Country Analysis: Vanuatu
COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
Pre-sessional Working Group
1-5 February 1999
OFFICE OF THE HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
The present document contains a country analysis based on an evaluation of the State party report as well as on information gathered from other available sources. It aims at identifying some of the main issues to be raised during the dialogue with the reporting State. The introductory part provides historical and political background information on the State party and an assessment of the State report. The remaining sections follow the reporting guidelines adopted by the Committee and contain, for each cluster of rights identified by the Committee, an analytical commentary based on information contained in the State report and in other sources, as available. Draft concerns and recommendations are contained in the annex to this document.
Information on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Sources and references
International human rights instruments
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Ratification: 7 July 1993
Entry into force: 6 August 1993
Last Report submitted: 27 January 1997 (CRC/C/28/Add.8)
Report to be examined at 21st session in (pending September/
Second Periodic Report Due Date: 31 October 1997 (Overdue)
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
Ratification: 8 September 1995
Entry into force: 8 October 1995
Due Date: 8 October 1996 (Overdue)
Vanuatu is not a State Party to:
•Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and their Destruction of 1997 (signed on 3 December 1997)
•Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment
•International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
•International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
•International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
•International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families
•Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
•Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
•1957 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons
•1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness
•Hague Convention of 1973 on the Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations
•Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
•Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption
•Hague Convention of 1993 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Relating to Maintenance Obligations
•Hague Convention of 1996 on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in Respect to Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children
•Convention on the Political Rights of Women, 1973
•Convention on the Nationality of Married Women, 1979
•Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages, 1979
•Slavery Convention of 1926 as amended, 1976
•Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery, 1972
•1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others
•Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 1980
•Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity
•ILO Convention No.5: Minimum Age (Industry) 1919, No.29: Forced Labour, No.105: Abolition of Forced Labour
•1951 Convention related to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol
Sources of information
1. United Nations sources
- International Human Rights Instruments, Core Document Forming Part of the Report of the State Parties, Vanuatu, HRI/CORE/1/Add.86, 5 February 1998
- United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Statistical Profiles, No. 6, Women in Vanuatu, A Country Profile, New York, 1996
- UNICEF, A situation Analysis of Children and Women in Vanuatu, 1998
- UNICEF, Young People Speak: A report on the Young People's Project Vanuatu Cultural Centre, April 1997 to June 1998
- Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme and of the United Nations Population Fund, Country Cooperation Framework and Related Matters, First Country Cooperation Framework for Vanuatu (1997-2001), DP/CCF/VAN/1, 14 June 1997
- United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA),Vanuatu - Tropical Cyclones Yali and Zuman OCHA Situation Report Nos. 1 and 2, 3 April 1998
2. Information from NGOs
- Minority Rights Group, World Directory of Minorities, 1997, pp.687-688
- Amnesty International, News Release, Vanuatu: Dangerous Prison Conditions Prompt Amnesty International Report, 28 September 1998
3. Information from other sources, including the media
- The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited, Country Profile: Vanuatu 1997-1998, London
- The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited, Country Report: Vanuatu, 2nd Quarter 1998, London
- Michael R. Ogden, University of Hawaii at Manoa, The Republic of Vanuatu,
4. Information from Governmental Sources
- Vanuatu Country Report, Ministerial Conference on the World Summit Goals for Children, Bangkok, Thailand, 12-14 November 1998
- US Department of State, Vanuatu Country Report of Human Rights Practices, Washington, 30 January 1997.
Unless otherwise stated, the information in this section has been taken from: The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 1998, Vanuatu Country Profile 1997-1998
Historical and political background
The Republic of Vanuatu, formerly known as the New Hebrides, is an archipelago of approximately sixty-six islands situated in the Southwest Pacific Ocean, about 1,200 miles North of Australia. The first settlers are believed to have arrived there some 3,500 years ago from Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. By 1895 there were French and British settlers in the islands and in 1906 the two Governments signed an agreement making Vanuatu a Condominium under their joint administration. The agreement remained in place until the islands gained independence in 1980.
Vanuatu's Constitution (revised in 1988) provides for a parliamentary form of government. The President, who is the Head of State, is elected for a five year term by an electoral college which includes the Parliament and the Provisional Government Councils. The legislative branch consists of a Unicameral Representative Assembly to which members are elected, on the basis of universal adult suffrage, for terms of 4 years. The electoral system also allows for proportional representation.
The executive branch includes the Prime Minister and the Executive Council which consists of at least 9 Ministers appointed by the Prime Minister from among the members of Parliament. The Prime Minister is elected by Parliament.
The Judiciary includes a system of Magistrates Courts with a Supreme Court at the apex. Members of the Judiciary are appointed by the President on the advise of the Judicial Services Commission. There are also village or island courts that deal largely with the application of customary law.
Vanuatu has had 6 different Governments (all elected by Parliament) within the last 8 years. Much of the political instability is due to the country's history as an Anglo-French Condominium. The current Government was elected to office in March 1998 and the next general election is due to be held in March 2002. The Prime Minister is Donald Kalpokas.
International relations and defence
Vanuatu receives development assistance from Australia, China and France as well as from regional and international organizations such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation (CFTC). The country maintains good relations with its neighbours in the South Pacific and has established diplomatic relations with about 59 states.
Core Document: Vanuatu, HRI/CORE/1/Add.86, pp. 6 and 8
Vanuatu maintains only a small police and paramilitary force which is controlled by civilian authorities.
US Department of State, Vanuatu Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996, p.1
With a per capita GDP estimate at US$1,020 in 1994, Vanuatu is categorized by the United Nations as a least developed country (LDC).
UNDP: Country Cooperation Framework and Related Matters, First Country Cooperation Framework for Vanuatu (1997-2001), DP/CCF/VAN/1, 14 June 1997, para. 3 The economy of Vanuatu is dominated by 2 main sectors, subsistence agriculture and services. More than 80% of the population depend on subsistence agriculture and agriculture as a whole accounts for about 25% of GDP. The services sector which involves mostly tourism and offshore banking and financial services, accounts for around two-thirds of GDP. Vanuatu's main trading partners are Japan, Germany, Spain, Australia and New Caledonia (France) and its main export products are copra and copra oil, beef and veal, logs and lumber and cocoa. The local currency unit is the Vatu (VT)and as of May 1998 it was valued at VT127.250:US$1.
Demographic trends and population
A 1989 census revealed a population of about 142,994 (73,674 males and 69,270 females). The census also revealed a very young population with 44% being below the age of 15 years. An official estimate taken in mid 1997 indicated that the population had increased to 177,400, an average rate of about 2.8% a year. In 1997, the population in the capital city, Port Vila, was estimated at about 33,700 as compared to 19,311 at the time of the census in 1989. About 98% of the population are Melanesian, also known as ni-Vanuatu. There are more than 110 languages spoken in Vanuatu, including Bislama (Pidgin), English and French, the 3 official languages.
Assessment of the State party report
The initial report of Vanuatu does not fully follow the guidelines and in many instances, information is inappropriately placed in unrelated sections making it somewhat difficult to follow. Further, it does not adequately address the rights provided for under the Convention, particularly those relevant to General Principles, Civil Rights and Freedoms, and Special Protection Measures. The report focuses mainly on health and education issues.
The report is not self-critical and does not adequately highlight the challenges and difficulties involved in implementing the principles and provisions of the Convention. The socio-economic and geographical constraints of the State party are pointed out but more information could have been provided on the current legal framework, the availability of adequate human and technical resources and specific policies and programme, beyond health and education, to promote and develop the rights of children.
The report provides very useful statistical data, particularly in the areas of health and education and the information provided is generally consistent with that found in independent sources. In this regard, it should be noted that information on the human rights situation in Vanuatu, including children's rights, is very limited. Much of the additional information noted in the analysis was taken from UNICEF documents.
GENERAL MEASURES OF IMPLEMENTATION
(Arts. 4, 42 and 44, para. 6 of the Convention)
a) Status of the Convention in domestic law, new legislation and law enforcement
State party report: The status of the Convention in domestic law remains unclear. There is no specific law or policy on the rights of children in Vanuatu and the rights of children are generally provided for, but not fully covered, under the Constitution (paras. 7, 99 (d) and 206). The rights of children with respect to issues such as education and health (including water supply and sanitation) are not provided for under domestic legislation but are covered in the current National Development Plan (extended to the year 2000) and implemented by the relevant Government Departments and NGOs (para. 105).
Other sources: The Constitution provides the basis of protection of all people. There is no law which deals specifically with the protection of children. Some of the general laws which provide for the protection of women, children and people with disabilities include the Penal Code, the Employment Act, the Matrimonial Causes Act, the Maintenance of Children Act, and the Control of Marriage Act. There is no legislation regarding education or health. It is noted that many villages also follow customary laws while others look to the Government legal system.
UNICEF: A Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Vanuatu: 1998, pp. 15-16 and 57
b) Coordination, monitoring, existing and new institutions
State party report: There is apparently no agency or institution that deals specifically with the coordination, monitoring and implementation of all child rights related issues in Vanuatu. The report notes that the Ministry of Health and Population was recently appointed as the agency with responsibility for children, but most of their work has been health related. There is an ongoing discussion to move this responsibility from the Ministry of Health to ensure that children's issues are not continually regarded merely as health problems (para. 83).
With support from UNICEF, WHO, Save the Children Fund-Australia and other NGOs, the Government began preparation for a National Programme of Action for Children in 1993. The Programme which is an intersectoral children's action plan, looks at the situation of children in the country outlining the programmes, objectives and strategies envisaged for the period 1993 to 2000. The priority areas of the Programme includes health; population and family planning; nutrition; water supply and environmental sanitation; education; agriculture, livestock, and fisheries; local government and community participation; children in especially difficult circumstances; the role of NGOs in children's development; and the development of laws and customs relevant to child rights. With the support of UNICEF, the report has been printed and is now ready for distribution. The report notes that the National Plan of Action is to be implemented within the framework of existing Government and NGO programmes and that there is no specific budget allotted for implementation. It is noted that additional funding may be needed to fully implement the projects envisaged under this programme. The Programme will be monitored and evaluated by the Community Action for Health. While evaluation will be conducted annually, the process of monitoring is not clear (paras. 86-91). There is no indication as to the status of the programme or the level of success thus far.
Information is not provided on the coordination, preparation and drafting of the State party report.
Other sources: Current initiatives to improve opportunities for youth are being led by Government and a variety of NGOs. The Government has established a Department of Youth and Sports where a national youth coordinator maintains regular links with youth groups and other youth-related organizations. However, the Department has frequently shifted from Ministry to Ministry and this has decreased its effectiveness in developing suitable youth programmes. Government's involvement with youth (persons between the ages of 15-18 years) continues to focus on support for sporting activities.
UNICEF: A Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Vanuatu: 1998, pp. 52-53
c) Implementation of article 4 of the Convention
- budgetary allocation for children to the maximum extent of available resources
State party report: While the report provides information on budgetary allocations for 1993 and 1994, it does not specifically indicate the percentage of the budget allocated to children neither does it indicate whether the allocations are to the maximum extent of available resources. It is noted that during 1993 and 1994 approximately 37% of the annual budgets were allocated to the 4 agencies that deal with child related matters: the Ministry of Health, Population and the Rights of Children; the Ministry of Education; the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry and Fisheries; and the Ministry of Justice, Culture, Religion and Women's Affairs. During this period, the Ministry of Education received 21% of the budget which was relatively higher then most Ministries (para. 23 and Table 2, p.12).
The report notes that the Government, through its previous and current development plans and with the support of donor Governments and international agencies, has invested heavily in the social sector, especially in education, training, health, including food, nutrition, water supply and sanitation. While there is a desire to increase investment in these and other areas that directly affect children, the Government is constrained by limited funding (paras. 205 and 209).
Other sources: Vanuatu's resources are utilized according to the following breakdown: 3.15% of the national production is devoted to distribution, 26% to Government and other services, and 19.6% to agriculture, the most important sector of the economy. The remainder is distributed among the finance, construction, manufacturing and utilities sector.
Ibid, p. 9
- international cooperation
State party report: Vanuatu receives significant development assistance, particularly in terms of technical cooperation, from about 20 sources, including Japan, France, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and the European Union. Among the multilateral donors, the most active are UNDP, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. In 1991-1992, assistance amounted to US$50 million which was more than 25% of the GDP of Vanuatu in that year (para. 51). In 1989 Vanuatu received more development assistance per capita than any other least developed country (LDC) except Tuvalu (para.52).
While Australia is the highest single contributor of assistance to Vanuatu, it is not clear how much of this assistance is specific to children. UNICEF, which is also a significant contributors has undertaken a number of projects specific to the promotion and development of children's rights in Vanuatu, including the preparation of a 1991 Situation Analysis of Children and Women (paras. 5, 53-54).
Other sources: Vanuatu received almost US$50 million in external assistance in 1995. This was an increase of $18 million, or 57%, when compared to the average over 1992-1994. The real value of external assistance increase to US$275 per capita in 1995. This compares with an average of US$193 per capita in 1992-1994. In 1995 education received the largest share (34%) of external assistance, followed by energy (15%) and health (14%). The majority of external assistance (86%) was received as grants and the remaining 14% as concessional loans.
UNDP: Country Cooperation Frameworks and Related Matters, First Country Cooperation Framework for Vanuatu (1997-2001), DP/CCF/VAN/1, 14 June 1997, paras. 12-13
d) involvement of the civil society
State party report: The report mentions extensive involvement of civil society in child related matters. The Vanuatu National Council of Chiefs (VNCC), the Vanuatu Council of Churches (VCC), the Vanuatu National Council of Women (VNCW), the Women's Centre, the Society for Disabled People (VSDP), and the Vanuatu Pre-School Association are all involved in the promotion and or development of children's rights (paras. 34 and 45).
There are about 50 national and international NGOs in Vanuatu that contribute, independently or through the Vanuatu Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (VANGO), to the development of children, particularly in the areas of education, training and health. In this regard, the report indicates that NGOs are often more effective than the Government in initiating change at the local levels (paras. 6, 35 and 54).
Other sources: NGOs assist in development where Government intervention is limited. Their involvement varies and includes a wide range of issues such as social development, human resource development and human rights. In 1992 the Vanuatu Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (VANGO) was started as an umbrella organization to facilitate and assist members. Most NGOs are affiliated with VANGO which has a membership of about 70. Many NGOs have extended their networks to rural and isolated areas. Over the past few years, the Government's recognition and support of NGOs has increased considerably. NGOs like the Vanuatu National Council of Women, The Vanuatu Society for Disabled People and Save the Children Australia are now more involved in Government planning and programmes.
UNICEF: A Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Vanuatu: 1998, p. 15
f) measures taken to make the principles and provisions of the Convention widely known
State party report: The report highlights activities undertaken to disseminate information on the principles and provisions of the Convention. The parliamentary debate on the rights of children, before ratification in 1992, was broadcasted live through Radio Vanuatu. The main aims of the Community Action for Health, the intersectoral committee established to implement the National Programme of Action for Children, is to promote the principles and provisions of the Convention among all organizations and its members. The extent of success in this regard is not noted in the report. The booklet “World Summit for Children” was circulated among members of the Community Action for Health and within relevant Government agencies and departments working with and for children. The annual celebration of National Children's Day usually involves the presentation of speeches by leaders and children alike based on the principles and provisions of the Convention (para. 94).
Vanuatu has played a significant role in encouraging greater regional cooperation and dialogue on child rights issues. The Pacific Summit for Children held in 1992 in Solomon Islands was originally proposed by the Government of Vanuatu. In response to the Summit meeting, leaders of the Pacific region endorsed a broad based Agenda for Action: First Call for Pacific Children (paras. 47-48). The impact of the Summit and the Agenda on the situation of children in Vanuatu is not noted in the report.
The report does not indicate any specific training of professionals working with and for children neither does it indicate whether the principles and provisions of the Conventions have been introduced within the school system. The involvement of the media in the dissemination of information in this regard is also not very clear.
DEFINITION OF THE CHILD
(Art. 1 of the Convention)
State party report: The report does not explicitly indicate the age of majority in Vanuatu. The Constitution provides that the legal age for voting is 18 years and that non-citizens may apply for Vanuatu citizenship upon attaining the age of 18. Further, compensation of land may not be paid to persons under the age of 18 years (para. 101).
The Control of Marriage Act provides that the legal minimum age for marriage for males is 18 years and for females, 16 years. The report does not provide information as to whether persons generally enter marriage before the minimum legal age. It is noted that the legal minimum age for sexual consent is 13 years which is considerably low (paras. 101 and 103).
The legal age for criminal responsibility is 10 years, which is also considerably low. Persons under the age of 14 years are presumed to be incapable of committing a crime unless it is proven that he or she is capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. The legal minimum age for imprisonment is 16 years (paras. 101 and 103). The report does not refer to the issues of the death sentence or life imprisonment.
Primary education is not compulsory. The legal minimum age for entry into primary school is 6 years (para. 104). The legal minimum age for admission to employment is 12 years. The Employment Act provides that children under the age of 12 years may not be employed except in light work, including agricultural work, within the family environment; children under the age of 14 years may not be employed except in light work within the family or collective community setting; children under the age of 15 years may not be employed in an industrial undertaking; and children under the age of 18 years may not work at night or in the shipping industry (para. 101).
The report does not indicate the minimum legal age for legal and medical counseling without parental consent or the minimum legal age for recruitment into the armed forces.
Other Sources: In Vanuatu youth is defined in a variety of ways. In general, youth refers to a person between the ages of 15 and 25 years. Those less than 18 years of age are considered children under the law.
UNICEF: A Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Vanuatu: 1998, p. 52
(Arts. 2, 3, 6 and 12 of the Convention)
A. Non-discrimination (art.2)
State party report: The Constitution does not allow future generations of Vanuatu children to be discriminated against in the use of national wealth, resources and the environment. The Constitution also recognizes that subject to restrictions imposed by law on non-citizens, all persons in Vanuatu are entitled to fundamental rights and freedoms without discrimination on the grounds of race, place of origin, religion or traditional beliefs, political opinions, language or sex (paras. 102 and 128). Legislative provisions apparently do not cover discrimination based on colour, property or disability. The report does not elaborate on the restrictions imposed by law on non-citizens neither does it indicate whether these restrictions discriminate against the children of non-nationals residing in Vanuatu.
With reference to the issue of children born out of wedlock, the report suggests that there is some level of discrimination in this regard. In 1985 a bill was proposed by the Vanuatu National Council of Women to improve the situation of single mothers and their children but it did not win the support of the Government. The report does not describe the current situation of these children neither does it indicate how the bill proposes to improve their situation. It is noted however, that it is the intention of Council of Women to continue its efforts to win support for the bill (para. 40).
There appears to be discrimination against girls in Vanuatu. While the legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years in the case of boys it is only 16 years for girls. Further, with respect to the issue of educational opportunities, it is noted that there is a higher enrollment rate for boys particularly at the secondary and tertiary levels, than there is for girls (para. 101 (d) and Table 5, p. 29).
Other sources: Among the vulnerable groups that face discrimination are children living in rural isolated communities, children living in urban squatter communities and children with disabilities. In this regard, UNDP is currently sponsoring a project in Vanuatu that includes support to the Ombudsman's Office to investigate discrimination against children with disabilities, particularly as regards their access to public education.
UNDP: COUNTRY Cooperation Frameworks and Related Matters, First Country Cooperation Framework for Vanuatu (1997-2001), DP/CCF/VAN/1, 14 June 1997, para. 20
Traditional practices and beliefs inhibit the full participation of women in society, limiting their access to family planning, health services and education. The high incidence of anemia in women, the relatively high birth rates, and the high number of premature birth rates reflect women's low status in ni-Vanuatu society. The traditional belief that a women's place is in the home continues to limit the training of girls and young women outside of the home. This is reflected in the gender bias evident within the school system as well as in local and national Government. In 1990 there were 89 girls for every 100 boys enrolled in primary school, 75 girls for every 100 boys in secondary school and at the tertiary level, 29 girls for every 100 boys enrolled. In this regard, it is noted that girls are often discouraged by their families from pursuing higher education as it is believed to be a poor investment.
UNICEF: A Situation Analysis of the Children and Women in Vanuatu: 1998, pp. xi , 5 and 38-39
The majority of women enter into marriage through “bride-price payment” a practice that encourages men to view them as property. Women are also inhibited from owning land and at least one women's advocate believes this limitation serves to underpin their secondary status.
US Department of State, Vanuatu Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996, p. 4
B. Best interests of the child (art.3)
State party report: This issue is not adequately addressed in the report which does not indicate how the law protects and guarantees the best interests of the child. Information provided refers mainly to education and health and the accessibility of these services to children free of charge. It is noted that in cases where parents may be legally separated, the welfare of children is generally given serious consideration by the courts (paras. 104 and 135).
C. The right to life, survival and development (art. 6)
State party report: Information is not provided on the right to life, survival and development.
D. Respect for the views of the child (art. 12)
State party report: While the report states that the views of children are generally respected in Vanuatu, it also notes that traditionally children do not freely express their views because of a belief that they learn best by seeing, hearing and practicing, rather than by speaking. Under the Penal Code which deals with the age of criminal responsibility, the views of children are respected based on their ability to distinguish between right and wrong (paras. 111-112).
Other sources: Because of the strong oral tradition, elders serve as reservoirs of cultural memory. Their knowledge is passed on orally and practically. Therefore, young people have great respect for their elders and will remain quiet in their presence, in order to learn.
UNICEF: A Situation Analysis of the Children and Women in Vanuatu. 1998, p. 5
CIVIL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS
(Arts. 7, 8, 13-17 and 37 (a) )
1. Name and Nationality (art.7)and Preservation of identity (art.8)
State party report: The Civil Status (Registration) Act provides for the registration of births and acknowledgments. However, it is noted that birth registration is not compulsory in Vanuatu and many children are not registered, particularly those living in rural and remote areas. Registration may be done by either parent, a member of the family, a health personnel, a community leader or any person having knowledge of the birth. (para. 109). The Civil Status (Registration) Act also provides that upon registration the child should be given a Surname or Family name, a Christian name and a Melanesian or Traditional name.
According to the Constitution, on the day of Independence, the following persons became citizens of Vanuatu: persons with 4 grandparents who belong to a traditional tribe or community indigenous to Vanuatu; persons of ni-Vanuatu ancestry without a nationality; and orphans. Dual nationality is not recognized in Vanuatu.
The report looks at the preservation of the identity and culture of the ni-Vanuatu people as oppose to that of each child within the society (paras. 113-118).
Other Sources: The migrant populations in Vanuatu are mainly from Wallis and Futuna, Kiribati and other Pacific island states. These migrants initially came to Vanuatu as plantation workers but in recent years they have experienced difficulties in obtaining work permits and Vanuatu citizenship, despite having been in the country for several decades. The Government of Vanuatu discourages immigration and expatriates have been deported on several occasions, often for arbitrary reasons. The various minority populations of Vanuatu have thus declined in number since independence.
Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities: 1997, pp. 687-688 It is noted, however, that there is no evidence to suggest a pattern of ethnic discrimination in the provision of the limited basic services which the Government provides.
US Department of State, Vanuatu Report on Human Rights Practice for 1996, p. 4
2. Freedom of expression (art.13)
State party report: The Constitution provides for freedom of expression. However, children are more regularly encouraged to express themselves in school than in their families or communities. While the report notes that children are provided opportunities to express themselves through the media, it does not indicate the frequency with which this occurs, neither does it indicate the context in which it occurs. It is noted that children also express themselves through music and other means (para. 119).
Other sources: The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, however, these provisions are not always respected in practice. Vanuatu Governments have been known to pressure both public and private media houses to limit the presentation of politically controversial views.
US Department of State, Vanuatu Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996, p. 2
3. Access to appropriate information (art.17)
State party report: There is no law governing access to information. The Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation is mandated to produce and provide programmes aimed to disseminate information, educate and entertain the population. Many of the programmes, particularly those produced for radio, are for children. Due to the distance between the islands, television programmes for children generally do not reach rural communities. Further, libraries and bookshops are more readily available to children living in urban rather than rural communities (paras. 121-124).
The report does not indicate whether children in Vanuatu are exposed to harmful information, particularly violence and pornography.
Other sources: Communication is difficult yet important for promoting unity and development across this widely dispersed population with over 100 languages. The communication and information network in Vanuatu includes private and semi-Government controlled newspapers, radio, television and Government postal services. Television and radio are primarily urban conveniences, as rural areas still have little access to electricity. In rural and remote areas communication continues to be based largely on oral tradition. Since the 1990s, local theatre and drama have also been successful tools to communicate.
UNICEF: A Situation Analysis of the Children and Women of Vanuatu: 1998, p. 17
4. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion (art.14)
State party report: The Constitution provides for freedom of conscience and worship. Under the Penal Code, there is a 2 year penalty for insulting the religion or defacing the place of worship of any person or group of people (paras. 125-126). There is no indication whether these freedoms apply in the case of children.
Other sources: The law provides for freedom of religion and the Government generally respects it in practice. The Government apparently has not tried to enforce the 1995 Religious Bodies Act which the President refused to sign on Constitutional grounds. The Act gives the Government the right to register and potentially to control the activities of religious organizations.
US Department of State, Vanuatu Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996, p. 3
5. Freedom of association and of peaceful assembly (art.15)
State party report: The Constitution affirms the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly (para. 129). There is no information on the practice with respect to these freedoms.
Other sources: The Government does not restrict the forming of political parties and other groups. Permits must be obtained to hold public demonstrations and rallies and these are routinely granted.
US Department of State, Vanuatu Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996, p. 2
6. Protection of privacy (art.16)
State party report: The Constitution guarantees protection of privacy of the home and other property as well as protection from deprivation of property. The Penal Code also provides for protection of privacy (para. 130). The report does not indicate how the privacy of children in Vanuatu is protected or respected in practice.
Other sources: There were no reports of arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence.
7. The right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment (art. 37, a)
State party report: The Constitution provides for freedom from inhuman treatment and forced labour. It also provides for equal treatment under the law (para. 132). The report notes that every individual, including children, is guaranteed these rights. However, information on the current practice in this regard is not provided in the report.
Other sources: Constitutional provisions against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are observed in practice and enforced by the courts. The law provides that prisoners shall have recourse to the Ombudsman, a Constitutional position.
Ibid, p. 1
FAMILY ENVIRONMENT AND ALTERNATIVE CARE
(Arts. 5, 18 para. 1 and 2,9,10,27 para.4, 20, 21, 11, 19, 39 and 25)
1. Parental guidance (art.5)
State party report: The law of the Vanuatu National Council of Chiefs stresses that the father must teach the child family relations and must ensure that there is peace and unity within the family (para. 3). The report does not indicate how this relates to national legislation or current practice, especially in light of the number of children born out of wedlock and the number of children classified as “fatherless” (para. 40).
In 1993, the Vanuatu National Council of Chiefs prepared guidelines based on Vanuatu customs, for parents to use in their various responsibilities towards their children (para. 36). There is no information on the use of these guidelines and their impact on the situation of children.
Other Sources: Traditional education is provided by all communities and the responsibility for this rest with the parents, grandparents and chiefs. Girls are trained by their mothers and grandmothers in the roles they will perform throughout their lives. Boys and young men are more exposed to
cultural training than girls and are trained and counseled by their fathers, grandfathers and community chiefs.
UNICEF: A Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Vanuatu: 1998, p. 5
2. Parental responsibilities (art.18, paras.1-2)
State party report: While the report notes that the State encourages parents to support, assist and educate their children and to give them a true understanding of their fundamental rights and duties, it does not indicate how this is done (paras. 106 and 133). Further, in light of the limited access to information and the high rate of illiteracy (30%), it is not clear whether parents are able to provide their children with a true understanding of their fundamental rights and duties as provided for under the Constitution.
The report highlights the changing role of women in society who traditionally were responsible for the home including child raring, cultivation of the land, collection and preparation of food and production of household goods. Women have now joined the workforce and are more involved in decision making, including at the national level (para. 80). There is no indication as to how the changing role of women has affected parental responsibilities.
Other Sources: In ni-Vanuatu society, the basic social unit is the extended family. Although the extended family system has changed with modernization, it remains the basis for society. Responsibility for each child rests with the whole family, including extended family members, chiefs, church leaders and the rest of the community.
Ibid, p. 4
Traditionally women are the backbone of ni-Vanuatu society and their roles are generally the same in the community as in the family. Men are traditionally, the head of the household but in recent years the number of female headed households has been increasing. With the support of the extended family, women have been forced to take on much of what is traditionally considered the responsibility of men within the home. The average number of female headed houses was estimated at 11% in 1979.
Ibid, pp. 6 , 13 and 14
3. Separation from parents (art.9) and family reunification (art.10)
State party report: The Matrimonial Causes Act provides for the custody and maintenance of children in cases where the parents are separated or divorced (para. 136). The report does not indicate the rate of separation or divorce in Vanuatu or the general practice in child custody cases. It is apparent that there are no alternative care institutions to assist children who may be separated from their parents - such children are generally accommodated within the extended family.
The report notes that family reunification is encouraged, particularly by the church and the National Council of Chiefs. Any person traveling to or from Vanuatu for the purpose of family reunification is accepted and allowed to travel without hindrance (paras. 137 and 139)
4. Recovery of maintenance for the child (art. 27, para.4)
State party report: Under the Family Maintenance Act, it is an offence for a man to fail to make adequate provisions for the maintenance of his child under the age of 18 years, for a period exceeding one month. It is also an offence for a woman to desert her child under the age of 18 years for a period exceeding one month (para. 134).
The Maintenance of Children Act provides for the maintenance of “natural children”. Under this Act, an unmarried woman may apply to the court for an order against the man alleged to be the father of her child for the payment of maintenance for the child. In the case of separation or divorce, both parents have the right to recover expenses associated with child care (paras. 136 and 140).
5. Children deprived of a family environment (art.20)
State party report: This is not a concern in Vanuatu, mainly because of the small size of the population, the extended family system, and the role of the chiefs and the churches in promoting the welfare of ni-Vanuatu children. There are no reported cases of children living and/or working on the streets. The report highlights only one incident of abandonment (paras. 141 and 149).
6. Adoption (art. 21)
State party report: There is no law on the adoption of children. Adoption is practiced traditionally and takes place within the extended family system and the community. Even after adoption, the natural parents continue to have overall responsibility for their child and may retrieve the child from the adoptive parents at any time. Intercountry adoption is not practiced in Vanuatu (paras. 143, 144 and 149). The report does not refer to the issue of foster parenting.
Other Sources: Children provide security to parents in their old age and many couples who are unable to conceive adopt in order to fulfill this role.
UNICEF: A Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Vanuatu: 1998, p. 4 This practice is not consistent with the principle of the best interest of the child. Measures must be taken to implement legislative provisions to protect the rights of children who may be adopted and to implement a proper monitoring system in this regard.
7.Illicit transfer and non-return (art. 11)
State party report: The Penal Code provides against the illicit transfer and non-return of children in Vanuatu and there have been no reported cases in this regard (para. 146).
8. Abuse and neglect (art.19), including physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration (art. 39)
State party report: The Penal Code provides for the protection of persons who are physically or mentally incapable of taking care of themselves. It also protects against the abandonment, abuse and neglect of such persons (paras. 132 and 147).
The report does not provide specific information on the situation of abuse and neglect of children in Vanuatu, neither does it indicate whether corporal punishment is used in schools, families or other institutions.
Other sources: The Penal Code protects girls and women from assault against their person, reputation, property and morality. In spite of the existence of legal protection, violence against women and girls is increasing. It is difficult to know whether the apparent increase in this regard is due to mounting social frustration or whether it reflects an increase in reporting. Violence against women is usually not reported in the rural areas. In general, there is a dearth of information available on the subject.
UNICEF: A Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Vanuatu: 1998, p.57
9. Periodic review of placement (art. 25)
State party report: This issue is not discussed in the report.
BASIC HEALTH AND WELFARE
(Arts. 6 para. 2, 23, 24, 26 and 18 para.3, and 27 paras. 1-3)
1. Survival and development (art. 6, para. 2)
State party report: The report provides extensive information on basic health and welfare in Vanuatu. It notes that the most common health problems are communicable diseases such as malaria, measles, diarrhoea and respiratory infections, which affect mostly young children (para. 18). It is unfortunate that statistical data is not provided on the situation of malaria which is currently recognized as the most important health problem in Vanuatu (para. 67).
Despite the challenges and constraints, including financial, there has been an improvement in the health care services in Vanuatu which has ultimately increased the chances of survival and development for the children (paras. 13 and 164). With the support of multilateral and bilateral cooperation, including that of NGOs, infant mortality has declined from 46 per 1,000 births in 1990 to 18 per 1,000 births in 1994. Under-five deaths also declined from 159 per 1,000 births in 1992 to 107 per 1,000 births in 1994 (para. 164). There has also been an increase in the number of children immunized. In 1988 only 47% of children were immunized and by 1994, the number had increased to 71% (table 5, p.28).
While there have been no reported cases of HIV/AIDS in Vanuatu, there continues to be a concern about the increasing number of reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The Government has taken steps to educate all segments of society, including school children, about STDs and HIV/AIDS and their prevention (para. 69).
Other sources: For children between the ages of 1 and 4 years, the most common causes are infectious and parasitic diseases - these are also the most common causes of death in children between the ages of 5 and 14 years. Nearly 20% of deaths in 1994 were of children less than a year old.
UNICEF: A Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Vanuatu: 1998, pp.23, 24 and 29
Under-nutrition is a major factor in the poor health of children and some adults. Low birth weight babies are associated with the health and nutrition status of their mothers. The low birth weight appears to be an urban problem, however, it is possible that this reflects better reporting practices. Some rural areas may experience fewer numbers of low birth weight because of the availability of local food with high nutritional value throughout the year.
Ibid, p. 32
Recent figures show that there is a high level of STD infection in Vanuatu. In 1992, there were 533 confirmed cases and 5,271 suspected cases. In 1994, the numbers declined to 114 confirmed cases and 1,227 suspected cases. The apparent drop between 1992 and 1994 could possibly reflect the reduced screening and clinical activity following the civil service strike in 1993.
Teenage pregnancy is believed to be on the increase. There is no data for the years leading up to 1992 and the data for the period 1993-1995 is somewhat limited. During this period, there were 224 pregnancies among below the age of 18 years and the total for each year was well over 60 cases.
Ibid, p.54 It is interesting to note that even though abortions are illegal in Vanuatu, the Penal Code provides that a baby is recognized as a person only at the time of birth. The penalty for abortion is 2 years imprisonment (para. 107-108). There is no information on the current practice as regard abortions.
The current high population growth in Vanuatu is due in part to a declining mortality rate, improved health services and high fertility rate as some women start bearing children before the age of 18 years and continue into their 40s.
Ibid, p. 11
2. Children with disabilities (art. 23)
State party report: The 1989 census revealed that there were 2,079 persons with disabilities in Vanuatu, this accounted for about 1.46% of the total population (para. 42). It is not clear how many of these persons were children.
There is no specific law which addresses the situation of children with disabilities. While the report notes that the Penal Code protects all persons with disabilities, it does not indicate how and to what degree protection is provided. There is no specific Government policy for children with disabilities. The Vanuatu Society for Disabled People has taken the lead in adopting and implementing programmes for these children (paras. 42, 61 and 162-163).
The Society had 107 clients in 1992 and by 1994, the number had increased to 742 of which 77 were children less than 5 years of age. It is believed that this sharp increase in participation is related to the Society's shift in focus from a centre based approach to a community based approach to rehabilitation. It is also linked to the Society's increased public relations activities which has enhanced the sensitivity of the population toward the plight of children with disabilities. Among the public relations activities undertaken by the Society is the broadcasting of a bi-monthly radio programme on disabilities and the commissioning of a local theatre group to produce a play on disabilities. The Society services children in both rural and urban areas (paras.42, 58-59 and 61).
Other sources: UNICEF has reported that the most disadvantaged children in Vanuatu are those with disabilities, especially those living in rural communities. Provisions for children with disabilities are concentrated largely in urban areas. The Vanuatu Society for Disabled People has indicated that some children with disabilities are generally kept inside the house in unhygienic environments. Some are left unsupervised for much of the day and many do not attend school.
UNICEF: A Situation Analysis of the Children and Women in Vanuatu: 1998, p. 51
An important part of the work of the Vanuatu Society for Disabled People is the community based rehabilitation programme established in 1992. This programmes frequently sends field workers to each of the islands to identify new clients, assess their needs and to provide training and follow up to people with disabilities and their care-givers. The Society also has a public awareness programme to better achieve its aims and strategies.
Ibid, p. 51
3. Health and health services (art. 24)
State party report: The current national health programme focuses mainly on primary health care issues. Through the Mother Child Health Programme, the concept of healthy mother, healthy child is promoted and seen as the future of Vanuatu. The main objectives of the programme are to reduce infant mortality, maternal mortality, infant and childhood morbidity due to infectious diseases, malnutrition, and high risk births. The programme also aims to increase the use of contraceptives and promote family planning.
The Expanded Programme of Immunization aims to ensure the vaccination of every child before age one and to control the spread of childhood diseases. The objectives of the Food and Nutrition Programme are to reduce the incidence of low birth; the proportion of underweight children under 5 years; the incidence of anaemia among pregnant and lactating women; and the incidence of hypertension and diabetes.
The Environmental Health Programme is intended to reduce under-five morbidity and mortality, increase access to safe drinking water, and increase and improve community sanitation facilities in both urban and rural areas. In 1989 only 28% of the total population of Vanuatu has access to safe sanitation and by 1991, the number have increased slightly to 35%. In 1990, only 27% of the total population had access to safe drinking water and by 1994, the number had increased to 77% (Table 5, p. 26).
Vanuatu has 2 referral hospitals, 3 district hospitals, 9 health centres, 67 dispensaries and 148 village aid posts (para. 19). Apart from the Government health services, which are provided free of charge for children, the Health Practitioners Act provides for private health practitioners. There are about 8 private practitioners in the country. Traditional medicine is also widely practiced in Vanuatu (paras. 21-22).
Through the Health Care Delivery Programme, the Government has stepped up its efforts to provide health care to all segments of society, particularly to rural and remote areas. While there has been some improvement, the lack of funding continues to be a major concern. It is noted that the budget allocations for health have declined steadily over the past 13 years with the average being approximately 11.8% (paras. 19-20). The Government has outlined a rather extensive health plan, but given the limited resources available, it is not certain whether the targeted goals can be accomplished (paras. 71-74).
Other sources: Health services in Vanuatu are operated almost entirely by the Government. While there are a few private practitioners, they are usually discouraged by the Government's policy of free health services. Traditional medicine is still recognized and widely practiced. The Ministry of Health provides both preventative and curative services. Curative services are provided through the four levels of health facilities: hospitals, health centres, dispensaries, and aid posts. In most provinces, community aid posts are community funded with Government support for pharmaceuticals only. There are wide discrepancies in the distribution of health professionals and limited access to health care in some communities, particularly the Southern District.
UNICEF: A Situation Analysis of the Children and Women in Vanuatu: 1998, pp. 20-21
4. Social security and child care services and facilities (arts. 26 and 18, para.3)
State party report: Under the Vanuatu National Provident Fund Act, employers of both the public and private sectors pay into a fund monthly for each of their employees. The fund provides for disability, pension, and death benefits (para. 173).
The Employment Act provides for severance allowance to be paid to an employee in continuous employment for a minimum of 12 months and to those attaining the retirement age of 55 years (para 174). In the case of civil servants, a family monthly allowance is paid for each child up to the age if 14 years - this is expanded to 18 years if the child has a physical or mental disability (para. 34).
The report notes that there are 2 traditional social security systems in Vanuatu - the traditional extended family system and the land itself. Recent developments have threatened the effectiveness of these traditional systems. It is noted that the low level of income of most ni-Vanuatu has restricted the ability of extended family members to assist each other and that the high population growth rate has reduced the availability of land (paras. 170-171).
5. Standard of living (art. 27, paras. 1-3)
State party report: Vanuatu is among the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). In 1993, the average per capita income for ni-Vanuatu was estimated at VT 36,500-40,000 (approximately US$280-315). It is noted that this income is generally insufficient, especially for those living in the urban areas. A large percentage of the population have very little money and are forced to rely mainly on subsistence farming. This is generally the case for people living in rural areas were land is more easily accessible. The Government has taken steps in recent years to improve the situation of the population, including an increase in the minimum wage of both rural and urban areas to about VT 16,000 (approximately US$125.75) per month, an increase of about 19% in 1994. In 1995, the Government also introduced a decrease in import duties for basic goods such as rice, flour and cooking oil (paras. 175-176).
Other sources: The most evident poverty is found in the squatter settlements around the capital. These settlements have sprung up in recent years, attracting the poorest women and children to occupy unsuitable and unsustainabale environments. Although the rural population generally has very little cash income it survives in large part on subsistence agriculture or the shared resources of the kinship system. This traditional subsistence-based, family-oriented economy is progressively deteriorating as urbanization and population growth in excess of resources erode the social fabric and its traditional safety nets, and place increasing pressure on existing services and infrastructure.
UNDP: Country Cooperation Frameworks and Related Matters, First Country Cooperation Framework for Vanuatu (1997-2001), DP/CCF/VAN/1, 14 June 1997, pp. 2-3
EDUCATION, LEISURE AND CULTURAL ACTIVITIES
(Arts. 28, 29 and 31)
1. Education, including vocational training and guidance (art. 28)
State party report: Education traditionally receives one of the highest percentages of the annual budget. In 1993 and 1994 education received about 21% of the total annual budget, the second highest budgetary allocation. Despite its efforts in the area of education, the Government of Vanuatu is still battling the challenge of developing a regionally equal and sustainable educational system that provides high quality education (para. 23).
The educational system in Vanuatu provides for 6 years of primary education, 4 years of junior secondary education and 2-3 years of senior secondary education (para. 23). Instructions are carried out in both French and English and equality of educational opportunities for Anglophone and Francophone students is priority.
Pre-schools are generally privately funded and are managed by communities and individuals. Not many parents enroll their children in pre-school. In 1993, for example, only 31% of pre-school aged children actually attended pre-school (Table 5, p.29).
In 1994 there were 308 Government primary schools and 54 private ones. Primary education is free but not compulsory. Since independence, the Government has tried to provide places for all children at the primary school level. In 1995, 95% of all primary school aged children were enrolled in school. While the drop out rate at this level is very low, there continues to be concern regarding the relatively high rate of repetition. The enrollment of male and females are about equal at the primary school level (paras. 31 and 78).
Secondary level education is only partially free and spaces are usually limited. It is noted that only about 20% of primary school leavers have access to junior secondary schools and about the same percentage to senior secondary. About 300 students per year pursue their secondary education overseas. Such opportunities are limited to children whose parents can afford to pay. At the secondary level, repetition has almost been eliminated, but the drop out rate continues to be considerably high. In 1994 there were about 31 secondary schools in Vanuatu. This is a relatively small number especially in light of the number of ni-Vanuatu islands that are inhabited (para. 32).
It is noted that while access to education for girls has improved in recent years, their enrollment at the secondary levels has been considerably low in comparison to that of boys. Unfortunately, the report does not provide statistical data in this regard (paras. 32-33).
About 40% of the students go to technical and vocational schools upon leaving junior secondary which means that the percentage of children that actually graduate from senior secondary is relatively low.
Other sources: Primary education begins at 6 years of age and secondary education at age 12.
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Statistical Profile No. 6, Women in Vanuatu: A Country Profile, 1996, p. 16 In 1994 there were 362 primary schools scattered over more than 60 islands - 63% carry out instructions in English and the remaining 37% in French. Urban schools are under considerable pressure because of rapid urban population growth. Rural schools accommodate 73% of the enrolling students and urban schools 27%. Male enrollment is higher (53%) than female enrollment (47%).
UNICEF: A Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Vanuatu: 1998, p. 42 There is a discrepancy between the State party report and the UNICEF report concerning the number of primary schools in Vanuatu.
Secondary schools only accommodate 25%-30% of the primary school graduates. This contributes to a low-level skills base in the work force; limits opportunities for tertiary education; and results in high levels of secondary school competition. It also contributes to high youth unemployment as 70% of primary school children are pushed out of school with little relevant training and no work experience with which to market themselves for employment. The Government as well as several local community organizations, church groups, individuals and NGOs offer non-formal education programmes. Vocational training centres have also been established by private institutions and individuals. Government subsidies to these centres ended in 1992 causing many to close down. Access to tertiary education is still low and is limited mainly to the University of the South Pacific extension programmes.
Ibid, pp. 43-45
The key issues affecting early childhood education are the low level of training and qualifications of teachers; the lack of training and learning materials; the lack of resources, including financial; and the lack of coordination and support to oversee the management of early childhood programmes at national regional and local levels.
UNICEF: A Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Vanuatu: 1998, pp.39-40
2. Aims of education (art. 29)
State party report: The main educational goals included in the National Development Plan are to improve access to education for all citizens; to improve the quality and relevance of education provided within the school system and to strive for a sustainable expansion of the system (paras. 28, 178-179). The report does not indicate whether human rights, including the rights of the child, are included in the curriculum at school.
3. Leisure, recreation and cultural activities (art. 31)
State party report: The report notes that the primary and secondary schools organize their own sporting activities and in some cases are members of national sporting associations (para. 185). However, it does not indicate whether cultural or other type recreational activities are included in the educational curriculum.
The Department of Youth and Sports is responsible for the development and promotion of sporting activities in the country and the Department of Women's Affairs, Culture and Religious affairs is responsible for the promotion, preservation and development of culture. The National Cultural Council has recently been established to further protect the identity of the ni-Vanuatu people through the Vanuatu National Library, the National Museum, and the National Archives (paras. 181, 187, 182 and 190-191).
Local languages are part of the identity of ni-Vanuatu and the Constitution provides for their protection (para. 181). The Vanuatu National Council of Chiefs has proposed that the ni-Vanuatu traditional customs and practices be included in the curriculum at both the primary and secondary educational levels and the Ministry of Education has agreed to explore this option (para. 192).
SPECIAL PROTECTION MEASURES
(Arts. 22, 30, 32-40)
a) Children in situations of emergency
I) Refugee children (art. 22)
State party report: The report does not provide information on the legal framework and the situation of refugee children in Vanuatu.
Other sources: The Government has not formulated a policy regarding refugees, asylees or first asylum. It is noted, however, that various Governments have used their immigration powers to expel, or try to expel, expatriates with whom they were displeased.
US Department of State, Vanuatu Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996, p. 3
ii) Children in armed conflicts (art. 38), including physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration (art. 39)
State party report: The report does not provide information on the situation of children in armed conflicts.
b) Children in conflict with the law
I) The administration of juvenile justice (art. 40)
State party report: Crime is increasing in Vanuatu, particularly in the urban areas. About 5,078 criminal cases were reported in 1994, an increase of about 80% over the previous year. The most common crimes were theft, assault, damage, trespass and drunkenness. Of the 2,054 persons involved, 6% were less than 18 years old and 0.3% were less than 13 years old. The National Council of Chiefs are of the view that the increasing involvement of juveniles in criminal activities is somehow related to the fact that children are spending more time at school rather than at home learning the customs and traditions of the ni-Vanuatu people (para. 192).
The report does not adequately discuss the administrative procedure involved in processing children who come into conflict with the law. It does not indicate whether there is a specific juvenile justice system, including courts for juveniles, neither does it indicate whether magistrates and other persons involved with the juvenile justice procedure have been trained to deal with the special situation of children in conflict with the law.
Other sources: The crime rate in the country is on the increase in Vanuatu. Those most involved are adults, between the ages of 18 and 40 years. In 1994, the involvement of minors (between the ages and 10 and 17 years) in criminal activities was estimated at about 6% which is relatively low. 0.2% of the cases within this age group involved females. Overall data substantiate that crime in Vanuatu is closely related to the issue of unemployment.
UNICEF: A Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Vanuatu: 1998, p. 55
ii) Children deprived of their liberty, including any form of detention, imprisonment or placement in custodial settings (art. 37 b, c, and d)
State party report: The Constitution protects the rights of all accused persons, including children. It provides that every person charged with an offence shall have a fair hearing, within a reasonable time and by an independent impartial court. It also provides that accused persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Everyone charged should be informed promptly, in an understandable language, of the offence (para. 194).
The report notes that children may not be detained in the same facility as adults, but it does not provide information, including statistical data on the situation of juvenile detention facilities. There is no information on the administrative arrangements for such facilities or the availability of adequate resources for their proper functioning.
Other sources: There have been no reports of arbitrary arrests in Vanuatu. The Constitutional provisions that suspects must be informed of their charges and given a speedy hearing before a judge is observed in practice. The courts are normally free of military or executive interference. The courts uphold the Constitutional provisions for a fair public trail, presumption of innocence until guilt is proven, prohibition against double jeopardy, the right of judicial determination of validity of arrest or detention, and appeal to the Supreme Court. It is noted however, that the executive has tried to pressure the largely expatriate judiciary in cases with political implications.
US Department of State, Vanuatu: Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996, pp.1-2
Amnesty International recently reported dangerous prison conditions in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu. The report recommended that the Government take all necessary measures to improve prison conditions, particularly in the areas of overcrowding, earthquake damage and rain water seepage. The report also recommended that the health care system and complaints mechanisms be improved for prisoners. It further urged the Government to seek assistance to improve the condition of prisons from the international community, particularly its main aid donors, including Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Japan and New Zealand.
Amnesty International News Release, Vanuatu: Dangerous Prisons Conditions Prompt Amnesty International Report, 28 September, 1998, p. 1
iii) The sentencing of juveniles, in particular the prohibition of capital punishment and life imprisonment (art 37, a)
State party report: The Penal Code provides that children under the age of 10 years are not criminally responsible and that children between the ages of 10 and 14 years are presumed to be incapable of committing a crime unless it is proved by evidence that he or she is capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. Children less than 16 years of age are not subject to imprisonment unless no other appropriate method of punishment is found. When detained, children of 16 years and younger must be separated from adults (paras. 103 and 193). It is noted that no child under the age of 16 years has served a sentence of imprisonment.
iv) Physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration (art. 39)
State party report: The report does not discuss physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration.
c) Children in situations of exploitation, including physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration (art. 39)
I) Economic exploitation, including child labor (art.32)
State party report: The Employment Act protects children against economic exploitation and there have been no reported cases in this regard (paras. 196-197). It is noted that the Constitution protects against all forms of slavery and slave labour (paras. 101 and 132). The report does not provide statistical data or information on the situation of child labour in Vanuatu, particularly in light of the high drop out and the low attendance rates at secondary school.
Other sources: The law prohibits children under 12 years of age from working outside of family-owned agricultural production where many children assist their parents. Employment of children from 12 to 18 years of age is restricted by occupational category and conditions of labour, this includes restrictions on employment in the shipping industry and on night-time employment. The Labour Department effectively enforces these laws. The law also prohibits forced or compulsory labour and there were no reports that either is practiced.
US Department of State, Vanuatu Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996, p. 5
ii) Drug abuse (art. 33)
State report: The report notes that drug abuse is not a problem in Vanuatu and that the few persons found to be involved were foreigners. The Dangerous Drug Acts protects against drug abuse (para. 201).
iii) Sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (art. 34)
State party report: The Penal Code establishes the legal age for sexual consent as 13 years. In 1994 there were 58 reported cases of rape, 12 reported cases of incest, 28 indecent assault cases and 34 cases of unlawful sexual intercourse - in total there were 132 cases involving sexual exploitation and abuse, most occurring in the urban areas (para. 198). The report does not indicate whether services are provided to facilitate the psychological recovery and social reintegration of victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Other sources: The Penal Code protects women and girls from assault against their reputation, property and morality, including against rape, abduction, incest, unlawful sexual intercourse and indecent assault. However, such violence against women, is usually not reported because of a fear of further abuse. This is especially true of women living in rural and isolated or remote communities. Cases of child abuse are also only occasionally reported.
Ibid, p. 4
iv) Other forms of exploitation (art. 36)
State party report: The report does not provide information on other forms of exploitation
v) Sale, trafficking and abduction (art.35)
State party report: The report does not indicate whether this is a concern in Vanuatu.
d) Children belonging to a minority or an indigenous group (art.30)
State party report: There are 110 local languages spoken in Vanuatu, reflecting 110 groups of people. 4.5% of the population have their own traditional religious beliefs and practices. The rights of each group are recognized and protected under the Constitution which provides that the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons are guaranteed without distinction of race, place of origin, religious or traditional belief, political opinion, language or sex (paras. 127-128).
Other Sources: Minority Rights Group International notes that diversity is manifested in the geographical, cultural and linguistic divisions in Vanuatu. For its population size, Vanuatu has a greater linguistic diversity than any other country in the world. Contemporary political , religious and regional divisions were shaped during the colonial years when there were two separate colonial administrators governing the islands, the British and the French.
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights