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Country Profile

Area: 12,336 sq kms
Population: 215,446 (2008 est)
Capital city: Port Vila
People: 98.7 percent of the population are of ni-vanuatu ethnicity. The remaining 1.3 percent of the resident population divides into different ethnic groups (part ni-vanuatu, other Melanesian, Polynesian, Micronesian, European, and Chinese).
Languages: There are over 130 different vernacular languages in use in Vanuatu but Bislama, which has similarities to the pidgin spoken in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, is the lingua franca of the archipelago. Bislama, English and French are the official languages, with the latter two as the principal languages of education.
Religions: Most Christian denominations are represented, with the Presbyterian church being the largest followed by the Anglican, Catholic and Seventh Day Adventist churches.
Currency: Vatu
Major political parties: Union of Moderate Paties (UMP), National United Party (NUP), Vanua'aku Party (VP), Vanuatu Republican Party (VRP), the Confederation of Greens (CG), John Frum group, People's Progressive Party (PPP), National Community Association (NCA).
Government: Vanuatu is a Republic with a democratically elected government. The Non-Executive State President is elected for a 5-year term by an Electoral College comprised of all the MPs (52) plus the Presidents of the six Provincial Councils. Vanuatu has a unicameral parliament of 52 MPs elected for 4-year terms by universal suffrage with an element of proportional representation. The government elects a Speaker from among its own ranks. Twenty-seven MPs are therefore required to form a government.
Head of State: : HE Iolu Abil
Prime Minister: Hon Sato Kilman
Foreign Minister: Hon Alfred Carlot
Membership of international groups/organisations: United Nations (UN), the Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Movement, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

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There is a low to moderate malaria risk, predominantly due to P. falciparum, that exists throughout the year in the whole country. For further information on health related issues in Vanuatu please follow the WHO website listed below.
Source: WHO Source: WHO - ( .

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Basic economic facts

GDP: $721 million (2010 est.)
GDP per capita: $4,800 (2010 est.)
Annual growth: 4.7% (2010)
Inflation: 4.1% (2010 est. )
Population growth: 1.398% (2010 est)
Major industries: Fishing, Offshore Financial Services and Tourism.
Major trading partners: Australia, New Zealand, and the European Union.
Aid and development: Foreign aid continues to play a major role in the economy. Major donor partners are Australia, China, the European Union and New Zealand.

Vanuatu economy is showing signs of moderate rebound with private investment picking up, tourism gradually expanding and agricultural production increasing. GDP is expected to increase by 3.75% in 2011 and strengthen further in 2012. Inflation is expected to reach 4% for the year in 2011. There are limited opportunities to diversify Vanuatu’s economy. (Source: IMF)

The UN classifies Vanuatu as a Least Developed Country.

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Formerly the British/French Condominium of the New Hebrides (created in 1906 as a response to German expansion in the region), Vanuatu gained its independence on 31 July 1980.

Despite its numerous changes of government in recent years, Vanuatu is generally one of the most socially stable and peaceful countries within the region.

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Vanuatu's relations with its neighbours

Regionally Vanuatu is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and hosts the MSG’s Secretariat in Port Vila.

Vanuatu's relations with the international community

Vanuatu is a member of the UN, the Commonwealth, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, ACP, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Banks, the Non-Aligned Movement and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Vanuatu has diplomatic relations with several countries. There are a few diplomatic missions in Port Vila and the European Commission and other multilateral organisations are also represented. There are also a number of Honorary Consulates. Members of Vanuatu's Mobile and Police Forces have served in UN Peacekeeping missions in East Timor and Bosnia, in the Regional Assistance Mission (RAMSI) in the Solomon Islands and in the Peace Monitoring Group in Bougainville.

Vanuatu's relations with the UK

Bilateral relations between the UK and Vanuatu are good.

Diplomatic representation

The British High Commissioner to Vanuatu resides in Fiji. The New Zealand High Commission in Port Vila provides routine consular services for British nationals. The EU resident Vanuatu High Commissioner is also accredited to the United Kingdom.

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Vanuatu comprises a Y shaped chain of 83 islands in the South Pacific, stretching 1176 km in a north-south direction between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn. The islands have two main geological origins, coral formation and volcanic activity. The country covers an area of about 860,000 sq kms, although only 12,336 sq km of that is land, much of which is covered by natural rainforest vegetation. The capital, Port Vila, on Efate island, is situated some 2250 kms north east of Sydney. The only other significant urban centre, Luganville, is on the country’s largest island of Espiritu Santo.

Cyclone season in Vanuatu is from November to April however tropical storms and cyclones may occur in other months. Vanuatu is located on the Pacific 'Ring of Fire', an area where many earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions can occur. Vanuatu Geohazards Observatory issue alerts for Earthquake and Volcanic activities and Tsunamis.

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UK development assistance

The UK Government's engagement in the Pacific is largely delivered through multilateral organisations including the United Nations, the Commonwealth, European Union, World and Asian Development banks. The UK actively supports the development of work programmes in those organisations and contributes significantly to funding their activities.

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Party politics in Vanuatu is in a continuous state of flux with splits and coalitions commonplace. Although slowly diminishing, the Anglo/French divide continues to be important in politics, with parties generally being either predominantly Anglophone or Francophone.

The Constitution dictates that the President serves a five-year term and is elected by secret ballot by the members of the Electoral College. The current State President, Iolu Abil, was elected on 2 September 2009.

Recent political developments

Vanuatu's most recent general election was held on 2 September 2008. All 52 seats in the constituencies were contested. Edward Natapei was elected Prime Minister.

On December 2, 2010, Edward Natapei's government was ousted in a vote of no confidence, and Parliament elected Sato Kilman to replace him. On April 24, 2011 Parliament ousted Prime Minister Sato Kilman by twenty-six votes to twenty-five in a motion of no confidence. Serge Vohor (Union of Moderate Parties) was elected new Prime Minister. This decision was challenged and on 13 May 2011 the Court of Appeal reinstated Sato Kilman as the Prime Minister ruling that the 26 vote was not an absolute majority as the Speaker had not cast a vote. Another vote of no confidence motion on 20 May 2011, this time with the Speaker’s vote, returned the government alliance led by Prime Minister Sato Kilman with 27 votes to 25.

Of the 16 UN Human Rights treaties, Vanuatu has signed and ratified the Intl Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), acceded to the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW, signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed and ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in armed conflict, signed and ratified the Optional Protocol to the convention on the rights of the child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and signed the Intl Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

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Last Updated: May 2011

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