Disengaging from "perception" and re-engaging in "reality"

Emphasis should be put on redefining our strategies relating to land and placing “land” in our development objectives. Papua New Guinea is more advantageous than other countries in that there is vast undeveloped land that has not been alienated from the people. It is common knowledge that PNG has over 465,000 square kilometres of land and 3 million square kilometres of ocean space. Only about 3% of the land mass is owned by the State. This means that 450,000 square kilometres is owned by customary landowners. We have to put in right policies in place to convert land into a substantial capital and use land to improve and develop our people. Our strategies have to be homegrown and not be superimposed by outside advice. Secondly, the strategies must be philosophically based. Thirdly, it must not alienate us from our land. Fourthly, it must be a conduit for setting a platform for creating capital in the hands of landowners leading to multiplication of industries. Economists say that international commerce and business depends on three pre-requisites: land; labour; capital - this philosophy drove the industrial age of the last century but we are no longer in the industrial age. We have now moved into the age of information technology - the IT age. What is important is knowledge and information. PNG already has land and labor - what is lacking is capital. Lets strategise to substitute “capital” or “create capital” through information and knowledge and emerge into the IT age.


It sounds like the situation in PNG is one that many indigenous and customary communities around the world would be interested in learning from. Is the land owned by customary landowners held by individuals (like private property) or is it held by groups or communities (collectively)? Do you have any resources or articles that you could suggest for people interested in learning about the system in PNG?

I have also heard that PNG is experiencing some cases of dispossession or land grabbing from customary landowners - how secure are customary land rights in PNG? If there are threats to customary land rights, what are they?

Yes, Marena, very interesting as we are still endeavoring to develop law that will protect customary land. Customary land in PNG is supposed to be comunally owned, thus the reason why the Incorporate Land Group Act came to be - customary landowners cannot hold land individually but under their incorporated land groups which are made up to clans.

There still alot of research going on as to what can be the best legislation for PNG customary landowners. As it is customary land, the customs of our people have to be taken into consideration in our Land Legislations. This report by David Lea and Timothy Curtain addresses most of the issues. Land Law & Economic Development in PNG.pdf (156.1 KB)

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