CHE hosts Papuan government delegation to Scotland

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CHE fellow Alastair McIntosh reports on a recent Papuan delegation to Scotland:

A further delegation of a dozen Members of Parliament and senior civil servants from Papua Province, Indonesia, including three party political leaders, was hosted by the Centre for Human Ecology during the first week of December. What distinguished this visit was the presence of elected politicans from a cross-section of parties in Papua. The focus of the visit was climate change, and how this impacts upon land use, community empowerment, and the wider context of sustainable development.

Building on a four-year period of work with the Govermnent of Papua, conducted through its Planning Department, BAPPEDA, the team was led by CHE fellows Vérène Nicolas and Alastair McIntosh, with support this time from CHE graduates, Maire McCormack (who speaks Indonesian), Sibongile Pradhan (who produced the poster artwork) and CHE board member Mike McCarron for discussions about an ongoing programme to educate about sustainable development.

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On previous visits members of the Planning Department had variously visited communities on Eigg, Fintry, Pairc in Lewis, the Stornoway Trust and North Harris to understand how the people’s relationship with the land can lay a firm foundation for sustainable development. This visit, as it involved politicians sent by the Parliament of Papua, was very short, and involved a day spent at the Scottish Parliament and a further 2 days of training at the University of Edinburgh, tied in with the School of Divinity’s AHRC research programme that involves Alastair McIntosh and CHE’s former Academic Chair, Professor Michael Northcott, Caring for the Future Through Ancestral Time.

What was achieved?

The visit to the Scottish Parliament was hosted by Michael Russell MSP, formerly Minister for the Environment and, later, for Education. Also involved were Rob Gibson MSP who takes special interest in land reform, and Lindia Fabiani MSP who has a special interest in internatioal relations such as Fair Trade. A lunch was hosted by Paul Grice, the Parliament’s CEO, and those of the group who had arrived by that time were introduced to the Presiding Officer (the Speaker), Patricia Marwick, and taken to view First Minister’s Questions from her VIP gallery. The discussions centred on how Scotland is acting to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and how it is doing so making the best use it can within Devolution, which is very similar to the provisions of Papua’s Special Autonomy Act.

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At Edinburgh University, the group explored the pros and cons of differing models of development across the spectrum of mutualist to individualist approaches, or communitarian to neo-liberal. Different members of the group favoured different positions on this spectrum, and robust discussions took place as to what types of approach can best serve the needs of people in Indonesia.

The Government of Papua has requested that CHE continue to engage with it in this programme. It is basically an education in human ecology, one that will better equip both the politicians and the civil servants to appraise their development options, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of both the neoliberal approaches, and the alternative apporaches based on a mutualist social understanding, and how these variously impact upon climate change, that is a probable driving factor in the terrible drought, with famine in some areas, that is currently afflicting the Highland areas of New Guinea (of which Papua Province is one of two provinces in the western half).

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