With one of the most significant (and largely intact) tropical forests in the world and roughly 6% of the world’s animal and plant species, Papua New Guinea plays a pivotal role in the global effort to combat climate change and biodiversity loss. The country’s rich biodiversity and tropical forests are fundamentally important to the long-term well-being of its population, but they are threatened by weak regulation of natural resource use and development.
The Lukautim Graun Program supports the people and the Government of Papua New Guinea in conserving Papua New Guinea’s increasingly threatened biodiversity. The program includes $3 million from the White House’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative specifically focused on women’s economic empowerment in Papua New Guinea. The program curbs unsustainable natural resource use and damage to terrestrial and marine ecosystems by strengthening institutions, governance systems, and environmental regulations; engaging the private sector; and empowering traditional landowners, women, and communities to sustainably manage the country’s natural resources.
The program works at national, provincial, district, and community levels in an integrated approach that combines national policy reform in the areas of biodiversity conservation, sustainable land use planning, and reducing illegal practices in the forest sector. Empowerment of communities through increased opportunities for redress in cases of land grabbing and illegalities is a key part of community mobilization, alongside community-established conservation areas and development of conservation-related livelihoods opportunities that reduce pressures on biodiversity. The program presents a unique opportunity to align both conservation and development priorities—protecting natural resources while enabling Papua New Guinea to advance sustainable development.
The Lukautim Graun Program aims to achieve three goals:
With funding from the Women’s Global Development Program (W-GDP) Initiative, the program also aims to strengthen women’s economic empowerment and mainstream gender equality across conservation activities.
To date, the project’s achievements include the establishment of a Conservation Deed—a legally binding agreement between clans—that will protect over 4,000ha (10,000+ acres) of traditional and communally-owned forests in the Bismarck Mountain Range (a global biodiversity hotspot particularly vulnerable to climate change). The Deed was accompanied by clan (tribal) boundary mapping and has helped resolve long-standing conflicts that previously hindered reaching inter-clan agreements to conserve land at a scale that results in real conservation outcomes.
The Lukautim Graun Program has also supported the progression of a new National Protected Areas Bill in collaboration with the Government of Papua New Guinea’s Conservation and Environment Protection Authority and the United Nations Development Programme, as well as the development of a national protected area ranger program with support from the U.S. Forest Service.