THE Papua New Guinea government has a lot on its plate dealing with drought recovery and budget belt tightening but the United Nations is keen to add other important items to its to-do list.
United Nations resident coordinator for PNG, Roy Trivedy (pictured) was in Canberra last week for talks Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
PNG voters will go to a national election in June 2017 and the autonomous region of Bougainville is due to have a referendum on whether to become independent by 2020.
Mr Trivedy said that meant PNG needed to knuckle down on preparations and decision making in the next few months.
"We really need to start the work now," he told reporters in Canberra.
A decision on the timing of the referendum needed to be made before electioneering got under way next year otherwise there could be long delays.
PNG signed a peace agreement with Bougainville in 2001 after years of civil war.
The UN needed time to line up some of its best people for the referendum, Mr Trivedy said.
PNG, Australia's largest aid recipient, has been unable to achieve any of the UN's millennium development goals to reduce poverty and improve health and education levels.
Mr Trivedy hopes the country can get a better start on updated sustainable development goals.
It was important to collect baseline data early so progress could be measured, he said.
He still believed the country would have made progress on improving life expectancy since 2000.