1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: Vanuatu holds regular democratic elections, but suffers from a pattern of unstable coalition governments that do not complete their full terms. Corruption continues to be a problem, but the independent judiciary is balancing the situation. Legislative frameworks are in place in Vanuatu for the implementation of the human rights instruments to which the country is a party. Enforcement mechanisms are often missing and implementation is therefore hampered –especially in outer lying remote islands. The lack of technical, human and economic capacity within public institutions also contributes to this. During 2019, discrimination and violence against women remained the most significant human rights concern in Vanuatu. 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. 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%, no women serve in Vanuatu's current 52-member parliament. Attempts for constitutional reforms allowing for greater participation of women in politics have not been successful so far.
In 2019, Vanuatu was reported - for the first time ever - as a country of destination for victims of trafficking. Authorities identified over one hundred male victims of forced labour of Bangladeshi origin in construction and administration allegedly employed by the same company. Vanuatu’s government refusal to reconsider the job’s permit refusal of the editor of the local newspaper ‘Daily Post’, Dan McGarry, raised concerns as regards the freedom of press. In July 2019, the arrest and deportation of six Chinese citizens following the request of Chinese authorities – four of whom held Vanuatu passports – raised issues as regards the rights to due process. Climate change has also become a serious human rights issue in Vanuatu.
2. EU action - key focus areas: The EU's priority is 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 ratification of the 'Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture'.
EU actions also focus on supporting the ratification of or accession to the remaining core human rights conventions and on promoting gender equality and women rights.
3. EU bilateral political engagement: The fifth High Level Enhanced EU-Vanuatu political dialogue under Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement was held in Port Vila on 15 April 2019. The parties discussed human rights matters including Vanuatu’s political parties reform package, implementation of third UPR recommendations to Vanuatu, ratification and accession to human rights instruments, establishment of a National Human Rights Institution, and policies related to gender equality and gender-based violence.Following the closure of the EU delegation in the Solomon Islands in August 2018, the EU delegation in Fiji is responsible for the EU cooperation with Vanuatu. The EU delegation in Fiji continued to actively promote climate change awareness. In the Pacific region, climate change and human rights are closely intertwined.
4. EU financial engagement: The Regional Financing Agreement worth EUR 13 million to tackle the root causes of gender inequality and violence against women and girls in the Pacific, signed in the margins of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting in Apia in September 2017, continued to be implemented.
Awareness-raising and support to civil society and non-state actors were essential element for the implementation of the regional roadmap for CSOs in the Pacific. To this purpose, the EU also worked closely with the government, regional organisations, civil society and other donors. In the National Indicative Programme designed under the 11th EDF, a specific financial allocation has been set aside for CSOs (EUR 1 million).
In 2019, the EU continued to provide financial support to projects funded through theEuropean Development Fund (EDF), with rural development as a focal sector. 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.
5. Multilateral context: Vanuatu's cooperation with UN agencies is considered satisfactory. The country successfully completed its third UPR in January 2019. Vanuatu supported recommendations regarding the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution compliant with the Paris Principles and the prevention of discrimination and violence against women and girls. Its next UPR is scheduled to take place in 2024.
Vanuatu is a party to five of the core international human rights instruments: the 'Convention against Torture (CAT)', the 'International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR)', the 'Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)', the 'Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)', and the 'Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)' and its two Optional Protocols – on the involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (CRC-OP-AC) and on the Sale of Children child prostitution and child pornography (CRC-OP-SC). Vanuatu is a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and has accepted the individual complaints procedure of the CEDAW Committee.
Vanuatu is a signatory to the 'Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED)', although it has not yet ratified it.
Vanuatu is yet to accede to the 'International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)', the 'International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)', and the 'International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW)'.
Vanuatu is in line with its reporting obligations as regards the CRPC and CRC Committees, although it has reports due to the Committees of the CCPR and CAT since 2010 and 2012, respectively.
Vanuatu has extended a standing invitation to the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council and is responsive to visit requests by Special Rapporteurs.