Last updated in September 2018
Diplomatic relations between Papua New Guinea and Germany were established on 16 September 1976, exactly one year after the country gained its independence from Australia. Political relations between the two countries are friendly and untroubled. The German Ambassador in Canberra, Australia, is also accredited to Papua New Guinea.
In 2016, bilateral trade was worth approximately 197 million euros, with Germany importing goods to the value of 170.06 million euros from Papua New Guinea and exporting goods worth 26.85 million euros to the country.
Trade relations between Germany and Papua New Guinea are characterised by a large balance of trade surplus in the latter’s favour. Though there are currently no major German companies located in the country, German business has a presence there – mostly via sales channels in Australia.
Germany supports Papua New Guinea’s economic, social and cultural development, in particular through its substantial contributions to the European Union. The EU is the region’s second biggest development aid donor, after Australia, the partner countries being allocated funding for various projects and programmes in accordance with Country Strategy Papers. Under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), a total of 145 million euros has been earmarked for Papua New Guinea for the period 2014 to 2020. Priority areas of the 11th EDF in Papua New Guinea are supporting economic development in rural areas and promoting the development of human resources, in particular basic education and vocational training.
Papua New Guinea is also closely involved in German cooperation on climate policy with the countries of the South Pacific Region. As early as 2010, the country’s Environment Minister attended the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in 2010. The country was also represented at a high level at the COP23 Climate Conference chaired by Fiji in Bonn in November 2017. As in previous years, an official from Papua New Guinea’s Department of Foreign Affairs took part in a four-week training course for diplomats in Berlin in 2018 at the invitation of the Federal Foreign Office. The same year, a trainer from Papua New Guinea was the first participant from Oceania in a one-year course on further training for foreign athletic trainers at the German Athletics Federation Academy for Foreign Trainers in Mainz.
Germany supports several regional projects in Papua New Guinea which are funded by the Federal Government. The regional project “Coping with Climate Change” in the Pacific Islands Region (CCCPIR 2009-2019) which is being funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) has been extended to include Papua New Guinea. The GIZ has half a million euros at its disposal to support food security measures on the Trobriand Islands and in Wamira, both of which are in Milne Bay Province. Through an EU regional programme (10th EDF), GIZ is helping Papua New Guinea to implement an energy and water project with a volume of 1.2 million euros (2014-2018). From 2008 to 2013, Germany’s Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) funded a project to create Papua New Guinea’s first official conservation area located on the Huon Peninsula. The BMU provided funding for the so-called Coral Triangle Initiative in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia creating a marine conservation area.
A further ICI regional project launched by GIZ and supported by the BMU focuses on conserving tropical forests as a contribution to climate protection (REDD+) had a budget of 4.9 million euros from 2010 to 2015 and a further 3.5 million euros for the period up to 2018.
There are also various church-affiliated development projects run by the Catholic and Protestant missions in Papua New Guinea, some of which are supported by Federal Government funding. German missionaries have been working in Papua New Guinea for more than 100 years, making substantial contributions, especially in terms of schooling and vocational training.
In addition, the German Embassy in Canberra, which is responsible for Papua New Guinea, supports a number of small-scale projects in the country, particularly in the education and health sector.
The EU has denounced Papua-New Guinea’s reintroduction of the death penalty in 2013. A moratorium has been imposed meaning the sentences are not carried out.
The northern part of Papua New Guinea was a German colony from 1884 until 1914. A colonial-era villa still exists in the remote town of Finschhafen, the first administrative seat run by the Germans, and the remains of a more than 100-year-old German cemetery are to be found in the town of Madang. In addition, many geographical names still testify to Germany and Papua New Guinea’s brief shared history, e.g. Mount Wilhelm, the country’s highest mountain in the Bismarck Range. Interest also attaches to an unusual language which has almost died out called Unserdeutsch or as it is called in Creology circles Rabaul Creole German. It is the only German-based Creole language in the world and emerged shortly before and after World War One in the Bismarck Archipelago amongst the children in the mission headquarters in Vunapope (East New Britain Province). Unserdeutsch is today only spoken by a small number of the older generation living in Papua New Guinea and eastern Australia. Augsburg University has carried out a research project on the language financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation).
As indicated above, German missionaries have been making a major contribution to schooling and vocational training in Papua New Guinea for more than a century. The Divine Word University in Madang was founded by the Steyler missionaries and is home to a collection of books in German. At the request of the University, the German Embassy in Canberra is currently using Federal Foreign Office cultural funding for a project to digitise this collection. Three ethnologists at the University selected books to be translated into English. The idea came from the University itself and from the National Museum in Port Moresby as part of the campaign “our history is locked in German”. As the general population and academics in Papua New Guinea lack knowledge of German, they are unable to access parts of their own history.
In 2012, a Federal Foreign Office-funded exhibition on German-Pacific relations past and present went on show in the town of Kokopo in East New Britain Province.