Government-Church Partnership is Vital for Improved MDG/SDG Performance in PAPUA NEW GUINEA



For anyone to blame the churches (and its development agencies) on PNG’s dismal performance in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) undermines the fantastic work churches have been doing in the country. Number of churches’ educational and health set-ups (revealed in the table, ADRA Australia, 2015, p. 3) indicated that churches are equal development partners. Their network needs not only be strengthened, but also effectively funded.

My presentation, firstly, eliminates the opinion that churches must be blamed for PNG’s poor performances, in the last 15 years, to achieve MDGs indicators. Church leaders identified government’s funding as a major constraint (Aupong 2016). The report also showed that government’s budgetary allocation was reduced by more than half this year, 2016. Churches cannot shoulder any responsibility when they work in challenging conditions. They must not be blamed when government budgetary allocation is either cut or not released to them. In fact, the government’s recognition of churches (RNZ October 7 2013) is one thing said; but a cordial partnership according to Bishop of the Diocese of Bougainville, Bernard Unabali, must be built on Christian moral (JOSEPH April 28, 2016).

Secondly, the presentation emphasises the need for GoPNG to do a critical self-search as a partner. The PNG CPP case study identified government lack of consistent engagement with churches as one of the main constraints (ADRA Australia, 2015). All in all, churches must not shoulder the blame for PNG not achieving millennium development goals and country indicators. 

CHURCHES AND ITS AGENCIES KEY DEVELOPMENT PARTNERS

The seven mainstream churches and their development agencies in partnership with government were mentioned by Volker Hauck, Angela Mandie-Filer and Joe Bolger (2005) and discussed by (Adventist Develpment and Relief Agency [ADRA], Australia 2015) in A Case Study of Sustained Investment in Church Development Capacity. Both research work, though 10 years apart, had reiterated the significance of reaching the rural population through a Church-State partnership.

The PNG Churches Partnership Program (PNG CPP) established in 2004 by Australia and PNG governments seek to involve churches to deliver education, health and others social services to people in rural areas (ADRA, 2015). Over ninety percent (Volker Hauck et al., 2005 p.11) of PNG’s population are Christians, eighty seven percent (ADRA, 2015, p.3) belong to the churches in PNG CPP. Many live in the rural areas. In fact, these churches are an important development partner as far as reaching the mass of the population is concerned. 

For development to trickle down to the people, churches’ network must be utilised as ‘vehicle’ for goods and services delivery. Volker Hauck et al., (2005) acknowledged that churches are the main stakeholders: ‘PNG society is largely religious and as such Christian churches are important social actors that play a significant role in the country’ (reiterated in ADRA, Australia, 2015, p. 3). Indicatively, churches prominence within the community is a vital link between the people and the government.

Consistency and mutual engagement has to prevail amongst the partners like the PNG Department of National Planning and Monitoring (DoNPM), Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and churches in PNG. Both past (Peter Mar 12, 2010); (Taru Oct 12, 2012) and present (Aupong 2016) governments acknowledged the significance of churches’ participation in nation building. ‘The minister for National Planning and Monitoring Charles Abel says churches are a major provider of basic social services in PNG and the government recognises their role in improving the lives of Papua New Guineans’ (RNZ October 7 2013).

 A recent policy framework called the Partnership Policy Framework between Government of PNG (GoPNG) and Christian Churches in PNG was written to include churches in formulation and execution of future development agendas. Its purpose is two-fold: to work together to achieve integral human development and to create an ongoing partnership to advance development in the country (Department of National Planning and Monitoring, [DoNPM], 2016, p. 2). 

CONCLUSION 

Ministerial statements and policy guides would only be rewarding if they are complimented with action. However, recent reports have indicated that the GoPNG has either cut funding or delayed budgetary allocation in 2014, 2015 and 2016 (Aupong 2016), and is inconsistent in engaging with churches and donor partners (ADRA Australia, 2015).

REFERENCES

Adventist Develpment and Relief Agency [ADRA], Australia. Papua New Guinea: A Case Study of Sustained Investment in Church Development Capacity. Case Study, Wahroonga NSW: ADRA, 2015, 6.
Aupong, Serah. Funding Challenges for PNG Church-State Partnership Program. TV News, Port Moresby: National EMTV News, 2016.
CatNews New Zealand. February 9, 2016. http://cathnews.co.nz/2016/02/09/church-health-services-in-png-struggle-on-alone/ (accessed July 18, 2016).
DoNPM. Partnership Policy Framework between Government of Papua New Guinea and the Christian churches in Papua New Guinea. Policy Framework, Port Moresby: Department of National Planning and Monitoring, 2016, 12.
JOSEPH, MORKANA. Government-church partnership program to cease. News, Port Moresby: Post Courier, April 28, 2016.
Peter, Sea. Incentive fund helps PNG. News, Port Moresby: Post Courier, Mar 12, 2010.
RNZ. PNG announces church-state partnership programme. News, Wellington: Radio New Zealand - Pacific, October 7 2013.
Taru, Benstead. PNG can't do without churches: MP. News, Port Moresby: Post Courier, Oct 12, 2012.
Volker Hauck, Angela Mandie-Filer and Joe Bolger. Ringing the church bell: The role of churches in governance and public performance in Papua New Guinea. Discussion Paper, Maastricht: The European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), 2005, 39.
Yakham, Henzy. Good news for PNG churches. News, Port Moresby: Post Courier, Jan 25, 2012.

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