Papua New Guinea
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    Profile

    Papua New Guinea

    Capital

    Port Moresby

    Gross domestic product (GDP)

    USD 24,829.11 million

    Income group

    Lower middle income

    Population

    8,776,109

    Area

    462,840 km²

    Geography type

    Coastal

    5.44

    Criminality score

    69th of 193 countries

    1st of 14 countries in Oceania

    1st of 5 countries in Melanesia

    Criminal market

    5.00

    Human trafficking

    7.00

    Human smuggling

    4.00

    Arms trafficking

    5.50

    Flora crimes

    8.00

    Fauna crimes

    5.00

    Non-renewable resource crimes

    5.50

    Heroin trade

    1.00

    Cocaine trade

    4.00

    Cannabis trade

    5.50

    Synthetic drug trade

    4.50

    Criminal actors

    5.88

    Mafia-style groups

    1.00

    Criminal networks

    8.00

    State-embedded actors

    8.00

    Foreign actors

    6.50

    3.42

    Resilience score

    155th of 193 countries

    14th of 14 countries in Oceania

    5th of 5 countries in Melanesia

    Political leadership and governance

    3.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    2.00

    International cooperation

    4.50

    National policies and laws

    5.00

    Judicial system and detention

    4.50

    Law enforcement

    3.00

    Territorial integrity

    3.00

    Anti-money laundering

    4.50

    Economic regulatory capacity

    3.00

    Victim and witness support

    3.00

    Prevention

    2.50

    Non-state actors

    3.00

    3.42 5.88 5.00 3.42 5.88 5.00

    3.42

    Resilience score

    155th of 193 countries

    14th of 14 countries in Oceania

    5th of 5 countries in Melanesia

    Political leadership and governance

    3.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    2.00

    International cooperation

    4.50

    National policies and laws

    5.00

    Judicial system and detention

    4.50

    Law enforcement

    3.00

    Territorial integrity

    3.00

    Anti-money laundering

    4.50

    Economic regulatory capacity

    3.00

    Victim and witness support

    3.00

    Prevention

    2.50

    Non-state actors

    3.00

    Analysis

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    People

    Human trafficking is a prominent phenomenon in Papua New Guinea, in particular domestic trafficking in several sectors of the economy, such as forestry, mining and fishing, in the form of forced labour. Foreign actors play a significant role in the trafficking of people, primarily foreign nationals, predominantly in the aforementioned sectors. Furthermore, children not only make up a substantial proportion of the country’s total labour force, but young girls are also trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced marriage. Conversely, Papua New Guinea’s role in the transnational human smuggling market is fairly limited, although it does play a role as a transit country for people being smuggled into Australia. Additionally, concerns have been voiced recently regarding the smuggling of individuals from Indonesia into Papua New Guinea.

    Trade

    Arms trafficking is a long-standing and serious issue in Papua New Guinea, with illegal weapons imports arming the criminal gangs who operate in the country. Much of the illegal arms trafficking occurs in the border areas between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, and in the region bordering the Torres Strait, which is shared with Australia. The influx of small arms and light weapons has increased levels of violence, in particular in the highlands, where automatic weapons, thought to originate in Indonesia, have led to a substantial rise in gun violence. The illegal arms trade is intertwined with a number of other criminal activities, as criminal networks often trade weapons for marijuana grown in Papua New Guinea, or exploit corruption within law enforcement to ensure the safe passage of weapons into the country.

    Environment

    Papua New Guinea has one of the world’s largest rainforests, which is home to several hundreds of CITES-listed plant species, many of which, tropical hardwood trees in particular, are under threat from the illegal timber trade, which has proliferated in recent years. Foreign actors play a key role in the illegal timber sector, both in terms of the companies carrying out the illegal logging and as the most significant consumer market – as do state-embedded actors who facilitate the trade. Similarly, fauna crimes are pervasive throughout Papua New Guinea, particularly in the form of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which is rife in the country’s territorial waters. Finally, Papua New Guinea is a major producer of gold and other precious metals, and the extractive industries are key contributors to the country’s economy. Illegal mining is also common, in particular at the Porgera gold mine and the Panguna copper mine on Bougainville Island.

    Drugs

    The cannabis market is the most pervasive drug market in Papua New Guinea, as well as the country’s most widely produced and consumed drug. While most of the cannabis cultivated in Papua New Guinea is for domestic use, a substantial proportion is smuggled out of the country, often with the involvement of foreign criminal actors, and in some cases in exchange for other illicit commodities, primarily small and light weapons. Papua New Guinea is also a trans-shipment point for both cocaine and synthetic drugs, originating in Latin America and South-eastern Asia, respectively, and destined for more lucrative markets such as Australia, with the Torres Strait being the most commonly used route. While domestic cocaine use is low, there are concerns that the prominence of methamphetamine in the wider Mekong region is leading to an increase in use of the drug in Papua New Guinea. Demand for heroin, on the other hand, remains low and there is no evidence to suggest Papua New Guinea plays anything other than a negligible role in the transnational heroin trade.

    Criminal Actors

    Mafia-style groups do not operate in the country, and the criminal landscape in Papua New Guinea is dominated instead by tribal clans and street gangs. Loosely organized criminal networks are known as ‘Raskols’, and comprise a number of different street gangs, including the Bomai, 585s, the Mafia, KGK and Kips Kaboni. While these gangs operate throughout the country, they are primarily concentrated in the larger cities, such as Port Moresby and Lae. Tribal clans, conversely, operate first and foremost in the Highlands Region. These criminal networks are opportunistic and predominantly engage in petty crime such as burglary and carjacking. However, they are also involved in a number of organized illicit economies, including the drugs market, where criminal networks rely heavily on foreign criminal actor involvement. Levels of violence among street gangs in the country are extremely high, in large part due to the tribal nature of gang relations whereby the notion of revenge plays a fundamental role. These gangs are heavily armed, often making their own weapons as a result of the high cost of importing small and light weapons.

    Corrupt practices between criminal networks and local law enforcement and government officials are also prevalent. Corruption is pervasive in Papua New Guinea and while most instances of state-embedded corruption involve issues such as mismanagement of funds and fraud, rather than involvement in organized crime, corrupt practices are present in the highest levels of the state apparatus. Law enforcement agencies in Papua New Guinea are rife not only with corruption and misuse of public funds, but also with people involved directly in organized criminal activity, such as drug trafficking, the illegal arms trade and fuel theft. Political actors have developed strong ties with foreign companies known to have engaged in opaque operations in the extractive industries and the logging sector. Indeed, foreign criminal actors play a key role in a wide range of illicit economies in Papua New Guinea, including human trafficking, arms trafficking, environmental crime and the drugs market.

    Leadership and governance

    Politics in Papua New Guinea is characterized by high levels of instability, despite the progress made in recent years under the new administration, led by Prime Minister James Marape. The country experiences significant levels of violence among its communities in both cities and rural areas, and there is a notable lack of trust in the government and police. While the government has been increasingly vocal on the issue of drug trafficking, the most significant impediment to good governance, and thus the effective combating of transnational organized crime, is corruption, which is evident throughout all levels of the state apparatus and law enforcement. The current administration has, however, made concerted efforts to tackle corruption, including passing a bill legislating for the establishment of an Independent Commission against Corruption, and the publication of the National Policy for Transparency and Accountability in the Extractives Sector.

    Papua New Guinea does not appear to place much value on the ratification of international treaties and conventions pertaining to organized crime, as is evidenced by the country’s absence from the list of state parties to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its three Palermo protocols. This notwithstanding, Papua New Guinea does have close ties to its neighbours in the Pacific, most notably Australia, upon whom they rely for assistance on matters related to security and criminal justice. The country is also member of the Pacific Islands Forum and party to a number of regional security initiatives, such as the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police and the Pacific Transnational Crime Coordination Centre, among others. The domestic organized crime legal framework, however, is largely non-existent. Where laws are in place, they are outdated, in particular the country’s drug laws. While legislation on criminal offences such as human trafficking and illegal logging exists, implementation is inadequate, as is the implementation of the limited number of national strategies put in place to combat organized crime.

    Criminal justice and security

    While the judicial system in Papua New Guinea is regularly put under pressure by governments, it remains generally independent. However, it is poorly resourced and as such suffers from lengthy detentions and trial delays. Although training он anti-human trafficking has been provided to judicial officials, prosecutorial efforts in the area of human trafficking remain poor. As far as the detention system, prisons in Papua New Guinea are poorly maintained, under-resourced and severely overcrowded. Papua New Guinea has one of the highest rates of prison occupancy in Oceania and this has contributed to multiple episodes of prison violence and escapes.

    Papua New Guinea’s geographic position between common source countries of illicit commodities and the large destination markets of Australasia makes the country an attractive transit location. The key factor in the country’s vulnerability to transnational organized crime is its border with Indonesia, a crossing point for a number of illegal goods. Additionally, the state lacks legitimacy and reach in certain parts of the country, which further enhances Papua New Guinea’s vulnerability to organized crime. Law enforcement’s capacity to tackle organized criminal activity is likewise limited, largely due to a lack of resources, training and infrastructure: this, in spite of significant assistance from international partners, in the form of an INTERPOL National Central Bureau and a Transnational Crime Unit established with the support of the Australian Federal Police’s Law Enforcement Cooperation Program as well as other regional security partnerships. Corrupt practices within law enforcement in the country are common, as is police brutality.

    Economic and financial environment

    Papua New Guinea’s economy, the largest in Oceania after that of Australia and New Zealand, is heavily dependent on the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors, as well as the extractive industries. The informal sector in the country is extensive, with the overwhelming majority of the adult population employed in the informal economy. The economic regulatory environment on the whole is poor, with a number of deficiencies, including the ease of starting a business, contract enforcement and financial inclusion. While the risk of money laundering in Papua New Guinea is not as high as in many countries around the world, it is becoming an increasingly prominent issue. In recent years, however, the country has made strides to strengthen its anti-money laundering framework, including the introduction of the AML/CTF Act 2015 and the establishment of the Financial Analysis Supervision Unit.

    Civil society and social protection

    The National Narcotics Bureau has stepped up its efforts to raise awareness around the issue of drug abuse in Papua New Guinea, and to control drug production and consumption, focusing particularly on awareness campaigns in schools. However, anti-trafficking prevention efforts are inadequate, and the government has failed to implement the national anti-trafficking plan, or to ensure proper training to relevant officials, or to improve regulations in sectors vulnerable to forced labour and exploitative practices. State support for victims of organized crime is extremely limited in Papua New Guinea, in particular with regard to victims of human trafficking. There is no witness protection scheme in place, which deters victims of organized crime and witnesses from reporting and testifying. Local civil society organizations provide most of the victim support services that are available, but lack of funding constrains their capacity. Churches are the most prominent components of civil society, but overall civil society in Papua New Guinea is fairly small, and even more so for NGOs working on issues pertaining to organized crime. The media environment in Papua New Guinea is relatively free and local media are at liberty to scrutinize and criticize the government, and to cover controversial topics such as police brutality and state corruption. Nevertheless, there have been isolated cases of targeted abuse towards journalists and there are concerns over the impartiality of media outlets, in particular the country’s daily newspapers.

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    The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.

    This report was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State.

    ENACT is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

    The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.