An interview with Josh Underhill and Zach Meyers from King & Wood Mallesons on the development of a legal handbook for NGOs in Papua New Guinea in partnership with CARE Australia
What was the purpose of the project?
King & Wood Mallesons (K&WM) and CARE wanted to work together to build the legal capacity and regulatory awareness of civil society organisations in Papua New Guinea. We knew CARE had recognised a need to assist local organisations to improve their knowledge of their legal rights and responsibilities and to follow best practice in managing an organisation. Also, K&WM are associated with the PNG law firm, Posman Kua Aisi (PKA) who could provide local expertise. Together, we developed a legal handbook to help organisations with the regulatory aspects of managing an organisation. We hope it will enable organisations to concentrate their resources on service delivery and fulfilling their mandate and improve their ability to partner with donors and larger international NGOs.
What did your staff enjoy most about working on this project?
Our partners and staff enjoy the opportunity to be able to give back. We were delighted that, through our long and close association with CARE, we were able to use our skills and expertise on this project. A definite highlight was the opportunity to travel to PNG to meet with organisations and gain a greater understanding of how they operate and the challenges they face. It was humbling to see the outcomes many organisations achieve with so few resources. We were also very grateful for the opportunity to work closely with CARE’s teams in Australia and PNG, to help their work to strengthen civil society in PNG.
What was the process?
We were keen to work in PNG given our relationship with CARE, the similarities between the PNG and Australian legal systems, and our association with PKA. We undertook significant work with CARE to identify the problems faced by local civil society organisations, and engaged stakeholders throughout the development of the handbook. This included: • a desktop consultation with organisations to identify priorities • travelling to PNG to interview local and international organisations, as well as government bodies and donors • obtaining feedback on drafts from CARE and our partner law firm in PNG. We are looking forward to launching and circulating the handbook to local organisations.
What problems will it address or improvements will it make?
The handbook will assist organisations to comply with their legal obligations. This will free up their limited resources which can then be focused on service delivery and community engagement. Ultimately, we hope this will help local organisations deliver their important work in a more effective way. We also hope the project will generate regulatory awareness among organisations. A culture of compliance and accountability is an important element of a strong and respected civil society.
How do you think corporate and development organisations can learn from each other?
This project is a good example of how corporate expertise can combine with an NGO’s local knowledge to make a real difference in a community. K&WM’s resources and experience in helping organisations understand and comply with government regulation were invaluable in developing the handbook. CARE’s long-term experience in PNG, its strong relationships with local organisations, and its in-depth knowledge of the types of issues these organisations face are critical factors to its success.