On March 20, the West Papua parliament approved legislation that will make West Papua the country’s first-ever conservation province. The newly established West Papua Conservation Province is based on a first of its kind legal framework that puts sustainable development and conservation at the forefront of any economic activity or development.
The West Papua Conservation Province will protect the most intact marine and terrestrial ecosystems remaining in Indonesia, promote the development of sustainable livelihoods, and recognize the rights of indigenous peoples. The legislation comes three years after West Papua first declared it would set out to become a conservation province and is a significant shift in moving towards more sustainable development.
The Chairperson of the West Papua Regional Representative Council Pieter Kodjol said, “The special regional regulation on sustainable development is to ensure that development in West Papua is carried out in accordance with environmental rules while ensuring community well-being.”
“In vital biodiverse places like West Papua, the stakes are high and the margin for error slim, so reconciling development and conservation is something we must get right. Now the world can look to West Papua for a new global standard. This legislation helps demonstrate that protecting Earth’s ecosystems unlocks value for sustainable development and livelihoods. It’s a blueprint for development and conservation that benefits everyone on Earth,” said Jennifer Morris, president of Conservation International.
“Thanks to everyone involved, included our Conservation International West Papua Team, this breakthrough policy shows we can rise to the challenges of our time,” Morris continued. “To the West Papuan Regional Government, Governor Dominggus Mandacan, and staff, thank you—for acting now and for the work to come. We are inspired by your vision and look forward to working with you to make it a reality.”
Launched by the West Papua Government, the new policy brings together communities, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academics to define a path for sustainable development. The policy sets a governmental framework that favors economic development, community welfare, and the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services to people, including the sustainable management of natural resources.
A key part of the new policy includes the empowerment of Papuans through the protection of natural resource rights and provision of equitable and sustainable development. Home to 870,000 people, 80% of Papuans live rurally and rely on nature for their livelihoods.
West Papua, located in the Bird’s Head Seascape, is one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth, home to more than 1,800 species of fish, three quarters of the world’s hard corals, and to this day new species are found regularly. With 90% forest cover, it holds the world’s second largest rainforest, much of which remains unexplored. The 120,777 km2 province also holds the world’s largest mangrove forest and significant peatlands, habitats which hold four times the amount of carbon than the average terrestrial forest and are essential to combatting climate change.