The new land grab in Papua New Guinea

By Colin Filer

This is the introduction to a Paper to be presented by Colin Filer at an international conference in the UK starting on April 6. The full paper can be downloaded below

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Probe into land allocations


An expert team is to probe how five million hectares of customary land were acquired by foreign firms to cut logs under the pretext of developing the land for agriculture and other business activities.

The commitment was made by Lands Minister Lucas Dekena in response to concerns raised by the United Nations, green groups, NGOs and interest groups in PNG over the allocation of land in PNG by the Lands Department under the Special Agriculture and Business leases (SABL).

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Over 10% of customary land lost in dodgy agriculture leases

There has been a massive increase in the alienation and the conversion of customary land in recent years through the issuing of special agriculture and business leases (SABLs). 

The allocation of these leases, some covering hundreds of thousands of hectares, seems to be occurring outside all proper legal channels and without the informed consent of affected landowners. The leases are being handed out by the Department of Lands without compliance with relevant laws, which indicates either negligence or fraud on the part of lands officers and the government.

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United Nations demands answers on land alienation and environment changes

The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has written a strongly worded letter (copy below) to the Papua New Guinea government demanding answers about the granting of agriculture leases over large areas of customary land.

The letter, signed by the Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, also raises concerns about the impacts of controversial amendments to the Environment Act last year, that took away citizens rights to challenge approvals for large-scale resource projects and seek compensation for any damage.

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