West Papua ‘government-in-waiting’ pledge to build a Green State at COP26

West Papua independence leaders launched their ‘Green State Vision’ at COP26 in Glasgow on 4 November 2021, pledging to take decisive action to address the climate emergency and impact of natural resource extraction in an independent West Papua.

Jennifer Robinson acts for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), which last year formed the Provisional Government for West Papua, which has been described as the “government in waiting”. Ms Robinson also acts for its leader Benny Wenda, Chairman of ULMWP and Interim President of the Provisional Government.

The Provisional Government is seeking to achieve their right to self-determination and to enable the indigenous West Papuans to control and manage their own natural resources. The launch of their Green State Vision at COP26 demonstrates the clear commitment of the Provisional Government to climate change action and to the sustainable development of West Papua’s rich natural resources.

Ms Robinson advised the Provisional Government on the Green State Vision along with Roy Lee at Solon Law, an expert on environmental legislation and advising developing countries.  

The Green State Vision sets out commitments from West Papua’s ‘government-in-waiting’, including:

  • Making ecocide a serious criminal offence

  • Restoring guardianship of natural resources to indigenous authorities, combining Western democratic norms with local Papuan systems

  • ‘Serving notice’ on all extraction companies, including oil, gas, mining, logging and palm oil, requiring them to adhere to international environmental standards or cease operations.

The Green State Vision document is available here.

Benny Wenda, Interim President of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua and Provisional Government, said:

‘We are fighting for stewardship of one of the planet’s largest rainforests, a lung of the world. The international climate movement and all governments serious about stopping climate change must help end Indonesia’s genocide of the first defenders in West Papua. If you want to save the world, you must save West Papua.’

Jennifer Robinson said:

"The unlawful occupation of West Papua by Indonesia is facilitating the destruction of one of the world’s most important rainforests. Ensuring West Papua’s right to self-determination will also ensure the protection of the environment and the climate by allowing the indigenous custodians of the land to take back control, protection and management of their resources."

In June 2021, a panel of international legal experts co-chaired by Prof. Philippe Sands QC drafted a definition of ecocide intended for adoption by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Green State Vision implements the experts’ proposal.

West Papua is half of the island of New Guinea, home to the world’s third largest rainforest after the Amazon and the Congo. West Papua is rich in natural resources, including one of the world’s largest gold and copper mine (the Grasberg mine) and extensive sources of natural gas, minerals, timber and palm oil. Indonesia is currently the world’s largest exporter of palm oil.

West Papua was a Dutch colony until 1961. The Indonesian military seized control in 1963. The people indigenous to the provinces are Melanesian, ethnically distinct from the people of Indonesia. Indonesia has illegally occupied West Papua for more than half a century. West Papuans have continually contested Indonesia’s occupation, with Indonesian forces repeatedly accused of human rights violations and violent suppression of the independence movement. According to recent reports, hundreds of Indonesian soldiers have been deployed to West Papua in a crackdown, with civilians forced to flee and journalists and activists targeted.

In 2020, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) announced the formation of its Temporary Constitution and Provisional Government, with exiled leader Benny Wenda as Interim President.

The launch at COP received significant international media attention: SBS- AustraliaAsia Pacific Report – New ZealandNew Internationalist (UK)Tribune Magazine (UK)The Guardian (UK) .