Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Coastal region and small island papers 10

Executive summary

The Motu Koitabu are a group of people indigenous to areas in and around the coastal city of Port Moresby and the National Capital District. They are the traditional owners of the land upon which the city of Port Moresby is located, and number about 30,000. After Papua New Guinea (PNG) obtained its independence from Australia, on 16 September 1975, Port Moresby became the nation’s capital. Large numbers of people from other provinces moved into the city, making it the business, commercial and administrative centre of the nation. Increasingly all aspects of the lives of the Motu Koitabu – political, economic, social and cultural – have become marginalized.

An Inaugural Summit on Motu Koitabu Development was held in 1999. Papers were presented on environmental, social and legal issues affecting the Motu Koitabu, recommendations were proposed and discussed; the outcome of the summit is now referred to as the Baruni Declaration. This document includes the presentations and the recommendations.

The summit and other ongoing activities form part of a pilot project on ‘Sound development in the Motu Koitabu urban villages, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea’, which is one of the activities on UNESCO’s intersectoral platform for ‘Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and in Small Islands’ (CSI). This project, and some 20 other field projects initiated around the globe, work with university chairs/twinning networks and an internet-based discussion forum on ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development’ (user name = csi, password = wise), to assist people living in small islands and coastal regions resolve conflicts over coastal resources and values, as well as to promote sustainable living, through the elaboration of wise practices and ethical codes of practice in specific domains.

Ways in which several major development projects have adversely impacted the lives of the Motu Koitabu are described in this report. The central issue in many of these projects relates to land ownership and the lack of participation of the Motu Koitabu in the various developments taking place on their traditional land. The Motu Koitabu have limited means under constitutional reforms to meet their aspirations and pursue their own social and economic agendas. The marginalization of the Motu Koitabu can be traced through the social and education system, where the children, especially girls, are not fully benefiting from educational opportunities.

The summit endorsed several recommendations, the principal among them being: improved environmental monitoring of development projects, enforcement of existing laws, the establishment of a Motu Koitabu local-level government (LLG), a new educational policy, and the formulation of a strategic plan for the development of the Motu Koitabu.

A Special Parliamentary Committee on Urbanization and Social Development was established and during 2000 three reports were prepared and submitted to parliament. These covered urbanization, social development and the issues of customary land ownership in relation to urban development. Among the recommendations of these reports is the concept that the family, with children at its centre, is the foundation of social development policy; that there is a need for the government to re-establish trust and goodwill with customary landowners in urban areas; and that, as a gesture of goodwill (not restitution), a Motu Koitabu Development Corporation should be set up.

Further activities of the field project described in this report include social profiles for three villages, the establishment of a Motu Koitabu Task Force, the holding of a Motu Koitabu Young Leaders Workshop in December 1999, and a workshop for young persons on ‘Growing up in Cities’.


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