Papua New Guinea is an Oceanian nation that occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and its outlying islands in Melanesia, a region of the southwestern Pacific Ocean north of Australia. Port Moresby, on the country’s southern coast, serves as its capital. The Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua comprise the western half of New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea is one of the world’s most culturally varied nations, with 852 languages recorded, 12 of which have no known live speakers. The majority of the nearly 7 million-strong population lives in customary communities, which are as varied as the languages. It is also one of the most rural, with just 18% of its inhabitants living in cities. The nation is one of the least explored in the world, both culturally and geographically; numerous unknown kinds of flora and animals, as well as uncontacted people, are believed to reside in the interior.
The International Monetary Fund classifies Papua New Guinea as a developing economy. Strong development in the mining and resource sectors propelled Papua New Guinea to the world’s sixth fastest-growing economy in 2011, but growth was anticipated to decrease after large resource projects came online in 2015. Mining, on the other hand, remains a significant economic element, with discussions between the local and national governments about restarting mining activities in the previously closed-off Panguna mine. Almost 40% of the population lives a self-sustaining natural lifestyle with no access to global finance.
Locally, the bulk of the population still lives in strong customary communities, and – although social life is layered with traditional religious cosmologies and contemporary activities, such as traditional basic education – customary subsistence agriculture is essential. These groups and clans are officially recognized under the country’s constitutional structure. The Papua New Guinea Constitution states a desire for “traditional villages and communities to survive as viable components of Papua New Guinean society,” as well as for active measures to be made to ensure their continued significance to local and national community life.
On a national level, after being governed by three foreign countries since 1884, Papua New Guinea regained sovereignty in 1975, after almost 60 years of Australian administration. It became a distinct Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state, and it joined the Commonwealth of Nations as an independent member.