Biggest hurdle facing policymakers: Envoy

One of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing Papua New Guinean policymakers is the high number of youth and the growing population.

Speaking at the National Law and Order Summit on August 8th, Australian High Commissioner Bruce Davis said around 50 percent of Papua New Guineans are younger than 24 years of age.

“As in every country, these young people have great potential and are a huge pool of energy and talent. The challenge is to provide them with meaningful opportunities to contribute positively to Papua New Guinea’s future prosperity,” he stated.

“One model where we are working together to address this challenge is the establishment of Youth Development Councils in Northern Province. The Councils are designed to bring attention to issues affecting youth, and to support young people to play an active role in decision making at all levels of government.

“I know this is an initiative that has drawn interest from around the country, and is being observed closely.

“There are many other interesting approaches to crime prevention being implemented, and the Australian government is pleased to be supporting some of these.

“Valuable work has been undertaken to increase the capacity of village courts and land mediators to negotiate and settle disputes at the community level, before violence escalates. Village courts directly affect more Papua New Guineans than any other judicial body.”

Davis said it is important for Australia to change with the times and to rethink where they are investing their resources and efforts, and to make sure they do it in lockstep with their Papua New Guinean colleagues.

“One of our other very close partnerships is the Papua New Guinea-Australia Policing Partnership. For now, the partnership is focusing on the immense challenge of safety and security during PNG’s hosting of the upcoming APEC Leaders’ summit.

“However, our two governments are already thinking hard about ways we can reshape the partnership after APEC, to ensure it achieves the most important outcomes for both Papua New Guinea and Australia. We hear loudly the interest in a broader, more diverse and practical role for our police.

“To understand priorities, we must genuinely and openly engage with all stakeholders, from your elected leaders and government officials, to churches, business and people in remote communities. Forums such as this one are a perfect opportunity to do that.”

Davis said already, Papua New Guinea and Australia tackle security challenges jointly, and have many shared interests.

He further acknowledged that the task of working towards PNG’s law and justice goals, in pursuit of Vision 2050 is a challenging one which cannot be left to the ‘law and justice sector’ alone.

Jointly, the Australia-PNG partnership have achieved a great deal of positive progress:

  • Training of more than 3,000 legal officers
  • Constructing the Manus Police Headquarters
  • Issuing of 1542 ‘interim protection orders’ (under the Family Protection Act)
  • Training over 1200 Village Court and Land Mediator officials, and
  • Establishing 24 family and sexual violence units, resulting in almost 55,000 Papua New Guineans reporting cases of violence.

(Australian High Commissioner, Bruce Davis, delivering his speech at the recent National Law and Order Summit in Lae, Morobe Province)

Press release