Papua New Guinea (PNG; Tok Pisin: Papua Niugini), officially named the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania that occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea (the western portion of the island is a part of the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua) and numerous offshore islands. It is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, in a region described since the early 19th century as Melanesia. The capital is Port Moresby.
Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. According to recent data, 841 different languages are listed for the country, although 11 of these have no known living speakers. There may be at least as many traditional societies, out of a population of about 6.3 million. It is also one of the most rural, as only 18% of its people live in urban centres. The country is one of the world’s least explored, culturally and geographically, and many undiscovered species of plants and animals are thought to exist in the interior of Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea is a Commonwealth realm, with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II acting as its Sovereign and Head of State. It was expected by the constitutional convention, which prepared the draft constitution, and by Australia, the outgoing metropolitan power, that Papua New Guinea would choose not to retain its link with the Commonwealth monarchy. The founders, however, considered that imperial honours had a cachet that the newly independent state would not be able to confer with a purely indigenous honours system, so the monarchy was retained. The Queen is represented by the Governor-General of Papua New Guinea, currently Michael Ogio. Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands are unusual among Commonwealth realms in that Governors-General are selected by the legislature rather than by the executive branch.
The nation has 22 province-level divisions: twenty provinces, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and the National Capital District. Each province is divided into one or more districts, which in turn are divided into one or more Local Level Government areas.
Provinces are the primary administrative divisions of the country. Provincial governments are branches of the national government – Papua New Guinea is not a federation of provinces.
Papua New Guinea is richly endowed with natural resources, including mineral and renewable resources, such as forests, marine (including a large portion of the world’s major remaining tuna stocks), and in some parts for agriculture. The rugged terrain, including high mountain ranges and valleys, swamps and islands, and high cost of developing infrastructure, combined with other factors, including serious law and order problems in some centres, and the system of customary land title makes it difficult for outside developers, whilst local developers are also handicapped by years of deficient investment in education, health, ICT and access to finance. Agriculture, both for subsistence and cash crops provides a livelihood for 85% of the population and continues to provide some 30% of GDP. Mineral deposits, including gold, oil, and copper, account for 72% of export earnings. Oil palmproduction has grown steadily over recent years (largely from estates, but with extensive outgrower output), with palm oil now the main agricultural export, but in terms of households participating coffee remains the major export crop (produced largely in the Highlands provinces), followed by cocoa and coconut oil/copra from the coastal areas, each largely produced by smallholders and tea, produced on estates and rubber.
The courts and government practice uphold the constitutional right to freedom of speech, thought, and belief, and no legislation to curb those rights has been adopted. The 2000 census found that 96% of citizens identified themselves as members of a Christian church; however, many citizens combine their Christian faith with some traditional indigenous religious practices.
It is estimated that more than a thousand cultural groups exist in Papua New Guinea. Because of this diversity, many styles of cultural expression have emerged; each group has created its own expressive forms in art, dance, weaponry, costumes, singing, music, architecture and much more.
Most of these cultural groups have their own language. People typically live in villages that rely on subsistence farming. In some areas people hunt and collect wild plants (such as yam roots) to supplement their diets. Those who become skilled at hunting, farming and fishing earn a great deal of respect.
Sea shells are no longer the currency of Papua New Guinea, as they were in some regions — sea shells were abolished as currency in 1933. However, this tradition is still present in local customs; in some cultures, to get a bride, a groom must bring a certain number of golden-edged clam shells as a bride price. In other regions, the bride price is paid in lengths of shell money, pigs, cassowaries or cash. Elsewhere, it is brides who traditionally pay a dowry.
People of the highlands engage in colourful local rituals that are called «sing sings». They paint themselves and dress up with feathers, pearls and animal skins to represent birds, trees or mountain spirits. Sometimes an important event, such as a legendary battle, is enacted at such a musical festival.
A large proportion of the population is illiterate. Particularly women are affected. Much of the education in the country is provided by church institutions. This includes 500 schools of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea has six universities apart from other major tertiary institutions. The two founding universities are the University of Papua New Guinea based in the National Capital District, and the Papua New Guinea University of Technology based outside of Lae, in Morobe Province.
The four other universities which were once colleges were established recently after gaining government recognition. These are the University of Goroka in the Eastern Highlands province, Divine Word University (run by the Catholic Church’s Divine Word Missionaries) in Madang Province, Vudal University in East New Britain Province andPacific Adventist University (run by the Seventh Day Adventist Church) in the National Capital District.