PR Political Rights 37 40
CL Civil Liberties 56 60
Last Year's Score & Status
93 100 Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

Tuvalu is a parliamentary democracy that holds regular, competitive elections. Civil liberties are generally upheld. Ongoing problems include a lack of antidiscrimination laws to protect women and LGBT+ people, and there are concerns about child labor in some industries.

header2 Key Developments in 2022

  • In January, Prime Minister Kausea Natano signed a ratification instrument bringing the country into the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus trade agreement.
  • In November, the government declared a state of emergency due to prolonged drought.
  • The government ended coronavirus-related home isolation rules in November and opened the country’s borders in December.
  • A constitutional review committee issued its final report in December; in it, the committee suggested amendments that would rotate the governor general’s selection by region, limit the use of no-confidence votes, and prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability, among other things.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

A governor general represents the British monarch as ceremonial head of state. The prime minister, chosen by Parliament, leads the government. Independent candidate Kausea Natano became prime minister after the free and fair September 2019 elections. He defeated another independent, Enele Sopoaga, in a secret ballot.

In 2020, Parliament established a select committee to review the constitution. The committee offered recommendations in its December 2022 report; some of the proposed amendments would rotate the selection of the governor general by island or region and prohibit no-confidence votes in the first and last 12 months of a parliament.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

The unicameral House of Assembly’s 16 members are directly elected through contests in eight geographical constituencies, each of which are represented by two members. The attorney general has an advisory role and does not vote. Each of the main inhabited islands is also governed by an elected local council.

In the free and fair September 2019 elections, all candidates ran as independents. Two women ran for seats in Parliament, though only one was elected.

In May 2022, Deputy Prime Minister Minute Alapati Taupo died, triggering a by-election for his seat. Kitiona Tausi won in July.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 4.004 4.004

Tuvalu’s legal framework provides for democratic elections, and the laws are fairly and impartially implemented. An appointed secretary to the government is responsible for the supervision of elections and maintenance of voter rolls. Local polling officers are authorized to adjudicate election-related disputes in their districts, and there is a mechanism through which appeals may be filed.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 4.004 4.004

There are no formal political parties, though no law bars their formation. Candidates typically run as independents and form loose, frequently shifting alliances once in office.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 4.004 4.004

Tuvalu has an established pattern of democratic transfers of power. Individual prime ministers and governments rarely last a full term, with intense political rivalries sometimes prompting no-confidence votes. Such votes would be restricted under constitutional amendments proposed in December 2022.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 4.004 4.004

Traditional elders and the main Protestant church play an influential role in society, but they do not exercise undue control over individuals’ political choices.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 3.003 4.004

All Tuvaluans aged 18 and over who are present in the country on polling day but not imprisoned are eligible to vote. Politics are generally dominated by older, well-educated men. While women formally have full political rights, their participation is somewhat inhibited by discriminatory and widespread biases. Two women ran in the 2019 elections; one of them, an incumbent, won a seat. A move to add two reserved seats for women was considered as part of a constitutional review process in 2018 but has not since been acted upon.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 4.004 4.004

Tuvalu’s elected officials develop and implement government policies and legislation without improper interference from any unelected entity. The country often receives funding from other countries and international entities to implement policies and programs. The Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, and partner countries provide the country with grants, but there have been no reported concerns of undue influence on government.

In 2019, the government reaffirmed its commitment to its relationship with Taiwan, which precludes any diplomatic ties with China and thus any influence Beijing might have on Funafuti. The prime minister visited Taiwan in September 2022.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 3.003 4.004

Corruption is not a severe problem in Tuvalu, and the country’s independent auditing and law enforcement bodies are generally effective in combating graft.

Tuvalu has received assistance from international donors to strengthen anticorruption laws.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 3.003 4.004

Government operations and legislative processes are generally transparent, though there is no freedom-of-information law to guarantee and regulate public access to official records. While officials are legally obliged to disclose their assets and income, the rules are not consistently enforced, according to the US State Department.

The government has sought to use technology, in part to disseminate information on official decisions that otherwise take days to reach the public. In 2019, Parliament livestreamed government proceedings on social media for the first time. In 2020, the government announced plans to become a “paperless society” by using blockchain technology to create a national digital ledger in which all public data would be stored. In 2021, the justice minister that said the government had not yet determined the project’s total cost.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 4.004 4.004

The constitution provides for freedom of the press, and there are no reported restrictions on this right, though the small media market does not support independent domestic news outlets. The government operates a radio station and a national newspaper. Many residents use satellite dishes to access foreign programming. Internet access is largely limited to the main island and is expensive and inconsistent everywhere else.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 4.004 4.004

The constitution and laws provide for freedom of religion, and this right is generally respected in practice. A Protestant church, the Congregational Christian Church of Tuvalu, has official status under the law, and a large majority of the population belongs to it. Cultural leaders are empowered to regulate local religious activities, and on smaller islands they sometimes discourage minority groups from proselytizing or holding public events.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 4.004 4.004

Academic freedom is generally respected.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 4.004 4.004

There are no significant restrictions on freedom of expression. The government does not improperly monitor personal communications or social media activity.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 4.004 4.004

Freedom of assembly is constitutionally protected and is typically upheld in practice.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 4.004 4.004

Freedom of association is respected. Nongovernmental organizations operate without interference, providing a variety of services.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 4.004 4.004

Private-sector workers have the right to organize unions, bargain collectively, and strike. Public-sector employees can join professional associations and engage in collective bargaining, but they are not permitted to strike. Most labor disputes are resolved through negotiation. The only registered union represents seafarers.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 4.004 4.004

The judiciary is independent. The head of state appoints the chief justice on the advice of the cabinet, and other judges are appointed in the same manner after consultation with the chief justice. Judges cannot be removed arbitrarily.

A constitutional amendment proposed in December 2022 would introduce specific qualifications for holding judicial posts and would remove a provision requiring High Court judges to have served in countries with similar legal systems. That rule has effectively kept Tuvaluans from serving on the High Court. Another proposed amendment would allow for the creation of a public prosecutor’s office; that office would fulfill some of the attorney general’s current duties.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 4.004 4.004

The authorities generally uphold due process during arrests, detentions, and trials. A public defense lawyer is available to detainees and defendants. However, the limited capacity of the legal system can lead to delays in court proceedings and access to counsel.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 4.004 4.004

Criminal activity does not pose a major threat to physical security, nor does abuse on the part of the authorities.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 3.003 4.004

While women generally enjoy equality before the law, discriminatory biases and social norms limit women’s role in society, and there are no specific legal protections against gender discrimination in employment.

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal and can be punished with imprisonment, though the law is not actively enforced. Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is not specifically banned. A constitutional review committee could not reach a consensus on prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex per its December 2022 report. The committee did propose amendments to address discrimination on the basis of disability, however.

There is no national legal framework for providing refuge to asylum seekers.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 4.004 4.004

Tuvaluans are free to travel and relocate for purposes including employment and education. The country’s borders were closed to international travel in 2020 due to COVID-19; home isolation rules were rescinded in November 2022 and the border was reopened in December.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 3.003 4.004

Tuvalu’s legal framework and government policies are generally supportive of property rights and private business activity. However, laws and practices surrounding land ownership and inheritance favor men over women.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 3.003 4.004

Although personal social freedoms are generally respected, domestic violence often goes unreported because it is viewed as a private matter. There are no specific laws against spousal rape.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 3.003 4.004

Forced labor is prohibited, and the government mandates basic protections against exploitative or dangerous working conditions, though enforcement is not proactive or consistent. Most of the labor force works in the informal sector or in small-scale fishing and agriculture. No law addresses forms of harmful or hazardous child labor. The 2021 edition of the US State Department’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor noted evidence of child labor in the fishing industry and among domestic workers. The State Department also reported that Tuvalu made “minimal advancement” to address child labor.

Under legislation passed in 2017, the ombudsman’s office functions as the country’s national human rights institution. The office was charged with reviewing Tuvaluan legislation against Funafuti’s international obligations under a 2016–20 action plan.

On Tuvalu

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  • Global Freedom Score

    93 100 free