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Building bridges - law and justice reform in Papua New Guinea

CollectionsANU Dept. of Pacific Affairs (DPA) formerly State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) Program
Title: Building bridges - law and justice reform in Papua New Guinea
Author(s): Dinnen, Sinclair
Jowitt, Anita
Newton Cain, Tess
Keywords: Papua New Guinea
governance reform
justice reform
legal reform
National Law and Justice Policy
Date published: 2001
Publisher: Canberra, ACT: State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) Program, Research School of Asia and Pacific Studies, The Australian National University
Series/Report no.: State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) working paper series: 2001/3
Introduction: Problems of lawlessness loom large in current accounts of Papua New Guinea. Concerns about these have induced high levels of personal insecurity, as well as providing a major disincentive to foreign investment. While such problems cannot be resolved by law and justice solutions alone, the continuing deterioration of PNG's ‘law and order’ situation raises questions about the adequacy of the formal regulatory system. Successive governments have been loud with ‘tough’ rhetoric, like many of their counterparts elsewhere. Practical responses have been essentially reactive and short-term. Australia, PNG’s largest aid donor, has claimed to concentrate on institutional-strengthening projects with individual law and justice agencies. While there have been achievements, it is clear that improving the performance of law and justice processes is a complex and long-term task and one that needs to be integrated with other areas of governance reform. Building a more effective law and justice sector requires strategies that go beyond the strengthening of particular institutions. Given the operational inter-dependence of law and justice agencies, a broader sectoral focus is needed. In addition, while the state is the central player, there is a need to recognise the contributions of other stakeholders to the management of conflict and maintenance of peace at local levels. PNG’s non-government sector, comprising ‘traditional’ structures of governance, community groups, churches, NGOs and the private sector, already plays a significant, if often unacknowledged, role. A sustainable law and justice framework needs to delineate responsibilities between different organisations and develop appropriate and mutually reinforcing linkages between government and non-government sectors. This paper examines the challenges facing PNG’s law and justice sector and identifies key directions for reform. Section one describes the broader context of PNG’s problems of order, including the acute fragility of the nation-state and the high levels of social and legal pluralism. Attention is drawn to the restorative character of many ‘traditional’ justice practices and the manner of their interactions with colonial institutions of social control. Section two examines the workings of the modern criminal justice system. Its shortcomings are attributed as much to a lack of legitimacy and strong social foundations as to its patent lack of institutional capacity. The final section looks at the recently endorsed National Law and Justice Policy (The National Law and Justice Policy and Plan of Action) and the prospects for building a more socially attuned and effective law and justice system.
ISBN: 1740760255


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