Foreign relations of Vanuatu

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politics and government of

Vanuatu maintains relations with more than 65 countries, and has a very modest network of diplomatic missions. Australia, France, Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the People's Republic of China maintain embassies, high commissions, or missions in Port Vila. The British High Commission closed in 2005 after maintaining a presence for almost a century.

The government's main concern has been to bolster the economy. In keeping with its need for financial assistance, Vanuatu has joined the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF). According to ABC Radio Australia, "Foreign policy issues that feature in Vanuatu include wide support for the Free West Papua Movement and broadly for independence throughout Melanesia, the One China Policy and relations with Australia and New Zealand." On the latter topic, guest worker programmes feature prominently.[1]


1980s: the Lini policies

Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides) obtained independence from France and the United Kingdom in 1980. The country's first elected leader, Prime Minister Father Walter Lini, governed Vanuatu from 1980 to 1991, and shaped its initial foreign policy in distinct ways. The key bases of Lini's foreign policy were non-alignment and anti-colonialism, support for independence movements around the world - from faraway Western Sahara to neighbouring New Caledonia, as well as East Timor and West Papua, who all received Vanuatu's support at the United Nations.[2]

Vanuatu notably angered Indonesia by allowing the Free Papua Movement to open an office in Port-Vila. Vanuatu in the 1980s was the only country in Oceania not to align with the Western bloc in the dying stages of the Cold War. Rejecting support either for the West or for the East, Vanuatu joined the Non-Aligned Movement in 1983, and only established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and the United States in June and September 1986, respectively.[2]

In keeping with this policy, Vanuatu established diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1983, and with Libya in 1986. Lini openly condemned the 1986 bombing of Libya by the United States, sending a message of condoleances to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, while Barak Sopé accused the United States of being a State sponsor of terrorism. The same accusation was levelled by Vanuatu against France after the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. Relations with the United States were tense until the late 1980s, when a State visit to Washington by Lini and Foreign Affairs Minister Sela Molisa contributed to a lessening of tensions. Relations with France remained strained throughout the 1980s for a variety of reasons.[3]

Lini's government opposed French nuclear tests at Mururoa, and spoke out repeatedly against apartheid in South Africa. Vanuatu was a member of the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid. In 1990, Vanuatu's ambassador to the United Nations Robert Van Lierop remarked proudly: "I think that Vanuatu's contribution to the United Nations is somewhat disproportionate in relation to its size. [...] When the Prime Minister met Nelson Mandela in Namibia, Mandela knew about Vanuatu because it has always been among the countries in the region that have most clearly spoken out on the problem of apartheid".[4]

Vanuatu under Walter Lini also sought to create solid relations with Asia, and, by the end of the decade, had established official diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.[5]

1990s: the Carlot Korman and Vohor years

Following the 1991 general election, the francophone Union of Moderate Parties became the dominant party in Parliament, and Maxime Carlot Korman became the country's first francophone Prime Minister. He "reversed [the country's] unequivocal support for the Kanak National Liberation Front in New Caledonia, its systematic enmity towards France, its flirting with radical regimes, and its openly anti-American nuclear-free Pacific stance." Francophones held power, under Carlot Korman or Serge Vohor, until 1998.[6]

Current relations

Economic relations


The government encourages private enterprise, foreign investment, and producer cooperatives. Like other developing countries, Vanuatu is particularly interested in enterprises that add value to local primary products and that provide employment. In less lucrative sectors, the government sets up its own production companies or enters joint ventures with foreign investors.

Tension with Fiji

On 11 March 2005, Vanuatu imposed a ban in biscuit imports, ostensibly to protect its own biscuit manufacturing industry, giving a monopoly on the business to the Espiritu Santo-based Wong Sze Sing store. The ban was the second in a year. Bread and breakfast cereals produced by Flour Mills of Fiji are the worst-hit.

The Fijian government retaliated on 13 June with a threat to impose a total commercial embargo on Vanuatu. Major income-earners for Vanuatu targeted by the Fijian government include Vanuatu kava, valued at almost US$3.2 million, and Air Vanuatu flights (US$8 million).

It also opposed the granting of observer status to Indonesia, over the issue of West Papua, by the Melanesian Spearhead Group at the time of Fijian leader Frank Bainimarama saying that unlike the other states in the group, he was unelected and a "dictator."[7]


Since 1980, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, and New Zealand have provided the bulk of Vanuatu's development aid. As of March 2008, Australia was Vanuatu's biggest aid provider, followed by France.[8] A number of other countries, including Japan, Canada, Germany, and various multilateral organizations, such as the Economic and Social Council for Asia and the Pacific, the UN Development Programme, the Asian Development Bank, the European Economic Community, and the Commonwealth Development Corporation also provide developmental aid. The United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Japan also send volunteers. Since the mid-2000s, Cuba has been a noted provider of medical aid.

Support to the right of self-determination

Vanuatu continues to promote the right to self-determination. In 1980s SADR and Palestine was recognized. Later, Vanuatu recognized Kosovo in 2010 and Abkhazia in 2011. Vanuatu is the only country in the world, which also recognises all of these four states. In addition, Vanuatu strongly supports the Free Papua Movement and his program of self-determination of West Papua, the territory annexed by Indonesia.

Bilateral relations

Relations with Australia

Australia and Vanuatu have very strong ties. Australia has provided the bulk of Vanuatu's military assistance, training its paramilitary mobile force and also providing patrol boats to patrol Vanuatu's waters. In 1983, Vanuatu and Australia entered into a Defence Cooperation Program together. As part of this program, two Royal Australian Navy advisers are stationed in Vanuatu Australia to assist Vanuatu in maintaining and operating the RVS Tukoro, the Pacific class patrol boat donated to Vanuatu by Australia in 1987. The RVS Tukoro is Vanuatu's primarily maritime police vessel. Australia also provides assistance to the Mobile Force element of the Vanuatu Police Force (VPF), as well as providing support to exercises and infrastructure projects.[9]

Australia is Vanuatu's largest source of foreign direct investment, mostly directed in the areas of tourist development, agriculture and construction. Australia is Vanuatu's largest source of tourists, with Australians making up 2/3 of all long-term tourist visitors and virtually all cruise ship visits. Since 2008, Vanuatu (along with Tonga, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea) has sent seasonal workers to Australia through the Australian government-funded Pacific Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme (PSWPS).[9]

Additionally, Australia is Vanuatu's main source of foreign aid, with the Australian providing A$66 million(US $70.4 million) in 2010-11.[9] In 2004, Australia threatened to cut its aid to Vanuatu when then-Prime Minister Serge Vohor reappointed officials who had been dismissed after being charged with criminal activity.[10] Vanuatu agreed to Australian demands for more transparent government and anti-corruption steps. The result was that from 2005–2010, Australian aid was governed through the Australia–Vanuatu Joint Development Cooperation Strategy.

This was superseded with the signing in May 2009 of the Australia-Vanuatu Partnership for Development. The central focus of the Partnership is for Australia to assist Vanuatu in achieving its UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG's). The priorities stated in the Partnership are to •support increased access and quality of education for boys and girls and equip them with relevant skills and knowledge •strengthen health services and accelerate progress towards health MDGs •develop essential infrastructure to support economic growth and service delivery •progress reform on economic governance •address equality of opportunity for all men and women and include the needs and priorities of people with disability in development activities[11] (full text of Partnership agreement)

Relations with China and Taiwan

Vanuatu briefly recognized the Republic of China (Taiwan) in late 2004 when on 3 November Prime Minister Serge Vohor signed a communiqué in Taipei with ROC Foreign Minister Mark Chen. Taipei had offered $30 million in aid in return (compared with the $10 million given by the PRC). Under the One-China policy, this would result in the severing of ties with the People's Republic of China. Vohor did so without consultations with his cabinet and the PRC Foreign Ministry, quoting the Vanuatu Foreign Minister, denied ties with the ROC had been established.

The Vanuatu Council of Ministers, in the Prime Minister's absence, announced on 11 November that the communiqué had been withdrawn. A spokesman for the Prime Minister denied this a day later. There were reports that previous attempts by Vohor to travel to Taipei were thwarted amid pressure from Beijing so his latest visit was done secretly on purpose. For a period of few weeks, both the PRC and ROC had diplomatic missions posted in Vanuatu while the Vanuatu government was in internal disagreement.

At one point Prime Minister Vohor punched the PRC ambassador when approached to explain why the flag of the Republic of China was flying over the hotel where the Taiwanese representative was posted. The standoff ended on 11 December 2004 when the parliament passed a motion of no-confidence against Vohor and replaced him with Ham Lini.

In May 2009, Vanuatu appointed its first ever ambassador to China, former Minister of Finance Willie Jimmy.[12] Jimmy "call[ed] [...] for China to have a foot firmly planted in the Pacific through Port Vila", which -the Vanuatu Daily Post remarked- "no doubt caused ruffled feathers among other foreign diplomatic partners".[13]

On the Chinese parade due to the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War Two, policemen from Vanuatu participated.[14]

Relations with Cuba

In the late 2000s, Vanuatu began to strengthen its relations with Cuba. Cuba provides medical aid to Vanuatu, sending doctors to the country[15] and providing scholarships for ni-Vanuatu medical students to study in Cuba.[16] In September 2008, a representative of the ni-Vanuatu government attended the first Cuba-Pacific Islands ministerial meeting in Havana. The meeting aimed at "strengthening cooperation" between Cuba and Pacific Island countries, notably in coping with the effects of climate change.[17][18]

Relations with the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

Vanuatu recognized the SADR on 27 November 1980, as part of its support to the right of self-determination of the peoples. On 24 November 2000, then Foreign affairs minister Serge Vohor announced that Vanuatu suspended that recognition and established ambassadorial level relations with Morocco.[19] Vanuatu's government made on 1 July 2008 a statement resuming its recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and established ambassadorial level relations also with SADR.[20] The non-resident embassy of SADR to Vanuatu is based in Dili, East Timor.

Relations with Abkhazia

On 23 May 2011, Vanuatu became the fifth UN member state (after Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru) to recognise Abkhazia. On this day joint statement on establishment of diplomatic relations was signed.[21] At the same time of signing a visa-free travel regime between the two countries was established.[22][23] Foreign Affairs Minister Alfred Carlot said that "Vanuatu’s foreign policy aims at eradicating colonialism from the face of the earth." In a press release, Carlot stated: "Vanuatu is neutral; our recognition of Abkhazia does not in any way mean that we cannot have diplomatic relations with the Republic of Georgia."[24][25]

The following month, however, the Vanuatu government of Prime Minister Sato Kilman was voided by the Supreme Court of Vanuatu, on the grounds that Kilman's election in December 2010 had not conformed to constitutional requirements. Former Prime Minister Edward Natapei became interim prime minister until a new leader could be elected. Natapei promptly withdrew Vanuatu's recognition of Abkhazia, arguing that it had been granted by an illegitimate government, and announced that he would seek to establish diplomatic relations with Georgia, recognising its sovereignty over Abkhazia.[26]

On 26 June 2011 Sato Kilman was re-elected Prime Minister[27] and on 12 July 2011 Vanuatu's Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot re-confirmed Vanuatu's recognition of Abkhazia.[28] On 12 July 2011 the Ambassador of Abkhazia in the Asia-Pacific region Juris Gulbis stated, that Abkhazia and Vanuatu plans to sign a framework agreement on cooperation in the field of culture, trade and banking sector. According to him, the Government of Vanuatu twice confirmed the establishment of diplomatic relations with Abkhazia and of their intention to contribute to the development of friendly ties between the two States.[29]

Diplomatic relations are progressing, the Ambassador of Vanuatu for Abkhazia and other countries, including Russia, has been appointed as Mrs. Te Moli Venaos Mol Saken (Thi Tam) Goiset, one of the strongest proponents of Vanuatu recognition of Abkhaz independence.[30] On 28 September 2011, Goiset congratulates to new Abkhaz President Alexander Ankvab on his inauguration.[31] Business relations are established, Abkhazia plans to export wine tu Vanuatu.[32] Travel between the two States to facilitate the introduction of the visa-free regime.

Relations with Palestine

Vanuatu recognized the State of Palestine on 21 August 1989.[33] On 19 October 1989 both States established diplomatic relations. Non-resident embassy of Palestine based in Canberra, Australia.[34]

In 2011, Vanuatu was one of fifteen countries to oppose Palestine's application to join the UNESCO, as part of its bid for greater international recognition. Vanuatu former Foreign Affairs Minister and former chairman of the Vanuatu National Commission for UNESCO Joe Natuman expressed surprise at his country's position, saying it appeared to contradict Vanuatu's long-standing support for Palestine. He raised the issue in Parliament, whereupon Prime Minister Sato Kilman assured him he had not been aware that the country was voting against Palestine's membership of UNESCO, and that he would "review this decision". On that occasion, Kilman reportedly clarified Vanuatu's position with regard to Palestine, saying "Vanuatu will always maintain its position to support the right of the Palestinian people to a homeland but at the same time with Israel existing as a state on its own, with secure borders".[35]

Wantok Blong Yumi Bill: recognition of West Papua

In June 2010, the Parliament of Vanuatu unanimously gave its support to a motion -the Wantok Blong Yumi Bill- clarifying Vanuatu's foreign policy with regards to West Papuan independence claims from Indonesia. The bill -tabled by Independent MP Ralph Regenvanu and supported by Prime Minister Edward Natapei and opposition leader Maxime Carlot Korman- committed Vanuatu to recognising West Papua's independence; to seeking observer status for West Papua in the Melanesian Spearhead Group and in the Pacific Islands Forum; and to "request[ing] [United Nations] General Assembly support for the International Court of Justice to provide an advisory opinion on the process in which the former Netherlands New Guinea was ceded to Indonesia in the 1960s".[36][37][38]

Relations by country

Country Formal Relations Began Notes
 Cuba 1983 See Cuba–Vanuatu relations

Vanuatu and Cuba established official diplomatic relations in 1983.[39]

 France 1980 See France–Vanuatu relations
 Georgia 2013-07-12 See Georgia–Vanuatu relations
  • Georgia and Vanuatu established diplomatic relations on 12 July 2013.
 India 1983 See India–Vanuatu relations
 Libya 1986 See Libya–Vanuatu relations
  • Vanuatu's foreign policy in the 1980s, under Prime Minister Father Walter Lini, was based on refusing alignment with either bloc in the context of the Cold War, distinguishing it from every other country of Oceania, aligned with the West.[41]
 Pakistan See Pakistan–Vanuatu relations
 People's Republic of China 1982-03-26 See People's Republic of China – Vanuatu relations
  • China established an embassy in Vanuatu in 1989, while Vanuatu established an honorary consulate in China in 1999; it officially became an embassy in 2005.[42]
 Russia 1986-06-30 See Russia–Vanuatu relations
  • In 1987, Vanuatu authorised Soviet vessels to fish within Vanuatu's Exclusive Economic Zone, in exchange for economic aid. The agreement lapsed the following year, and was not renewed, due to disagreements over the price to be paid for fishing rights by the USSR.[2]
 South Korea 1980 November 5.[43] See Foreign relations of the Republic of Korea
 United States 1986-09-30 See United States – Vanuatu relations
  • The United States and Vanuatu established diplomatic relations on 30 September 1986 - three months to the day after Vanuatu had established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.[44]

International organizational participation

Regional relations

Vanuatu maintains strong regional ties in the Pacific. It is a full member of the Pacific Islands Forum, the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission, the South Pacific Tourism Organisation, the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. Vanuatu is one of the eight signatories of the Nauru Agreement Concerning Cooperation In The Management Of Fisheries Of Common Interest which collectively controls 25-30% of the world's tuna supply and approximately 60% of the western and central Pacific tuna supply.[45] Vanuatu endorsed the Treaty of Rarotonga (the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty) in 1995.[46]

Extra-regional organizational relations

Vanuatu has been a member of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie since 1979 (the year before it gained independence from France). Vanuatu was admitted to the Commonwealth of Nations in 1980 and to the United Nations in 1981. Vanuatu is currently the only Pacific nation that belongs to the Non-Aligned Movement,

Additionally outside the region, Vanuatu is a member or participant of the ACP (Lomé Convention), the Alliance of Small Island States, Asian Development Bank, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the G-77, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the International Development Association, the International Finance Corporation, the IMF, the International Maritime Organization, the International Olympic Committee, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Universal Postal Union and the World Meteorological Organization. Vanuatu is also a non-signatory user of Intelsat and an applicant to the World Trade Organization.

As with many other nations in Oceania, Vanuatu is not a member of Interpol or of the International Hydrographic Organization.

Vanuatu and the Commonwealth of Nations

Vanuatu has been a Commonwealth republic since 1980, when the Anglo-French Condominium of the New Hebrides became independent.

International disputes

Vanuatu claims Matthew Island and Hunter Island east of New Caledonia

See also


  1. "Uncertainty after Vanuatu's general election", ABC Radio Australia, 9 September 2008
  2. 1 2 3 HUFFER, Elise, Grands hommes et petites îles: La politique extérieure de Fidji, de Tonga et du Vanuatu, Paris: Orstom, 1993, ISBN 2-7099-1125-6, pp.272-282
  3. Ibid
  4. Ibid
  5. Ibid
  6. William F.S. Miles, Bridging Mental Boundaries in a Postcolonial Microcosm: Identity and Development in Vanuatu, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1998, ISBN 0-8248-2048-7, pp.25-7
  8. "La France et le Vanuatu", French Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  9. 1 2 3 "Vanuatu country brief - Vanuatu - Countries and regions - Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade". Retrieved 2013-09-09.
  10. Archived 30 December 2004 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. Archived 30 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. "Minister confirms appointment", Vanuatu Daily Post, 22 May 2009
  13. "Chinese Club donate Vt1.4m supplies to landslide victims", Vanuatu Daily Post, 23 June 2009
  14. "Tiny Pacific Nation of Vanuatu to Join Motley Crew at China’s WWII Anniversary Parade", Time Magazine, 31 August 2015
  15. "Cuban Physicians to Aid 81 Nations", Prensa Latina, 29 March 2008
  16. "Vanuatu to get six doctors from Cuba". Radio New Zealand International. 10 August 2008. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  17. "Cuban Foreign Minister Opens Cuba-Pacific Islands Meeting", Cuban News Agency, 16 September 2008
  18. "Pacific and Cuba meet to discuss co-operation". Radio New Zealand International. 17 September 2008. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  19. "Vanuatu to open diplomatic representation in Morocco". Arabic news. 2000-12-14. Retrieved 2010-06-19.
  20. "Vanuatu and the Saharawi Republic establish diplomatic relations at Ambassadorial level". SPS. 01-08-2008. Retrieved 2010-06-19. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  21. Верительное факсимиле. Kommersant (in Russian). 7 June 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
  22. "Abkhazia & Pacific". Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Abkhazia). Retrieved 1 June 2011.
  23. "Visa-free regime is launched between the Republic of Vanuatu and the Republic of Abkhazia.". Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Abkhazia). 31 May 2011. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  24. "Yes, No, Yes. Vanuatu Clarifies Position on Abkhazia", New York Times, 9 June 2011
  25. "Vanuatu’s recognition to the Republic of Abkhazia", Government of Vanuatu press release, 17 June 2011
  26. "Natapei withdraws recognition of Abkhazia", Vanuatu daily Post, 20 June 2011
  27. "Kilman elected Vanuatu PM - ten days after ouster by court". Radio New Zealand International. 27 June 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  28. "Vanuatu Recognises Abkhazia"
  29. "Новости \ Абхазия и Вануату в ближайшее время планируют подписать соглашения о сотрудничестве в области культуры, торговли и банковской сфере". Retrieved 2013-09-09.
  30. "People's Movements Nagriamel and John Frum (Vanuatu) issue recognition to the people of Abkhazia". 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2013-09-09.
  31. Archived 22 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  33. "File:Vanuatu's Recognation of Palestine.jpg - Wikimedia Commons". Retrieved 2013-09-09.
  34. "The General Delegation of Palestine to Australia and New Zealand :: Greetings from His Excellency Izzat Salah Abdulhadi". 2012-05-25. Retrieved 2013-09-09.
  35. "Former Vanuatu Foreign Minister questions government’s UN stand against Palestinians", Radio New Zealand International, 14 December 2011
  36. "Vanuatu to seek UN General Assembly support for ICJ opinion on Indonesia's Papua". Radio New Zealand International. 23 June 2010. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  37. "Vanuatu’s Parliament Pass Bill in Support for West Papua", Government of Vanuatu
  38. "Vanuatu to seek observer status for West Papua at MSG and PIF leaders summits", Pacific Scoop, 22 June 2010
  39. HUFFER, Elise, Grands hommes et petites îles: La politique extérieure de Fidji, de Tonga et du Vanuatu, Paris: Orstom, 1993, ISBN 2-7099-1125-6, p.275
  40. Indian mission for Vanuatu
  41. HUFFER, Elise, Grands hommes et petites îles: La politique extérieure de Fidji, de Tonga et du Vanuatu, Paris: Orstom, 1993, ISBN 2-7099-1125-6, pp.272–282
  42. "China-Vanuatu Relations", PRC embassy in Vanuatu, 20 June 2008
  43. 1 2
  44. HUFFER, Elise, Grands hommes et petites îles: La politique extérieure de Fidji, de Tonga et du Vanuatu, Paris: Orstom, 1993, ISBN 2-7099-1125-6, p.278
  45. "Pacific islands fighting for their tuna | Klima-Tuvalu". Retrieved 2013-09-09.
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