PNG community

Papua New Guinea

The Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is the poorest country in Asia Pacific, despite being rich in natural resources. Read more

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 escalating. Efforts 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.