To address PNG’s fragility, the U.S. and other donors should engage with local partners and seek to avoid bureaucratic entanglements.
BY: Miranda Forsyth; Gordon Peake
One of the most incisive works of the prodigious but too little heralded Papua New Guinean writer Steven Winduo is a short story collection titled the “Unpainted Mask.” The book explores how the denizens of the island nation negotiate the everyday travails of modern life, using as its central motif how people wear different masks to view themselves and others. According to Winduo, it is vitally important to discern the public mask, as well as to appreciate what is underneath. Seeing one without the other is a recipe for distorted vision. Winduo’s words don’t just apply to people, but also to the state of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and its institutions.
PNG’s administration has many masks and understanding what mask is being worn when is critical to gaining a full picture of what is occurring. This will be especially important for the United States as it embarks upon its implementation of the Global Fragility Act in the country. (Papua New Guinea is one of the five priority countries the United States is focusing on in implementing the act.)