West Papua Background

a database for journalists


This section answers the question:

What are the major problems in the West Papua region?

It answers this question by looking at three of the major issues in West Papua; Health, Environment and Human Rights Abuses.



Human Rights Abuses


The map below was created by the National AIDS Commission of Indonesia, and presented as part of the Global Report of the HIV epidemic by UNAIDS in 2010.

As the map shows the enormity of the HIV problem in Papua compared to the rest of Indonesia. The main factors contributing to this epidemic is sexual transmission through unprotected intercourse, primarily through sex workers.

Key for above map: PLHIV – People living with HIV.
The estimated prevalence in general population is a the percentage of HIV in the age group 15-49 year-olds.

On the world overview of the prevalence of HIV (1 being the highest prevalence of HIV), Indonesia are ranked 102, while neighbouring country Papua New Guinea are ranked 51. The ranking, however, is misleading for the state of HIV prevalence in West Papua. As one can see on the map the percentage over most of Indonesia is relatively low, whereas West Papua stands out as a problem area. However an estimated percentage of 2.4% is classed as a low level generalized epidemic.

Mining, Logging and The Environment

This video by The Guardian newspaper in the UK offers a small introduction to the themes of Mining and Logging amongst other problems the West Papuan people face:

The Guardian’s Report about West Papua

Below is a map of mining companies currently operating in the West Papua Region. Accompanying the map is a table to show where the different companies come from.

This map and table is under construction and is updated as of September 18. A list of mining companies in West Papua is hard to come by, if you have any information of other mines please comment below or email jreczek(a)ecu.edu.au.

For a comprehensive report on the environmental effects of Freeport- Rio Tinto mines here is the WALHI report from 2006:

The Environmental Impacts of Freeport-Rio Tinto’s Copper and Gold Mining Operation in Papua

Below are satellite photos of the Grasberg Gold and Copper Fields, the largest in the world. You can see the impact that this type of mining has on the surrounding environment.

Here is an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald about the effects of mining on West Papua’s environment:

Chipping Away at Paradise

For more articles about Indonesian mining and communities check out MAC and the database of Human rights and business at Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.

For more information about environment issues in Indonesia check out Down To Earth and WALHI.

Human Rights Abuses

Amnesty International Reports (AIR) document the state of human rights in every country. The report is released once a year, and major human rights abuses are documented. In the AIR from 2007 – 2012, West Papuan issues are raised

AIR 2007 AIR 2008 AIR 2009 AIR 2010 AIR 2011 AIR 2012 Amnesty Papua Digest

Military torture: In 2010 a video emerged showing Indonesian soldiers torturing Papuan civilians. The video can be seen here.
WARNING: Graphic images

Peaceful members from the Third Papuan Congress arrested immediately after the congress finished in October 2011. Photo: West Papua Media

Other Human Rights Organisations (click on logo to go to websites).

Human Rights Watch’s expert staff includes country specialists, lawyers, journalists, advocates, and academics of diverse backgrounds and nationalities. These experts conduct fact-finding missions and investigate human rights abuses, impartially reporting on the human rights conditions in some 90 countries.




UK based NGO promoting human rights, democracy and peace in Indonesia. Tapol (which is Bahasa for “Political Prisoner) was established in 1973 by Carmel Budiardjo who is a former political prisoner in Indonesia and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience. TAPOL works with a number of local organisations in West Papua and has a wide network of partners based in Indonesia, the UK and beyond.


The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) is a US based grassroots organisation founded in 1991 to support the genuine self determination and human rights for the people of East Timor. The organisation was founded after the November 12 Santa Cruz massacre, which killed 270 peaceful protesters in Dili, East Timor. The organisation now addresses human rights issues through out Indonesia including West Papua. ETAN, together with West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) co-publish the monthly “West Papua Report” that focuses on developments affecting Papuans.


For information about Treaties, Red Cross and Media’s access to West Papua continue to the HOW section.