The Political Economy of Mineral Resource Governance and Children’s Rights in Papua New Guinea

Organization(s): UNRISD
Author: Catherine MacDonald
Regions: Asia-Pacific
Country: Papua New Guinea
Year: 2016
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Papua  New  Guinea  has  had  a diverse history  of  contestation  over  resource  revenues during  its past forty  years  since  independence. The  major  actors  have  been  the national and provincial level governments and politicians, international development agencies,  resources  companies  and  local  landowners  in  project  development areas. This paper explores the debates over decentralization and the distribution of resource revenues   between   the   central,   provincial   and   local   governments,   and   local landowners. It considers  issues  of  representation  in  negotiations  over  resource revenues  and whether this has been sufficiently  equitable.  It does this in an effort to understand  whether  children’s  needs  and  welfare  have  been  accounted for  when decisions have been made over how to allocate and use resource revenues.

Development  indicators  for  the  provision  of  health  and  education  services  were reviewed to ascertain whether Papua New Guinea’s resource revenues have been well managed  for the  benefit  of  its  children,  and  the  overall  conclusion  was  that  greater investment  in  these  and  other  social  development  sectors  is  needed  in  order  for children  to  thrive,  a  point  that  is  not  lost  on  the  current  national  government. In particular,  an  improvement  is  needed  in  the  capacity  and  resourcing  of  local-level social development service providers. Stakeholder engagement revealed that there is little  overlap  between  those  responsible  for  the  allocation  of  resources  revenues  and those  responsible  for children’s welfare, with the result that each of the stakeholder groups felt unable to comment on the business of the others. This indicates that there is  an  acute  need  for  increased  cross-cutting engagement if children’s welfare issues are to become a regular preoccupation of those allocating resource revenues in Papua New Guinea.

The  Government  of  Papua  New  Guinea  has  increased  the  proportion  of  its  revenues that are allocated to social development services and has passed a new law aimed at empowering local-level government  so  that  the  provision  of  services  at  the  District level, where most people live, can be improved. It has also recently passed a Family Protection  Law  which  includes  elements  for  protecting  children  who  are  exposed  to situations  of  domestic  violence. What  is  now  needed,  and  is  recognized  by  key stakeholders,  is  enhanced  and  effective  implementation  of  these  changes  so  that development  does  not  stagnate  at  the  policy  stage,  as  has  happened  in  the  past. A crucial  factor  in  making  changes happen  for  the  benefit  of  children  will  be  the inclusion  of  children  and  their  representatives  in  the  processes  of  planning  and introducing   new   programmes,   not   just   leaving   essential   decisions   on   resource allocations in the hands of financial controllers. Ideally, this would happen as part of a  multistakeholder  process  that  would  include  community  members,  especially children   and   women,   resources   companies,   international   agencies,   NGOs   and government representatives. If all major players involved in the resources sector can find a way to work together, the future of Papua New Guinea’s children can be made brighter.

Social Protection and Human Rights