39 Facts About Vanuatu


Vanuatu's name derives from the word vanua, which occurs in several Austronesian languages, combined with the word tu, meaning "to stand" (from POc *).

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The formerly widespread idea that Vanuatu might have been only marginally affected by this culture was rendered obsolete by the evidence uncovered in recent decades at numerous sites on most of the islands in the archipelago, ranging from the Banks Islands in the north to Aneityum in the south.

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However, over the centuries pottery, settlement and burial practices in Vanuatu all evolved in a more localised direction, with long-distance trade and migration patterns contracting.

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Linguistically, however, the Lapita peoples' Austronesian languages were maintained, with all of the numerous 100+ autochthonous languages of Vanuatu being classified as belonging to the Oceanic branch of the Austronesian language family.

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Relations with the Ni-Vanuatu were initially friendly, though due to poor treatment of the local people by the Spanish, the situation soon soured and turned violent.

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Hostilities between settlers and Ni-Vanuatu were commonplace, often centring on disputes over land which had been purchased in dubious circumstances.

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Whilst this resulted in some improvements, labour abuses continued and Ni-Vanuatu were barred from acquiring the citizenship of either power, being officially stateless.

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Ni-Vanuatu began gradually to take over more positions of power and influence within the economy and the church.

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Meanwhile, French settlers, and Francophone and mixed-race Ni-Vanuatu, established two separate parties on a platform of more gradual political development – the Mouvement Autonomiste des Nouvelles-Hebrides, based on Espiritu Santo, and the Union des Communautes des Nouvelles-Hebrides (UCNH) on Efate.

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In March 1977 a joint Anglo-French and Ni-Vanuatu conference was held in London, at which it was agreed to hold fresh Assembly elections and later an independence referendum in 1980; the VP boycotted the conference and the subsequent election in November.

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New Hebrides, now renamed Vanuatu, achieved independence as planned on 30 July 1980 under Prime Minister Walter Lini, with a ceremonial President replacing the Resident Commissioners.

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However, the democratic system as a whole has been maintained and Vanuatu remains a peaceful and reasonably prosperous state.

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Vanuatu was removed from the OECD list of 'uncooperative tax havens' in 2003 and joined the World Trade Organization in 2011.

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Vanuatu was one of the last places on Earth to have avoided a coronavirus outbreak, recording its first case of COVID-19 in November 2020.

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The highest point in Vanuatu is Mount Tabwemasana, at 1, 879 metres, on the island of Espiritu Santo.

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Vanuatu is recognised as a distinct terrestrial ecoregion, which is known as the Vanuatu rain forests.

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Vanuatu has a long rainy season, with significant rainfall almost every month.

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Republic of Vanuatu is a parliamentary democracy with a written constitution, which declares that the "head of the Republic shall be known as the President and shall symbolise the unity of the nation.

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Parliament of Vanuatu is unicameral and has 52 members, who are elected by popular vote every four years unless earlier dissolved by a majority vote of a three-quarters quorum or by a directive from the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.

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Government and society in Vanuatu tend to divide along linguistic French and English lines.

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Vanuatu has joined the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Agence de Cooperation Culturelle et Technique, la Francophonie and the Commonwealth of Nations.

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Direct aid from the UK to Vanuatu ceased in 2005 following the decision by the UK to no longer focus on the Pacific.

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In March 2017, at the 34th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, Vanuatu made a joint statement on behalf of some other Pacific nations raising human rights abuses in the Western New Guinea or West Papua region, which has been part of Indonesia since 1963, and requested that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights produce a report as more than 100, 000 Papuans allegedly have died during decades of Papua conflict.

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Vanuatu retains strong economic and cultural ties to Australia, the European Union, the UK and New Zealand.

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The UK High Commission to Vanuatu, located in Port Vila, was re-opened in the summer of 2019 as part of the UK Government's 'Pacific Uplift' strategy.

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In 2017, Vanuatu signed the UN treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

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In 2018, Vanuatu banned all use of plastic bags and plastic straws, with more plastic items scheduled to be banned in 2020.

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Vanuatu is widely recognised as one of the premier vacation destinations for scuba divers wishing to explore coral reefs of the South Pacific region.

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Vanuatu is a tax haven that until 2008 did not release account information to other governments or law-enforcement agencies.

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In Vanuatu, there is no income tax, withholding tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, or exchange control.

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Vanuatu receives foreign aid mainly from Australia and New Zealand.

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Vanuatu became the 185th member of the World Intellectual Property Organization in December 2011.

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Vanuatu was ranked the 173rd safest investment destination in the world in the March 2011 Euromoney Country Risk rankings.

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In 2015, Vanuatu was ranked the 84th most economically free country by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal.

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Vanuatu sells citizenship for about $150, 000, and its passports allow visa-free travel throughout Europe.

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In 2006 the New Economics Foundation and Friends of the Earth environmentalist group published the Happy Planet Index, which analysed data on levels of reported happiness, life expectancy and Ecological Footprint, and they estimated Vanuatu to be the most ecologically efficient country in the world in achieving high well-being.

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The sale of what is called "honorary citizenship" in Vanuatu has been on offer for several years under the Capital Investment Immigration Plan and more recently the Development Support Plan.

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About one-third of the population belongs to the Presbyterian Church in Vanuatu, making Vanuatu the most Presbyterian country in the world.

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Vanuatu culture retains a strong diversity through local regional variations and through foreign influence.

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