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    192255

    Land, people and governance: conflicts and resolutions in the South Pacific.

    Holzknecht HA

    Development Bulletin. 2002 Dec; (60):8-12.

    Land is the key to resolving many of the conflicts and problems of Melanesia. Solutions have to involve ways that will work for the majority of the people of the region. A characteristic of the Melanesian South Pacific is that control of the land and virtually all other natural resources is not held exclusively by the state. Only small percentages of the region’s land resources have been alienated to the state. In Papua New Guinea (PNG) it is less than 3 per cent; in the Solomon Islands about 12 per cent, and in Vanuatu all land was deemed to return to its customary owners at independence. These natural resources are held in various combinations of customary group rights and customary individual rights. These rights continue to operate within a range of customary land tenure and land use systems. National constitutions of these countries specifically recognise the validity of these customary systems within the modern state; the majority of citizens want them to continue. Such determination in the face of significant continuing outside as well as internal pressures implies that there is much about these customary tenure systems that is not appreciated by outside forces that try to undermine and destroy them. Why are these systems so important and how can other activities link up with such customary institutions? With these customary rights come expectations and responsibilities in value systems that channel and direct both social and economic behaviour patterns of people living within those systems. Over time the strong links between rights and responsibilities have begun to fade and integrated patterns of beliefs, values and behaviour have become less integrated and more diffuse. Critical areas such as leadership, for example, have taken on new characteristics, expectations and behaviour patterns to such an extent that many modern leaders act with virtual impunity within their ‘fiefdoms’, especially in dealings with natural resources. The conjunction between land, people and governance in Melanesia must underlie efforts to resolve Melanesia’s current problems and malaise. To speak constructively about ‘South Pacific Futures’ the critical importance of land in these societies must be addressed to find forward-thinking ways to resolve Melanesian dilemmas. (excerpt)
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