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Land Reform in Vanuatu

Published: October 15, 2014, Author: dinagw

In Vanuatu, in the South Pacific’s Melanesia, land ownership is based on a traditional land tenure system. 80% of the land is held by extended families, but land laws and corrupt politics have favored international interests, making Vanuatu a tax haven and investment opportunity for the tourist industry. The result has been that 56% of the coastal land has fallen into 75 year leases held by foreigners, perpetuating poverty, deforestation, and accelerating loss of subsistence livelihoods.

New land laws now attempts to take power away from the corrupting influences of politicians and place it into the hands of the people, thanks to an indigenous leader who was appointed lands minister in 2013. Under the new laws power based on the unilateral action of the minister gives way to a process of informed consent based on customary practice. While there seems to be conflict on how those customary practices will play out in the law, it is nonetheless interesting to see the concept of “free, prior, and informed consent”–language clearly influenced by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples– making its way into local law.

Chief George Manuel Memorial Indigenous Library

The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.

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