PNG faces considerable development challenges such as gaps and overlapping mandates of key government institutions contributing to poor governance, weak infrastructure and services delivery mechanisms, marketing difficulties coupled with rugged topography, as well as low government and civil society capacity to address these challenges. Furthermore, revenues generated from natural resource development activities have provided minimal benefits to local populations. In particular, unequal royalty distribution and conflicting landownership structure in resource development sectors contributes to the increasing tribal conflicts. Other associated concerns relate to rural urban migration resulting in increased unemployment in the major townships are likely to contribute to law and order problems. Logging has had significant environmental impacts, while the exploitation of mineral resources has led to pollution of rivers, threatening people’s livelihoods. In addition, the growing agricultural expansion with new technologies for use by rural communities with limited knowledge or lack of it (knowledge) coupled with unsustainable land use practices have contributed to land degradation. Specifically, concerns of soil erosion and soil infertility as well as increase sedimentation in the river systems. In the recent past, there are rising incidences of climate change impacts such as the increasing frequency and intensity of tropical storms and cyclones; extensive flooding combined with extended periods of drought; sea level rise; mounting infectious diseases and decreasing agricultural productivity. These bear witness as clear warnings from the natural ecosystems as the country witnesses rising sea level.
These challenges are new for the country and PNG through the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) and Office of Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability (OCCES) has initiated the processes for a whole-of-government approach because the effects are multi-sectoral. This exercise has not only focused on exploring mechanisms to take advantage of the opportunities but reinforced their concerns on overall environmental management in terms of identifying and amend policy and legal instruments which government believes will ultimately contribute to improvements in monitoring and evaluation of natural resource development activities and compliance by developers. In addition, the emphasis on the inclusion of landowning groups as key players in natural resource management to obtain maximum benefits in any resource development initiatives.
The government’s positive response to strengthen environmental management to promote environmentally sustainable economic growth will be supported by the UN’s Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Livelihoods Programme. The UN system will be working with Government institutions, development partners and civil society organizations within the following three priority focus areas: OUTPUT 1- Institutional Capacity Building for Sustainable Natural Resource Management (NRM) and Biodiversity Conservation; OUTPUT 2- Promote Low Carbon Growth and Climate Resilient Development; and OUTPUT 3- Sustainable Livelihoods and Community Empowerment for Environmental Governance. This partnership to enhance nation building will focus on sustaining human development by means of concentrating efforts on strengthening the policy framework, and enforcement mechanisms to conserve natural resources, mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts while simultaneously promoting income earning opportunities, particularly in the rural areas. In addition, it will also focus on the development of capacities for rational use of the country’s natural resources to help keep population growth at bay or for dealing rationally with its growth.