Last Updated: Monday, 20 November 2017, 12:41 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Papua New Guinea

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 16 July 2009
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Papua New Guinea, 16 July 2009, available at: [accessed 20 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In Papua New Guinea the indigenous population is almost entirely Melanesian, though there are Polynesian outliers north of Bougainville. There are significant ethnic distinctions between population groups in different parts of the country. The country is unusually fragmented, by terrain, history, culture and language. About 840 distinct languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea, around a quarter of the world's stock, reflecting enormous regional and local cultural variety.

Although the government of Papua New Guinea is involved in the provision of services and education in a variety of languages, it also relies on international religious organizations for education in indigenous languages. For instance the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) partnered with the Department of Education and local communities in linguistic research, literacy, Bible translation, Scripture use and training, and produced translations of the Bible for government-sponsored religious instruction in schools. According to reports, as of June 2008, SIL had translated the New Testament into 166 of the country's indigenous languages.

In the last few years, the number of deaths resulting from conflicts between isolated groups has continued to rise; this is thought to be due to the availability of modern weapons. However, Radio Australia reported that in October 2008, at least 30 warring hill tribes from the Southern Highlands had signed a peace agreement.

Chinese investment in the country's mining, forestry and fishing sectors has increased dramatically recently, and a steady stream of Chinese migrants has followed. The immigrant community tends to occupy positions of relative wealth within Papua New Guinea's impoverished society and this has led to increased tensions between the indigenous population and the Chinese. Attacks on ethnic Chinese and their businesses have become more frequent, and rights groups reported a crack-down on illegal Chinese migrants during the year.

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