It is no coincidence that PNG ranks as one of the region’s
most corrupt countries. It is suffering from high levels of capital flight,
where revenues that should be accruing to the state and indigenous landowners end up
in offshore bank accounts.
PNG is home to the world's third largest rainforest. Historically
forests and land have sustained the indigenous communities who depend on them, but in
recent years they have attracted admirers from overseas.
Between 2002 and 2011, the government leased around 12% of
the country’s landmass to private companies for large-scale agricultural
development. Nearly all of these leases are controlled by foreign backed companies,
largely linked to Malaysian nationals involved in the logging industry that are
using agricultural permits as a cover to access valuable timber. Most leases were
found to be illegal by an official government inquiry, yet logging continues.
Lawlessness and corruption in PNG, combined with the
relentless pursuit of timber by logging companies, has resulted in land
grabbing on a massive scale. Across the country, indigenous Papua New Guineans are seeing their traditional lands,
which they own under PNG law, given away without their knowledge or consent. As
communities lose their principle form of wealth and security, conflict is
to defend land rights have been met by force, with violent crackdowns on
protests by a police force often co-opted to serve the logging industry.
Timber sourced from Papua New Guinea is mostly destined for
China. This is the world’s largest bilateral trade in tropical logs, worth
hundreds of millions of dollars a year. The wood is processed and either sold
domestically in China or exported to other major consumer markets like the US,
EU and Japan. Global Witness is calling for laws and policies in importing countries
that will keep timber that is illegal or linked to human rights abuses and
environmental destruction out of global supply chains.