Papua New Guinea

© IOM 2014 (photo: Susanne Melde)

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is the largest and most populated country in the Pacific, under threat from the impacts of environmental and climatic changes. The volatile environment makes its communities vulnerable to many hazards. For PNG, both slow-onset processes (drought, frost, salinization, coastal erosion, sea-level rise) and rapid onset events (cyclones, earthquakes, flooding, landslides, tsunamis, storm surges and volcanic eruptions) are a reality. The patterns of migration and displacement in PNG have been caused not only by conflict and development but also by environmental change. 172,240 people have been displaced by natural disasters from 2008 to 2014 (IDMC, 2015) while relocation as a consequence of environmental degradation (especially in relation to sea-level rise and coastal erosion) is already occurring in some areas (see Melde, 2015).


MECLEP publications on Papua New Guinea

  • Naser, M.M., 2014. Assessing the evidence: Migration, Environment and Climate Change in Papua New Guinea. IOM, Geneva. Available from here


 Basic Facts

 Geographic location

 Oceania, Pacific Ocean


 7.6 million (2015)


 462,840 km²

 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita  PPP

 USD 2,647.3 (2013)

 Income level

 Lower middle income

 Human Development Index (HDI) Rank

 157th out of 187 countries

, 2011, based on data from the United Nations Population Fund's The State of World Population 2011.
Area refers to Total Surface Area Data from UNSD Demographic Statistics 2008, United Nations Statistics Division.
Gross Domestic Product (Purchasing Power Parity). The sum value of all final goods and services produced in a country in a given year valued at prices prevailing in the United States of America. GDP Per Capita (PPP), 2010, is Gross Domestic Product on a Purchasing Power Parity basis divided by the population. GDP Per Capita PPP based on data from the World Bank's World Development Indicators. Data are in current international dollars.
Income level. Income levels show the income category of a particular country as identified by the World Bank. For more information on income level, including the methodology used by the World Bank, please visit the World Bank’s Country Classification.
Human Development Index (HDI). A composite indicator that measures development and human progress based on health, education, and purchasing power. The higher the HDI rank, the higher a country's level of development. HDI Rank, 2011, based on data from the United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Report 2011.


 Migration patterns

 Net Migration Rate


 Total Migrant Stock


 Women as a Percentage of Immigrants


 Number of Refugees

 No data available

 Number of Internally Displaced Persons  (IDPs)

 *21,186 **1,200 ***7,500

 Urbanization rate

 -0,02% (2010–15)

 Remittances (in-flows)

 0.1% per GDP (2013)

  •  Since there is no significant tradition of emigration from PNG and only a minor percentage of the population lives abroad (mainly in Australia), the contribution of personal remittances inflows in 2012 was around 0.1 per cent of PNG’s GDP (World Bank, 2014). The outward remittances reached USD 512 million in 2012, or around 3 per cent of the GDP (World Bank, 2014).
  • According to the World Bank, until 2012, the value of remittances being sent from PNG was 40 times the value of the remittances being received (USD 14 million of inflow remittance compared to USD 512 million outflow).
  • A comprehensive survey on nationals from PNG living abroad has never been undertaken, so remittances are only recorded in the balance accounted by PNG national banks, which does not account for informal and small-scale transfers (ACP, 2010:14).

 Internal remittances

 No data available

Net Migration Rate, 2010-2015. The difference between the number of persons entering and leaving a country during the year per 1,000 persons. An excess of persons entering the country is referred to as net immigration (e.g., 3.56 migrants/1,000 population); an excess of persons leaving the country is referred to as net emigration (e.g., -9.26 migrants/1,000 population). Net Migration Rate based on data from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division's World Population Prospects: the 2015 Revision Population Database.
Total Migrant Stock. Estimated number of international migrants at mid-year.  United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division's World Population Prospects: the 2008 Revision Population Database.
Women as a Percentage of Immigrants. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division's World Population Prospects: the 2008 Revision Population Database.
Number of RefugeesUnited Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2014. *Residing in country/ **Originating from country
Number of IDPsInternal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 2015. *IDPs newly displaced by disasters / **IDPs newly displaced by conflict and violence / *** IDPs displaced by conflict and violence (protracted displacement).
Urbanization rate: Average Annual Rate of Change of the Urban Population by Major Area, Region and Country, 1950-2050 (per cent) as per the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2014). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision.
Remittances in-flows. World Bank staff calculation based on data from IMF Balance of Payments Statistics database and data releases from central banks, national statistical agencies, and World Bank country desks.


 Environmental Facts and Changes

 Environmental performance index

 122nd out of the 178 countries

 Long-term climate change risk  index

 47th out of the 159 countries (1994-2013)

 70th out of 159 countries (2013)

 World risk index

 10th out of the 171 countries

 ND-GAIN country index

 171st out of the 180 countries

 Significant disaster events

 Type                                       Date                                 Total Deaths

 Landslide                 24-02-1991                      200      

 Flood                       00-03-1992

 Storm                      14-05-1993

 Flood                       12-06-1993

 Earthquake             13-10-1993                        53

 Volcanic Activity      19-09-1994

 Drought                   00-09-1997                        60

 Earthquake              17-07-1998                      2182       

 Flood                        23-04-1999

 Storm                       12-11-2007                       172

 Flood                        08-12-2008

 Landslide                  24-01-2012                        60

 Flood                         01-09-2012

 Flood                         00-01-2013

 Environmental change

  • Rapid on-set disasters and slow-onset events
  • Flooding
  • Landslide
  • Tsunami
  • Volcanic eruption
  • Salinization
  • Coastal erosion
  • Sea-level rise
  • PNG experiences two to three national-level activations (and numerous smaller local activations) for disaster events per year, 31 and in the past 15 years, there have been seven events of significance, involving drought, flooding, landslide, tsunami and volcanic eruption.

 Climate change impacts

  • Ecosystems and livelihoods
  • The Government of Papua New Guinea’s Strategic Program for Climate Resilience (SPCR), published in 2012, ranks climate change risks according to priority. The highest are sea-level rise and storm surges, leading to loss of low-lying land on islands and atolls (Ahus, Carterets, Duke of York, Nissan and Siassi). The second is increased incidence of extreme events and changes in rainfall patterns (see GoPNG, 2012).

Environmental performance index. The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks how well countries perform on high-priority environmental issues in two broad policy areas: protection of human health from environmental harm and protection of ecosystems (2014).
Long-term climate change risk index. The Global Climate Risk Index 2015 analyses to what extent countries have been affected by the impacts of weather-related loss events (storms, floods, heat waves etc.). The most recent data available – from 2013 and 1994–2013 – were taken into account.
World risk index. The WorldRiskIndex developed by UNU-EHS describes the disaster risk for various countries and regions. The main focus of the report is the threat from, or exposure to key natural hazards and the rise in sea level caused by climate change, as well as social vulnerability in the form of the population’s susceptibility and their capacity for coping and adaptation.
ND-GAIN Country Index. A project of the University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN), summarizes a country's vulnerability to climate change and other global challenges in combination with its readiness to improve resilience.
Significant disaster events. Based on EM-DAT, which contains essential core data on the occurrence and effects of over 18,000 mass disasters in the world from 1900 to present.


 Adaptation policies
 National Laws and Policies, Regional frameworks

 Climate Change and Adaptation Policies

 Inclusion of Migration

2007 - Atolls Integrated Development Policy

  • Resettlement of Atolls islanders designated to be established by the end of 2020 (GoPNG, 2007). 

2010 - Medium Term Development Plan (MTDP) 2011‒2015

  • A clear, accountable plan for investment, mentioning initiatives or programmes in urban areas to address rural‒urban migration and job creation in receiving communities is provided (Government of Papua New Guinea, 2010:84, 110).

2010 - Development Strategic Plan 2010–2030

  • The need of facilitating internal migration, including relocation and resettlement of affected communities is stressed;
  • The development of rural areas as a strategy to decrease rural‒urban migration is mentioned (GoPNG, 2010b).

2012 - Strategic Program for Climate Resilience (SPCR)

  • The issue of displacement and human mobility as well as the links between socioeconomic vulnerabilities to disaster and climate change vulnerabilities and to displacement risk are outlined;
  • The fact that extreme weather events and sea-level rise will lead to displacement of coastal communities that consequently will need to be resettled is highlighted.
  • The challenges associated with resettlement, such as high financial and cultural costs involved with resettlement, relative poverty of the most vulnerable communities, and the customary land tenure system are identified (GoPNG, 2012).

      2015 - INDC Nationally Determined Contributions submitted for the Twenty- first  Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC in  Paris (COP21)

  • Migration regarded as a possible “hazard area” (GoPNG, 2015).


IOM Country Specialists

  • Wonesai Sithole - MECLEP Focal point Papua New Guinea
  • Agi Hoire - Monitoring and Evaluation Assistant, IOM

For more information on IOM’s activities in Papua New Guinea: /

Key Documents / References

ACP Observatory on Migration
2010  Overview on South-South Migration and Development in Papua New Guinea: Trends and Research Needs. Country overview, ACPOBS/2010/ PUB02.

Asian Development Bank (ADB)
1998  Resettlement and mining in Papua New Guinea. In: Resettlement Policy and Practice in Southeast Asia and the Pacific: Proceedings of Workshops held in Manila and Port Vila.
2009  Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific. Executive Summary. ADB, Manila.

Cinner, J.E.
2009  Migration and coastal resource use in Papua New Guinea. Ocean and Coastal Management, 52(8):411–416.

Connell, J.
1990  The Carteret Islands: precedents of the greenhouse effect. Geography, 75(2):152–154.

Farrell, B.
2009. Pacific islanders face the reality of climate change … and of relocation. UNHCR, 14 December 2009.  Available from

Filer, C. 
​2000  Resettlement and mining in Papua New Guinea. In: Resettlement Policy and Practice in Southeast Asia and the Pacific: Proceedings of Workshops Held in Manila and Port Vila 1998. ADB, Manila, pp. 55-73.
2012  The Commission of Inquiry into Special Agricultural and Business Leases in Papua New Guinea: Fresh Details for the Portrait of a Process of Expropriation. Paper presented at the International Conference on Global Land Grabbing II, 17–19 October. Available from

Government of Papua New Guinea (GoPNG)
2007   The National Land Development Taskforce report: land administration, land dispute settlement, and customary land development. National Research Institute, Monograph 39, Port Moresby.
2010a  Papua New Guinea’s Medium Term Development Plan (MTDP) 2011‒2015. Department of National Planning and Monitoring, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Available from http://planipolis. Guinea/Papua_New_Guinea_MTDP_2011- 2015.pdf.
2010b  Papua New Guinea’s Development Strategic Plan. Available from publications/PNGDSP_Final%20Version%20 for%20Print.pdf
2011   Papua New Guinea Vision 2050, National Strategic Plan Taskforce. Available from files/2011/
2012   Papua New Guinea’s Strategic Program for Climate Resilience (SPCR). Available from org/files/Strategic_Program_for_Climate_ Resilience_for_Papua_New_Guinea.pdf
2015  Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Available from Documents/Papua%20New%20Guinea/1/ PNG_INDC%20to%20the%20UNFCCC.pdf

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC)
2015  Global Estimates 2015. People Displaced by Disasters. IDMC, Geneva.

Kelpsaite, L. and E. Mach
2015  Migration as adaptation? A comparative analysis of policy frameworks on the environment and development in MECLEP countries. Migration, Environment and Climate Change Policy Brief Series, Volume 1, Issue 5. IOM, Geneva. Available from

Melde, S.
2015  The poor pay the price: New research insights on human mobility, climate change and disasters. Migration, Environment and Climate Change Policy Brief Series, Volume 1, Issue 9. IOM, Geneva. Available from

Naser, M.M.
2014  Assessing the evidence: Migration, Environment and Climate Change in Papua New Guinea. IOM, Geneva. Available from

World Bank 
2014  Personal remittances, received (% of GDP). Available from