Vanuatu and the EU

EU ANNUAL REPORT ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY IN VANUATU, 2019

23/06/2020 - 05:10
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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.

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