Monday, November 12, 2012

Disability Inclusive Development

The Government of Papua New Guinea under the leadership of the Department for Community Development hosted the second Forum Disability Ministers Meeting in Port Moresby at the Grand Papua Hotel. The meeting took place between 3rd and 4th October 2012.
With the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat based in Fiji and full financial and resource support from the Government of Australia the meeting was made possible.

Papua New Guinea represented by the Minister for Community Development, Honourable Loujaya Toni, MP, the Secretary of the Department of Community Development, Mr. Joseph Klapat, and Mrs Ipul Powaseu, Chairperson
PNGADP (DPO-PWD). Other senior government officials were also in attendance. Behind the scene was the professional support of the Department of Community Development staff.

Minister Toni was elected the Chair of the meeting, which she lead with distinction and superb leadership skill and qualities.

One of the important presentations in the meeting was the Word Report of Disability. The World Health Organisation (WHO) presented findings from the World Report on Disability and its implications for the Pacific region.

The Report was developed through consultation and research in over 70 countries, with persons with disabilities taking a central role. It identifies the high incidence of disabilities globally (15 percent, or 1 billion people), and highlights many common barriers faced by persons with disabilities.

The Report presents several recommendations for governments and communities, focussed on awareness, policies, consultation, funding, and research. The Forum Disability Ministers noted that the World Report on Disability is based upon the best available evidence and fills gaps in national and regional knowledge, and that Pacific Island Countries should agree to build understanding of the report and use it to guide Pacific efforts to advance disability rights.

The Forum Disability Ministers supported WHO and relevant partners to undertake country and sectoral level workshops in priority areas and utilise the World Report on Disability findings as a guide.

WHO urged national and regional stakeholders to work together to increase the disability data, research, and knowledge and use this to better inform decision making.

On the second day of the meeting a Ministers Retreat was convened. A key issue raised by Minsters was the need for increased data collection, against relevant rights-related indicators, and the need to harmonise various agency databases.

Ministers also expressed a need for increasing assistance from SPC/RRRT for Universal Periodic Reporting, noting the links between broader human rights Conventions and the CRPD. They identified a need to increase support for DPOs, recognising that although some countries already have good levels of engagement, others are lagging. At the same time, Ministers acknowledged the value of community and family-based support and care.

Ministers further identified the value of exchanging programme staff, to tap into regional agency expertise, and of facilitating exchanges among persons with disabilities, through “Para Pacific Games” type sporting exchanges and broader cultural exchanges. In addition, Ministers noted that ICT capacity building would be important for increasing connectivity, skills, and access to services among persons with disabilities, and requested assistance from Australia in incorporating ICT development into disability inclusive plans. Assistance is also required to address the linkages between disability and climate change, particularly with respect to assisting DPOs in disseminating information on disaster risk management, including evacuation of persons with disabilities.

Ministers highlighted the need for a mechanism for regional cooperation to be developed in the area of disability inclusive development, to facilitate multi-lateral and bilateral relationships between countries with possible assistance from donors and development partners.

The WHO also presented a paper informing Ministers of the upcoming United Nations High Level Meeting on Disability and Development (HLMD) —themed “The way forward: a disability inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond”—to be held in September 2013, and the opportunities that this meeting affords to advance disability issues globally.

In the presentation, updates to the HLMD arising from the recent 5th Conference of State Parties were also highlighted, including concerns that there has been slow progress in preparing for the HLMD, and will be limited time for country consultations that could feed into the outcomes. Accordingly, there is an opportunity for Pacific Island countries to lead the drive for action.

WHO suggested that Ministers could request urgent action to articulate a clear process for the HLMD, specifying features important to the Pacific; articulate the type of Outcomes Document Pacific Leaders would find useful; provide specific and practical views on priority areas for action in the Outcomes Document; reinforce the importance of the World Report on Disability as the key resource informing the HLMD process; and encourage take-up of offers of support and technical resources to assist with the process.

The WHO noted that the Outcomes Document for the HLMD would need to be finalised by June-July 2013, and that the consultation process would be decided on by December 2012. Accordingly, it was suggested that the Outcomes Document from this FDMM be used as a basis for an urgent brief to be communicated to the HLMD co-facilitators.

The Forum Disability Ministers noted the important opportunity afforded by the HLMD to scale up global efforts on priority issues towards the inclusion and participation of persons with disability. They agreed to the need for and importance of the Pacific actively participating in regional and plenary HLMD events including negotiations of the text for the outcomes document.

The Ministers tasked the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to coordinate, in collaboration with other regional and international agencies, the development of a regional position paper on disability issues, including emphasis on the link between NCDs and disability, to guide the Pacific contribution to the HLMD process.

Papua New Guinea will review its National Disability Policy, ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability and implement its Disability Inclusive Development Initiative 2012 Work Plan.

The Department of Community Development through the Disability and Elderly Division is well placed to move forward with the agenda noted above.  Papua New Guinea has demonstrated its leadership in this area and we note it is charting new paths ahead.

No Learning Online

Just like the windmill!

These are my views on information technology and electronic resources at UPNG. Many who work and study at UPNG have frustrating moments when it comes to information technology. The IT services UPNG provides is a lethargic experience without administrative intervention in fixing the situation.

The registration process of all students for the 2012 academic year took more than two weeks.  It was a woeful experience for the officials who had to deal with the poor Information Technology legacy UPNG has managed to create for itself over the years.

UPNG’s IT system is poorly managed without excellerated development that the image promoted on the internet is so outdated and irrelevant. The home page of UPNG is not updated. Visitors to UPNG’s home page are disappointed with the electronic image. No daily updates and official live activities that announce public events, public lectures, seminars, and new developments at UPNG.

Many universities I worked with provide services for downloading and uploading of important information, official forms, and lecture notes for courses and for student lecturer interactions.

Teaching with the aid of electronic technology makes the learning experience exciting, innovative, and rewarding. Information technology excellerates learning and increases value in knowledge acquisition if all classrooms, whether big or small in size, are fitted with USB ports or computer technology to teach.

In the last twenty odd years I have been teaching at UPNG I had to deal with many of the same shortcomings of UPNG. New innovative ways of teaching with IT cannot be put to good use because there are no IT resources for us to do so.  UPNG has not developed its IT facilities to the international standards that universities are dependent on. Both ALT and SLT lecture theatres are not even connected to the internet making it difficult to teach using electronic resources such as Googles, Yahoo, You Tube, or Blogs with educational values.

Universities sell, market, and promote their images nowadays on how they develop and manage their homepages on the internet. International colleagues have expressed dismay at viewing the UPNG site on the internet.

Email addresses do not seem to work. Viruses attack computers. Updated contact addresses of staff and schools need to be kept. Some offices and staff do not have access to email or internet facilities. Some of the information on schools, programs, and staff profiles appears out of date. Course handbook, timetables, class schedules, job vacancies, and staff movement need to be online. Course registration and grade submission need to be done online. Right now it is done the way it has been done—manually with delays in grade postings and class lists. When would UPNG wake up to this inefficient system?

On July 1st 2011 UPNG launched the new APEC IT center, a collaborative initiative between UPNG and the Taiwan-China Association in PNG. The APEC IT center is hosted by the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. The computer center, it turns out, is a training center for both UPNG and the public on the use of information technology. By the end of last year the APEC IT center has become another establishment wrought with obscurity and poor development.

The staff and students of UPNG are deprived of a world class learning environment using IT technologies. Many staff and schools or programs of UPNG have no homepages, blogs, and Facebook programs. Many of our researches and publications are not available online. Many developments are not reported online for its members and others to know. How can stimulating discussions and notes sharing of innovative educational developments be generated and widely circulated? UPNG has limited subsciptions to electronic journals, but with most humanities and social sciences missing out on this resource. Staff and students do not have access to internet resources and online video streaming programs for use in our teaching programs. The UPNG Open College system does not have online learning programs that link up the many Open College centers around the country and overseas such as the Solomon Islands campus.  How can UPNG promote itself as a premier university in the South Pacific when its Information Technology anything, but a poor sample of what could be possible.

I acknowledge the recent developments in the Open Colleage with the appointment of the new Director, Dr. Samuel Haihuie at the helm; it has openned its Facebook page. Well done, Open College in taking the lead in this direction. Maybe the rest of UPNG can follow your leadership in making sure the advantage of IT is taken full advantage of.

How comes only a few of the total population of UPNG have access to these IT facilities? My guess is that they must be using non-UPNG IT facilities and resources. Why would they have the privilege than others at UPNG? UPNG cannot live in the doldrums of yesteryears. If it wants to excellerate its growth it must change all these mediocrity and get on with the business of becoming a leader of providing easy and free access to IT facilities to its staff and students.

I think UPNG must invest in its IT development.  It can begin by hiring someone with the best training with a Master degree or better and knowledge of IT development to manage the IT programs at UPNG. Most of the current IT staff members are handicapped by institutional constraints and general complacency of their immediate supervisors.

The ambivalence in the tone of my views stems from the experienceS that I have had in teaching and research in top universities in USA and New Zealand, who take advantage of the changing information and electronic technology in innovative ways to increase the value of education for their staff, students, and associates.

Without excellent IT or electronic resources UPNG will continue to struggle to meet that changing needs in education at this information and technology age.

Electronic versions of all Steven’s Window appears on My students and other followers are already using this site for their research and educational pursuits, even on their mobile phones.

Dialogic Tourism

Grand Papua Hotel in Port Moresby

In recent times a British newspaper had scandalized Papua New Guinea as a land of cannibals with insatiable appetites for European tourists.

In PNG, it seems, the kind of tourism promoted is about quality tourism, which promotes its diverse cultures and heritage. At the same time such an approach safe guards the identities of its unique cultural heritage.

Tourism in Papua New Guinea has developed around the quality tourists rather than the mass tourists because of the need to give people a greater opportunity to develop effective communication and dialogue between tourists and the local community (Cashman 1987: 28-29).

It has been observed that so often “when tourists travel together as a group they can be insulated that they never develop an understanding of the hopes and aspirations, the fears and problems of the local people in whose midst they are.” An example of this observation is captured in the film Cannibal Tours featuring a group of European tourists visiting the Sepik River of Papua New Guinea. By making the trip to the Sepik River the tourists come the realization is that they are as strange as the people of the Sepik.

Papua New Guineans expect respect from tourists in order to welcome them into their communities: “The tourists we want, the tourists we will respect and should go out of our way to welcome are the tourists who come to us on equal terms, and who are interested in us as a people.” (Cashman 1987: 28).  In many Papua New Guinean communities the type of tourists welcomed by the communities are those who are willing to live and learn the cultures of the host communities. Such tourists are ones who appreciate and value other people and their cultures.

In an interesting article published in the Paradise Inflight With Air Niugini magazine, Steven Mago (2006: 56) recounts one particular trip made by a Japanese tour group to Aibom village in the Sepik River: “The programme at Aibom include a visit to a village where visitors mingled with locals to learn about their traditional lifestyle, a visit to the local school where the visitors spent an hour teaching Aibom children “origami”, a pottery demonstration and pottery making by the group. Despite the bad road experience, the trip to Aibom was a memorable one for our visitors. Not only did they come to visit the site of the famous art of Sepik pottery; there was also an exchange of values and cultures through the teaching sessions at the local school and a tea ceremony held in the village to mark the formal end of the tour.”

Exchange of cultures and values are important end results of quality tourism. It also highlights the respect tourists and host communities have of each other. The story of these Japanese tourists to the Sepik River community of Aibom village is a fine example in Papua New Guinea. There are other examples of Japanese tourists visiting places like Rabaul and the Sepik to see War Memorial sites to honour their relatives and brethrens who fought in the Second World and died in Papua New Guinea.

One of the largest campaigns in recent years that is attracting a lot of Australians to Papua New Guinea is the Kokoda Trail in the Owen Stanley Range, between Oro and Central Province. For the Australians the Kokoda Trail symbolises their part in the Second World War. Massive publicity in the Australian media, television, newspapers, magazines, and in sports, education, and political circles has influenced more Australians to visit the Kokoda Trail.

Yet for the Papua New Guineans, the Kokoda Trail or other war memorial remains only a symbol of another era transposed into a new opportunity or a nightmare. The economic returns to local communities and the emergence of greater understanding between Papua New Guineans and Australians or Japanese is therefore the opportunity.

Tourism is an industry that has both positive and negative side effects. Professor H. Peter Gray (1987: 17) provides the following observations: “Before considering the costs and benefits of tourism as an important sector in any developmental plan, three things need to be made explicit. First, I treat tourism as I would treat any other export-oriented industry: it should be considered as an alternative to copper mining, textile manufacture or any other export-oriented activity. The approach assumes that the developing economy faces a serious shortage of foreign exchange and that this shortage represents a drag on the development process.”

Grey goes on to explain that the tourism industry depends on the existences of some attraction for visitors. Papua New Guinea has many such attractions in natural beauty, diverse cultures, languages, and historical sites: “The key to tourism is the quality, the location and the perception by foreigners of that natural asset…the basic appeal of a touristic location is the fundamental characteristics of its natural attribute” (Gray 1987: 17). The two kinds of tourism, according to Gray are “resort (sunlust)” and “wanderlust tourism”, where “resort “sunlust” tourism…relies upon the climate, beaches, mountains and doing at touristic site what can be done less well at home; wanderlust tourism involves doing something abroad which cannot be done at home” (1987: 17). Distinguishing sharply between these two kinds of tourism is difficult. No tourism centre is wholly and exclusively resort tourism or caters uniquely to wanderlust. Centres of wanderlust make every effort to provide visitors with those features, which resorts emphasize: comfortable accommodation, idylic location, good food, local diversions and opportunities for sport and relaxation.

In Papua New Guinea tourism has helped to revive cultural reawakening of cultural heritage as part of tourism development, which increases the demand for historical cultural exhibits, which provides opportunities to support preservation of historical artefacts and architecture. The positive result of this is that greater understanding and awareness is created.

By learning more about others, their differences become less threatening and more interesting. At the same time, tourism often promotes higher levels of psychological satisfaction from opportunities created by tourism development and through interaction with travellers. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Writing Through Independence

Provincial flags outside the National Library, Port Moresby.

What has Independence done to me as a Papua New Guinean, a writer, and scholar of indigenous cultures? Surely, this question must be asked by many conscientious Papua New Guineans.

Papua New Guinea as a postcolonial nation struggles to free itself from a colonized history, more particularly from the neocolonial practices and influences of its former colonizer. Achieving political Independence has never freed Papua New Guinea completely from Australia.

Australian influence in Papua New Guinea is deeper than perceived at the political level. Australia continues to play a major part in the economic, social, and political development of Papua New Guinea. The relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea is often tested, but always maintained through diplomatic dialogues and other political processess.

Early Papua New Guinea writings tackled Australian colonialism with ferment and nationalist fury to the extent of achieving Independence without bloodshed. The literature of that period is fueled by such political necessity.

After Independence Papua New Guinean writers disappeared, except for a few committed ones, who continue to write.  Two notable figures of the period are Russell Soaba and Paulias Matane, who continue to write literary and non literary works beyond the 2000s. Soaba continues to write and teach literature at the University of Papua New Guinea.

Paulias Matane continues to write non fiction works after he moved away from the Aimbe fiction series. His interests in writing led him to publish many non fiction works throughout the years, even after becoming the then Governor General of Papua New Guinea. Grand Chief Sir Paulias Matane also assisted many Papua New Guineans to publish their books. He continues to impress all of us.

These gentlemen are, to many of us, the younger generation, embodiment of a legacy that refuses to go away. They used their writing to speak about their conditions before and after Independence. Reading their works helps us to understand our own lives.

The writings of the 1980s to the present are about this neocolonial presence, dependent relationship, as well as about the lack of critical reassessment of the changing experiences in postcolonial Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinean writers are concerned with diverse issues of identity, social change, economic change, cultural change, the movement between village and urban areas, experiences of growing up, adolescence, education, unemployment, wantok systems, and conflicting cultural situations. Their writings are about the contemporary experiences, the traditional cultures and customs, and immediate past they seemed to have lost in the transition from a stone-age culture to one of electronic media networking. The mundane to important events in the lives of Papua New Guineans are concerns of contemporary writers. Literary expressions are inspired from the personal experiences of writers and anecdotes of other Papua New Guineans. This experience of Papua New Guineans is similar to those of other Pacific Islanders as already noted.

Literary culture developed in different phases in Papua New Guinea. The first phase characterizes dissent, protest, and anticolonial resistance. The period between 1968 and 1975 marks this phase. The second phase, between 1980 and 2000, covers the village pastoral and sociological literature. In this phase Papua New Guineans wrote out of the need to assess their conditions of living, of existence, to make sense of the world around them, and to revive the experiences of an earlier era.

Writing struggled to survive against polarized national developmental priorities and civil conformity since Independence. The third phase is a combination of the previous phases and the independent emergence of new voices of a new generation. The third phase, between 1990 and 2000 came about as a result of Papua New Guineans reading the works of earlier writers and seeking out avenues to speak for themselves, about their experiences, and their visions for a democratic society. The later category makes use of new literary structures, both appropriated and experimental in style, to represent their experiences as Papua New Guineans.

Papua New Guineans re-imagined themselves in their writings. They create various discourses about themselves. Papua New Guineans realize the process of rethinking and re-evaluation of some of the inherited values or those created by Papua New Guineans need urgent critical attention. The methods and procedures used for investigating and conducting research of Papua New Guinea cultures need to be reframed so as to produce a balanced critical reading of Papua New Guinea literature. Papua New Guineans need distinctive signposts to navigate through the many inroads created in their lives. All these are politically invested. The localized struggles and their responses to the globalized economy make them more vulnerable than is imagined. Accepting the passive, non active, unquestioning life is a form of conformity and cultural paralysis. Papua New Guineans can articulate their experiences in radical and progressive ways.

Papua New Guinea is a hybridized postcolonial society with a fusion of diverse cultures, modern global influences, and the result of a synthesis of multicultural experiences. Questions of nationalism after Independence are raised every so often, suggesting that, perhaps it has served its purpose at the time of its emergence. Constant internal conflicts, uncontrolled social disorder, cultural conflicts, violence, ethnic differences, stagnant views, and rampant corruptions, poor governance, and massive squandering of royalties from its mineral and natural resources often stun the growth of nationalism. Nationalism, in most cases, is evoked by elites as the self-appointed guardians of their people’s interests. Nationalism is not what it claims to represent in Papua New Guinea as it fails to eliminate the ethnocentricism fueling regionalism within a national boundary.

Literature and politics have a unique relationship to each other. So long as literature continues to be useful to people it maintains its political function. It is difficult to resist viewing the political and ideological overtones present in Papua New Guinea writing. No writers are free of the social, political, economic, and cultural influences of their societies. Writers are creatures of their societies. Hence, a writer’s work carries with it the social and political value and responsibilities of his or her society.

Happy celebration to all Independent Papua New Guineans.