UN-Habitat in Papua New Guinea

Country Information

Papua New Guinea has an annual national population growth rate of 2.7 percent and increased rates of rural to urban migration and urban poverty, characterized by poor living conditions and deficits in the housing stock. Key urban infrastructure and services such as roads, drainage systems, as well as water and sanitation systems have deteriorated over the years due to poor maintenance and increased demand of a rising population.

Due to the absence of key urban policies such as land use planning and housing, lack of capacity, poor management, and dysfunctional governance structures, all levels of government have become major stumbling blocks to development in Papua New Guinea. The urgent challenges as pointed out in the recently approved National Urbanization Policy include population and employment; housing, informal settlements and social issues; governance and institutions; environment and climate change; rural urban linkages, transport and infrastructure; land availability; security, law and order; and gender and HIV/AIDS.

Tackling these key urban development challenges could be pivotal in transforming the towns and cities of Papua New Guinea into centres of economic and social development. It has become obvious that population growth in the urban areas is exceeding national growth rates and the availability of economic development opportunities.

Thus, many of the social problems in urban centres are directly related to the disparity between population growth and employment creation which is further complicated by the increasing rural to urban migration.

The increasing population in urban areas has presented many challenges such as increased unemployment, squatter settlements, the lack of service provision, and increased crime.

The growth of informal settlements is the result of uncontrolled migration, increased population and the failure of the government to provide affordable housing and land. The high cost of living has resulted in overcrowded living conditions.

Informal settlements are in the urban centres, within the existing fabric and on the fringes of the built-up areas. They are found on state and customary land and are characterized by a lack of planning, basic urban services and infrastructure. Most of the city’s low-income workforce lives in informal settlements.
However the trend is changing, with middle and high income earners moving into settlements because of the limited access to formal housing.

Building codes and standards, as well as zoning laws and regulations exist but are ignored. With the lack of a National Land Use Policy and the National Housing Policy, land allocation as per the housing needs are unmet. Hence, the demand for shelter in urban areas far exceeds supply, fuelling the growth of squatter and informal settlements. The problem is worsened by corruption associated with multiple land sales, the lack of effective land management and administration systems. There are also no up-to-date cadastral surveys and land information systems.

[tab title="Contact information"]

Vincent Pyati
UN-Habitat Officer
Paradise House, Kumul Avenue, P O Box 1311,Vision City, Waigani, NCD,
Telephone Number: +675 3234819
Email Address: Vincent.Pyati@unhabitat.org


Papua New Guinea is one of the leading Pacific Island Countries in trying to fulfil its Pacific Urban Agenda (PUA) obligations under Initiative 13.5 of the Pacific Plan. It established an Office of Urbanisation following the Pacific Workshop on Urban Management in December 2003. This office then developed the National Urbanisation Policy 2010-30 which was endorsed by the National Executive Council in June 2010. UN-Habitat and the Office collaborate under a Cities Alliance funded project. Papua New Guinea is also among the three Phase I Pacific countries partaking in the Pacific component of EU funded global UN-Habitat Programme: “Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme” (PSUP).UN-Habitat is committed to provide technical support to help implement the National Urban Plan through City Profiling, City Development Strategy Support and and Settlements Upgrading.

In partnership with the National Capital District Commission, the Office of Climate Change, the Office of Urbanization and the University of Papua New Guinea, UN-Habitat is supporting the conduct of a climate change vulnerability assessment of Port Moresby under the Cities and Climate Change Initiative.