Background Information



Country: West Papua

Status: Unrecognized State

Population: 1.800.000 of which about half are indigenous West Papuans

Area: 480.000 sq. km

Language: Malay and more than 240 tribal languages

Religion: Christianity, Islam


  • UNPO Representation

Since 2013 The National Government of the Republic of West Papua is a full member of UNPO and represent West Papuan people on a political platform abroad.

  • Geography

Area: 418,000 km².

West Papua is the western part of the island of New Guinea and borders with Papua New Guinea in the East, the Ceram Sea in the West, and the Arafura Sea in the South.

  • Population

West Papua has a population of 1,800,000, of which approximately 900,000 are indigenous West Papuans and 900,000 are Indonesians.

The West Papuans are Melanesians composed of at least of 240 different tribes.

The remainder of the population is composed of different Indonesian groups that settled in West Papua in the past 50 years. The rate of population growth of the Indonesian groups is increasing rapidly.

  • Culture and Language

At least 240 different tribes of West Papuans have each their own language and Melanesian culture. Christianity was introduced on 5 February 1855. Animism is still practiced today in rural areas. During the Netherlands colonial rule West Papua had one percent Muslim population. Due to immigration from Indonesia, Islam is gaining more and more prevalence.

  • Economy

West Papua is rich in natural resources: gold, silver, natural gas, copper, timber, etc. The Indonesian government is exploiting these resources, ever since it took over West Papua, while few of the profits are returned to West Papuans.

  • History

The Papuan people are Melanesians and the Melanesian culture existed on the island for thousands of years. On 20 June 1545 Spanish sailor Inogio Ortiz de Retes discovered the island and named it Nueva Guinea (New Guinea) because of the resemblance between the indigenous Papuans and the indigenous Guineans in Africa.

In 1828, with the establishment of Fort du Bus, the western half of New Guinea was officially named The Netherlands New Guinea, by the Kingdom of The Netherlands (Proclamation of Delden), and West New Guinea officially became a colony of the Netherlands.

On 1 May 1963, according the New York Agreement dated 15 August 1962; the Indonesians took control of the territory. After the adoption of the resolution referred to in article I, the Netherlands transferred the administration of the territory to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) established by and under the jurisdiction of the Secretary-General upon the arrival of the United Nations Administrator appointed in accordance with article IV. The UNTEA, in turn, transferred the administration to Indonesia in accordance with article XII.

The New York Agreement, article 18d, specified “The eligibility of all adults, male and female, not foreign nationals to participate in the act of self-determination to be carried out in accordance with international practice, who are resident at the time of the signing of the present Agreement, including those residents who departed after 1945 and who returned to the territory to resume residence after the termination of the Netherlands administration.”

Instead, the Act of Free Choice took place.  This was a vote by 1,025 men selected by the Indonesian military in Western New Guinea, who were asked to vote by raising their hands in a display for United Nations observers. The event was noted by the United Nations in General Assembly resolution 2504 (XXIV) without qualification whether it complied with the authorizing New York Agreement, and without qualification whether it was an act of “self-determination” as referred to and described in United Nations General Assembly resolutions 1514 and 1541 (XV) respectively.

The above Act of Free Choice, as organized by Indonesia, was contrary to the “United Nations Charter”, the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (1960), which is fully safeguarding the right of the people of non-self-governing territories both as individuals and as nations. The noble principles upheld in the above documents were violated, as well as the New York Agreement.

The West Papuan People responded with the Unilateral Proclamation of Independence on 1 July 1971 in Markas Victoria, West Papua. This historical event happened four days before West Papuans joined the first democratic general election in Indonesia that was based on one man one vote.

In 1973, West Papua was renamed Irian Jaya by the Indonesians to confuse the public opinion and the international community and to erase the history of West Papua and its people from the globe.