Social Justice, Protection and Gender Equality

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Human Rights

Human rights, such as the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, are inherent to all human beings, without discrimination of any kind. In Papua New Guinea, human trafficking and people smuggling are areas of particular concern.

The United Nations (UN) supports the Government in taking action to respect, protect and fulfil human rights for all citizens. The UN’s role is to define, monitor and assist Papua New Guinea with the implementation of international human rights standards. The UN also helps enable Human Rights Defenders to monitor and report on human rights issues in the country. We support initiatives that provide free legal services to human rights victims. We assist the police and correctional services in their efforts to improve law and order, as well as prison conditions, and to function in a manner that is compliant with human rights and the rule of law.

Gender Equality

Gender equality and women’s empowerment have both long been recognized as core human rights that are inextricably linked to a nation’s development. Although Papua New Guinea is one of the fastest growing economies in the Asia/Pacific region, the status of women remains low. Female representation in parliament is below the international average and women’s economic participation is also minimal. Women and girls do not receive adequate healthcare or medical support, and pervasive sexual and grievous bodily violence remains at a critical level.

The UN actively supports women, men, girls and boys to access services and learn about their rights. The UN focuses on providing support that increases the capacity of national institutions and other relevant organizations, whose work seeks the elimination of violence against women, together with lasting peace and security within communities. The UN also assists the reform and implementation of policies designed to enable women to lead, participate in, and influence the future of Papua New Guinea and their vital role in its development.

Child Protection

The UN believes that all children have the right to safety, survival, and quality education. In Papua New Guinea, significant numbers of children are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic violence. Some have lost one or both parents to AIDS. Many live and work on the streets and many more feel unsafe in their communities. The country has a relatively weak police force and justice system, which means communities often turn to traditional practices of mediation, where compensation is frequently paid out-of-court to resolve family feuds and deal with violence and other issues. This system can lead to perpetrators not being held properly accountable and often reoffending.

The UN is assisting the Government to build a protective environment for children, by conducting a Violence Against Children study to collect reliable data on the scale of the problem, and initiating a law to protect and promote the rights and wellbeing of all children. We focus on enhancing the capacity of National Village Courts to better understand human and child rights and to implement juvenile justice reform. The UN has also helped to construct Family Support Centres equipped with trained staff providing support services to child victims and witnesses before, during and after a trial.


HIV was first recorded in Papua New Guinea in 1987 and has become one of the most serious HIV epidemics in the Pacific region. In 2014, the number of people living with HIV was estimated to be 37,000. The HIV/AIDS epidemic extends to every province in the country, reflecting the widely scattered and highly mobile nature of Papua New Guinea's population.

The UN’s role in Papua New Guinea is to help the Government halt and reverse the spread of HIV in the country. The UN works closely with government bodies, community based organizations and others to implement the National HIV Strategy, and supports initiatives that tackle the epidemic. The goal is to facilitate an expansive response to HIV by increasing access to treatment and support for people living with HIV/AIDS.