The Institute of National Affairs is a privately funded, non-profit research institute or “think tank”. Around 80 companies contributed to its running and management and they contributed sums of between K25,000 and the minimum of K500 per year. It was founded in 1979 by concerned individuals from both the government and the private sector to promote dialogue between the private sector and government and to offer alternative advice to that being given by the very dominant public service. It continues that tradition today.
The INA’s primary role is to carry out research and disseminate the results as widely as possible to the community, government departments, statutory institutions, learning institutions and politicians. Research is carried out by world-class academics, from some of the world’s leading universities, and the Insitute has a conscious policy of including PNG academics in its research, where that is possible. The research is generally sponsored by PNG and international bodies. The research is published and made available to the public.
The INA is not a “lobby group” and does not represent any specific industry or firm although it will contribute to topics of national interest which coincide with the interests of an industry. The council has reaffirmed this important distinction because it believes that the reason that the INA has been able to have some influence on every government since independence is its reputation of impartiality.
It is run by a council that is drawn from all walks of life and includes some of the leading businessmen, and public servants in Papua New Guinea. It also tries to encourage regional coverage so that research and activities are not too closely identified with Port Moresby.
Government may not like results of INA research and comment but it accepts that it is made on a non-partisan and non-political basis. The INA has taken the lead in promoting discussion and dialogue with government on matters that affect the economy and the society, it has promoted National Development Forums in one form or another for more than twenty years. These have not always achieved results but they have kept open an accepted and respected process by which both sides can air their opinions.
Recently this process has been extended by the formation of the Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council (CIMC). Organised by the INA this Council has widened the consultative process to include civil society, which includes the churches, NGOs, unions, women groups, youth groups and concerned individuals. The CIMC has twelve sectoral committees which meet on a regular basis and offer advice and criticism on subjects which deal with their own sector. This process has achieved a number of important results and has gained the respect and ears of the government.