Located on the eastern half of New Guinea, the second largest in the world, Papua New Guinea was divided between Germany (north) and the UK (south) in 1885. Australia took over the southern portion in 1902 and also occupied the northern section during World War I. Papua New Guinea became independent from Australia in 1975.
A separatist movement in the neighboring Indonesian province of Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya) in the mid-1980s led to thousands of refugees arriving in Papua New Guinea, many of whom are still there.
In the 1990s, Papua New Guinea had to deal with a separatist movement of its own on the island of Bougainville. The nine-year conflict led to the deaths of 20,000 people by its conclusion in 1997. A peace deal brokered in 2001 paved the way for the 2005 election of an autonomous government in Bougainville.
Papua New Guinea has strong ties with Australia. It receives substantial aid from Australia for development and poverty reduction programs. Australia has also dispatched police and civil servants as support for their Papua New Guinea counterparts.
Papua New Guinea is the most linguistically diverse country in the world with more than 860 native languages spoken. A large majority of the population – 80 percent – is rural. Large sections of the country’s population operate in a non-monetary economy, depending on subsistence farming, although there is also a small amount of cash crop (coffee and cocoa) farming. Papua New Guinea has large mineral reserves of gold, copper and nickel. Lack of infrastructure and a rugged terrain make it difficult to excavate these minerals. The country also has substantial reserves of oil and gas.
Sources: BBC, International Crisis Group, CIA World Factbook.
The Independent State of Papua New Guinea
Form of Government:
Constitutional parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm
Year of Independence:
1975 (from the Australian-administered UN trusteeship)
Roman Catholic 27%, Evangelical Lutheran 19.5%, United Church 11.5%, Seventh-Day Adventist 10%, Pentecostal 8.6%, Evangelical Alliance 5.2%, Anglican 3.2%, Baptist 2.5%, other Protestant 8.9%, Bahai 0.3%, indigenous beliefs and other 3.3% (2000 census)
462,840 sq km (178,704 sq miles)
Tok Pisin, English, and Hiri Motu are official languages; some 860 indigenous languages spoken (over one-tenth of the world's total). Note: Tok Pisin, a creole language, is widely used and understood; English is spoken by 1%-2%; Hiri Motu is spoken by less than 2%
64 years (men), 69 years (women) (2009)
1 kina = 100 toea
Gold, petroleum, copper, coffee, palm oil, logs, cocoa, crayfish, prawns
GDP - Per Capita (PPP):
$2,200 (2008 est.)
International Dialing Code: