The provinces of West Papua and Papua are the eastern most provinces of Indonesia in the Western Pacific and make up the region commonly known as West Papua (see footnote below). West Papua is characterized by high ethnic, geographic and ecological diversity. It represents 22 percent of the total land area of Indonesia with 42.2 million hectares of land but its population of 2.35 million make up only 1 percent of the population.
Just south of the equator, West Papua contains some of the highest mountains, densest jungle, most isolated peoples and richest mineral resources on earth. Papua is incredibly diverse and different from the rest of Indonesia (or, for that matter, anywhere else in the world). Despite its small population, Papua is home to over 250 languages and has cultures that are technologically still in the Stone Age.
Despite its cultural and natural resources,West Papua ranks as the lowest region in the Indonesian Human Development Index (2004) and is lagging behind most other provinces in the key indicators used in measuring progress toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Key development challenges include widespread poverty, limited economic opportunities, lack of transport infrastructure, the spread of diseases (such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria) and the poor level and access to education (Source – UNDP). The reality in many areas is that the population are being accelerated from hunter-gatherer lifestyles and subsistence farmer communities, into the 21st century, in just one or two generations.
Up until recently the Province of Papua covered the entire western half of New Guinea, but in 2003, the western portion of the province, on the Birds Head Peninsula, was declared by the Indonesian Government as a separate province named firstly West Irian Jaya and then West Papua or Papua Barat. The split remains controversial. In November 2004 an Indonesian court agreed that the split violated Papua’s autonomy laws. However, the court ruled that because the new province had already been created, it should remain separate from Papua.
Papua Partners are supporting and empowering local organisations to contribute towards the Millennium Development Goals.
Click the links below to read more about our work in West Papua: