SEATTLE — Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a country in the southwestern Pacific that is known for its wide range of biological diversity, active volcanoes and thriving coral reefs. However, with a population of approximately 7.3 million and over 800 spoken languages, PNG faces many internal challenges, mostly characterized by weak public service and gender inequality as well as environmental disasters and lack of infrastructure.
PNG’s economic partner and neighbor, Australia, has been dedicated to helping PNG in its quest for a more stable economic and societal structure. In fact, for the 2017-2018 period, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is investing an estimated $546.3 million into the country’s infrastructure and strategic planning to lead to more successful humanitarian aid to Papua New Guinea. In their Official Development Assistance (ODA) plan, DFAT laid out three main objectives:
Promoting effective governance
One of Papua New Guinea’s main struggles is developing a stable rule of law. DFAT believes that this would not only enhance PNG’s economic growth, but it would also reduce poverty rates by strengthening the effectiveness of the public sector.
Together, the two countries drafted the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct, a plan that was first introduced in 2014. The hope is that it “will build a new generation of leaders, both men and women, giving them ethical, practical and intellectual framework to lead Papua New Guinea into the future.”
Additionally, stemming from the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct, the two nations began developing the National Public Service Gender Equity and Social Inclusion Policy in 2012, which was launched to create guidelines and a framework to offer a more inclusive workplace for all citizens of PNG. This policy targets those living with disabilities, HIV/AIDS and those who face discrimination based on sex, gender or other personal attributes.
While the policy is expected to be in full effect in 2050, the country has already begun to see positive change in the workplace in terms of more companies offering equal access to opportunities.
By developing a stable rule of law through providing leadership instruction and a more inclusive workspace, the hope is that the country will see more success in terms of humanitarian aid to Papua New Guinea.
Enabling economic growth
The next objective of Australia’s ODA plan is to help Papua New Guinea develop a more expansive economy that promotes a healthy workforce. One of the two major steps Australia is taking towards improving PNG’s economy is by investing up to $400 million into PNG’s Transport Sector Support Program.
So far, over 70 percent of Australia’s spending in Papua New Guinea’s transit sector has been directed towards rebuilding and resurfacing the country’s primary roads. This is a major factor in allowing citizens to travel to work without road delays or closures and ensuring safety on commonly used routes. Already, this investment has supported about 50 percent of the country’s road network in 12 provinces.
The next major improvement within the plan for economic growth is an additional $100 million investment that is geared towards the PNG-Australia Incentive Fund, which is a fund that “supports high performing organizations to expand their operations in order to improve service delivery capacity and promote economic growth.” This incorporates church and research organizations, as well as education and health initiatives, and the money will be mainly dedicated to acquiring better IT management to ensure that all business and services are done efficiently.
The hope is that by 2019, both the Transport Sector Support Program and the PNG-Australia Incentive Fund will not only improve Papua New Guinea’s economic standing but also lead to more successful humanitarian aid to PNG by creating safer roads for people to use in their daily lives.
Enhancing human development
Although PNG’s health sector has improved over the past several decades, their health systems and services still face challenges in terms of providing quality access and education for all citizens, regardless of economic standing or geographical location.
Since 2012, Australia has invested $609.1 million, and many of these funds have been allocated towards providing better quality care for women and children, which is one of the most pressing concerns within the realm of extending humanitarian aid to Papua New Guinea.
For example, the Maternal and Child Health Initiative had graduated 152 midwives by the end of 2012 and 451 by the end of 2015, with all the graduates having learned standard midwifery clinical practice. The program proved to have positive effects, as at the end of 2010, the maternal mortality rate per 100,000 live births was 238, and at the end of 2015, the maternal mortality rate per 100,000 live births was 215.
Australia has provided humanitarian aid to Papua New Guinea that has been a key factor in the nation’s quest for peace, stability and prosperity. The hope is that in the coming years, the programs enacted through the Australia-PNG partnership will help PNG reach new, greater heights in terms of citizen health and happiness.
– Alexandra Dennis