Leadership beyond state limits in Papua New Guinea

Mark Moran, Baia Warapa, Geua Gorio

South Fly, Papua New Guinea
Image: South Fly, Papua New Guinea


How leadership supports development in remote villages that are seemingly disconnected from the state.

  • How does formal and informal leadership interact, including women and youth leaders?
  • How do these types of leadership orientate around external funding opportunities?
  • How can village leaders and coalitions form transparent, effective and legitimate institutions, that contest and challenge existing sub-national structures?
  • How can this local-level reform be supported? How can funding enter informal governance spaces to strengthen informal leadership and governance structures?
  • What is the extent, scale, capabilities and aspirations of informal women’s networks in South Fly, and their potential to facilitate development and reform?


When local leadership is likely to support and improve government and development, and how this can be harnessed and supported.


This project examines how informal and formal leadership works within the villages of the South Fly District of Papua New Guinea, with a focus on the role of women. It is easy to assume that many remote villages are ungoverned, beyond the limits of the Papua New Guinea state. Yet local forms of leadership thrive, as they coalesce around external opportunities, whether via the market, neighbouring states, mining or Papua New Guinea priority policy initiatives.

The project will examine how – in the context of ‘big men’, patrons, and clients – village leaders and coalitions can and do form transparent, effective and legitimate institutions that contest and reform existing local-level government and district governance structures. The project will seek to understand how this local-level leadership can be supported and existing strengths harnessed.

Drawing on existing strengths, the research will explore how leaders and coalitions can reform persistently dysfunctional institutions, and legitimate new multileveled brokered alternatives, so that more resourcing, opportunities and positive outcomes occur at a village level.

Mark Moran, Principal Investigator



Papua New Guinea

Map to highlight research country, Papua New Guinea


April 2020 - June 2022



On 1st of February 2022, Baia and Mark took part in a panel discussion organised by the Center for Global Development (CGD) on “Adaptive Programming at the Sub-National Level: Evidence from Papua New Guinea”. You can check it out here.

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Mark Moran

Mark Moran

Senior Industry Fellow with the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining at the University of Queensland

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Baia Warapa

Baia Warapa

Research Assistant

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Geua Gorio

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