Bougainville politics: Demands by the ex-combatants for President Chief Dr John Momis to resign

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Demands by the ex-combatants for Autonomous Bougainville Government President Chief Dr John Momis to resign has been deemed as undemocratic. President Momis said that though the ex-combatants, led by former Bougainville Revolutionary Army commanders, Ishmael Toroama, Sam Kauona and Thomas Tari could voice their concerns on the government’s priorities on development, demanding his resignation without due cause cannot justify their demand.

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Report by : Anthony Kaybing New Dawn


This ultimatum was issued through a letter to the President questioning his ability to act in the best interest of Bougainville while outlining certain ABG ventures that it deemed were an utter failure and that if answers provided by President as unsatisfactory would warrant his removal from the Presidency.


“The ABG has already explained the dealings questioned by the ex-combatants clearly and concisely so what is the criteria that warrants me to resign as President,” President Momis said.

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“As the democratically elected leader of Bougainville what criteria justifies their demands for me to resign, without properly assessing the government’s development priorities before levelling accusations against me as head of the Autonomous Bougainville Government,” the President added.


President Momis declared that his government has done more in terms of development of infrastructure and policies in Bougainville than the last government.


He said though there were constraints within the Public Service and the ABG’s financial capacity the government had done all it can to strengthen Bougainville’s drive to reckoning its political destiny through and through.


The President’s sentiments are evident through the stability within the government and its development capacity during the last five years of the Momis Administration.


In the last 5 years of President Momis’ tenure as ABG President there has been an improvement in relations with the National Government with the President negotiating the K500 million Special Intervention Fund from the Somare Government, rescoping the ABG’s priorities on Mining and initiating important legislations.


With the ABG elections looming the President said if they really desired a change in the leadership in Bougainville then he encouraged them to partake in the elections where he said offers a level play ground for them all.
“The people will then decide on who they want as their leaders to lead Bougainville,” President Momis said

Bougainville Health News: PNG researchers discover a treatment that completely cures one of the most common strains of malaria

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Australian and Papua New Guinean researchers say they have discovered a treatment that completely cures one of the most common strains of malaria worldwide. This could be good news for Bougainville.

Malaria is one of the world’s most prevalent diseases, affecting about 200 million people.

There have been successes and failures trying to combat the disease, but now a group of Australian and Papua New Guinean researchers believe they have developed a treatment that can completely cure one of the most common strains.

WATCH VIDEO HERE

By combining two drugs, and giving it to patients over three days, the researchers found the treatment completely eliminated the vivax strain of malaria.

The trial was led by Papua New Guinean medical doctor Moses Laman as part of a PHD he has been undertaking.

The 36-year-old, who was raised in rural Papua New Guinea, knows intimately what it’s like to have malaria

“I’ve even been admitted to hospital as a child for malaria at least twice in rural PNG, and that’s tough,” he said.

The Papua New Guinean researcher said he was excited about what he and his colleagues discovered after two years of field tests in Papua New Guinea.

“It’s satisfying to not only see our work, but all the other malaria research, and the time and effort and planning that malaria has recently attracted globally,” he said.

“The incidence[s] of malaria globally, not just in Papua New Guinea, have been declining so as someone who has come from an endemic setting it’s satisfying to see.”

Although the number of cases may be falling, a child still dies of malaria every minute in Africa according to the World Health Organisation.

Dr Laman and his team trialled their treatment on 250 children over two years in PNG and found they could kill the vivax malaria parasite in the children.

Normally the parasite hides in the liver, re-emerging to attack the host again and again.

But this treatment breaks that cycle.

Vivax malaria is not usually lethal, but it can make a child anaemic and vulnerable to other diseases.

Dr Laman’s study was supervised by veteran malaria researcher Professor Tim Davis from the University of Western Australia’s school of medicine and pharmacology.

Professor Davis said vivax malaria was a devastating disease that affected many of the world’s developing countries.

“Malaria is a disease of poverty and contributes to poverty and it makes it difficult for young children to develop normally if they’re recurrently unwell with infections like malaria,” he said.

 

 

Bougainville Development News: Will a “balanced” Bougainville budget mean balanced development

 

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“In using the PNG Special Intervention Fund, the K100 million let us continue to give effect to provisions of the Bougainville constitution which talked about balanced development right throughout the region because it was unbalanced development that caused the Crisis in the first place,”

Outgoing acting chief secretary Chris Siriosi.

Picture above new chief secretary Monovi Amani who will make it happen

Story by: BY JENNIFER NKUI

The Bougainville public service has developed a new budgetary process while under the leadership of the outgoing acting chief secretary Chris Siriosi.

As revealed by the man himself during the official swearing-in ceremony of the new chief secretary Monovi Amani yesterday, Mr Siriosi explained that under his leadership as the acting chief secretary, there improvement of the relationships of all the stakeholders, including ABG’s development partners.

“This friendship or partnership is embodied in an arrangement called the District Planning and Budgeting Process that we have developed in Bougainville which I hope will be kept,” he said. “This new budgeting process involves getting all stakeholders, including our development partners to attend a forum twice a year during which all budgetary issues are discussed,” he added.

Mr Siriosi stressed that this is a very important process in governing Bougainville and it has to be kept and improved. “The other development is the Special Intervention Fund, the K100 million that the national government gives and we must continue to use it wisely,” he said.

And in using it, let us continue to give effect to provisions of the Bougainville constitution which talked about balanced development right throughout the region because it was unbalanced development that caused the Crisis in the first place,” he added. He then pointed out that there are still places in Bougainville that do not have any development at all and this is serious. –

For more INFO and details about the Bougainville Govt

The Bougainville Bulletin January issue for 2015 is avaliable on the Internet.

Download a pdf copy here by visiting link Bulletin_3rd Edition_Jan_2015_online.pdf – https://docs.google.com/…/0Bym5Bo_U5WIzVkdoY1U1ZlcxOHM/edit…

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Bougainville News: Integrating disaster risk management into development plans of Bougainville

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These developmental interventions are likely to reshape the disaster risk in the region, as development is not risk neutral. Bougainville is prone to a number of hazards including earthquake, tsunami, king tide, floods, landslides and floods.

Bougainville is on verge of a major developmental shift as a number of policy, programs and projects on various aspects of development ranging from the opening of the airport in Arawa to the construction of the Office of the Disaster management of Bougainville and from the mining policy to the impact projects are on anvil.

UNDP in partnership with the Autonomous Bougainville Government conducted training on Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Management into Development Planning and Implementation in Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
The training targeted the development planning related officials and development partners. The overall objective was to enable the participants on ‘how to’ mainstream DRM concerns into the development processes and identify steps to operationalize it.

Two-day training was attended by representatives of the Technical Services Department, the Buka Urban Council, the Law and Justice Department, IOM, UN Women, Red Cross, Office of Disaster Management and Leitana, a local NGO. Mr. Sudhir Kumar, UNDP and Mr. Franklin Leslie, Disaster Management Coordinator of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville facilitated the training.

The training included concepts and approaches for mainstreaming DRM into development as well as case studies on mainstreaming from a number of countries. It helped the participants to appreciate the importance of Disaster risk management for Sustainable development and understand the know-how of mainstreaming DRM into development of Bougainville.

Ms. Helen Hakena mentioned that the training was very informative as well as interesting and she will do some radio programs to share the information. She will also try to include DRM considerations in developmental interventions of her organization. Ms. Agnes of UN Women shared the same view and she will include DRM in her future public role. The training also identified a number of support measures for mainstreaming DRM and Office of the Disaster Management of Bougainville assured to pursue the identified actions.

Citizens of Tinputz district in Bougainville are now better prepared for disasters

Tinputz district team, responsible for development of disaster-risk management plan

Tinputz, Bougainville, Provincial Government of Tinputz district and development partners finalized the first District Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Plan for the district.

This model Tinputz District DRM Plan has been jointly drafted by the district level agencies and development partners with technical assistance from Disaster Risk Management Office of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and UNDP.

The plan was developed through comprehensive and participatory process, involving all district agencies, non-governmental organisations, the private sector and faith-based organisations as well as community consultations.

Tinputz district is prone to a number of disasters, which includes flooding, tidal surge/king tide, earthquake, tsunami, landslide, drought and disease outbreak. Climate change is further aggravating the situation as future disasters are likely to be more intense. Unplanned development and increase in population are other two key factors for increase in the disaster risk.

The plan analyses various disasters the district is prone to and provides guidance to establish a coordination mechanism at the district level to effectively respond to disaster situations.  The plan also outlines the disaster management roles and responsibilities of different departments at the district and includes clear instructions on how to set up early-warning systems for disasters.

This was the first attempt to develop the District level DRM Plan and it will serve as a model for other districts. “The DRM Plan is a highlight to Tinputz District because it’s a first of its kind and it gives further understanding on the different roles stakeholders in the district have to actually operationalize the Plan” noted Mr. Thomas Amos, the Paramount Chief Inus, Tinputz. He thanked UNDP and ECHO for supporting the initiative and cautioned that the operationalization of this Plan is key

The Executive Manager of Tinputz District congratulated all stakeholders involved in the process and thanked UNDP for the support. He mentioned the need to develop a strategic plan to operationalize the DRM Plan and expressed the support of UNDP in this important next step.

The initiative is part of a wider work of UNDP on building country’s capacity to withstand, adapt to, and recover from natural disasters.

 

Bougainville News: New Head of Bougainville Public Service sworn in and faces challenges

 

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The new chief secretary to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville Monovi Amani (pictured centre) , was officially sworn in today as the head of the public service in Bougainville.

The swearing in ceremony which was held in the ABG administration conference room was attended and witnessed by the ABG president chief Dr. John Momis, his deputy Patrick Nisira, the outgoing acting chief secretary Chris Siriosi, ministers of the Bougainville House of Representatives, heads of departments and other distinguished guests.

BY JENNIFER NKUI

The outgoing acting chief secretary in his remarks congratulated Mr. Amani for taking up the challenge saying he will be available in the office to continue to assist the chief secretary in whatever way he could.

He said this will be required initially as Mr. Amani in initial stages will need every form of assistance that he can render to him.

He then advised the chief secretary that the best starting point will be to get briefings from head of departments and as he goes along, he will begin to develop an understanding of the system.

Mr. Siriosi said he is looking forward to a healthy working relationship with the new chief secretary and urged everyone, especially the heads of departments to do the same.

SIRIOSI LAYS OUT WEAKNESSES IN THE SYSTEM

The outgoing acting chief secretary Chris Siriosi  laid out the weaknesses that are present in the Bougainville administration or public service system.

When giving his remarks at the official swearing in ceremony of the new chief secretary, Mr. Siriosi pointed out that there is weakness in internal revenue collection, management of finances is a weakness and a few other processes related to the management of the public service.

But he is of the firm belief that with the law in place, the public service can now look forward to overcoming those difficulties as the control is now with the ABG and the ABG systems and not with the National government systems.

Mr. Siriosi then stressed that if we fail to achieve our objectives and aims, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

However, the outgoing acting chief secretary is confident that we will still succeed despite the mentioned shortfalls.

When giving his response, the new chief secretary said he will take Mr. Siriosi up on his word to work with him closely.

Mr. Amani then stressed that it is an honour and privilege to be given the opportunity to serve the government of Bougainville under the leadership of chief Momis and the people of Bougainville.

He said he did not come with a magic wand but only with a heart full of eagerness to serve the Bougainville government and its people.

Background

Mr Amani, age 52 is from Mortlock Island. He was the former Provincial Administrator for New Ireland Province a position he held for the last two years. Prior to that he was CEO Planning and Finance in that Administration.

The new Chief Secretary has previously been a business and taxation consultant, a lecturer in finance and accounting, a senior officer in the National Housing Corporation and a tax assessor with IRC.

Mr Monovi Amani has degrees in Commerce, Accounting and Business Administration. He also has certificates and diplomas in financial management and tertiary teaching. Since 1992, Mr Amani has been a member of the Australian Society for Chartered Practicing Accountants.

The recruitment of Mr Amani was based on his successful application to the post that was advertised last year. He was among three highly qualified candidates who were interviewed by Bougainville Senior Appointments Committee (BSAC) and successfully won the position.

The Bougainville Senior Appointments Committee consists of President Momis, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Andrew Miriki, Bishop Tim Arthur representing the churches, Mrs Hona Hollan appointed by the Bougainville Women’s Federation and appointed by the PNG Law Society Mr Hubert Kikira. Under Bougainville law the Committee received a report from the independent panel of Secretary John Kali, Sir Paul Songo and Mr Simon Pentanu ranking the applications

PRESIDENT THANKS SIRIOSI, WELCOMES AMANI

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President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government chief Dr. John Momis has thanked the outgoing acting chief secretary Chris Siriosi for a job well done under difficult situations.

When giving his keynote address during the official swearing in of the new chief secretary to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville Monovi Amani today, the president assured Mr. Siriosi that the government has an important role for him to take up and use his experience, knowledge and commitment to serve the people of Bougainville.

He added by congratulating the outgoing acting chief secretary for assisting the government in achieving benchmarks that are important in our journey of self determination.

On that same note, chief Momis also congratulated and welcomed the new chief secretary Monovi Amani and thanked him for his acceptance of the offer to take on a difficult and challenging role to lead the public service under the direction of the ABG.

The president then assured the new chief secretary that the political leadership is committed to ensure that the public service has the necessary ware withal, financials, tactical and other resources necessary to implement to the full policy decisions and legislations made by the elected government of Bougainville

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bougainville Women’s News: USA and Japan Support Bougainville’s Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency….

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We are so grateful to the U.S. Embassy for linking us up with the Japanese Embassy to make this possible,This grant will allow us to rebuild our center and redouble our efforts to support the women of Bougainville.”

Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency Director, Helen Hakena,

Picture: Helen Hakena shakes hands with Japanese Ambassador Morio Matsumoto and U.S Ambassador Walter North following the grant singing

On January 21, 2015, U.S. Ambassador Walter North attended a signing ceremony to celebrate the Japanese government’s awarding of a grant worth USD $81,252 (approximately PGK202,000) to build a new Human Resource Center for Bougainville-based NGO Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency.

Awarded through the Japanese government’s Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP), the grant contract was signed by Japanese Ambassador, H.E. Mr. Morio Matsumoto, and by Mrs. Helena Hakena from the Laitana Nehan Women’s Development Center.

“Today’s signing ceremony will not only strengthen the friendship between the people of Japan and Papua New Guinea,” said Japanese Ambassador Morio Matsumoto, “but will also help foster future strategic partnership on gender equality and women’s empowerment between Papua New Guinea, the United States, and Japan.”

“We are so grateful to the U.S. Embassy for linking us up with the Japanese Embassy to make this possible,” said Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency Director, Helen Hakena, “This grant will allow us to rebuild our center and redouble our efforts to support the women of Bougainville.”

Since its office was burned down in 2010, Leitana Women has been doing amazing work out of temporary quarters, and has had to improvise to find space to hold counseling and workshops funded by the United States and other donors. The new center will provide critically needed office and training space for the organization.

U.S. Ambassador North said “The United States and Japan are deeply committed to empowering women in Papua New Guinea and eliminating violence against women. I applaud the Government of Japan for its leadership on these issues. We look forward to future joint initiatives, including collaborating on the PNG Women’s Forum in March.”

The U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have supported work by Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency to carry out training workshops and activities on gender and human rights awareness, peace building engagements, and good governance capacity.

By bougnews Posted in Women

Tourism News: Bougainville and PNG continues to attract International cruise ships boosting tourism, economic and cultural opportunities

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Bougainville continues to attract International cruise ships boosting tourism, economic and cultural opportunities throughout island according to Bougainville tourism operator Zhon Bosco Miriona .

“One of the potential benefits of cruising is that it brings visitors to remote areas that cannot otherwise to reached, providing a boost to village economies through the provision of shore excursions, cultural experiences and handicrafts”

As the PNGTIA points out cruising allows a new source of economic income and development which can provide associated benefits in areas such as health, employment and education,”

Zhon Bosco Miriona Managing Director (pictured below left recently promoting to international market): Bougainville Experience Tours and regional member for the PNG Tourism Industry Association , manages cruise ship tours from Kieta and Arawa

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Picture at top: Passengers of a cruise ship arriving at the Kuri Resort :130 visited with 24 of them going diving.

 

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UPDATE from Lawrence Belleh ABG Tourism CEO : In March 2015 a cruise ship will visit the Queen Karoola Harbour  Bougainville .This is the first trip to the old Kesa Plantation that is being considered to be turned into a tourism hub on the Northern tip of Buka Island. The hub would benefit  Haku, Halia, Hagogohe, Peit and Tons constituencies and their people. There will be also a  visit to Pororan Island to experience the sand, beach, cultural displays (photo above)  and the opportunity buy Bougainville souvenirs.

 Media coverage

Shipping companies are taking an increasing interest in PNG, with passenger arrivals surging and even big ships now heading to PNG’s and Bougainville shores, Brian Johnston reports.

A P&O cruise liner arrives in Milne Bay. Credit: David Conn

The cruise news looks good. According to a report by the Pacific Islands Forum in mid-2013, the cruise industry has grown 125 per cent since 2005 and 143 new ships have been launched.

Particularly strong growth has been recorded in the Asian and Australian markets; a record 834,000 Australians took a cruise holiday in 2013. That puts Papua New Guinea in a geographically advantageous position.

What’s more, there’s plenty of room for expansion: currently only one in a hundred international cruisers (about 200,000 passengers) visit any Pacific island. In PNG, only five per cent of holiday arrivals are cruise passengers.

‘Cruise tourism in Papua New Guinea is facing a bright future with increased international interest in cruising and increasing willingness from cruise shipping companies to include Papua New Guinea on Pacific itineraries,’ concluded a recent report from the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA).

 

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The World ( pictured above) arriving last June at Pokpok Island ( pictured above from Simon Pentanu ) , Central Bougainville.

Significant markets

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PNG 9000xThe US, New Zealand, Japan and the UK are significant markets, but half of all cruise visitors to PNG are Australians. That sector is also significant because many cruises are one way, with Australian visitors often extending with land-based holidays.

The PNG Government is taking notice. In 2010 it launched its first comprehensive cruise strategy which looked to improving port facilities and opportunities for shore excursions, waiving visa fees for cruise passengers, and reducing pilot fees by half. With expedition cruising already established, the aim was to entice luxury mid-size ships and even big operators.

‘Cruise tourism in Papua New Guinea is facing a bright future with increased international interest.’

In October 2014, the TPA launched a trade website to educate and inform travel agents. It has also emphasised PNG as a cruise destination in international trade shows and tourism events in Europe, the US and Australia.

While new jetties have been built in Kitava and Kaibola, among others, Milne Bay became the focus of efforts, since Alotau already had a good port and is well positioned on potential cruise routes from Australia. Wharfs were extended and new public facilities added.

In 2013, the arrival of P&O Cruises’ 2050-passenger Pacific Dawn in Milne Bay showed the strategy delivering results.

Pacific Dawn’s entry into the region allowed a new wave of low-cost travellers to see the beauty and thriving culture of PNG at a much lower price point than travel to PNG previously allowed,’ says Stuart Thompson, TPA’s Australia and New Zealand representative.

‘It’s a game changer. Mass cruising provides greater consumer awareness, growth in demand and increased repeat visitation. As we’ve witnessed with Vanuatu, cruising has the potential to attract a percentage of past passengers back to the destination for an extended holiday.’

Growing presence

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Currently P&O Cruises visits five PNG ports and will add Kavieng and Madang early this year. It has already announced a significant increase in its cruise presence, with its 2015-16 program including its first back-to-back PNG cruises from Cairns, and its first dedicated PNG cruises from Brisbane and Sydney.

‘The addition of two more ships has given us the flexibility to increase our PNG itineraries and open up new destinations. P&O’s return to PNG was possible because of the strong support of the national government and local authorities, particularly in relation to the provision of infrastructure to accommodate cruise ship visits,’ explains P&O Cruises’ CEO Ann Sherry.

In 2014, Pacific Dawn wasn’t alone in visiting PNG waters. Other visits were made by Japan’s NYK Cruises, Holland-America Line’s Amsterdam, the British ships Black Watch and Caledonian Sky, French Polynesia-based Paul Gauguin, ultra-luxe residential cruise ship The World and three ships from both Hapag-Lloyd and Silversea. Princess Cruises now features PNG across 14 different cruises; it has also added PNG to its 2016 world cruise.

‘Mass cruising provides greater consumer awareness, growth in demand and increased repeat visitation.’

Small-size expedition ships continue to have a strong presence, among them Coral Princess Cruises’ Oceanic Discoverer and North Star Cruises’ True North, which carries a helicopter and Zodiac landing boats for access to remote areas. One of its three itineraries focuses on diving the remote Louisiade Archipelago. Aurora Expeditions has a 12-night cruise from Cairns that includes the Trobriand Islands and Tufi fjords.

Cruising benefits

One of the potential benefits of cruising is that it brings visitors to remote areas that cannot otherwise to reached, providing a boost to village economies through the provision of shore excursions, cultural experiences and handicrafts.

The TPA says 90 per cent of revenue from coastal tourism operators comes from cruising in some destinations. “Cruising allows a new source of economic income and development which can provide associated benefits in areas such as health, employment and education,” says Stuart Thompson.

With the big surge in PNG cruising barely two years old, that remains to be seen, but certainly these are exciting times for cruise tourism in PNG and Bougainville. Watch this space.

For More Information on Bougainville Tourism

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Australia-PNG Emerging Leaders Dialogue identifies Bougainville referendum as an issue

 

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At the second annual Australia-Papua New Guinea Emerging Leaders Dialogue in Sydney participants discussed issues surrounding Bougainville, its peace building experience and its upcoming referendum on independence between 2015 and 2020.

Bougainville faced many of the same challenges as the rest of Papua New Guinea in terms of sustainable development but the history surrounding the Panguna mine and the conflict made the issue of how natural resources are used more controversial.

Reconciliation between groups within Bougainville and with Papua New Guinea was crucial for social cohesion and peacebuilding. Some of the Papua New Guinean participants were sorry that there was a desire for independence in Bougainville.

They noted that few young people in Papua New Guinea were aware of the history of the Bougainville conflict and had not engaged in discussions about the implications of independence.

The Australian participants, for their part, noted that there was very little awareness of Bougainville amongst young people in Australia.  Participants believed that Australian organisations could play a constructive role in helping to provide platforms for more conversations and awareness about Bougainville within Papua New Guinea.

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Originally published 2014 AUSTRALIA-PAPUA NEW GUINEA EMERGING LEADERS DIALOGUE: OUTCOMES REPORT

20 January 2015   |   Speeches and Conferences   |   By Jenny Hayward-Jones, Mark Tamsitt and Anna Kirk

The Lowy Institute for International Policy convened the second annual Australia-Papua New Guinea Emerging Leaders Dialogue in Sydney under the auspices of the Australia-Papua New Guinea Network from 1 to 4 December 2014. In this Report, the Lowy Institute’s Melanesia team summarises the outcomes of the Dialogue, which set a new standard for frank and broad-ranging discussion. This outstanding group of young leaders came from diverse fields in both countries and the variety of their expertise added great value to the conversation. Food security, access to services and justice, the growing importance of social enterprises, and the prospects for Bougainville were key focus areas for the discussion.

The Australian participants developed a strong appreciation of the challenges and opportunities facing our nearest neighbour.  The Papua New Guinean participants gained new insights into domestic debates in Australia on issues such as health, education, environment, and Indigenous inclusion.  A number of the participants are already discussing professional and community projects they can collaborate on to leverage expertise for more effective results.

They were enthusiastic about continuing engagement and building professional relationships, particularly in the fields of small business, agriculture and health.

Key Findings
  • The agriculture sector struggles to attract young talent and government attention in both Australia and PNG. This has flow-on effects for national food security and health in PNG and limits diversity and innovation in Australia.
  • The growing popularity of entrepreneurship as a tool to create positive social change creates opportunities for greater collaboration between young Australians and Papua New Guineans. This could be enabled by better utilising the social media tools already available in both countries.
  • The consequences of Bougainville’s upcoming referendum are not well understood among the younger generation of Papua New Guineans. Given the significance for our region of a vote for independence in Bougainville, greater discussion and education about Bougainville’s future is warranted

The Lowy Institute for International Policy convened the second annual Australia-Papua New Guinea Emerging Leaders Dialogue in Sydney under the auspices of the Australia-Papua New Guinea Network from 1 to 4 December 2014.

The Dialogue brought together twenty leaders from both countries to discuss common challenges and build lasting professional connections. The young leaders came from diverse backgrounds working in sectors such as youth work, law and justice, agriculture, health, education, the military, finance and tourism. Their discussion focused around the central themes of sustainability, entrepreneurship and international engagement.  Participants also had a constructive and informed discussion on contemporary challenges — including the future of Bougainville, Indigenous Australians’ access to services and justice, Australian aid, and asylum seekers in Manus.

The Dialogue was chaired by Jenny Hayward-Jones, Program Director, Melanesia at the Lowy Institute and Serena Sumanop, Executive Director, The Voice Inc., Papua New Guinea.

Key recommendations from the participants were:

1.      Developing an online teaching resource for primary and high school students in Australia and Papua New Guinea focused on the 40th anniversary of independence to assist in understanding our joint history.  This could be coordinated by the Australia-PNG Network and made available via its website.

2.      The introduction of an annual Emerging Leaders Award for an Australian or Papua New Guinean who has made an outstanding contribution to deepening ties between our two countries. This award could be presented on behalf of the Australian and Papua New Guinean Foreign Ministers at the Emerging Leaders Dialogue and involve opportunities for high-level meetings and public presentations.

3.      Tour operators on the Kokoda Track could work together to integrate PNG and Australian groups doing the track. This could be an opportunity to encourage Australian Indigenous youth organisations to work with counterparts in Papua New Guinea.

4.      The Australian Government could contribute to constructive discussions on the future of Bougainville by facilitating opportunities for young people from all over Papua New Guinea to debate issues around the referendum on independence.

5.      Communities in Australia and Papua New Guinea face similar challenges with the prevalence of lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. Organisations and individuals in Australia with expertise in successful public health awareness campaigns, dietary advice and service delivery in rural and remote areas could pursue partnerships with community and government organisations in Papua New Guinea.

6.      Papua New Guinea’s rapidly growing urban areas are putting a strain on existing infrastructure. Papua New Guinea’s towns could benefit from Australian experience in town planning. Partnership and interaction through mechanisms such as sister-city relationships would help develop appropriate and practical town plans improving sustainability and quality of life.

7.      Australian assistance in the agriculture sector should aim to attract investment in initiatives relating to smallholder agriculture, with particular attention to promoting a more balanced diet, crucial for the health and economic productivity of Papua New Guinea. Some examples of specific focal points include preserving local foods of nutritional benefit, maintaining general crop diversity, encouraging inland fisheries as a source of protein for rural communities, and creating business models that support better downstream processing of agricultural produce.

8.      A professional exchange program that enabled Australians to take up work placements in Papua New Guinea and Papua New Guineans to take up work placements in Australia at a mid-career level for up to 12 months.  This has the potential to deliver immediate results by boosting the business acumen of individuals and deepening professional and people-to-people links. Some multinational companies such as banks and resources companies already do this well.  Expansion to other sectors including agriculture, tourism, higher education, journalism and state-owned enterprises would need some government backing to encourage commitment from the private sector and enable appropriate visa arrangements. This initiative would be consistent with the rationale behind the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan and the Australia Awards scheme.

9.      A private sector-backed business incubation initiative that brings together high-level mentoring, access to seed funding, and shared information to case studies on relevant successful start-up companies in both countries. This should be targeted at young Papua New Guineans and Indigenous Australian youth, particularly women, without access to tertiary education to encourage them to take on the risk of starting a small business.

INTRODUCTION

The Dialogue set a new standard for frank and broad-ranging discussions between young leaders from both countries.  The Australian participants developed a strong appreciation of the challenges and opportunities facing our nearest neighbour.  The Papua New Guinean participants gained new insights into domestic debates in Australia on issues such as health, education, environment, and Indigenous inclusion.  A number of the participants are already discussing professional and community projects they can collaborate on to leverage expertise for more effective results.  They were enthusiastic about continuing engagement and building professional relationships, particularly in the fields of small business, agriculture and health.

The following provides a summary of the discussion at the Dialogue. The report is written on a non-attributable basis. A list of the participants and observers involved in the event is attached as an annex.

SUSTAINABILITY

FOOD SECURITY

Food security was an increasingly important issue for both Papua New Guinea and Australia. While rural Papua New Guineans could live off subsistence farming, in the long term there was a risk that Papua New Guineans may not have the capacity to feed themselves.  Subsistence farmers produced only enough crops to sell in local markets.  The majority of the urban population of Papua New Guinea is already reliant on imported processed foods.  High population growth meant the nation would be dependent on imported foods.  Like many developing countries, Papua New Guinea lacks the negotiating power to ensure poor quality foods are not dumped in its market.

In Papua New Guinea there is the added challenge of a popular perception of traditional foods being inferior to processed and imported Western-style foods. Imported foods were associated with a middle-class lifestyle. The change in diet had a devastating effect on the health of the Papua New Guinea population; large numbers were suffering from non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. Efforts should be focused on increasing the prestige of locally produced foods and preserving traditional food systems knowledge. The rising cost of non-communicable diseases makes this an economic as well as a health issue. The Papua New Guinea government appeared to be changing its approach and had launched a National Strategy for Responsible Sustainable Development in 2014.

SUPPORTING SMALL-SCALE AGRICULTURE

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Papua New Guinea had the capacity to develop smallholder farms and sustain its population with traditional foods.  A region like the Markham Valley in Papua New Guinea could feed the nation.  But there was insufficient investment in the agriculture sector.  Government attention was focused primarily on the resources sector.  Young Papua New Guineans were encouraged to move from rural to urban areas to obtain low-paid jobs rather than work in agriculture where they could earn much more from crops such as coffee beans.  Similarly in Australia, careers in agriculture were not appealing to young people.  More investment in diversified farming and in downstream processing would help increase the value of agriculture in both countries.

In Australia there has been a growing trend towards macro agriculture.  But experience in developing countries showed that investment in micro agriculture was more productive for them.  For example, India was the biggest producer of dairy and 80 per cent of dairy products were consumed within one kilometre of the cow that produced them.  Access to finance and insurance was important for smallholders.  This was challenging in rural areas but mobile phone technology could be harnessed to offer access to capital and insurance in remote and rural areas.

YOUTH ENGAGEMENT

Another important issue for both countries was youth engagement. For Australia this was central to tackling law and justice problems, particularly in Indigenous communities. An economic argument could be used to put pressure on government to re-evaluate their approach. The costs associated with incarcerating people were much higher than the costs of early intervention or programs to support young Indigenous people through school. Participants highlighted the effectiveness of the arts in this process. Through the use of mediums such as theatre, Indigenous youths were able to communicate their experiences of the justice system with the wider community and with law enforcement agencies. This highlighted the sometimes unfair prejudices Indigenous people faced and was able to spark a dialogue between the police and Indigenous communities on the issues in their relationship.

Sport could also be a very effective tool to engage young people and in the process impart important values, increase self-esteem and provide good role models and an alternative support network. In Indigenous communities in Australia sporting programs helped to inject pride back into the young people’s lives. By focusing on what they can do, rather than using the language of victimhood, programs like these saw huge successes in lowering the rates of crime in some Indigenous communities. The challenge was to scale these programs to achieve positive effects in other communities.

The Papua New Guinea participants greatly valued the input of the Indigenous participants, recognising the many shared challenges their communities faced. They also saw success with programs that used sport as a means of attracting young people’s attention to broader issues, for example environmental damage to coastlines from household rubbish. In Papua New Guinea there were not the same opportunities for young athletes to reach professional levels of sport and participants expressed their desire to see this change.

Participants from both countries acknowledged the importance of clear communication and cooperation between all of the parties working with young people. Schools were recognised to be vitally important but they must work with service providers and parents. There were many NGOs doing important work in this space, however participants were aware that there could be duplication of work between some.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

HEALTH

The use of technology was viewed as central to innovation and entrepreneurship in the health sector. It transformed administration processes making health systems more cost-effective in Australia. Moving from paper systems to electronic systems made collecting and using health information far easier. An individual’s health records could be quickly accessed across Australia and many parts of the world. There were also many health applications for mobile devices that could be easily accessed, for example calorie and exercise trackers to assist in weight loss. Creative online approaches to mental health also had a big impact for young Australians. Online platforms that gave them access to medical information and professionals were a powerful way for young people to take ownership of their health, particularly with the sensitive issue of mental health.

Technology was not as advanced in Papua New Guinea’s health sector. Mobile technologies had improved data collection methods in the field. There were also technologies in the pilot phase for surveillance of infectious disease outbreaks. The responsibility for health service delivery was gradually shifting from government to the private sector and non-government organisations. Large mining companies like Oil Search had become big players in health services because they had better financial systems and capacity to roll out large-scale programs targeting HIV and malaria. The Papua New Guinea government could replicate these kinds of public-private partnerships with other health service delivery initiatives and in this way capitalise on technological advancements.

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Participants discussed new social entrepreneurship as a means of tackling problems, such as those in Papua New Guinea’s health sector, with creative business approaches that were economically viable. This required looking for gaps in markets and creating projects to fill those gaps in ways that would bring profit and social returns. For example in South Africa, an innovative insurance scheme which offered life insurance to people living with HIV contingent on them adhering to medical treatment was resulting in these people being fitter and living longer and thus making a positive contribution to society.  Innovation is not just about finding new solutions; it is about improving on what already works and making current systems more sustainable.  It requires collaboration across different sectors. However, there was a cautionary note from participants during this discussion; in the attempt to find the solution to problems of inequality and poverty people can overlook the fact that diverse contexts require diverse solutions.

It is difficult to involve all sectors of society in programs that aim to promote entrepreneurship. In Australia, there were targeted programs that supported Indigenous small business owners in the first three years of running their businesses. In Papua New Guinea there were programs developed specifically for women and young people in business. Only one per cent of the Papua New Guinea population was actively involved in formal business. There are significant strains on the Papua New Guinea economy and the population is quite risk-averse, so it was difficult to inspire people to become entrepreneurs.

There were other emerging economies that had successfully built a culture of enterprise from which Papua New Guinea could draw lessons. In Kenya the ihub is an enabling and support mechanism for entrepreneurs in IT (http://www.ihub.co.ke/). There were also programs like Endeavour (http://www.endeavor.org/), a global incubator program for start-ups. In Australia, entrepreneurs could get support for their projects through formal programs with universities and the government but there were also avenues to find informal support, like co-working spaces and technology innovation groups accessible through Meetup platforms.

ENCOURAGING YOUNG PEOPLE TO ENTER BUSINESS

In Papua New Guinea there were also new programs being launched to foster entrepreneurship amongst young people. This was an essential project because of the lack of opportunities for young people in Papua New Guinea to continue to higher education or gain formal employment after high school. There were 24 000 students graduating from high school and only 4 000 places at universities in Papua New Guinea. However, it was difficult to inspire young people to start their own businesses because of the risks that came with that. Most Papua New Guineans had an obligation to help support their extended family and wantok networks, which made them more inclined to take on low-paid but secure jobs.

Participants proposed building on the business incubation programs that were already in existence by creating a business exchange program between PNG and Australia. The program would seek to promote small business as an alternative form of employment for young people by providing them with educational resources to see how other small businesses have been successful and selecting participants to travel to each other’s countries to experience how business works there. Another element of this program would be high-level mentoring from key figures of large corporate companies. It could also be replicated for people in middle management positions in state-owned enterprises who would learn a lot from the experience and are already in decision-making positions so could begin to implement what they had learned immediately. Participants noted that Papua New Guinea’s state-owned enterprises, because of their important national role in service provision and their own particular challenges merited this kind of assistance. This would require the support of the Australian and Papua New Guinean governments and the private sector.

INTERNATIONAL ENGAGEMENT

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STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA FOR AUSTRALIA

In the session on International Engagement participants discussed the varied nature of the Australia-Papua New Guinea relationship as well as the two countries’ relations with their neighbours. The participants recognised the immense strategic importance of Papua New Guinea to Australia. The strategic geography of the region placed Papua New Guinea on the air and maritime approaches to Australia. This made the continued stability and territorial integrity of Papua New Guinea a vital interest of Australia’s. The Australian Government continued to provide extensive support to Papua New Guinea’s security through over AUD 11 million of funding a year to the Defence Cooperation Program and extensive assistance to the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary through the Australian Federal Police. These programs were essential to increasing the professionalism and capacity of these organisations. However, there needed to be more accountability and transparency regarding the appointments of senior commanders and greater commitment to political impartiality within the security forces.

TOURISM

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The participants identified shared history as a key element in relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea. The Kokoda Track continued to attract immense interest from Australians and thousands walked the track every year. This had important benefits for rural communities in the area as visitors, tour operators and non-government organisations such as the Kokoda Track Foundation delivered income and social programs. However, the way tourism around the track operated does not fully recognise the Papua New Guinea story of Kokoda or Papua New Guinea culture. More and more Papua New Guineans were walking the track and they could be integrated with the Australian groups. The expansion of the National Museum of Papua New Guinea and the Papua New Guinea in WWII Oral History project (http://ips.cap.anu.edu.au/cap-events/2014-10-14/recalling-war-png-wwii-o…) would also deepen the experience. Other new tourism developments, such as Carnival Australia’s cruises, were giving Australians an experience of Papua New Guinea and providing some training and infrastructure for communities involved. Papua New Guinea entrepreneurs, with support and access to capital could take advantage of this growing market to increase the economic benefits of tourism to communities.

MANUS ISLAND – REGIONAL PROCESSING CENTRE

Participants also reflected on some contentious areas of the Australia-Papua New Guinea relationship. Papua New Guinea participants raised the damage they considered the Regional Processing Centre on Manus had done to Papua New Guinea’s image on the world stage and in Australia. The Australian media had portrayed Manus as a “hell hole” which was completely at odds with the lives of the people of Manus. Tensions between residents and asylum seekers in Manus had been exacerbated by a lack of understanding and communication. There was also a perception among some Papua New Guineans that the services and assistance were being directed at the asylum seekers and contractors rather than the people of Manus province. Evidence on the ground showed that this was not necessarily the case and that the assistance from Australia was delivering a number of direct benefits to the residents of Manus.  Companies based in Morobe province were also benefiting from contracts related to the Refugee Resettlement Arrangement.

WEST PAPUA

The regional processing centre had also pushed the Papua New Guinea government and people to re-examine the status of asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea. This was most relevant to the thousands of West Papuans residing in Papua New Guinea who now had the opportunity to apply for refugee status. There was a general lack of awareness about the plight of West Papuans in Australia. The ability of the Papua New Guinea and Australian governments to engage on the issue was complicated by important bilateral relations with Indonesia.

BOUGAINVILLE

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The participants discussed issues surrounding Bougainville, its peacebuilding experience and its upcoming referendum on independence between 2015 and 2020. Bougainville faced many of the same challenges as the rest of Papua New Guinea in terms of sustainable development but the history surrounding the Panguna mine and the conflict made the issue of how natural resources are used more controversial. Reconciliation between groups within Bougainville and with Papua New Guinea was crucial for social cohesion and peacebuilding. Some of the Papua New Guinean participants were sorry that there was a desire for independence in Bougainville. They noted that few young people in Papua New Guinea were aware of the history of the Bougainville conflict and had not engaged in discussions about the implications of independence.

The Australian participants, for their part, noted that there was very little awareness of Bougainville amongst young people in Australia.  Participants believed that Australian organisations could play a constructive role in helping to provide platforms for more conversations and awareness about Bougainville within Papua New Guinea.

You can help the emerging Bougainville leaders of tomorrow by donating books and Kindles here

Bookgainville  Project on Bougainville PNG

 

 

Bougainville Foreign Aid News: Is aid to Bougainville under threat?

Oxfam

Today, as leaders from business and politics gather in Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum, our new figures reveal that the wealthiest continue to get wealthier:

  • 80 billionaires have amassed the same wealth as half of humanity – down from 85 one year ago
  • By next year, just 1% of people will have the same wealth as the other 99%
  • It would take almost 68 million years for one of the 500 million people who barely survive on USD $1.25 a day across Asia to earn as much money as the region’s richest person

So what’s Australia doing to address this? The answer is we’re turning our backs on those left in poverty. 

Oxfam  CEO, Helen Szoke said yesterday: “It is hard to believe that the Abbott Government are cutting aid to the poorest given the shocking rise in inequality in our own backyard, which we know is not just bad news for those at the bottom but also damages economic growth.

“The scale of the aid cuts – the biggest in Australia’s history – will take Australia’s aid effort to its lowest level since aid records began, in 1960.”

Australian aid is a vital part of our contribution to supporting people to overcome poverty and address extreme inequality.

So it’s more important than ever that we stand up for it.

We have some exciting plans for 2015 and we’d love to work with you as we campaign for Australian Aid. Join us now.

From Grant Hill, International Development Campaign Lead, Oxfam Australia

Background: Australian assistance to Bougainville

Australia has made an important contribution to the Bougainville peace process, particularly through its leadership of the Peace Monitoring Group (PMG). The PMG remained on Bougainville from May 1998 to 30 June 2003, and involved unarmed military and civilian personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu. It helped build confidence in the peace process, including by facilitating meetings and distributing peace-related information. At its peak the PMG comprised around 300 personnel. In total, around 3,800 Australian Defence Force personnel and 300 Australian civilians served at various times in the PMG. Australia also led the civilian Bougainville Transition Team (BTT) that replaced the PMG from 30 June 2003 until 31 December 2003. The BTT continued the peace-related activities of the PMG, but on a reduced scale.

Australia has complemented its support for peacekeeping with substantial reconstruction aid. Since 1997, Australia has provided over A$250 million to support Bougainville’s peace process and post-conflict reconstruction. Current Australian aid in Bougainville is focused on assisting implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, improving service delivery in the four Partnership for Development priority Sectors, and fostering employment-focused economic development.

 

 

Bougainville Economic News: What is the future for the Torokina oil palm project ?

palm-oil-fruit

“Even though PNG is considered one of the smaller palm oil producers by world standards, palm oil represents one of the country’s most important cash crops, accounting for around 40% of agricultural export earnings over the last decade.

Furthermore, research by ITS Global Consultants shows that incomes associated with palm oil cultivation and processing have risen steadily over the last 10 years, with smallholder returns from palm oil being almost 10 times those from cocoa.”

While the palm oil industry in Bougainville  has great potential to foster economic growth, environmental and social concerns have come to the fore.

See below a response to this report :An Open Letter about Scientific Credibility and the Conservation of Tropical Forests

Download report here The Economic Benefits of Palm Oil in PNG(2011)

Torokina oil palm disputed by Bougainville landowners

On the 15th of January the Post-Courier reported it is full steam ahead for the controversial Torokina Oil Palm plantation on Bougainville. But now evidence has emerged that the necessary landowner permissions have not been obtained and local people are not happy.

In a letter to the Department of Lands locals people accuse the Bougainville government of fast-tracking the Incorporated Land Group process and not dealing with the their concerns. The letter demands that ILG certificates not be issued.

Is this another case of President Momis pushing through large-scale resource projects to enrich big corporations?

The beneficiary of this project is Hakau Investment Limited owned by Henry Chow and run by his son Fabian. The Chow dynasty have been awarded a range of government grants for projects on Bougainville. To conduct a feasibility study into oil palm at Torokina, they were awarded K10 million in 2010-11.

But landowners remained concerned. Palm Oil has a global reputation for harming the environment, damaging land, and enriching big business interests, at the cost of landowning communities.

 

TOROKINA OIL PALM NOT A FAILED PROJECT
BY JENNIFER NKUI

The Torokina Oil Palm Project according to the chairman of Beko Incorporated Land Group Peter Tsuremai is not a failed project as assumed by some leaders as well as Bougainvilleans.
In an interview with New Dawn Fm yesterday, the chairman pointed out strongly that the first stage of the Torokina Oil palm project which is feasibility studies on the project site is completed by Hakau Investment who won the contract through the tender process.
He said all this talk that the Torokina Oil Palm project is a failed project is not true because the process on the project is still continuing.


He added that the project is now into its second stage and work on the second stage of the project will progress after the presentation of ILG certificates to the remaining 6 ILG’s in Torokina.
Mr. Tsuremai stressed that Torokina is the first district in Bougainville to have this opportunity with the presentation of ILG certificates under the Incorporated Land Group Rights.


He explained that there are a total of 8 clans who are involved in this oil palm project because these 8 clans own the large landmass in Torokina.


He said all these clans want the project to progress and there is no reason to say that there is no support for this project.
According to Mr. Tsuremai, the project is a multi-million kina project and with it sure to come big developments and change to the district.


Therefore, he is of the firm believe that Torokina will be well off and the people in Torokina are happy especially in terms of infrastructure development, wharf, airport and other developments must take place in Torokina District.

Background

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Papua New Guinea may be one of the smaller palm oil producers, however it is unique in that it only has two producing companies, both of which are 100% certified to the RSPO standard

Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of the world’s second largest island just 140 kilometers north of Australia. The island is rich in natural resources with 80% of its population living in rural areas and relying on agriculture as its main source of livelihood.

Even though PNG is considered one of the smaller palm oil producers by world standards, palm oil represents one of the country’s most important cash crops, accounting for around 40% of agricultural export earnings over the last decade. Furthermore, research by ITS Global Consultants shows that incomes associated with palm oil cultivation and processing have risen steadily over the last 10 years, with smallholder returns from palm oil being almost 10 times those from cocoa.

The oil palm was first introduced to Papua New Guinea at the end of the 19th century. However, it wasn’t until the 1960’s that oil palm plantations were converted into large commercial developments.

According to the Index Mundi’s 2013 figures, PNG ranks sixth in global palm oil production, after Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Columbia and Nigeria. Its palm oil production is estimated at 630 000 tones for the current year, representing less than 1% of global production. While its entire industry presently rests on 150,000 hectares of land, some 5.1 million ha have been identified for development.

The palm oil industry in Papua New Guinea is structured around a small number of large companies that cultivate and process oil palm fruit on estate developments. Their palm oil industry is unique in that the two major producing companies – New Britain Palm Oil and Hargy Oil Palm- as well as all associated mills, are environmentally accredited through the RSPO.

While the palm oil industry in Papua New Guinea has great potential to foster economic growth, environmental and social concerns have come to the fore.

In recent years some companies – particularly logging firms – have been exploiting a loophole in national law in order to fast track supposed agricultural development as a means to obtain timber. According to a report by Greenpeace, these companies use palm oil licenses as a cover to apply for Special Agricultural Business Leases (SABLs) which would allow them to bypass established laws and restrictions on industrial logging designed to reduce the unsustainable harvest of timber.

As a result, the government has placed a moratorium on such developments whilst a commission of enquiry takes place. In the mean time, Papua New Guinea palm oil producers continue to compete on the global market by competing on quality rather than quantity.

An Open Letter about Scientific Credibility and the Conservation of Tropical Forests

 See link version for all corrections
To whom it may concern:
As professional scientists employed by leading academic and research institutions, we are writing to alert the general public about some of the claims and practices being used by the World Growth Institute (WGI) and International Trade Strategies Global (ITS), and their affiliated leadership. WGI and ITS operate in close association. ITS is owned by Alan Oxley, an Australian industrial lobbyist, former trade representative, and former Ambassador who also heads WGI. According to its website
ITS also has “close associations” with several politically conservative US think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation. In our personal view, WGI and ITS—which are frequently involved in promoting industrial logging and oil palm and wood pulp plantations internationally—have at times treaded a thin line between reality and a significant distortion of facts. Specifically, we assert that:
 
ITS is closely allied with, and frequently funded by, multinational logging, wood-pulp, and oil palm corporations. The financial supporters of ITS include parent corporations producing paper and wood products under the aegis of ‘Asian Pulp &Paper’, among others.
 
Alan Oxley and ITS have often lobbied in favour of Rimbunan Hijau one of the world’s largest industrial logging corporations. Rimbunan Hijau has been repeatedly criticized for its environmental and human-rights impacts in Papua New Guinea
 
WGI frequently lobbies public opinion on the behalf of Sinar Mas holdings, a conglomerate of mostly Indonesian logging, wood-pulp, and oil palm companies that includes Golden Agri Resources, a Singapore-based firm. One of these companies, known as ‘SMART’, could face expulsion by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an industry-led trade group, for “serious non-compliance with the RSPO Code of Conduct” with respect to its environmental and social sustainability guidelines
 
In an interview with Malaysia’s The Star  newspaper, in which he strongly advocated further oil palm expansion in that country, Mr Oxley refused to answer a direct question as to whether he or WGI was supported by the Malaysian palm oil industry. He dismissed this question as being “immaterial”
 
We believe that WGI’s financial supporters include many of the same industrial sectors for which WGI regularly advocates.
 
While routinely accusing several environmental organizations and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of bias and scientific misrepresentation, WGI and ITS have, in our opinion, advanced a range of biased or distorted arguments themselves. For example, consider an ostensibly “independent” audit
from ITS that sought to exonerate Asian Pulp & Paper from claims of illegal and damaging logging practices in Sumatra, Indonesia.
This audit appears to be far from objective in scope, especially given the clear financial links between these two entities, which brings into question its claims to be “independent”. Among other claims, the ITS audit broadly understates the scope and gravity of forest loss anddegradation in Indonesia, despite that nation having among the world’s highestabsolute rates of deforestation and being ranked 7 th worst out of 200 nations in termsof net environmental damage, according to a recent analysis
 
 It also suggests that the palm oil and pulp and paper industries are not important drivers of deforestation andgreenhouse gas emissions in Indonesia. Yet recent research has demonstrated thatmuch of the oil palm expansion in Indonesia between 1990 and 2005 came at theexpense of native forests (many plantation owners favor clearing native forests overalready-degraded lands as they use revenues from logging to offset the costs of plantation establishment
 
Moreover, the rapid expansion of pulp plantations is aserious driver of native-forest loss in both Sumatra and Kalimantan, Indonesia.
 
A recent technical report by ITS concluded that “There is no evidence of substantialdeforestation” in Papua New Guinea a conclusion strongly at variance with quantitative, remote-sensing studies of forest conversion published in the refereed scientific literature
 
Reports from WGI and ITS routinely claim that newly established oil palm plantations sequester carbon more rapidly than do old-growth rainforests. This claim,while technically correct, is a distraction from the reality that mature oil palm plantations store much less carbon than do old-growth rainforests (plantations store just 40-80 tons of biomass aboveground, half of which is carbon, compared to 200-400 tons of aboveground biomass in old-growth rainforests
 
WGI and ITS reports have also in our view dismissed or downplayed other important environmental concerns, including the serious impact of tropical peat-land destruction on greenhouse gas emissions and the impact of forest disruption on threatened species such asorangutans and Sumatran tigers
 
Furthermore, WGI and ITS, we believe, havefailed adequately to recognize that many forests of high conservation value are beingdestroyed and fragmented by plantation development —a process that is mostlydriven by corporations, not small holders.
 
WGI, ITS, and Alan Oxley frequently invoke “poverty alleviation” as a key justification for their advocacy of oil palm expansion and forest exploitation indeveloping nations, and it is true that these sectors do offer significant loca lemployment. Yet forest loss and degradation also have important societal costs.There are many examples in which local or indigenous communities in the tropicshave suffered from large-scale forest loss and disruption, have had their traditional land rights compromised, or have gained minimal economic benefits from theexploitation of their land and timber resources. Such costs are frequently ignored in the arguments by WGI, ITS, and Alan Oxley.
 
One of the most serious misconceptions being promulgated by WGI and ITS in ourview is that “two-thirds of forest clearance is driven by low-income people in poor countries”
 
In fact, the importance of industrial drivers of deforestation—whichincludes large-scale palm oil and wood-pulp plantations, industrial logging, large-scale cattle ranching, large-scale farming of soy, sugarcane, and other crops, and oil and gas exploration an decades
 
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