West Papua (Indonesian: Papua Barat), formerly Irian Jaya Barat (West Irian), is a province of Indonesia. It covers the two western peninsulas of the island of New Guinea, the eastern half of the Bird’s Head Peninsula (or Doberai Peninsula) and the Bomberai Peninsula, along with nearby smaller islands.
The province is bordered to the north by the Pacific Ocean, to the west by the Halmahera Sea and the Ceram Sea, to the south by the Banda Sea, and to the east by the province of Central Papua and the Cenderawasih Bay. Manokwari is the province’s capital and largest city.
West Papua is the second-least populous province in Indonesia (after South Papua). It had a population of 1,134,068 at the 2020 Census, and the official estimate for mid 2021 was 1,156,840.
However the total area and population will be reduced by the Parliamentary decision on 17 November 2022 to create a 38th province of Indonesia, comprising Sorong city and the regencies of Sorong, South Sorong, Raja Ampat, Maybrat and Tambrauw.
The reduced West Papua Province will thus have a mid-2021 population estimated at only 551,791. After the Japanese surrender, the Dutch remained in New Guinea until 1962 when they transferred the control of the region to the Indonesian government as a part of the New York Agreement.
West Papua was legally created as a province in 1999, but it was not inaugurated until 2003. Consisting until 2022 of twelve regencies and one city, the province has a special autonomous status as granted by Indonesian legislation. West Papua has a medium Human Development Index, which is the second lowest among Indonesia’s 38 provinces.
The Indonesian government has launched the building of ambitious infrastructure projects including the Trans-Papua Highway, airports, and other facilities.
Detractors claim that these projects threaten Southeast Asia’s and Oceania’s last large regions of tropical rainforests and native cultures.According to Bank Indonesia, West Papua recorded an economic growth rate of 7.7% during 2018, which is higher than the national economic growth.