Seeing Beyond - Utah’s Lessons for Visitors from Papua New Guinea

Seeing Beyond - Utah’s Lessons for Visitors from Papua New Guinea Photo by Vika Chartier on Unsplash

Since gaining independence from colonial rule in 1975, the Independent State of Papua New Guinea has faced challenges in its economic development. Initially, the country benefited from its abundant natural resources such as oil, gas, and minerals, which led to periods of rapid economic growth. However, issues such as corruption, weak governance structures, and limited infrastructure have hindered sustained progress. Efforts to diversify the economy beyond extractive industries have had only mixed success. Despite these challenges, Papua New Guinea remains rich in potential, with ongoing initiatives aimed at fostering inclusive growth, empowering communities, and working towards a more sustainable future.

In December 2023, Deane Woruba visited Utah as part of a delegation with the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). He currently works in Papua New Guinea as an advisor to the Department of National Planning, an agency responsible for the development of the country, including all the various systems involved with economic growth. 

Utah Global Diplomacy organized a meeting with Franz Kolb, Director of International Trade, Diplomacy, and Protocol for the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity. Franz warmly welcomed the group to Utah and then discussed how Utah used specific strategies, policies, and cultural elements to successfully transition from its reliance on natural resources to becoming an economic leader driven by knowledge and innovation. Franz highlighted that the collaboration between private-public partnerships was the "Utah Way" and had a significant economic impact in Utah.

Utah has its own transformative success story. Our transition from a resource-dependent economy to a new tech hub is underscored by strategic investments in sectors like education, technology, and entrepreneurship. These initiatives have fueled innovation and economic diversification, positioning Utah as a leader in fields such as tech and research. In turn, this shift from traditional industries has been instrumental in driving sustained growth and prosperity in the state.

Tribal diversity in PNG
Photo by Jordan Donaldson on Unsplash



As the trip drew to a close, Deane was able to return home with a clear vision for the future.

While a copy-and-paste model from Utah's governance and innovation wouldn’t work in a country with a central parliamentary system governing over 850 different tribes, Deane stated that he began using the economic development systems he learned about in Utah as an innovative model for his approach to work in Papua New Guinea.

Armed with insights gleaned from Utah's economic success story, he has set out to advocate for systemic reforms and inclusive development initiatives. His goal is to empower communities, foster entrepreneurship, and lay the groundwork for a more equitable and prosperous Papua New Guinea. Additionally, Deane states that Utah showed him the value of prioritizing free and fair elections that accurately reflect the will of the people and the privatization of many current government operations and companies. 

Deane, thank you for visiting Utah and demonstrating that citizen diplomacy in Utah is having a global impact “one handshake at a time.”

You can engage in citizen diplomacy without having to fly around the world or meet dignitaries. It also doesn't require holding political office or working in local government institutions. Utah Global Diplomacy provides various ways to get involved for those interested in making a difference. These include symposiums, fundraisers, scholarships, community events, and opportunities to host international visitors, which are offered throughout the year. For more information, please visit the rest of our website and check our social media.