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Keywords:

  • capacity development;
  • churches;
  • social capital

Abstract

This article researches the different types of contributions of Christian churches to governance and the creation of social capital in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The analysis is done against the background of debates on how to deal with situations of fragility and what role civil society can play in such situations. The article demonstrates what churches, as a sub-set of civil society, can contribute to enhancing public performance; public policy and decision making; transparency and information sharing; supporting social justice and reconciliation and peace building and examines what capabilities allow churches to shape social capital. Lessons for working with churches are: they are potentially relevant actors to address situations of fragility; most of them have comparative advantages in building governance bottom-up, while their potential to engage effectively in governance at the national level is more modest; working with them requires knowing and respecting their diversities and divisions—some can be useful partners in an effort to enhance governance and social capital while others might better be disregarded because their theological orientation is not conducive in this regard; many churches which operate in situations of fragility are fragile themselves—while they have strengths in shaping cognitive social capital they can benefit from capacity development support which enhances their structures, systems and other forms of structural social capital. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.