On the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice, the Merdeka West Papua Support Network joins all climate justice activists around the world and stands together at a pivotal moment in our shared pursuit of a sustainable, healthy and better planet and future.
Central to this movement is the essential recognition and urgent reminder that climate justice cannot be achieved while lands are occupied, Indigenous Peoples are oppressed, and fundamental human rights are trampled upon.
The demand for climate justice is particularly stark in West Papua, a region abundant in ecological diversity and cultural heritage, yet marred by the grips of exploitation and occupation.
Occupied West Papua
Indigenous peoples in West Papua suffer from a never-ending string of human rights abuses, stemming from decades of political and economic conflict that have loomed over the region since the 1960’s.
In a sham referendum ironically called “The Act of Free Choice” (1969), the military orchestrated the formal annexation of West Papua into Indonesia—a move widely condemned for its lack of legitimacy and considered an illegal land grab. This so-called plebiscite involved a minuscule fraction of the West Papuan populace handpicked by the military to vote for integration with Indonesia under duress, facing the threat of violence.
Subsequent decades saw the Indonesian government forcibly changing the region’s demography through its transmigration program. The government drew thousands of people from other parts of the country to become settlers in the area, which resulted in a dwindling population of Indigenous Papuans on their ancestral lands, death tolls, and massive displacement.
A Culture of Impunity and Widespread Human Rights Violations
According to reports, patterns of violations continues to differ from other parts of Indonesia strongly showing the highest cases of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and criminalization.
Persistent attacks against human rights, Indigenous Peoples and environmental defenders and political activists contiue. For instance, Papuan activist Victor Yeimo faced an extended sentence and three university students were convicted of treason.
Furthermore, a culture of impunity abounds and allows those in power to evade accountability for enforced disappearance and extra-judicial killings. Case in point: Despite fatally shooting Papuan men Eden Bebari and Ronny Wandik in 2020, military members not only received light sentences but were later acquitted this year.
The violence and legal dead-ends are usually justified by associating the slain victims with freedom fighters. As of September 2023, armed clashes and operations by security forces led to the internal displacement of a total of 76,228 people, predominantly Indigenous Papuans.
West Papua’s Integral Role in Battling the Climate Crisis
The state forest in West Papua spans a staggering 38.15 million hectares (94.27 million acres). Together with Papua New Guinea, it stands as the third-largest repository of ancestral tropical forests globally, trailing behind only the Amazon and the Congo.
Unfortunately, roughly 8.13 million hectares (20.09 million acres) of customary forests in Papua are controlled by companies and investors, a reality facilitated by the government and, essentially, protected by the military. Thus, the ancestral forests endure repetitive and reckless logging, without concern for environmental impacts.
The ongoing deforestation contradicts the claims of the current administration, led by Jokowi government, professing support for forest conservation efforts. The government prioritizes bolstering ties with foreign investors and multinational companies, rather than engaging and consulting with indigenous people—who rightfully hold custodianship and possess the knowledge needed to safeguard the forest.
The exact numbers vary, but recent research shows that nearly half of the Earth's land is under the governance of indigenous communities, supporting roughly 80% of the planet's biodiversity. This underscores the effective role of indigenous communities as longstanding defenders of nature across generations.
Moreover, the forests situated on indigenous territories globally store a total of 37.7 billion tons of carbon, significantly contributing to stabilizing the Earth's climate. In West Papua, specifically, a remarkable array of diverse and unique ecosystems exists—from glaciers, alpine meadows, cloud forests, and karst lakes, to savannahs, mangrove forests, coral reefs, and more.
Urgent Need for Solidarity and Action
The tropical forests of West Papua embody both ecological wonders and untapped potential in combating climate change. However, their boundless capabilities remain suppressed amid the grip of military fascism and corporate greed. Only with the liberation of West Papua can we unlock the region’s true potential, leveraging its capacity to safeguard biodiversity, and forge a sustainable future for generations.
Upholding the West Papuan’s and all Indigenous Peoples right to self-determination means taking bold actions for sustainable environmental stewardship. By confronting the systemic injustices faced by indigenous communities and the imperialist encroachment of rich countries over indigenous land and resources, we can address intrinsic link between climate justice, human rights, and liberation.
The liberation of West Papua is a global imperative in our shared pursuit of justice. As we mark this Global Day of Action for Climate Justice, let us recommit ourselves to amplify our call: Climate Justice is Indigenous Justice! Papua Merdeka!
Stop the attacks on indigenous peoples!
Fight for our rights to self-determination!
Free West Papua!