May 2016: Government challenged at the United Nations

The human rights situation in Papua New Guinea has recently been reviewed by the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva. This provided ACT NOW! with an excellent opportunity to raise a number of key campaign issues with the international community and put pressure on the PNG government to act.  

More than a dozen countries publicly challenged the Papua New Guinea government over the SABL land grab, illegal logging, the impact of extractive industries on indigenous communities, excessive violence by the security forces and corruption. They also put forward their recommendations to the government to address these issues. A summary of those interventions is presented below. 

This is a very significant progress and something that ACT NOW! has been working towards for over nine-months. This included making a detailed formal submission and culminated in two trips to Europe to lobby the international community and present at the UPR Pre-session.

Our participation in Europe was generously supported by the Rainforest Foundation Norway. 

ACT NOW! will now be pressing the PNG government to adopt and then implement the recommendations made and keeping United Nations agencies and the international community updated on the developments in PNG.

Statements during the UPR Working Group session (6 May, 2016)

Chile recommended PNG review the state policy affecting indigenous lands , known as “SABL” and strengthen the implementation of the work of the Commission of Inquiry that has revealed irregularities in many of the leases investigated.

Thailand noted the steps taken by the PNG Government to address concerns regarding the SABL scheme, especially the establishment of an independent Commission of Inquiry but expressed the hope PNG will address the negative impact on human rights of large-scale land acquisitions under this scheme and find equitable and sustainable solutions.

Norway stated the practice of illegal logging and land grabbing represents a challenge both to the environment, and to the customary rights of landowners. Norway recommended that the government take appropriate measures to prevent land grabbing and illegal logging and ensure that future actions are based on a respect for fundamental human rights and environmental protection.

Guatemala recommended PNG implement the recommendation accepted in its first UPR to improve surveillance on the mining and timber industries and related companies and businesses to mitigate their adverse effects on the human rights of affected populations and reduce the negative impacts on the environment by establishing more stringent and transparent measures.

Malaysia called on PNG to give more attention to the rights of indigenous people and ensure accountability of law enforcement officials who commit human rights violations and criminal offenses.

Mexico recommended PNG take steps to ensure full respect for human rights of indigenous peoples, in particular by establishing mechanisms for prior informed consent with regard to all matters affecting them.

Switzerland recommended PNG investigate in an impartial and independent manner of all allegations of excessive use of force and violations committed by representatives of the police, especially in cases related to communal land rights, and to bring the perpetrators of these violations to justice.

Recommendations made in the Working Group report (adopted May 11, 2016)

5.48.    Provide the Ombudsman Commission with the resources necessary to freely and effectively combat government corruption and police abuses (United States of America);

5.50.    Continue to strengthen its programmes and policies in the area of economic, social and cultural rights, in order to increase the quality of life of its people, in particular the most vulnerable sectors of the population (Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of));

5.128.    Investigate all complaints of torture and other ill-treatment, extrajudicial killings, and sexual violence committed by the security forces and bring those responsible to justice (Germany);

5.129.    Step up its efforts to strengthen the capacity of the police in terms of both number of officers and quality of duty performed, with a view to preventing and eliminating abuses, corruption and excessive use of force by police officers (Republic of Korea);

5.130.    Thoroughly investigate allegations of excessive use of force by police officers, and in this vein, ensure that law enforcement officials have the appropriate human rights training (Sierra Leone);

5.131.    Carry out impartial and independent investigations of all allegations of excessive use of force and violations carried out by representatives of the  security forces, in  particular in cases related to communal land rights, and bring perpetrators of such violations to  justice (Switzerland);

5.136.    Fully investigate all complaints of violence perpetrated or facilitated by the security forces, and ensure that suspects are brought before the Courts in a timely manner (New Zealand);

5.138.    Continue to provide human rights training to law enforcement officials and ensure accountability of those who commit human rights violations and criminal offenses (Malaysia);

5.152.    Take measures to guarantee full respect of human rights to indigenous peoples, in particular through the establishment of mechanisms for their prior and informed consent on issues that affect them (Mexico);

5.153.    Review the state policy that affects indigenous lands, known as the "Plan of Agricultural and Industrial Leases" regarding non-indigenous companies, reinforcing the work of the Commission of Inquiry that has found irregularities in many of the leases investigated (Chile);

5.154.    Take appropriate measures to prevent land grabbing and illegal logging and ensure that future actions are based on a respect for fundamental human rights and environmental protection (Norway);

5.155.    Take more effective measures to guarantee that large-scale projects respect environmental standards (Algeria);

5.156.    Continue to take into account, in the implementation of Vision 2050 and other development plans, the improvement, conservation and protection of the environment (Cuba);

5.157.    Implement the accepted recommendations from the first universal periodic review of increasing the oversight of extracting and logging industries as well as related enterprises and businesses, with a view to mitigating the adverse human rights effects on affected populations and reducing its negative impact in the environment establishing more rigorous and transparent measures (Guatemala);