Outcome of the OCHA mission to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea - 20 Jun 2005


Merete Johansson, Chief, Asia & Pacific Section, CRD, OCHA Geneva

Terje Skavdal, Deputy Head of Office, ROAP, OCHA Bangkok


To review current challenges related to natural disaster management, the Manam Island IDP situation (following volcanic eruption), and make recommendations as to how OCHA can support the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator and the Government of PNG. In so doing, the one-day mission explored the broader context of the UN's work in PNG, humanitarian and development challenges, UN coordination mechanisms, and OCHA's potential contribution. The visit to PNG was part of an OCHA mission to the Pacific covering Fiji, Australia and New Zealand, aimed at reviewing OCHA cooperation in the region.

Organizations/persons met:

- UN Resident Coordinator (Ms.Jacqui Badcock - participated in all meetings)

- Representatives of UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, Ausaid, NZ Aid, SCF, WVI;

- Minister of Inter-Government Relations;

- Director of the Natural Disaster Management Office

Current Humanitarian/Development Challenges:

Highly disaster prone: Disasters included earthquakes (PNG lies directly on the fault line), many active volcanoes including two which are currently erupting in addition to the Manam Island volcano, landslides, frost, drought, tsunamis and occasional cyclones.

Weak governance: Low capacity, high crime rates, corruption, problematic decentralization, a highly educated older generation and a lower educated younger generation; government funded social services have almost collapsed.

High degree of violence and criminality: This has a great impact on everyday life and visible in Port Moresby (streets are deserted after dark). Women, in particular, are at high risk with frequent occurrences of rape. 54% of women have been victims of domestic violence and women in general have a very low status in society and in politics. The capacity of the national police force to ensure security is very weak (Australia has sent a police force of 230 primarily to patrol Port Moresby which has been temporarily suspended due to immunity issues);

A very low per capita income although not classified as LDC ($600/year)

An explosive HIV/AIDS situation, leading to a potentially pandemic crisis on the scale of sub-Saharan Africa, 10 years ago.

A post-conflict situation in Bougainville island: UN observer force has just completed its mission; island now an autonomous region within PNG; Island is potentially resource-rich (oil, copper), though still unexploited; requires close attention or it could slide back into conflict; UN rehabilitation efforts underway;

High potential for conflict relating to weak economy, high rate of unemployment (85%, not counting employment in the informal sector), tradition of tribal conflict where spears are being supplemented with an alarming number of small arms.

Home to 50% of the Pacific region's population, with characteristics and challenges that neither align it to Pacific nor to Asia. PNG is low on the radar screen and requires much more attention from the international community (not just Australia)


PNG has a small UNCT (UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, UNHCR); a small international NGO community (SCF, Care, Caritas, WVI, Hope, Salvation Army, IFRC, limited number of national NGOs in the disaster sector); Australia is the dominant donor. Other donors include: NZ aid, EU, Japan, China, Indonesia, ADB, and WB. The WB, ADB and the IMF are potential members of the CT and are being encouraged to join. The UK and US have active Ambassadors but do not have an aid programme.


Feedback from a variety of sources regarding the previous UN Resident Coordinators, including the principal donor, point to a lack of UN direction, coordination, and strategic dialogue with partners. There has, up to now, not been a culture of information sharing among the country team and with partners. Ausaid and NZ aid are keen to see a greater coordination and leadership role of the UN.

The current UNRC was appointed in February and has since then been very proactive in mobilizing the UNCT to work in a more coordinated manner. There is presently no comprehensive UN assessment or strategy for support to PNG, although a CCA/UNDAF process is scheduled to begin in 2006. The possibility of a World Bank Consultative Group process is under consideration, but has not been confirmed. The possibility of a Round Table process is also being contemplated as an alternative government/donor dialogue forum. There is no PRSP for PNG, although it is on the back burner.

Several initiatives are now underway to strengthen policy dialogue, including a UNCT retreat in early July, UNCT and DMT meetings that are convened regularly by the RC and sector information-sharing groups, which include members of the UN, NGO and donor community. These include HIV/AIDS, conflict prevention, governance, and the rehabilitation phase of Bougainville.

There is at present no UN capacity in the area of natural disaster response and preparedness. Notwithstanding high potential for conflict, disaster proneness, the UNCT currently does not have a contingency plan.

Support to the RC's office:

At present, the RC has one RC assistant (P-3). OCHA deployed two senior officers, i.e. first the RDRA in Fiji and subsequently the Head of Office, Indonesia, during the months of March/April to support coordination of the Manam Island situation. Since then, there has been a void and there has been no capacity for follow-up. UNDP/BCPR is expected to deploy a minimum of 3 long-term experts on 1) small arms, 2) gender and violence, and 3) livelihood development. In addition, there are plans to recruit a strategic policy advisor with UNDP funding. The RC and UNCT expressed an urgent need for additional support for the purposes of strengthening UN coordination and natural disaster response and preparedness capacities, from OCHA, as was proposed during the recent meeting of RCs with OCHA in Bangkok.

Natural Disaster Management Capacities and Gaps:

The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) response to the Manam Island volcanic eruption highlights extensive weaknesses in the NDMO's ability to respond to and contain a disaster situation. There was little or no effective overall coordination of the disaster relief efforts. Each agency appeared to pursue its own agenda with no comprehensive overview of the needs.

The lack of coordination was addressed by the OCHA mission in April 2005 and a WFP mission in May 2005. Since then little has been achieved and there is an urgent need to support coordination efforts to avoid an escalation of situation among the IDPs. NDMO seems to be unable to take a strong lead in support for the Manam situation and the establishment of the Manam Humanitarian Implementation Committee (MHIC) has not lead to any visible changes.

The Minister for Inter Government Relations, Sir Peter L.C Barter, was very outspoken and critical to NDMO's management's ability to deal with the situation in Manam and to provide the government with necessary background papers/proposals on how to deal with the situation. The response to the situation has been inadequate and expensive, leading to a long term dependency on external aid. It should be noted that the Sir Peter had a very strong hands-on attitude, but even so the situation has so far not been contained.

The Director for NDMO recognizes the need for support by OCHA and has suggested, inter alia, the relocation of the RDRA or establishment of an OCHA presence in PNG.

The NDMO has been strongly supported by AUSAID through the Framework for Australian Assistance to Disaster Management (AADM) in PNG 2003 - 2008. This program is presently being reviewed. The key recommendations coming out of this review are;

- To maintain the current level of support (AUS $ 6,5 million over three year)

- To change the objectives to allow a stronger focus on provincial disaster management offices

- Enhance the dialogue and collaboration with the UNCT supporting UNRC to take a stronger lead on donor coordination

- Stronger focus on cooperation with IFCR and NGO's with a proven track record in disaster management and response.

OCHA's support through the deployments of A.Zenos and Michael Elmquist were highly appreciated, however since the departure of the latter at the end of April, there has been no follow-up and the momentum has been lost. This is partly due to the lack of Government capacity and the capacity within the UNRC's office. NGOs seem to work in isolation.

There seems to be a discrepancy between the government's wish to be in charge of coordinating the response and its ability to do so. There is a challenge for the UN to balance between enhancing Government capacity in coordination and the immediate need for ensuring that humanitarian needs of the IDPs are met.

Current situation in Madang related to the Manam Island IDPs:

- 12,000 IDPs remain dependent on humanitarian assistance, initially provided by the Government (approx. US$1 million) and now provided by Australia;

- Land issues need to be resolved by Government to reduce long-term dependency on aid;

- The outcome of a health and nutrition survey undertaken by WHO and UNICEF is expected shortly;

- There has been no UN monitoring since the departure of OCHA at end April and WFP in May; an international Care consultant, funded by Ausaid, is on site (six-months assignment) in support of Provincial Government; more regular information sharing by the consultant should be encouraged.


Port Moresby has been classified as a "D" duty station (the only one which is not in a war zone), Phase II. As mentioned above, criminality is high and staff are required to announce all movements in the city at night. There is at present only one international FSO, who spends most of his time outside of PNG (ad-hoc demands for his services elsewhere in the region, including B.Aceh). A second international FSO is expected. It is important that the deployment of the second FSO be expedited and that both FSOs are posted in PNG on a full-time basis.


At the level of the UN:

- Respond to the Manam Island IDP situation;

- Strengthen coordination mechanisms within the UN and with donors, the IFRC, and NGOs;

- Enhance in substantive dialogue with Government, donors and NGOs;

- Develop capacity within the UNRC's office for dealing with natural disaster management;

- Integrate ND-related issues in UN programming with the aim of strengthening capacities, mitigation and preparedness;

- Initiate a contingency planning process related to natural disasters and conflict;

- Facilitate the introduction of early warning systems;

At the level of OCHA:

- Advocate for increased attention to the needs of PNG, at the level of UNHQ and capitals, including with DGO and BCPR;

- Establish an OCHA presence within the UNRC's office to strengthen coordination, help establish a forum for substantive dialogue, follow-up on ND and humanitarian-related issues, including Manam Island IDP situation; it is recommended that an international L-3 or UNV be recruited for this purpose, plus one national support staff (TOR and cost plan to be developed in consultation with the RC and OCHA to try to mobilize resources; subject to funding availability, process budget for approval and initiate recruitment);

- Offer technical support for contingency planning (e.g. fielding a CP support mission);

- Assess Government capacities for disaster management, possibly through UNDAC;

- Provide support from Bangkok, Geneva and NY, in the form of surge capacity, technical support, early warning, contingency planning, staffing, advocacy with agencies and the donor community; early warning training for the UNCT;

- Provide support to the UNCT throughout the CCA/UNDAF process in 2006


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