-election period, IFES supported the PNGEC to host its first-ever election evaluation external stakeholder dialogue to promote transparency and communication. These recommendations were used as resources during the development of the 2018-2022 Corporate Plan, which was the most inclusive planning process ever conducted by the PNGEC and involved nearly 50 percent of staff at all levels in the provincial and headquarters offices. IFES is now supporting preparations for the 2018 local-level government elections and 2022 national election.

In addition, IFES assists the OBEC to enhance election delivery and the Department of Peace Agreement Implementation’s (DPAI) to lay the groundwork for a credible and inclusive referendum and to maintain peace during the post-referendum transition. In 2017, IFES provided technical support to the OBEC to successfully administer the first community government elections in 43 non-urban wards in April, replacing the council of elders system, and conduct post-election lessons-learned evaluations. A key area of focus in Bougainville has been women’s participation in politics, which IFES has supported by including gender equality strategies in OBEC’s election operation plans and facilitating the development of joint OBEC, DPAI, Autonomous Bougainville Government and civil society strategies on how to overcome barriers to women’s participation. IFES’ support resulted in the establishment of a memorandum of understanding between the PNGEC and OBEC, which led to the signing of the Bougainville Referendum Commission charter on August 30, 2017, its subsequent formal establishment, the finalization of the first-ever DPAI strategic plan and on-going efforts to develop a referendum voter roll.