The West Papua issue in Pacific regional politics: explaining Indonesia's foreign policy failure

Hipolitus Ringgi Wangge, Stephanie Lawson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Pacific island countries have paid increasing attention to the situation in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua (commonly referred to collectively as West Papua) in recent years, prompted mainly by continuing human rights abuses as well as the more general political and economic marginalization of indigenous West Papuan people since integration with Indonesia in 1969. This article addresses some key questions concerning Indonesia’s failure to deal effectively with the issue. Against a background of reactionary hypernationalism on the one hand, and a rhetorical anti-colonial internationalism on the other, domestic policy with respect to the treatment of indigenous West Papuans has, for the most part, seen a continuation of repressive authoritarian measures. And in responding to international criticisms, foreign policy has been poorly handled. There has been a lack of serious engagement with human rights issues as reflected in ongoing denial of abuses in the provinces and a generally reactive and defensive foreign policy approach. At a bureaucratic level, there is little coordination between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other ministries with responsibilities for West Papua, and therefore no effective basis on which to build a coherent policy response. Another problem consists in Indonesia’s often clumsy public diplomacy in the Pacific islands region. As a consequence, the West Papua issue continues to grow in prominence in Pacific regional politics and beyond.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-89
Number of pages29
JournalPacific Review
Issue number1
Early online date2 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2023


  • foreign policy
  • Indonesia
  • Pacific islands
  • regional politics
  • West Papua


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