Land Policy encroachment by UNDP and World Bank

Author: Justin Ondopa

UNDP and World Bank must stay away from land policies in Papua New Guinea.

Under the auspice of its REDD+ strategy, sponsored by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility of the Word Bank, the UNDP is taking over the mandated institutional functions of the Department of Lands and Physical Planning (DLPP). Recently, through the UNDP website, this mysterious giant development partner has seen fit to solve land development issues in Papua New Guinea. The UNDP has advertised two positions “International Consultants to support development of a Sustainable Land Use Policy in PNG” and also “National Consultants to support development of a Sustainable Land Use Policy in PNG”.

I find it very troubling for a foreign development partner, (whose funds come from major economies), to lead the development of a ‘LAND USE POLICY’ in this country. Firstly, the UNDP must understand they are financially supported by the WORLD BANK through the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). The same World Bank has a very bad record dealing with the land issues in PNG, but is now trying to find solutions to sustainable land development.

Has the UNDP forgotten the recent failed Structural Adjustment Programme to mobilise customary land in this country? It was controversial, the whole nation stood against any strategies pushed by foreigners and so-called development partners, and the Chan Government threw the World Bank’s SAP out of the window. The successive Somare governments also refused to allow donors to fund, and participate in anything to do with land in this country. Even Australia (DFAT) has said no to fund or interfere in land issues (including land policies) in PNG. Who is UNDP?

With these short historical events still ringing fresh in Papuan New Guineans, the UNDP through the World Bank’s FCPF finds it very comfortable to develop a Sustainable Land Use Policy (SLUP) for the Country.

How much do UNDP, World Bank and FCPF know about land tenure, our customs, feelings, mindsets, and traditional bondages that bind our people with their land? Policy development in this country is not the job of a foreign entity, let alone international fly-in consultants from UNDP, to come and develop a paper and shove it down our throats, and say digest it. It works! Policy development on any development matters must be led by mandated institutions. In this case, the DLPP must lead with constant dialogue with other bodies like CLRC, Office of the State Solicitor and civil society.

In fact, UNDP through the FCPF Project Management Unit, is not trying to development something new. They are only trying to create jobs for UNDP staff, and remove huge management fees from the World Bank transacted funds for PNG programmes. This is the untold trajectory! 

For the benefit of UNDP and World Bank’s FCPF, the SLUP was initially drafted by the late Chief Physical Planner, Mr. Garisoma James. He did circulations to respective state agencies for commenting and several comments were being made. We have copies available. A NEC submission for funding was made (when Benny Allen was Minister) but unfortunately the government did not deliberate on it.

If UNDP is serious in supporting PNG develop a SLUP. Why can’t they fund the DLPP to take the lead? Why is UNDP bringing in international fly-in consultants to develop a land use policy for PNG? Why do UNDP and FCPF want to touch on land in PNG? 

These concerns will be raised with DLPP executive management team, the Office of State Solicitor, and Constitutional Law Reform Commission to put on notice UNDP and World Bank FCPF to stay away from land policy matters in Papua New Guinea.