Vanuatu (English: /ˌvɑːnuˈɑːtuː/ ( listen)
VAH-noo-AH-too or /vænˈwɑːtuː/ van-WAH-too; Bislama, French
IPA: [vanuatu]), officially the Republic of
République de Vanuatu, Bislama: Ripablik blong Vanuatu), is a Pacific
island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago,
which is of volcanic origin, is 1,750 kilometres (1,090 mi) east
of northern Australia, 540 kilometres (340 mi) northeast of New
Caledonia, east of New Guinea, southeast of the Solomon Islands, and
west of Fiji.
Vanuatu was first inhabited by Melanesian people. The first Europeans
to visit the islands were a Spanish expedition led by Portuguese
navigator Fernandes de Queirós, who arrived on the largest island in
1606. Since the Portuguese and Spanish monarchies had been unified
under the king of
Spain in 1580 (following the vacancy of the
Portuguese throne, which lasted for sixty years, until 1640, when the
Portuguese monarchy was restored), Queirós claimed the archipelago
for Spain, as part of the colonial Spanish East Indies, and named it
La Austrialia del Espíritu Santo.
In the 1880s,
France and the
United Kingdom claimed parts of the
archipelago, and in 1906, they agreed on a framework for jointly
managing the archipelago as the
New Hebrides through an Anglo–French
condominium. An independence movement arose in the 1970s, and the
Vanuatu was founded in 1980.
3.1 Flora and fauna
3.2.1 Tropical cyclones
4.2 Foreign relations
4.3 Armed forces
4.4 Administrative divisions
10 See also
14 Further reading
15 External links
Vanuatu's name is derived from the word vanua ("land" or "home"),
which occurs in several Austronesian languages,[a] and the word tu
("stand"). Together the two words indicated the independent status of
the new country.
Main article: History of Vanuatu
The prehistory of
Vanuatu is obscure; archaeological evidence supports
the theory that people speaking
Austronesian languages first came to
the islands about 3,300 years ago. Pottery fragments have been
found dating to 1300–1100 BC.
Vanuatu group of islands first had contact with Europeans in 1606,
when the Portuguese explorer Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, sailing for
the Spanish Crown, arrived on the largest island and called the group
of islands La Austrialia del
Espiritu Santo or "The Southern Land of
the Holy Spirit", believing he had arrived in
Terra Australis or
Australia. The Spanish established a short-lived settlement at Big Bay
on the north side of the island. The name
Espiritu Santo remains to
Europeans did not return until 1768, when Louis Antoine de
Bougainville rediscovered the islands on 22 May, naming them the Great
Cyclades. In 1774,
Captain Cook named the islands the New
Hebrides, a name that would last until independence in 1980.
James Cook landing at Tanna island, c. 1774
In 1825, the trader Peter Dillon's discovery of sandalwood on the
Erromango began a rush of immigrants that ended in 1830
after a clash between immigrant Polynesian workers and indigenous
Melanesians. During the 1860s, planters in Australia, Fiji, New
Caledonia, and the
Samoa Islands, in need of labourers, encouraged a
long-term indentured labour trade called "blackbirding". At the height
of the labour trade, more than one-half the adult male population of
several of the islands worked abroad. Fragmentary evidence indicates
that the current population of
Vanuatu is greatly reduced compared to
In the 19th century, missionaries, both
Roman Catholic and Protestant,
arrived on the islands. Settlers also came, looking for land on which
to establish cotton plantations. When international cotton prices
collapsed, they switched to coffee, cocoa, bananas, and, most
successfully, coconuts. Initially, British subjects from Australia
made up the majority, but the establishment of the Caledonian Company
New Hebrides in 1882 soon tipped the balance in favour of
French subjects. By around the start of the 20th century, the
French outnumbered the British two to one.
US Navy Hellcats on
Espiritu Santo island in February 1944
The jumbling of French and British interests in the islands brought
petitions for one or another of the two powers to annexe the
territory. The Convention of 16 October 1887 established a joint naval
commission for the sole purpose of protecting French and British
citizens, with no claim to jurisdiction over internal native
affairs. In 1906, however,
France and the
United Kingdom agreed to
administer the islands jointly. Called the British-French Condominium,
it was a unique form of government, with separate governmental systems
that came together only in a joint court. The condominium's authority
was extended in the Anglo-French Protocol of 1914, although this was
not formally ratified until 1922.
Melanesians were barred from
acquiring the citizenship of either power and were officially
Since the 1920s, indentured workers from French Annam come to work in
the plantations in the New Hebrides. They were 437 in 1923, 5413 in
1930, then after the crisis 1630 in 1937. There was some social and
political unrest among them in 1947.
Challenges to the condominium government began in the early 1940s. The
arrival of Americans during the Second World War, with their informal
habits and relative wealth, contributed to the rise of nationalism in
the islands. The belief in a mythical messianic figure named John Frum
was the basis for an indigenous cargo cult (a movement attempting to
obtain industrial goods through magic) promising Melanesian
John Frum is both a religion and a political party
with a member in Parliament.
1966 flag of the colonial Anglo-French New Hebrides
The first political party, established in the early 1970s, was called
New Hebrides National Party. One of the founders was Father Walter
Lini, who later became Prime Minister. Renamed the
Vanua'aku Pati in
1974, the party pushed for independence, which was gained amidst the
The independent Republic of
Vanuatu was established in 1980.
During the 1990s,
Vanuatu experienced a period of political
instability which resulted in a more decentralised government. The
Vanuatu Mobile Force, a paramilitary group, attempted a coup in 1996
because of a pay dispute. There were allegations of corruption in the
government of Maxime Carlot Korman. New elections have been held
several times since 1997, most recently in 2016.
Vanuatu with its capital Port Vila, located on its third
Cinder plain of
Mount Yasur on Tanna island.
Main article: Geography of Vanuatu
Vanuatu is a Y-shaped archipelago consisting of about 82 relatively
small, geologically newer islands of volcanic origin (65 of them
inhabited), with about 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) between the most
northern and southern islands. Two of these islands (Matthew and
Hunter) are also claimed and controlled by
France as part of the
French collectivity of New Caledonia. The country lies between
latitudes 13°S and 21°S and longitudes 166°E and 171°E.
The fourteen of Vanuatu's islands that have surface areas of more than
100 square kilometres (39 sq mi) are, from largest to
smallest: Espiritu Santo, Malakula, Efate, Erromango, Ambrym, Tanna,
Ambae or Aoba, Gaua,
Vanua Lava, Maewo, Malo and
Aneityum or Anatom. The nation's largest towns are the capital Port
Vila, on Efate, and
Luganville on Espiritu Santo. The highest
Vanuatu is Mount Tabwemasana, at 1,879 metres
(6,165 ft), on the island of Espiritu Santo.
Vanuatu's total area is roughly 12,274 square kilometres
(4,739 sq mi), of which its land surface is very limited
(roughly 4,700 square kilometres (1,800 sq mi)). Most of the
islands are steep, with unstable soils and little permanent fresh
water. One estimate, made in 2005, is that only 9% of land is used
for agriculture (7% with permanent crops, plus 2% considered
arable). The shoreline is mostly rocky with fringing reefs and no
continental shelf, dropping rapidly into the ocean depths.
There are several active volcanoes in Vanuatu, including Lopevi, Mount
Yasur and several underwater volcanoes.
Volcanic activity is common,
with an ever-present danger of a major eruption; a nearby undersea
eruption of 6.4 magnitude occurred in November 2008 with no
casualties, and an eruption occurred in 1945.
recognised as a distinct terrestrial ecoregion, known as the Vanuatu
rain forests. It is part of the Australasia ecozone, which includes
New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, Australia,
New Guinea and New
Vanuatu's population (estimated in 2008 as growing 2.4% annually)
is placing increasing pressure on land and resources for agriculture,
grazing, hunting, and fishing. 90% of
Vanuatu households fish and
consume fish, which has caused intense fishing pressure near villages
and the depletion of near-shore fish species. While well-vegetated,
most islands show signs of deforestation. The islands have been
logged, particularly of high-value timber, subjected to wide-scale
slash-and-burn agriculture, and converted to coconut plantations and
cattle ranches, and now show evidence of increased soil erosion and
Many upland watersheds are being deforested and degraded, and fresh
water is becoming increasingly scarce. Proper waste disposal, as well
as water and air pollution, are becoming troublesome issues around
urban areas and large villages. Additionally, the lack of employment
opportunities in industry and inaccessibility to markets have combined
to lock rural families into a subsistence or self-reliance mode,
putting tremendous pressure on local ecosystems.
Flora and fauna
See also: List of birds of Vanuatu
Despite its tropical forests,
Vanuatu has a limited number of plant
and animal species. It has an indigenous flying fox, Pteropus
anetianus. Flying foxes are important rainforest and timber
regenerators. They pollinate and seed disperse a wide variety of
native trees. Their diet is nectar, pollen and fruit and they are
commonly called "fruit bats". They are in decline across their South
Pacific range. However, governments are increasingly aware of the
economic and ecological value of flying foxes and there are calls to
increase their protection. There are no indigenous large mammals. The
nineteen species of native reptiles include the flowerpot snake, found
only on Efate. The
Fiji banded iguana (Brachylophus fasciatus) was
introduced as a feral animal in the 1960s. There are eleven
species of bats (three unique to Vanuatu) and sixty-one species of
land and water birds. While the small
Polynesian rat is thought to be
indigenous, the large species arrived with Europeans, as did
domesticated hogs, dogs, and cattle. The ant species of some of the
Vanuatu were catalogued by E. O. Wilson.
The region is rich in sea life, with more than 4,000 species of marine
molluscs and a large diversity of marine fishes. Cone snails and
stonefish carry poison fatal to humans. The Giant East African land
snail arrived only in the 1970s, but already has spread from the
Port-Vila region to Luganville.
There are three or possibly four adult saltwater crocodiles living in
Vanuatu's mangroves and no current breeding population. It is said
the crocodiles reached the northern part of the islands after
cyclones, given the island chain's proximity to the Solomon Islands
New Guinea where crocodiles are very common.
The climate is tropical, with about nine months of warm to hot rainy
weather and the possibility of cyclones and three to four months of
cooler, drier weather characterised by winds from the southeast. The
water temperature ranges from 22 °C (72 °F) in winter to
28 °C (82 °F) in the summer. Cool between April and
September, the days become hotter and more humid starting in October.
The daily temperature ranges from 20–32 °C (68–90 °F).
Southeasterly trade winds occur from May to October.
Vanuatu has a long rainy season, with significant rainfall almost
every month. The wettest and hottest months are December through
April, which also constitute the cyclone season. The driest months are
June through November. Rainfall averages about 2,360 millimetres
(93 in) per year but can be as high as 4,000 millimetres
(160 in) in the northern islands. In 2015, the United Nations
Vanuatu the highest natural disaster risk of all the
countries it measured.
Cyclone Pam § Effects in Vanuatu
In March 2015,
Cyclone Pam impacted much of
Vanuatu as a
Category 5 severe tropical cyclone, causing extensive damage to
all the islands and deaths. As of 17 March 2015[update] the
United Nations said the official death toll was 11 (six from
five from Tanna), and 30 were reported injured; these numbers are
expected to rise as more remote islands are reached.
Cyclone Pam is possibly the worst natural disaster in Vanuatu's
Vanuatu lands minister,
Ralph Regenvanu said, "This is the
worst disaster to affect
Vanuatu ever as far as we know."
Main article: List of earthquakes in Vanuatu
Vanuatu has relatively frequent earthquakes. Of the 58 M7 or greater
events that occurred between 1909 and 2001, few were studied.
Main article: Politics of Vanuatu
The Republic of
Vanuatu is a parliamentary democracy with a written
constitution, which declares that the "head of the Republic shall be
known as the President and shall symbolise the unity of the nation."
The powers of the President of Vanuatu, who is elected for a five-year
term by a two-thirds vote of an electoral college, are primarily
ceremonial. The electoral college consists of members of
Parliament and the presidents of Regional Councils. The President may
be removed by the electoral college for gross misconduct or
The Prime Minister, who is the head of government, is elected by a
majority vote of a three-quarters quorum of the Parliament. The Prime
Minister, in turn, appoints the Council of Ministers, whose number may
not exceed a quarter of the number of parliamentary representatives.
The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers constitute the
Parliament of Vanuatu
Parliament of Vanuatu is unicameral and has 52 members, who
are elected by popular vote every four years unless earlier dissolved
by a majority vote of a three-quarters quorum or by a directive from
the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. The national
Council of Chiefs, called the
Malvatu Mauri and elected by district
councils of chiefs, advises the government on all matters concerning
Vanuatu culture and language.
Besides national authorities and figures,
Vanuatu also has high-placed
people at the village level. Chiefs continue to be the leading figures
at the village level. It has been reported that even politicians need
to oblige them. One becomes such a figure by holding a number of
lavish feasts (each feast allowing them a higher ceremonial grade) or
alternatively through inheritance (the latter only in
Polynesian-influenced villages). In northern Vanuatu, feasts are
graded through the nimangki-system.
Government and society in
Vanuatu tend to divide along linguistic
French and English lines. Forming coalition governments, however, has
proved problematic at times due to differences between English and
French speakers. Francophone politicians like those of the Union of
Moderate Parties tend to be conservative and support neo-liberal
policies, as well as closer relations with
France and the West. The
Vanua'aku Pati identifies as socialist and anti-colonial.
The Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and up to three other
judges. Two or more members of this court may constitute a Court of
Appeal. Magistrate courts handle most routine legal matters. The legal
system is based on British common law and French civil law. The
constitution also provides for the establishment of village or island
courts presided over by chiefs to deal with questions of customary
Main article: Foreign relations of Vanuatu
Vanuatu has joined the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the
International Monetary Fund, the Agence de Coopération Culturelle et
Francophonie and the Commonwealth of Nations.
Since 1980, Australia, the United Kingdom,
New Zealand have
provided the bulk of Vanuatu's development aid. Direct aid from the UK
Vanuatu ceased in 2005 following the decision by the UK to no
longer focus on the Pacific. However, more recently new donors such as
Millennium Challenge Account
Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) and the People's Republic of
China have been providing increased amounts of aid funding. In 2005
the MCA announced that
Vanuatu was one of the first 15 countries in
the world selected to receive support—an amount of
US$65 million was given for the provision and upgrading of key
pieces of public infrastructure.
Vanuatu retains strong economic and cultural ties to Australia, the
European Union (in particular
France and UK) and New Zealand.
Australia now provides the bulk of external assistance, including the
police force, which has a paramilitary wing.
There is no
Vanuatu High Commission or other
Vanuatu Government office
in Britain, but the British Friends of Vanuatu, based in London,
provides support for
Vanuatu visitors to the UK, and can often offer
advice and contacts to persons seeking information about
wishing to visit, and welcomes new members (not necessarily resident
in the UK) interested in Vanuatu. The association's Charitable Trust
funds small scale assistance in the education and training sector.
Vanuatu is not a member of Interpol, along with 11 other countries
mainly in Oceania.
Further information: Law enforcement in Vanuatu
There are two police wings: the
Vanuatu Police Force (VPF) and the
paramilitary wing, the
Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF). Altogether
there were 547 police officers organised into two main police
commands: one in
Port Vila and one in Luganville. In addition to
the two command stations there were four secondary police stations and
eight police posts. This means that there are many islands with no
police presence, and many parts of islands where getting to a police
post can take several days. There is no purely military
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Main article: Provinces of Vanuatu
Provinces of Vanuatu
Vanuatu has been divided into six provinces since 1994. The names in
English of all provinces are derived from the initial letters of their
Malampa (Malakula, Ambrym, Paama)
Penama (Pentecost, Ambae, Maewo – in French: Pénama)
Sanma (Santo, Malo)
Shefa (Shepherds group, Efate – in French: Shéfa)
Tafea (Tanna, Aniwa, Futuna, Erromango, Aneityum – in French:
Torba (Torres Islands, Banks Islands)
Provinces are autonomous units with their own popularly elected local
parliaments known officially as provincial councils. They collect
local taxes and make by-laws in local matters like tourism, the
provincial budget or the provision of some basic services. They are
headed by a chairman elected from among the members of the local
parliaments and assisted by a secretary appointed by the Public
Their executive arm consists of a provincial government headed by an
executive officer who is appointed by the Prime Minister with the
advice of the minister of local government. The provincial government
is usually formed by the party that has the majority in the provincial
council and, like the national government, is advised in Ni-Vanuatu
culture and language by the local council of chiefs. The provincial
president is constitutionally a member of the electoral college that
elects the President of Vanuatu.
The provinces are in turn divided into municipalities (usually
consisting of an individual island) headed by a council and a mayor
elected from among the members of the council.
Main article: Economy of Vanuatu
A proportional representation of Vanuatu's exports
A market hall in Port Vila
The four mainstays of the economy are agriculture, tourism, offshore
financial services, and raising cattle. There is substantial fishing
activity, although this industry does not bring in much foreign
exchange. Exports include copra, kava, beef, cocoa and timber, and
imports include machinery and equipment, foodstuffs and fuels. In
contrast, mining activity is unsubstantial.
Although manganese mining halted in 1978, there was an agreement in
2006 to export manganese already mined but not yet exported. The
country has no known petroleum deposits. A small light-industry sector
caters to the local market. Tax revenues come mainly from import
duties and a 12.5% VAT on goods and services. Economic development is
hindered by dependence on relatively few commodity exports,
vulnerability to natural disasters, and long distances between
constituent islands and from main markets.
Agriculture is used for consumption as well as for export. It provides
a living for 65% of the population. In particular, production of copra
and kava create substantial revenue. Many farmers have been abandoning
cultivation of food crops, and use earnings from kava cultivation to
Kava has also been used in ceremonial exchanges between
clans and villages. Cocoa is also grown for foreign exchange.
In 2007, the number of households engaged in fishing was 15,758,
mainly for consumption (99%), and the average number of weekly fishing
trips was 3. The tropical climate enables growing of a wide range
of fruits and vegetables and spices, including banana, garlic,
cabbage, peanuts, pineapples, sugarcane, taro, yams, watermelons, leaf
spices, carrots, radishes, eggplants, vanilla (both green and cured),
pepper, cucumber and many others. In 2007, the value (in terms of
millions of vatu – the official currency of Vanuatu), for
agricultural products, was estimated for different products: kava (341
million vatu), copra (195), cattle (135), crop gardens (93), cocoa
(59), forestry (56), fishing (24) and coffee (12).
Tourism brings in much-needed foreign exchange.
Vanuatu is widely
recognised as one of the premier vacation destinations for scuba
divers wishing to explore coral reefs of the South Pacific region.
A further significant attraction to scuba divers is the wreck of the
US ocean liner and converted troop carrier
SS President Coolidge
SS President Coolidge on
Espiritu Santo island. Sunk during World War II, it is one of the
largest shipwrecks in the world that is accessible for recreational
diving. Tourism increased 17% from 2007 to 2008 to reach 196,134
arrivals, according to one estimate. The 2008 total is a sharp
increase from 2000, in which there were only 57,000 visitors (of
these, 37,000 were from Australia, 8,000 from New Zealand, 6,000 from
New Caledonia, 3,000 from Europe, 1,000 from North America, 1,000 from
Japan. (Note: figures rounded to the nearest thousand)). Tourism
has been promoted, in part, by
Vanuatu being the site of several
reality-TV shows. The ninth season of the reality TV series Survivor
was filmed on Vanuatu, entitled Survivor: Vanuatu—Islands of Fire.
Two years later, Australia's Celebrity
Survivor was filmed at the same
location used by the US version. In mid-2002, the government stepped
up efforts to boost tourism.
Financial services are an important part of the economy.
Vanuatu is a
tax haven that until 2008 did not release account information to other
governments or law-enforcement agencies. International pressure,
mainly from Australia, influenced the
Vanuatu government to begin
adhering to international norms to improve transparency. In Vanuatu,
there is no income tax, withholding tax, capital gains tax,
inheritance tax, or exchange control. Many international
ship-management companies choose to flag their ships under the Vanuatu
flag, because of the tax benefits and favourable labour laws (Vanuatu
is a full member of the
International Maritime Organization
International Maritime Organization and
applies its international conventions).
Vanuatu is recognised as a
"flag of convenience" country. Several file-sharing groups, such
as the providers of the
KaZaA network of
Sharman Networks and the
developers of WinMX, have chosen to incorporate in
Vanuatu to avoid
regulation and legal challenges. In response to foreign concerns the
government has promised to tighten regulation of its offshore
Vanuatu receives foreign aid mainly from Australia
and New Zealand.
Vanuatu became the 185th member of the World Intellectual Property
Organization (WIPO) in December 2011.
Commercial agriculture, North Efate
Raising cattle leads to beef production for export. One estimate in
2007 for the total value of cattle heads sold was 135 million vatu;
cattle were first introduced into the area from
Australia by British
planter James Paddon. On average, each household has 5 pigs and 16
chickens, and while cattle are the "most important livestock", pigs
and chickens are important for subsistence agriculture as well as
playing a significant role in ceremonies and customs (especially
pigs). There are 30 commercial farms (sole proprietorships (37%),
partnerships (23%), corporations (17%)), with revenues of
533 million vatu and expenses of 329 million vatu in
Earthquakes can negatively affect economic activity on the island
nation. A severe earthquake in November 1999, followed by a tsunami,
caused extensive damage to the northern island of Pentecost, leaving
thousands homeless. Another powerful earthquake in January 2002 caused
extensive damage in the capital, Port Vila, and surrounding areas, and
was also followed by a tsunami. Another earthquake of 7.2 struck on 2
Vanuatu National Statistics Office (VNSO) released their 2007
agricultural census in 2008. According to the study, agricultural
exports make up about three-quarters (73%) of all exports; 80% of the
population lives in rural areas where "agriculture is the main source
of their livelihood"; and of these households, almost all (99%)
engaged in agriculture, fisheries and forestry. Total annual
household income was 1,803 million vatu. Of this income, agriculture
grown for their own household use was valued at 683 million vatu,
agriculture for sale at 561, gifts received at 38, handicrafts at 33
and fisheries (for sale) at 18.
The largest expenditure by households was food (300 million
vatu), followed by household appliances and other necessities
(79 million vatu), transportation (59), education and services
(56), housing (50), alcohol and tobacco (39), clothing and footwear
(17). Exports were valued at 3,038 million vatu, and included
copra (485), kava (442), cocoa (221), beef (fresh and chilled) (180),
timber (80) and fish (live fish, aquarium, shell, button) (28).
Total imports of 20,472 million vatu included industrial
materials (4,261), food and drink (3,984), machinery (3,087), consumer
goods (2,767), transport equipment (2,125), fuels and lubricants (187)
and other imports (4,060). There are substantial numbers of crop
gardens – 97,888 in 2007 – many on flat land (62%),
slightly hilly slope (31%), and even on steep slopes (7%); there were
33,570 households with at least one crop garden, and of these, 10,788
households sold some of these crops over a twelve-month period.
The economy grew about 6% in the early 2000s. This is higher than
in the 1990s, when GDP rose less than 3%, on average.
One report from the Manila-based
Asian Development Bank
Asian Development Bank about
Vanuatu's economy gave mixed reviews. It noted the economy was
"expanding", noting that the economy grew at an impressive 5.9% rate
from 2003 to 2007, and lauded "positive signals regarding reform
initiatives from the government in some areas" but described certain
binding constraints such as "poor infrastructure services". Since a
private monopoly generates power, "electricity costs are among the
highest in the Pacific" among developing countries. The report also
cited "weak governance and intrusive interventions by the State" which
Vanuatu was ranked the 173rd safest investment destination in the
world in the March 2011 Euromoney Country Risk rankings. In 2015,
Vanuatu was ranked the 84th most economically free country by The
Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal.
Further information: Telecommunications in Vanuatu
Mobile phone service in the islands is provided by TVL and Digicel.
Internet access is provided by TVL, Telsat Broadband,
Wantok using a variety of connection technologies. A newly installed
submarine optical fibre cable now connects
Vanuatu to Fiji.
Main article: Demographics of Vanuatu
A child from Vanuatu.
Vanuatu's population in thousands (1961–2003).
Men wearing traditional nambas.
According to the 2009 census,
Vanuatu has a population of 243,304.
Males outnumber females; in 1999, according to the
Office, there were 95,682 males and 90,996 females.
The population is predominantly rural, but
Port Vila and Luganville
have populations in the tens of thousands.
The inhabitants of
Vanuatu are called
Ni-Vanuatu in English, using a
recent coinage. The
Ni-Vanuatu are primarily (98.5%) of Melanesian
descent, with the remainder made up of a mix of Europeans, Asians and
other Pacific islanders. Three islands were historically colonised by
Polynesians. About 20,000
Ni-Vanuatu live and work in
New Zealand and
Australia. In 2006 the
New Economics Foundation and Friends of the
Earth environmentalist group published the Happy Planet Index, which
analysed data on levels of reported happiness, life expectancy and
Ecological Footprint, and they estimated
Vanuatu to be the most
ecologically efficient country in the world in achieving high
Main article: Languages of Vanuatu
The national language of the Republic of
Vanuatu is Bislama. The
official languages are Bislama, French and English. The principal
languages of education are French and English. The use of English or
French as the formal language is split along political lines.[citation
Bislama is a pidgin language, and now a creole in urban areas.
Essentially combining a typically Melanesian grammar with a mostly
Bislama is the only language that can be
understood and spoken by the majority of the population, as a second
In addition, 113 indigenous languages are still actively spoken in
Vanuatu. The density of languages, per capita, is the highest of
any nation in the world, with an average of only 2,000 speakers
per language. All vernacular languages of
Vanuatu (i.e., excluding
Bislama) belong to the Oceanic branch of the Austronesian family.
In recent years, the use of
Bislama as a first language has
considerably encroached on indigenous languages, whose use in the
population has receded from 73.1 to 63.2 percent between 1999 and
Main article: Religion in Vanuatu
Christianity is the predominant religion in Vanuatu, consisting of
several denominations. The Presbyterian Church in Vanuatu, adhered to
by about one-third of the population, is the largest of them. Roman
Anglican are other common denominations, each claiming
about 15% of the population. The less significant groups are the
Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Church of Christ, Neil Thomas
Ministries (NTM), Jehovah's Witnesses, and others. In 2007, Islam in
Vanuatu was estimated to consist of about 200 converts.
Because of the modern goods that the military in the Second World War
brought with them when they came to the islands, several cargo cults
developed. Many died out, but the
John Frum cult on Tanna is still
large, and has adherents in the parliament. Also on
Tanna is the
Prince Philip Movement, which reveres the United
Kingdom's Prince Philip. Villagers of the
Yaohnanen tribe believed
in an ancient story about the pale-skinned son of a mountain spirit
venturing across the seas to look for a powerful woman to marry.
Prince Philip, having visited the island with his new wife Queen
Elizabeth, fitted the description exactly and is therefore revered as
a god around the isle of Tanna.
Vanuatu has a tropical climate and over 80% of the population lives in
rural, isolated villages with access to their own gardens and food
The geographically-isolated communities have minimal access to basic
health and education services. Churches and non-government
organisations provide a minimal level of support to many rural
Vanuatu government health and education services are hard
pressed to deal with the rapid increase of urban and peri-urban
populations in informal and squatter settlements around
Port Vila and
to a lesser extent in Luganville. Health services in
Port Vila and
Luganville provide reasonable health care, often supported and
enhanced by visiting doctors.
Official statistics show infant mortality declined during the last
half of the twentieth century, from 123 deaths per 1,000 population in
1967 to 25 per 1,000 in 1999. There were 46.85 infant deaths per
1,000 live births in 2011.
Education is not compulsory, and school enrolments and attendance are
among the lowest in the Pacific. The estimated
literacy rate of people aged 15–24 years is about 74% according to
UNESCO figures. The rate of primary school enrolment rose from
74.5% in 1989 to 78.2% in 1999 and then to 93.0% in 2004 but then fell
to 85.4% in 2007. The proportion of pupils completing a primary
education fell from 90% in 1991 to 72% in 2004 and up to 78% in
Port Vila and three other centres have campuses of the University of
the South Pacific, an educational institution co-owned by twelve
Pacific countries. The campus in Port Vila, known as the Emalus
Campus, houses the University's law school.
Main article: Culture of Vanuatu
Wooden slit drums from Vanuatu, Bernice P. Bishop Museum
Vanuatu culture retains a strong diversity through local regional
variations and through foreign influence.
Vanuatu may be divided into
three major cultural regions. In the north, wealth is established by
how much one can give away, through a grade-taking system. Pigs,
particularly those with rounded tusks, are considered a symbol of
wealth throughout Vanuatu. In the centre, more traditional Melanesian
cultural systems dominate. In the south, a system involving grants of
title with associated privileges has developed.
Young men undergo various coming-of-age ceremonies and rituals to
initiate them into manhood, usually including circumcision.
Most villages have a nakamal or village clubhouse which serves as a
meeting point for men and as a place to drink kava. Villages also have
male- and female-only sections. These sections are situated all over
the villages; in nakamals, special spaces are provided for females
when they are in their menstruation period.
There are few prominent ni-
Women's rights activist
Grace Mera Molisa, who died in 2002, achieved international notability
as a descriptive poet.
Main article: Music of Vanuatu
A women's dance from Vanuatu, using bamboo stamping tubes
The traditional music of
Vanuatu is still thriving in the rural areas
of Vanuatu. Musical instruments consist mostly of idiophones: drums of
various shape and size, slit gongs, stamping tubes, as well as
rattles, among others. Another musical genre that has become widely
popular during the 20th century in all areas of Vanuatu, is known as
string band music. It combines guitars, ukulele, and popular songs.
More recently the music of Vanuatu, as an industry, grew rapidly in
the 1990s and several bands have forged a distinctive ni-Vanuatu
identity. Popular genres of modern commercial music, which are
currently being played in the urban areas include zouk music and
reggaeton. Reggaeton, a variation of rap/hip-hop spoken in the Spanish
language, played alongside its own distinctive beat, is especially
played in the local nightclubs of
Port Vila with, mostly, an audience
of Westerners and tourists.
Main article: Cuisine of Vanuatu
The cuisine of
Vanuatu (aelan kakae) incorporates fish, root
vegetables such as taro and yams, fruits, and vegetables. Most island
families grow food in their gardens, and food shortages are rare.
Papayas, pineapples, mangoes, plantains, and sweet potatoes are
abundant through much of the year.
Coconut milk and coconut cream are
used to flavour many dishes. Most food is cooked using hot stones or
through boiling and steaming; very little food is fried.
The national dish of
Vanuatu is the lap lap.
Main article: Sport in Vanuatu
Outline of Vanuatu
Index of Vanuatu-related articles
Visa policy of Vanuatu
Vanua in turns comes from the Proto-Austronesian banua – see
Reuter 2002, p. 29; and Reuter 2006, p. 326
Vanuatu Daily Post, Harrison Selmen (17 July 2011). "Santo chiefs
concerned over slow pace of development in Sanma". Retrieved 29 August
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^ "World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision". ESA.UN.org (custom
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United Nations Department of Economic and
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^ "2016 Post-TC Pam Mini-Census Report". vnso.gov.vu. Government of
Vanuatu. 21 July 2017. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
^ a b c d "Vanuatu". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 20 May
^ "Gini Index". World Bank. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
^ "2015 Human Development Report" (PDF).
United Nations Development
Programme. 2015. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
^ Hess 2009, p. 115.
^ Crowley 2004, p. 3.
^ Bedford & Spriggs 2008.
^ a b c d e f g "Background Note: Vanuatu". US Department of State.
Archived from the original on 13 May 2008.
This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the
Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Lonely Planet. 2009. p. 29.
^ Salmond, Anne (2010). Aphrodite's Island. Berkeley: University of
California Press. p. 113. ISBN 9780520261143.
Vanuatu Country Study Guide. Int'l Business Publications. 30 March
2009. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-4387-5649-3.
^ Bresnihan, Brian J.; Woodward, Keith (2002). Tufala Gavman:
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^ Charles Robequain, "Nouvelles-Hébrides et l'immigration annamite",
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^ Shears 1980.
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September 2009. Archived from the original on 18 April 2011. Retrieved
17 September 2009.
^ a b c d e f g h The
Peace Corps Welcomes You to
Vanuatu Archived 10
September 2008 at the Wayback Machine..
Peace Corps (May 2007).
This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the
^ "Background Note: Vanuatu". Bureau of East Asian and Pacific
Affairs. U.S. Department of State. April 2007. Retrieved 16 July
^ "Oceania –
Vanuatu Summary". SEDAC Socioeconomic Data and
Applications Centre. 2000. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
^ a b "Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (Pacific Islands Applied
Geoscience Commission)". SOPAC. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
^ "Major Earthquake Jolts Island Nation Vanuatu". indiaserver.com. 11
July 2008. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 26
^ Asia Development Bank
Vanuatu Economic Report 2009
^ Sprackland 1992.
^ a b Harewood, Jocelyn (2009).
Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Lonely
Planet. p. 47. ISBN 0-86622-634-6.
^ Wilson 1994.
^ Bennett, Michelle; Jocelyn Harewood (2003). Vanuatu. Lonely Planet.
p. 19. ISBN 978-1-74059-239-0.
^ "WorldRiskIndex 2015".
United Nations University. 2015.
^ Stephen Coates (17 March 2015). "Rescue teams reach cyclone-hit
Vanuatu islands, official toll lowered". Reuters. Retrieved 18 March
^ "Cyclone devastates South Pacific islands of Vanuatu". BBC News. 14
March 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
^ Joshua Robertson (15 March 2015). "Cyclone Pam:
Vanuatu awaits first
wave of relief and news from worst-hit islands". The Guardian.
Retrieved 18 March 2015.
^ "Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu". Government of the
Republic of Vanuatu. 1983. Archived from the original on 30 April
2009. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
^ Representation of the People (Parliamentary Constituencies and
^ a b Lonely Planet:Vanuatu
^ "Military statistics – How
Vanuatu ranks". NationMaster.
Retrieved 12 May 2012.
^ The British Friends of
^ a b The
Vanuatu Police Force. Epress.anu.edu.au. Retrieved 17 April
Vanuatu Military 2012. theodora.com
^ "Armed forces (Vanuatu) – Sentinel Security
Assessment – Oceania". Articles.janes.com. 3 November 2011.
Retrieved 12 May 2012.
Vanuatu Military Profile 2012. Indexmundi.com (12 July 2011).
Retrieved 17 April 2012.
^ Census of Agriculture 2007 (page 33 – 5.2)
^ Census of Agriculture 2007 (page 49 – 7.2)
^ Census of Agriculture 2007 (page 77 – 13.1)
^ Census of Agriculture 2007 (page 114 – table 4.17)
^ Census of Agriculture 2007 (various pages)
^ a b Harris 2006.
Asian Development Bank
Asian Development Bank & Vanuatu – Fact Sheet (pdf
file)". Asian Development Bank. 31 December 2008. Retrieved 26 July
^ "Tourism and Migration Statistics – Visitor Arrivals by Usual
Country of Residence (1995–2001)".
Vanuatu Statistics Office. 2001.
Archived from the original on 29 April 2009. Retrieved 26 July
^ "International Transport Workers' Federation: FOC Countries".
Itfglobal.org. 6 June 2005. Archived from the original on 18 July
2010. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
Vanuatu Daily Post, Len Garae (22 December 2011). "
Vanuatu is 185th
member of WIPO". Retrieved 16 March 2012.
^ Census of Agriculture 2007 (page 67 – 11.1)
^ Census of Agriculture 2007 (page 73 – 12.1)
^ Census of Agriculture 2007 (page 97 – 15.1)
^ "Magnitude 7.2 – Vanuatu". USGS Earthquake Hazards Program.
Archived from the original on 10 August 2007. Retrieved 13 August
^ a b Census of Agriculture 2007 (page 18)
^ Census of Agriculture 2007 (page 19 table 2.5)
^ Census of Agriculture 2007 (page 19 – table 2.6)
^ Census of Agriculture 2007 (page 20 – Table 2.7)
^ Census of Agriculture 2007 (page 27 – Table 4.1)
^ a b "
Asian Development Bank
Asian Development Bank & Vanuatu – Fact
Sheet – Operational Challenges (pdf file)". Asian Development
Bank. 31 December 2008. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
^ "Euromoney Country Risk". Euromoney country Risk. Euromoney
Institutional Investor PLC. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
^ "Country Rankings". heritage.org. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved
20 January 2016.
^ "2009 Census Household Listing Counts" (PDF).
Statistics Office. 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5
December 2010. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
^ "Happiness doesn't cost the Earth". BBC News. 12 July 2006.
Retrieved 16 July 2007.
^ a b "Culture of Vanuatu".
Vanuatu Tourism Office. Archived from the
original on 20 May 2007. Retrieved 16 July 2007.
^ Crowley 2000.
^ François 2012, p. 104.
^ "World Convention " Vanuatu". Retrieved 9 June 2012.
Vanuatu – Island Dress". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 15
February 2005. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
^ "Heeding the call to prayer in a region that reveres the pig". The
Sydney Morning Herald. 8 September 2007. Retrieved 21 February
^ Fifty facts about the Duke of Edinburgh. royal.gov.uk (25 January
^ Shears, Richard. Is
Prince Philip a god?, Mail on Sunday, 3 June
2006, downloaded 15 February 2007.
^ Squires, Nick (27 February 2007). "South Sea tribe prepares birthday
feast for their favourite god, Prince Philip". The Daily Telegraph.
^ a b Asian Development Bank.
Vanuatu economic report 2009:
accelerating reform. Mandaluyong City, Philippines: Asian Development
^ "Population Statistics –
Vanuatu Population Summary –
Vital Statistics 1967–1999".
Vanuatu Statistics Office. 1999.
Archived from the original on 30 April 2009. Retrieved 26 July
^ "Vanuatu". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency.
Retrieved 6 January 2010.
Vanuatu Literacy Education Programme (VANLEP)".
for Lifelong Learning. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
^ Elisabeth Hurtel. "Customs dances and ceremonies in Vanuatu".
Retrieved 22 May 2010.
^ The secrets of Vanuatu's national dish, the Lap Lap. Retrieved
Bedford, Stuart; Spriggs, Matthew (2008). "Northern
Vanuatu as a
Pacific Crossroads: The Archaeology of Discovery, Interaction, and the
Emergence of the "Ethnographic Present"". Asian Perspectives. UP
Hawaii. 47 (1): 95–120. JSTOR 42928734.
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Vanuatu National Statistics Office
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Baldauf, Richard B.; Kaplan, Robert B. Language Planning and Policy in
the Pacific: Fiji, the
Philippines and Vanuatu. 1.
Crowley, Terry (2004).
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Egalitarian multilingualism and power imbalance among northern Vanuatu
languages". International Journal of the Sociology of Language. De
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Harris, Richard (2006). "Tales from the South Pacific – diving
medicine in Vanuatu". Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine. South Pacific
Underwater Medicine Society. 36 (1): 22–23. Retrieved 10 March
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Practice of Sociality on
Vanua Lava, Vanuatu. Berghahn.
Lynch, John; Pat, Fa'afo, eds. (1996). Proceedings of the first
International Conference on Oceanic Linguistics (1993). International
Conference on Oceanic Linguistics. Port Vila, Vanuatu: Australian
National University. ISBN 978-0858834408.
Reuter, Thomas Anton (2002). Custodians of the Sacred Mountains:
Culture and Society in the Highlands of Bali. UP Hawaii.
Reuter, Thomas Anton (2006). Sharing the Earth, Dividing the Land:
Land and Territory in the Austronesian World. ANU E Press.
Shears, Richard (1980). The
Coconut War: the Crisis on Espiritu Santo.
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Sprackland, Robert George (1992). Giant Lizards. Neptune, NJ: TFH.
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Theologies from the Southwest Pacific. Orbis.
Wilson, Edward Osborne (1994). Naturalist (1st ed.). Shearwater.
Bolton, Lissant (2003). Unfolding the Moon: Enacting Women's Kastom in
Vanuatu. UP Hawaii. ISBN 978-0824825355.
Bonnemaison, Joël; Huffman, Kirk; Tryon, Darrell; Kaufmann,
Christian, eds. (1998). Arts of Vanuatu. UP Hawaii.
Bowdey, Bob; Beaty, Judy; Ansell, Brian (1995). Diving and Snorkeling
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Bregulla, Heinrich L. (1992). Birds of Vanuatu. Nelson.
Doughty, Chris; Day, Nicolas; Plant, Andrew (1999). The Birds of the
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Ellis, Amanda; Manuel, Clare; Cutura, Jozefina; Bowman, Chakriya
(2009). Women in Vanuatu: Analyzing Challenges to Economic
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Eriksen, Annelin (2007). Gender, Christianity and Change in Vanuatu:
An Analysis of Social Movements in North Ambrym. Anthropology and
Cultural History in Asia and the Indo-Pacific. Routledge.
Harewood, Jocelyn (2012).
Kava and Chaos in the
Jolly, Margaret (1993). Women of the Place: Kastom, Colonialism and
Gender in Vanuatu. Studies in anthropology and history. 12. Harwood
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Mescam, Genevieve (1989). Pentecost: An island in Vanuatu.
(Photographer) Coulombier, Denis. U South Pacific.
Rio, Knut Mikjel (2007). Power of Perspective: Social Ontology and
Ambrym Island, Vanuatu. Berghahn.
Rodman, Margaret; Kraemer, Daniela; Bolton, Lissant; Tarisesei, Jean,
eds. (2007). House-girls Remember: Domestic Workers in Vanuatu. UP
Hawaii. ISBN 978-0824830120.
Siméoni, Patricia (2009). Atlas du Vanouatou (Vanuatu) (in French).
Port-Vila: Géo-consulte. ISBN 978-2953336207.
Speiser, Felix (1991). Ethnology of Vanuatu: An Early Twentieth
Century Study. Crawford House. ISBN 978-1863330213.
Taylor, John Patrick (2008). The Other Side: Ways of Being and Place
in Vanuatu. Pacific Islands Monograph. UP Hawaii.
Troost, J. Maarten (2006). Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through
the Islands of
Fiji and Vanuatu. Broadway.
Williamson, Rick (2004). Cavorting With Cannibals: An Exploration of
Vanuatu. Narrative. ISBN 978-1589762367.
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1 Associate member.
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