Freedom in the World

Vanuatu

Vanuatu

Freedom in the World 2014

2014 Scores

Status

Free

Freedom Rating
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

2.0

Civil Liberties
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

2

Political Rights
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

2
Overview: 


In March 2013, Prime Minister Sato Kilman resigned before a parliamentary no-confidence vote. Subsequently, parliament selected Moana Carcasses Kalosil, leader of the Green Party and finance minister in the Kilman coalition government, to fill the top post. Kalosil quickly introduced a 68-point plan of action to reform the government during his first 100 days in office. Many of his proposed changes threaten entrenched interests.

The government devised a legal scheme to exploit the desire of mainland Chinese to acquire residency in Hong Kong. In order for Chinese citizens to participate in Hong Kong’s Capital Investment Entrant Scheme and gain permanent residency in Hong Kong, they must first have resident status in a country other than China. If approved, paying a $3,000 application fee and registering a business in Vanuatu would grant applicants permanent resident status in Vanuatu without having to live there. By February 2013, Vanuatu had earned $4.3 million from granting 1,400 Chinese persons permanent residency status (and none relocated to Vanuatu).

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

Political Rights: 32 / 40 [Key]

A. Electoral Process: 9 / 12

The constitution provides for parliamentary elections every four years. The prime minister, who appoints his own cabinet, is chosen by the 52-seat unicameral Parliament from among its members. Members of Parliament and the heads of the six provincial governments form an electoral college to select the largely ceremonial president for a five-year term. The National Council of Chiefs works in parallel with Parliament, exercising authority mainly over language and cultural matters.

 

B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 15 / 16

Many political parties are active, but politicians frequently switch affiliations. Politics is also driven by linguistic and tribal identity. The major parties include the Vanua’aku Party (VP), the Union of Moderate Parties (UMP), the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), and the National United Party (NUP). In June 2013, a former VP member launched the People’s National Party (PNP). No-confidence votes have forced several changes of government in recent years. In July, a no-confidence motion was lodged against Kalosil based on allegations of bribery in the 2012 general elections. The motion was rejected on the grounds that several of the 28 signatures in the petition were forged.

 

C. Functioning of Government: 8 / 12

Corruption is a serious problem, and official abuse is serious and widespread.  Politicians also regularly use allegations of corruption to discredit adversaries. Local critics and international donors have long censured the practice of politicians granting passports for personal gain. There are concerns, too, with lack of transparency and accountability in the new permanent residency program. In December 2013, a Ministry of Justice inquiry implicated several past political appointees and diplomats in the selling of passports between 2002 and 2008.

 

Civil Liberties:  47 / 60

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 15 / 16

The government generally respects freedoms of speech and the press, though elected officials have been accused of threatening journalists for critical reporting. In May 2013, police used anti-terrorism and sedition laws to arrest a journalist, Gratien Tiona, after he posting on Facebook that he hoped the aircraft carrying the Council of Ministers to Port Vila would crash. The next day, the public prosecutor ordered the charges dropped and Tiona was released. The number of Internet users is growing, but access is limited by high cost and lack of infrastructure.

The government generally respects freedom of religion in this predominantly Christian country. There were no reports of restrictions on academic freedom.

 

E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 11 / 12

The law provides for freedoms of assembly and association, and the government typically upholds these rights. Public demonstrations are permitted by law and generally allowed in practice. Civil society groups are active on a variety of issues.

Workers can bargain collectively and strike. Five independent trade unions are organized under the umbrella Vanuatu Council of Trade Unions.

 

F. Rule of Law: 10 / 16

The judiciary is largely independent, but a lack of resources hinders the hiring and retention of qualified judges and prosecutors. Tribal chiefs often adjudicate local disputes, but their punishments are sometimes deemed excessive. Long pretrial detentions are common, and prisons fail to meet minimum international standards. Harsh treatment of prisoners and police brutality provoke frequent prison riots and breakouts.

There are no laws targeting LGBT persons nor were there reports of violence against them in 2013.

 

G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 11 / 16

Discrimination against women is widespread. No laws prohibit spousal rape, domestic abuse, or sexual harassment, which women’s groups claim are common and increasing. Most cases go unreported due to victims’ fear of reprisal or family pressure, and the police and courts rarely intervene or impose strong penalties. In June 2013, the Council of Ministers agreed to a proposal to reserve 30 percent of parliament seats for women.

At year’s end, parliament amended the constitution to allow dual citizenship. This change and other schemes have primarily attracted primarily mainland Chinese applicants and investors. The rapid expansion of Chinese-owned businesses has fueled resentment among native Vanuatu residents. To appease them, the government in December 2013 added seven occupations to the list of reserved jobs open only to those native to Vanuatu.

 

Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)

X = Score Received

Y = Best Possible Score

Z = Change from Previous Year

Full Methodology