When you think of modern-day secessions, the struggles of Catalonia, Scotland, Kashmir, and Kurdistan typically come to mind. But Papua New Guinea (PNG)’s autonomous region of Bougainville is farther along than most to achieving independence. Following a bloody civil war that ended two decades earlier, 98% of some 250,000 Bougainvilleans voted for independence in December 2019 in a historic but non-binding referendum. Bougainville’s recently-elected president, a former rebel commander, will now lead independence negotiations. But the small island territory, sitting on a wealth of copper and gold, can’t escape larger geopolitical battles -- world powers like China, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand are interested and involving themselves in Bougainville’s independence movement. Shane McLeod, a Research Fellow at the Lowy Institute’s Australia-PNG Network, joined Altamar to shine light on Bougainville’s efforts to join the club of sovereign states. He is an expert on Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands and has written extensively on Bougainville. Formerly a senior editor at ABC News in Sydney, he has managed several flagship radio programs and covered the Asia-Pacific region as a foreign correspondent.
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