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Constitution of Papua New Guinea: The Original Sustainable Development Roadmap

Nothing is as precious as a life lived free from fear and in full freedom. The PNG constitution remains a roadmap to equality, development, and the realization of the full potential of every Papua New Guinean – woman or man.  This was the vision that drove the call for Independence, and it remains a guiding principle and call to action any time when the country comes together to celebrate and to mourn, as we saw earlier this year, with the passing of the Father of the Nation, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare. 

In times of sorrow and joy, it is important to come back to what brings this very diverse land of a thousand tribes and 800 languages together.  In less than one hundred years, Papua New Guinea has emerged from its own history and stepped into a future that is still unknowable. While the rest of the world has paid for its knowledge and experience in blood and loss of an unimaginable scale over hundreds of years, Papua New Guinea lived according to its own timeline, customs, traditions, and codes, largely spared from outside influence. Now the timeline for PNG has merged with other nations making its future both promising and challenging. The 21st century meets PNG at a crossroads and its identity will be tested. With a young, dynamic population, the country is poised to reap the benefits of a demographic dividend if national priorities and investments are made in line with the vision of its constitution: the right to health, education, and employment; the right to embrace the best traditions of the past and to carry them forward proudly into the present and beyond. Above all, the right for women to gain the freedom, opportunity and respect already freely given to men, but hard won by women. Papua New Guinea will be faced with many choices along its new timeline that will challenge its development trajectory, but it will not lose itself if its citizens are reminded of their rights and responsibilities to work together for the collective benefit of the nation, so that their children and future generations can benefit from this legacy. 


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The Constitution of Papua New Guinea is the original sustainable development roadmap for the nation. It inspired the vision 2050 and was decades ahead of the call to action for the Sustainable Development Goals.  Such a document cannot be forgotten, instead it must be shared widely and reflected upon by the men and women, girls and boys that are alive today so that they too are inspired to achieve the promises as written in their Constitution. In commemorating the journey and achievements of its most famous son, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, by sharing with you this Tok Pisin translation of the Preamble, we hope it is an opportunity to inspire others to walk the same path towards freedom, equality of opportunity and wellbeing of all Papua New Guineans. 

Marielle Sander, UNFPA Representative Papua New Guinea