This piece is a combination of excerpts taken from various speeches of mine over the last two years.
I COME from a beautiful and ancient land. For thousands of years before the arrival of western civilisation my people have lived in harmony with the land, environment and each other.
There were strong social structures that held the community and people together. A river, a mountain, dense forests or plains of grassland isolated these tribes.
This caused hundreds of unique communities to evolve, each with their own rich customs, traditions and languages. It is against this setting that we had the first generation of nation builders emerge.
Many of them had to walk for hours to get an education, deal with the imposition of a foreign language and embrace values that were different to those of their cultural background.
I can only imagine the challenges that generation, the generation of my fathers, would have gone through.
There is another generation that is emerging, the generation of their children, the likes of myself who have grown up with less of the confusion, quality education, the technological era, internet, social media etc.
With access to more opportunities comes with it the responsibility to take our young nation forward. An opportunity is defined as a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something. The objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives.
Development is also characterized by the amount of choices and opportunities people have to realize their full potential and aspirations. Development has long been sought and assessed in economic terms, with a particular focus on the annual growth of income per capita, instead of the consequences of this growth on the quality of people’s lives.
If there is growth without it actually translating down to the improvement in the quality of life led by the people then such growth almost becomes meaningless.
Our people have great potential but so much of that potential will go unrealized because daily survival is a struggle in itself.
Whilst Papua New Guinea has experienced significant economic growth the same cannot be attested to in terms of its position on the human development index (HDI). Despite big projects such as the LNG Project, Ok Tedi and Lihir, PNG still comes 153 out of 187 countries.
The environment that people grow up in in Papua New Guinea is very complex. PNG has a young population with 40% under the age of 15 unfortunately they are entering adulthood amid a wide range of social issues.
As is the case with most emerging democracies Papua New Guinea continues to struggle with a number of challenges including, corruption, poor service deliver, high rates of unemployment, spread of deadly disease such as HIV Aids and high rates of violence against women. The population continues to grow whilst putting a strain on the already limited public services.
We can continue to look at the economy to bail us out; increased investment, increasing jobs, increase in GNP but I also believe that it will take more than just a resource boom, it will take a whole paradigm shift that must be centred on a collective set of values that our people can stand on united to build the nation.
The idea of human development is not one that is foreign to policy makers in Papua New Guinea. Enshrined in the preamble of the Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea are the five National Goals and Directive Principles that are meant to direct all persons and bodies corporate and unincorporated. Of particular importance is the first goal “Integral Human Development”, and it states:
We declare our first goal to be for every person to be dynamically involved in the process of freeing himself or herself from every form of domination or oppression so that each man or woman will have the opportunity to develop as a whole person in relationship with others.
It is interesting to see the way this statement is structured where it states that, in order for people to seize opportunities to develop themselves there is this recognition that first there must be a process whereby the individual has to be involved in freeing himself/herself from circumstances that seek to oppress or restrict them. This barrier may not only refer to barriers placed by people but can also refer to the freedom that must first be reached in one’s mind.
The discussion above draws back home the importance of people becoming agents of their own destiny. Allowing people to go through a process where they actually embrace their individuality, their unique sense of who they are while navigating where they will place their culture, religious beliefs and the growing universal culture they are exposed to through media.
Found in the strategic direction statements of The Voice is this powerful statement that they continue to outwork through their work:
"A significant factor in the creation and sustainability of positive communities is to give our young people a sense of significance and relevance. We need to be enabling them to realize their purpose and potential and their responsibility to use their gifts, talents, passions and dreams to serve their world."
I firmly believe that opportunities are there for our people in PNG, if not for all certainly for the privileged ones that have found themselves born to parents that were able to offer them a decent education and essentials needed to progress themselves further in life. From my own personal experience some of the biggest barriers are the ones that I have allowed to be placed on myself whilst trying to fit into the status quo.
The Constitution of PNG clearly promotes equality and participation of women and the protection of human rights. Once we begin practicing these freedoms and stand united in one voice we will see others liberated from their own state of oppression and start to make more empowered decisions.
History teaches us countless cases of people that stood up to provide voice to the need that existed around them. From the likes of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi to name a few, a powerful lesson that resonates is that solutions lie within nations, not from the outside. As nation builders we hold pieces of the puzzle to our countries development, the question is are we willing to rise to the task?