About West Papua

West Papua is the western half of the New Guinea island and comprises the two eastern-most Indonesian Provinces (Province Papua & Province Papua Barat). After decades of transmigration from other parts of Indonesia, the indigenous Melanesian population makes up less than 40% of the population. Indigenous Papuans while surround by enormous natural wealth are facing violence from Indonesian security forces, racial discrimination, exploitation of natural resources and environment by national and multi-national companies as well as the military. While the Special Autonomy Law gives Papuans more control over their situation and resources on Paper, Papuans deplore that their New York treaty-based right to hold a referendum for their political status has never been properly implemented. Repeated clashes between armed resistance fighters and the Indonesian army with considerable civilian victims call for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Political Context: Key Developments by March 2021

Widespread protests against OTSUS vol. II

High-ranking government officials advocated prolonging West Papua's Special Autonomy (OTSUS), which would otherwise end in 2021. Papuan students launched peaceful protests against it in Manado, Makassar, Timika, Nabire and Jayapura, demanding a referendum. Demonstrations were either dispersed or deterred by the government, limiting democratic space.  The 'Peoples' Solidarity for West Papua', consisting of at least 102 organisations, announced in November that 520,261 people had signed their petition against OTSUS vol. II.

More states call for UN High Commissioner's access to West Papua

Eighteen states in the Pacific Islands Forum (PIS) called for the UN High Commissioner to be allowed into West Papua in August 2019. The Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (OACPS), with its 79 members -some belonging o the PIS and vice-versa- echoed the call in December 2019, and last November, the United Kingdom added its voice. This year the Netherlands and Spain have also added their voices. Now, with 84 countries calling for Indonesia to grant UN access, the pressure on Jakarta is growing. 


A Short History of West Papua

Since the 18th century, the South Pacific island of West Papua has been an object of imperial ambition, with the British, German, Dutch and Japanese laying claim to parts of the island at different times.

The declaration of the Indonesian Republic in 1945 brought most territories of the former Dutch East Indies under Indonesian sovereignty - except for the western half of the island of New Guinea, which remained under Dutch control.