DP86 Two steps forward, two steps back: the mobilisation of customary land in Papua New Guinea

Development Policy Centre Discussion Paper No. 86

By Colin Filer

December 2019

In May 2019, the Minister for Lands convened a National Land Summit in Port Moresby to review the implementation of the National Land Development Program over the course of the past decade. Much of the discussion at this meeting was concerned with the incorporation of customary land groups and the voluntary registration of their collective land titles under legislation that was passed by the National Parliament in 2009 but did not take effect until 2012. Participants in the summit thought that the implementation of this legislation had not proven to be an effective way of ‘mobilising customary land for development’. This paper seeks to explain why the new legal and institutional regime has failed to live up to the expectations of the policymakers who were instrumental in its establishment. An initial examination of the rationale behind the legislation is followed by an examination of published evidence relating to its implementation in different parts of the country, including case studies of areas where the evidence serves to illuminate the motivations of the actors involved in the process of incorporation and registration. The paper concludes with some reflections on the lessons to be learnt from this experiment in policy reform.

Filer, C. 2019, ‘Two steps forward, two steps back: the mobilisation of customary land in Papua New Guinea’, Discussion Paper No. 86, Development Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra.

Colin Filer

Dr Colin Filer is an Honorary Professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University.