The Indonesian part of the island of New Guinea is administered under two provinces: Papua with its capital in Jayapura, and West Papua with its capital in Manokwari.
Papua is the easternmost province of Indonesia: the largest, covering 317,000 km² and, with a population of 2 million people, it is the most sparsely populated. With East Kalimantan, it is the most resource rich in the country and is number 4 in terms of GDP. Nevertheless, it has the highest rate of illiteracy at 74% and the highest rate of official poverty at around 40%. These figures reflect the difficulty for government to provide basic services to an isolated rural population where 75% are indigenous Papuans. These facts, linked to the historically low levels of deforestation contribute to the importance of REDD as a potential source of funding based on the retention of village lands through sustainable uses. There is a recognized danger from conventional development pathways of social alienation of the indigenous population.
Aware of the dangers, Papua, in line with policies from the national government, has been plotting a low carbon emissions economic strategy which will seek to maintain the largest portion of the Province under an intact tropical forest cover, thus maintaining GHG gas emissions at a low level through minimizing carbon losses through land conversion (UFULO). Because of the bio-geographical position of Papua within the tropical Asian Pacific region, the conservation of Papuan forest ecosystems from lowland tall forests to alpine shrublands will continue to be a center for global biodiversity within a rich human cultural context characterised by over 300 languages.
Papua, in the company of Aceh, was granted special autonomy status in 2001 in recognition of its unique ethnic composition and the dependency of indigenous Papuans on traditional forest ownership. The consequence of these arrangements has been additional funding to the Province from the national government. It has also formed a basis through Provincial legislation, for greater local influence in the management of forests. The Papuan Government has seen this as an opportunity and has been among the leaders seeking better and sustainable approaches to the economic use of land, and ensuring resources that are exploited benefit the long term needs of the people. The road map along which Papua will travel towards these objectives has been laid out in the Provincial Spatial Plan that is being monitored by a multi-sector structure of advisors and working groups, including a REDD Working Group established under a low carbon strategy Task Force.
Like the rest of Indonesia, Papua continues to grapple with the legacy of a historically strong centralist government. In terms of REDD and the achievement of sustainable forest management, the implication is a continuing struggle to resolve tenure issues, including not only those between statutory and indigenous law, but also between a history of use permits and concessions granted by different levels of government. As these issues are resolved it is expected that the existing strong level of interest by investors in forest – carbon projects in Papua will certainly increase.