Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea refer to human rights situation in West Papua during UN General Assembly

Two states have addressed the human rights situation in West Papua at the 76th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA). The UNGA has taken place at the UN headquarters in New York between 21 and 27 September 2021. Many states did not physically attend the UNGA but joined the assembly online, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hamper international travel.

On 26 September 2021, Bob Loughman, Prime Minister of the Republic of Vanuatu, expressed his concerns regarding the human rights situation in West Papua during his online speech at the general debate.

“In my region, New Caledonia, French Polynesia and West Papua are still struggling for self-determination. Drawing attention to the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples as stipulated in the UN Charter, it is important that the UN and the international community continue to support the relevant territories giving them an equal opportunity to determine their own statehood,” Laughman said.

He elaborated on the situation in West Papua by calling upon the international community to monitor and support a visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to West Papua. “In my region, the indigenous people of West Papua continue to suffer from human rights violations. The Pacific Form and ACP leaders, among other leaders, have called on the Indonesian Government to allow the United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit West Papua Province and to provide an independent assessment of the human rights situation. Today, there has been little progress on this plan. I hope the international community, through appropriate UN-led process, takes a serious look at this issue and addresses it fairly", declared Laughman in his speech.

One day earlier, James Marape, Prime Minister and Minister for Bougainville Affairs of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea underlined the importance of a visit by independent UN observers to address the human rights concerns in West Papua, as declared in a communique by the Pacific Islands Forum in 2019, which was published shortly after the 2019 Pacific leaders’ summit.

“… I would also like to recall the Pacific Islands Forum this early 2019 and the outstanding visit by United Nations Human Rights Mechanisms to address the human rights concerns in our regional neighbourhood. This visit is very important to ensure that the greater peoples of the region have peace in the respective sovereignties and their rights and cultural dignity are fully preserved and maintained”, said Marape in his speech.