DP98 Whose right? Forceful evictions of informal settlements from state land in Papua New Guinea’s National Capital District

By Michelle Nayahamui Rooney

November 2021

Between 2012 to 2021, the National Capital District (NCD) of Papua New Guinea (PNG) saw numerous forceful evictions of citizens living in its many informal settlements, including some who had lived in these communities for more than 30 years. Some of these evictions involved state land registered to individual title holders. Drawing on discourse and spatial and temporal analytical approaches, this paper uses media reports to map the extent of evictions across the NCD and to identify eviction stories related to state land that are the subject of court cases. It then examines court decisions and other documents related to seven selected case studies to understand how the courts deal with the rights of communities impacted by evictions. The paper finds that the PNG court system focuses on determining the legal property rights over the land in question and court decisions tend to favour the legally registered owner of the title. By contrast, limited attention is given to customary landowners or to ensuring the human rights of communities impacted by evictions are protected. Based on these findings, the paper suggests five policy directions that should be considered to improve NCD’s policies on eviction processes and resettlement of communities.

Rooney, M. N. 2021, ‘Whose right? Forceful evictions of informal settlements from state land in Papua New Guinea’s National Capital District’, Discussion Paper No. 98, Development Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra.

Lydia Papandrea

Lydia is the Managing Editor of Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies and Co-editor of the DevPolicy Blog.