Papua New Guinea

‘Our cultures are changing and they are changing in favour of men and this has further marginalised women. There is this expectation from men that we still play our traditional roles while they move on.’

Ms Ume Wainetti, former National Program Coordinator of Papua New Guinea Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee.1

Papua New Guinea has a population of more than seven million people. There are over 800 languages spoken in Papua New Guinea, demonstrating its extensive cultural diversity. Remoteness of most of the population and extremely poor infrastructure adds to the challenge of delivering nationwide programs. Gender inequality is a major social, economic and political issue and shifting some of the critical barriers to women’s equality from household to national level will take a concentrated and targeted approach. This is not possible across the whole country. Papua New Guinea ranks at 154 of the 188 countries on the Human Development Index, despite being resource rich country.

Leadership and Decision Making

Papua New Guinean women are underrepresented in political leadership and senior public service roles. Many decision-making structures including in customary, religious and private spheres are dominated by men. The Government of Papua New Guinea has amended laws and policies to promote equality, but there has been insufficient support for women to act effectively in leadership roles and bring additional benefits to women in their communities. Although the 2017 national elections saw an increase to five percent in the number of women candidates as a percentage, from 3.5 per cent in 2012 to 5 per cent in 2017, no women were elected into parliament.

Economic Empowerment

Women who are economically secure are better able to seek out education and health services, leave violent relationships and have expanded opportunities to take on leadership or decision-making roles in their households, communities and workplaces. Gender norms and attitudes constrain women’s work and economic opportunities and hamper productivity. About 38 per cent of women in Papua New Guinea are in waged employment, and eight per cent of small or medium enterprises are wholly women-owned. But restricted mobility, relative isolation from markets and limited formal economic opportunities see many women operating in a dual economy where they barter produce with neighbouring villages instead of participating in the cash economy.

Ending Violence Against Women

Rates of violence against women in Papua New Guinea are high, with an estimated two thirds of women affected. A recent study with a number of businesses in Papua New Guinea on the cost of violence found that family and sexual violence resulted in an average loss of 11.1 days for every staff member each year, costing these business between 2 and 9 per cent of their salary bills. With support from Australia, the Government of Papua New Guinea has established Family Support Centres in hospitals, set up Family and Sexual Violence Units in many police stations, amended existing legislation, and endorsed the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender Based Violence 2016–2025. Despite these changes, efforts to end violence against women in Papua New Guinea remain fragmented and rates of violence are still unacceptably high.

Enhancing Agency

Gender issues are gaining momentum in Papua New Guinea and are becoming an important aspect of the country’s changing political and national development policies. Papua New Guinea has ratified the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Key Statistics

Leadership and Decision Making

Papua New Guinea’s Parliament has no women as of the 2017 national election.

Only seven women ever elected to Parliament in 40 years.12

The Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Government requires two female nominees in local-level government. This should translate into the appointment of approximately 12,000 women in wards and local-level governments, but compliance is low.13

Women are equally represented, with men, at Community Government level across the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

By June 2014, women occupied 23 per cent of all senior management positions and 31 per cent of middle management positions in Papua New Guinea’s central government agencies but are poorly represented at provincial level and within the uniformed services.14


Economic Empowerment

Economic Empowerment62 per cent of women participate in the labour force.

38 per cent of women versus 66 per cent of men are in waged employment.15

46 per cent of women versus 15 per cent of men are involved in the informal sector.16

8 per cent of small or medium enterprises are wholly woman-owned and 26 per cent have at least 50 per cent female ownership, consistently across urban, rural and remote locations of Papua New Guinea. This compares with 88 per cent with at least 50 per cent male ownership.17

It is estimated that less than 37 per cent of Papua New Guinean adults have bank accounts and that less than 12.5 per cent of women hold deposit accounts.18


Ending Violence Against Women

Ending Violence Against WomenAn estimated two-thirds of women are affected by physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.19

Women in the National Capital District, report they are 5 times more likely to be victimised at home than on the street.20

44 per cent of the 130 cases of family and sexual violence treated each month at the Port Moresby, Tari and Maprik Family Support Centres between 2007-2014 were for rape.21

78 per cent of surveyed women engaging in transactional sex had been sexually abused in the previous year.22

Recent work with a number of Papua New Guinean firms found that the impact of family and sexual violence resulted in the loss of 11 days on average for every staff member every year.  Costing those businesses between 2 and 9 per cent of their salary bills.23


Enhancing Agency

32.4 per cent is the contraceptive prevalence rate of women aged between 15-49.

As of 2014 the gender parity radio had increased to 90 per cent for early primary years, 80 per cent for primary school but fell to 64 per cent (from 68 per cent in 2002) for secondary education.24

60 per cent of women are literate compared to 65 per cent of men.25

Note: Statistics in this section are from the Asian Development Bank (2016) Gender Statistics: The Pacific and Timor Leste report unless otherwise stated.

Partnership with Pacific Women

Through Pacific Women, the Australian Government will spend approximately $88 million over 10 years (2012–2022) on initiatives supporting women’s empowerment in Papua New Guinea. More information on the partnership and nature of support is included in the Pacific Women Papua New Guinea Country Plan Summary. This is Papua New Guinea’s second country plan and several of the activities are ongoing and a continuation of the first country plan. Details on activities currently underway in-country with various partners is available via our interactive map. The list of program partners can be found here. Papua New Guinea is also supported by Pacific Women’s regional program, details of which can be viewed on the interactive map under regional activities.

Pacific Women works in the following areas within Papua New Guinea

Further Information

    • National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender Based Violence 2016-2025

Stories of Change


Empowering women starts within the family

Research on the interconnectedness of women’s economic empowerment and their decision making and safety in the family is informing programming to improve women’s livelihoods. A number of Pacific Women funded projects in Papua New Guinea work with husbands and wives together to change how they relate to each other, allowing women to have more control over decisions that affect their lives. This approach is showing that norms can be changed over a short period of time and that these changes are improving livelihoods and income for the entire family.

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Independent, educated voters in Bougainville

Independent, educated voters in Bougainville

The Bougainville Women’s Federation and International Women’s Development Agency are implementing the Voter Education Project to provide education on voting rights and responsibilities. It is having an impact on the way women exercise their right to vote, and on women’s leadership more generally.

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Gender-Smart Safety Resources

The Papua New Guinea Business Coalition for Women, with support from the International Finance Corporation, works with members to develop and adopt policies and practices that encourage the participation and leadership of women in the workplace.

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Pasin Bilong Lukautim Pikinini Gut or Parenting for Child Development

The findings of research are clear that reducing children’s exposure to family violence has significant benefits for their development and has the potential to break the cycle of family violence. A pilot project in Western Highlands and Madang in Papua New Guinea has supported mothers and fathers to learn positive parenting techniques. Following training, parents reported that they know more about child development and have significantly reduced harsh parenting practices.

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<p><br /></p><p class=”p1″><em><span class=”s1″>‘Our cultures are changing and they are changing in favour of men and this has further marginalised women. There is this expectation from men that we still play our traditional roles while they move on.’</span></em></p><h6 class=”p1″><span class=”s1″> Ms Ume Wainetti, former National Program Coordinator of Papua New Guinea Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee.<sup>1</sup></span></h6>
Papua New Guinea has a population of more than seven million people. There are over 800 languages spoken in Papua New Guinea, demonstrating its extensive cultural diversity. Remoteness of most of the population and extremely poor infrastructure adds to the challenge of delivering nationwide programs. Gender inequality is a major social, economic and political issue and shifting some of the critical barriers to women’s equality from household to national level will take a concentrated and targeted approach. This is not possible across the whole country. Papua New Guinea ranks at 154 of the 188 countries on the Human Development Index, despite being resource rich country.Leadership and Decision MakingPapua New Guinean women are underrepresented in political leadership and senior public service roles. Many decision-making structures including in customary, religious and private spheres are dominated by men. The Government of Papua New Guinea has amended laws and policies to promote equality, but there has been insufficient support for women to act effectively in leadership roles and bring additional benefits to women in their communities. Although the 2017 national elections saw an increase to five percent in the number of women candidates as a percentage, from 3.5 per cent in 2012 to 5 per cent in 2017, no women were elected into parliament.Economic EmpowermentWomen who are economically secure are better able to seek out education and health services, leave violent relationships and have expanded opportunities to take on leadership or decision-making roles in their households, communities and workplaces. Gender norms and attitudes constrain women’s work and economic opportunities and hamper productivity. About 38 per cent of women in Papua New Guinea are in waged employment, and eight per cent of small or medium enterprises are wholly women-owned. But restricted mobility, relative isolation from markets and limited formal economic opportunities see many women operating in a dual economy where they barter produce with neighbouring villages instead of participating in the cash economy.Ending Violence Against WomenRates of violence against women in Papua New Guinea are high, with an estimated two thirds of women affected. A recent study with a number of businesses in Papua New Guinea on the cost of violence found that family and sexual violence resulted in an average loss of 11.1 days for every staff member each year, costing these business between 2 and 9 per cent of their salary bills. With support from Australia<em>, </em>the Government of Papua New Guinea has established Family Support Centres in hospitals, set up Family and Sexual Violence Units in many police stations, amended existing legislation, and endorsed the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender Based Violence 2016–2025. Despite these changes, efforts to end violence against women in Papua New Guinea remain fragmented and rates of violence are still unacceptably high.<a href=”#_ftnref1″ name=”_ftn1″ data-mce-href=”#_ftnref1″></a>Enhancing Agency<span class=”s1″>Gender issues are gaining momentum in Papua New Guinea and are becoming an important aspect of the country’s changing political and national development policies. Papua New Guinea has ratified the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. </span>Key StatisticsLeadership and Decision Making<img class=”size-full wp-image-452 alignleft” src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Leadership-infographic.png” alt=”” width=”120″ height=”125″ data-mce-src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Leadership-infographic.png” /><span class=”s2″>Papua New Guinea’s Parliament has <strong>no women</strong> as of the 2017 national election. </span><span class=”s2″><strong>Only seven women</strong> ever elected to Parliament in 40 years.<sup>12</sup></span><span class=”s2″>The Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Government requires two female nominees in local-level government. This should translate into the appointment of approximately <strong>12,000 women</strong> in wards and local-level governments, but compliance is low.<sup>13</sup></span><span class=”s2″><strong>Women are equally represented</strong>, with men, at Community Government level across the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.</span><span class=”s2″>By June 2014, women occupied <strong>23 per cent</strong> of all senior management positions and 31 per cent of middle management positions in Papua New Guinea’s central government agencies but are poorly represented at provincial level and within the uniformed services.<sup>14</sup></span>Economic Empowerment<img class=”wp-image-2544 size-full alignleft” src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/EE.gif” alt=”Economic Empowerment” width=”120″ height=”100″ data-mce-src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/EE.gif” /><span class=”s2″><b>62 per cent of </b>women participate in the labour force.</span><span class=”s2″><b>38 per cent of </b>women versus 66 per cent of men are in waged employment.<sup>15</sup></span><b></b><span class=”s2″><b>46 per cent of </b>women versus 15 per cent of men are involved in the informal sector.<sup>16</sup></span><b></b><span class=”s2″><b>8 per cent</b> of small or medium enterprises are wholly woman-owned and <b>26 per cent</b> have at least 50 per cent female ownership, consistently across urban, rural and remote locations of Papua New Guinea. This compares with 88 per cent with at least 50 per cent male ownership.<sup>17</sup></span><span class=”s2″>It is estimated that less than 37 per cent of Papua New Guinean adults have bank accounts and that less than 12.5 per cent of women hold deposit accounts.<sup>18</sup></span>Ending Violence Against Women<img class=”wp-image-2545 size-full alignleft” src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/EVAW.gif” alt=”Ending Violence Against Women” width=”120″ height=”140″ data-mce-src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/EVAW.gif” /><span class=”s2″>An estimated two-thirds of women are affected by physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.<sup>19</sup></span><span class=”s2″>Women in the National Capital District, report they are <b>5 times</b> more likely to be victimised at home than on the street.<sup>20</sup></span><span class=”s2″><b>44 per cent </b>of the 130 cases of family and sexual violence treated each month at the Port Moresby, Tari and Maprik Family Support Centres between 2007-2014 were for rape.<sup>21</sup></span><span class=”s2″><b>78 per cent</b> of surveyed women engaging in transactional sex had been sexually abused in the previous year</span><span class=”s4″>.<sup>22</sup></span><span class=”s2″>Recent work with a number of Papua New Guinean firms found that the impact of family and sexual violence resulted in the loss of <b>11 days on average for every staff member every year</b>.<span class=”Apple-converted-space”>  </span>Costing those businesses between 2 and 9 per cent of their salary bills.<sup>23</sup></span>Enhancing Agency<img class=”size-full wp-image-450 alignleft” src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/EnhancingAgency-infographic.png” alt=”” width=”120″ height=”100″ data-mce-src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/EnhancingAgency-infographic.png” /><span class=”s2″><b>32.4 per cent</b> is the contraceptive prevalence rate of women aged between 15-49. </span><span class=”s2″>As of 2014 the gender parity radio had increased to 90 per cent for early primary years, 80 per cent for primary school but fell to 64 per cent (from 68 per cent in 2002) for secondary education.<sup>24</sup></span><span class=”s2″><b>60 per cent </b>of women are literate compared to 65 per cent of men.<sup>25</sup></span><span class=”s1″><i>Note: Statistics in this section are from the </i><a href=”https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/181270/gender-statistics-pacific-tim.pdf” data-mce-href=”https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/181270/gender-statistics-pacific-tim.pdf”><span class=”s2″><i>Asian Development Bank (2016) Gender Statistics: The Pacific and Timor Leste</i></span></a></span><i> </i><span class=”s1″><i>report unless otherwise stated.</i></span>Partnership with <em>Pacific Women</em><span class=”s1″>Through <i>Pacific Women</i>, the Australian Government will spend approximately AU$66.4 million over ten years (2012-2022) on initiatives supporting women’s empowerment in PNG. Approximately AU$31.9 million has been spent delivering activities in-country (FY2012-2013 to FY2015-2016). More information on the partnership and nature of support is included in the <a href=”https://pacificwomen.org/key-pacific-women-resources/papua-new-guinea-country-plan-summary/” data-mce-href=”https://pacificwomen.org/key-pacific-women-resources/papua-new-guinea-country-plan-summary/”><span class=”s2″><i>Pacific Women</i> PNG Country Plan Summary 2014-2019</span></a> valued at AU$58 million. This is PNG’s second country plan and several of the activities are ongoing and a continuation of the first country plan. Details on activities currently underway in-country with various partners are available via our <a href=”https://pacificwomen.org/map/” data-mce-href=”https://pacificwomen.org/map/”><span class=”s2″>interactive map</span></a>. The list of program partners can be found</span><span class=”s1″> <a href=”https://pacificwomen.org/about-us/partners/” data-mce-href=”https://pacificwomen.org/about-us/partners/”><span class=”s2″>here</span></a>.</span><span class=”s1″>PNG is also supported by <i>Pacific Women’s</i> regional program, details of which can be viewed on the interactive map under regional activities.</span><span class=”s1″><i>Pacific Women</i> works in the following areas within Papua New Guinea</span><span class=”s2″>: </span><a href=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-National_201805-NH.jpg” data-mce-href=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-National_201805-NH.jpg”><img class=”aligncenter wp-image-3545 size-large” src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-National_201805-NH-1024×716.jpg” alt=”” width=”640″ height=”448″ data-mce-src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-National_201805-NH-1024×716.jpg” /></a><a href=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Bougainville_201806-NH.jpg” data-mce-href=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Bougainville_201806-NH.jpg”><img class=”aligncenter wp-image-3546 size-large” src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Bougainville_201806-NH-1024×723.jpg” alt=”” width=”640″ height=”452″ data-mce-src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Bougainville_201806-NH-1024×723.jpg” /></a><a href=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Outcome1_201805-NH.jpg” data-mce-href=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Outcome1_201805-NH.jpg”><img class=”aligncenter wp-image-3547 size-large” src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Outcome1_201805-NH-1024×721.jpg” alt=”” width=”640″ height=”451″ data-mce-src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Outcome1_201805-NH-1024×721.jpg” /></a><a href=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Outcome2_201805-NH.jpg” data-mce-href=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Outcome2_201805-NH.jpg”><img class=”aligncenter wp-image-3548 size-large” src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Outcome2_201805-NH-1024×723.jpg” alt=”” width=”640″ height=”452″ data-mce-src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Outcome2_201805-NH-1024×723.jpg” /></a><a href=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Outcome3_201805-NH-1.jpg” data-mce-href=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Outcome3_201805-NH-1.jpg”><img class=”aligncenter wp-image-3551 size-large” src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Outcome3_201805-NH-1-1024×701.jpg” alt=”” width=”640″ height=”438″ data-mce-src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Outcome3_201805-NH-1-1024×701.jpg” /></a><a href=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Outcome4_201804-NH.jpg” data-mce-href=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Outcome4_201804-NH.jpg”><img class=”aligncenter wp-image-3550 size-large” src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Outcome4_201804-NH-1024×701.jpg” alt=”” width=”640″ height=”438″ data-mce-src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/345301-GS-PacWomen-Outcome4_201804-NH-1024×701.jpg” /></a>Further Information<li class=”li1″><span class=”s1″><a href=”http://www.aidsdatahub.org/sites/default/files/publication/Pacific_Leaders_Gender_Equality_Declaration_2016.pdf” data-mce-href=”http://www.aidsdatahub.org/sites/default/files/publication/Pacific_Leaders_Gender_Equality_Declaration_2016.pdf”><span class=”s2″>Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (2016) Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration Trend</span></a></span></li><br /><li class=”li1″><span class=”s1″><a href=”https://genderstats.un.org/#/countries” data-mce-href=”https://genderstats.un.org/#/countries”><span class=”s2″>United Nations Statistics Division, Minimum Set of Gender Indicators</span></a></span></li><br /><li class=”li1″><span class=”s4″><a href=”http://www.aidsdatahub.org/pacific-leaders-gender-equality-declaration-trend-assessment-report-2012-2016-pacific-islands-forum” data-mce-href=”http://www.aidsdatahub.org/pacific-leaders-gender-equality-declaration-trend-assessment-report-2012-2016-pacific-islands-forum”><span class=”s5″>Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (2016) Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration Trend Assessment Report 2012-2016</span></a></span></li><br /><li class=”li1″><span class=”s4″><a href=”http://www.pg.undp.org/content/papua_new_guinea/en/home/library/millennium-development-goals-final-summary-report-2015.html” data-mce-href=”http://www.pg.undp.org/content/papua_new_guinea/en/home/library/millennium-development-goals-final-summary-report-2015.html”><span class=”s5″>Summary Report for Papua New Guinea Millennium Development Goals 2015 (2016)</span></a></span></li><br /><li class=”li1″><span class=”s6″><a href=”https://spccfpstore1.blob.core.windows.net/digitallibrary-docs/files/be/bed4213f558a86617bec36693021b0bd.pdf?sv=2015-12-11&sr=b&sig=9BPp0%252FbR7sJzVxETmuzgSapLdIRux6Dp1NY2zWVMY3k%253D&se=2018-03-05T06%253A00%253A54Z&sp=r&rscc=public%252C%2520max-age%253D864000%252C%2520max-stale%253D86400&rsct=application%252Fpdf&rscd=inline%253B%2520filename%253D%252252594_Stocktake_of_the_gender_mainstreaming_capacity_of_Pacific_Island_governments_PNG.pdf%2522″ data-mce-href=”https://spccfpstore1.blob.core.windows.net/digitallibrary-docs/files/be/bed4213f558a86617bec36693021b0bd.pdf?sv=2015-12-11&sr=b&sig=9BPp0%252FbR7sJzVxETmuzgSapLdIRux6Dp1NY2zWVMY3k%253D&se=2018-03-05T06%253A00%253A54Z&sp=r&rscc=public%252C%2520max-age%253D864000%252C%2520max-stale%253D86400&rsct=application%252Fpdf&rscd=inline%253B%2520filename%253D%252252594_Stocktake_of_the_gender_mainstreaming_capacity_of_Pacific_Island_governments_PNG.pdf%2522″><span class=”s2″>SPC Stocktake of the Gender Mainstreaming Capacity of Pacific Island Governments (2012) Papua New Guinea</span></a></span></li><br /><li class=”li1″><span class=”s4″><a href=”http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/491231468058779689/Papua-New-Guinea-Country-gender-assessment-for-the-period-2011-2012″ data-mce-href=”http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/491231468058779689/Papua-New-Guinea-Country-gender-assessment-for-the-period-2011-2012″><span class=”s5″>World Bank, Papua New Guinea, 2011-2012 Gender Country Assessment</span></a></span><span class=”s8″> (2013)</span></li><br /><li class=”li2″><span class=”s8″>National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender Based Violence 2016-2025</span></li><br /><li class=”li2″><span class=”s8″>Gender-based Violence in Papua New Guinea: A Review of Literature and Interventions 1975-2015</span></li><li>Human Development Index 2015, United Nations Development Programme, <a href=”http://hdr.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/PNG” data-mce-href=”http://hdr.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/PNG”>http://hdr.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/PNG</a></li>