Discrimination and violence against women remained the most significant human rights concerns in Vanuatu during
2018. Despite some progress, and although legal frameworks are in place to implement most of the UN Conventions related to Human Rights, these instruments are not properly applied mainly due to a lack of technical, human and economic capacity of the public institutions, as well as weak enforcement mechanisms (especially at the outer lying remote islands). They include access to justice, in particular for vulnerable groups, as well as strengthening of constitutional and legislative guarantees.
Although no laws limit participation of women and/or members of minorities in the political process, traditional attitudes regarding male dominance and customary familial roles have hampered women’s participation in political life. While the percentage of women in Pacific parliaments currently hovers at 7.2% as of November 2017, no women were serving in Vanuatu's 52-member parliament in 2018. Attempts for constitutional reforms allowing for greater participation of women in politics have not been successful as yet and to date. An amendment to the Municipalities Act has been enacted in Parliament to reserve some seats for women on Municipal Councils.
EU action - key focus areas: The EU's main priority was the establishment of a fully-fledged National Human Rights Institution in accordance with the Paris principles (to guarantee the equality of women and girls and persons with disabilities) and the signature and eventual ratification of the 'Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture'.
EU bilateral political engagement: During the 4th Enhanced Political dialogue, held in Brussels in 2017, PM Salwai presented the sustainable Development plan 2030 which supports inter alia the protection of human rights through legislation and institutions.
Following the closure of the EU Delegation in the Solomon Islands in August 2018, the EU Delegation in Fiji is responsible for the EU political and operational cooperation in Vanuatu. The EU Delegation in Fiji continued to actively promote climate change awareness, an in the Pacific region, climate change and human rights are closely intertwined.
EU financial engagement: A Regional Financing Agreement worth EUR 13 million to tackle the root causes of gender inequality and violence against women and girls in the Pacific was signed in the margins of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting in Apia in September 2017.
Awareness-raising and support to civil society and non-state actors were essential element for the implementation of the regional roadmap for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the Pacific. To this purpose, the EU worked closely with the government, regional organisations, civil society and other donors. In the National Indicative Programme designed under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), a specific financial allocation has been set aside for CSOs (EUR 1 million).
In 2018, the EU continued to provide financial support to projects funded through the EDF, the focal sector of which is rural development. Agricultural activities can play an important role in stimulating growth, creating jobs and improving livelihoods in rural areas. They can help fight poverty in Vanuatu and limit urban drift and other undesirable consequences, such as urban unemployment, drugs use and violence.
Multilateral context: Although Vanuatu ratified the 'Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)' in 1995, the Convention has not yet been fully incorporated into domestic legislation. Vanuatu's next Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is scheduled for January 2019.