France and Vanuatu
France maintains regular political dialogue with Vanuatu based on the close geographical location of New Caledonia.
The French humanitarian response to Hurricane Pam was swift. Right after the hurricane hit, France sent a first reconnaissance flight and an assessment team to Port Vila with humanitarian and communication equipment cargo. France’s humanitarian effort amounted to more than €2 million for Vanuatu. Nearly 300 French military personnel and emergency workers were involved in this humanitarian operation from 15 March to 5 April 2015. More than 114 tonnes of humanitarian cargo was sent in national navy ships and their helicopters and CASA air force planes.
These planes conducted more than 30 transport and health evacuation missions from Tanna to the Port Vila hospital. The communities of New Caledonia and French Polynesia have both contributed significantly to humanitarian assistance and its transport. The Airbus Helicopters Foundation provided two aircraft to emergency teams in Port Vila and the EDF Foundation, with the support of the New Caledonian armed forces, contributed to the restoration of a portion of the electricity grids. Humanitarian associations were also mobilized including the French Red Cross, CARE, Electricians Without Borders, Doctors of the World and Doctors Without Borders, and Telecoms Without Borders.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vanuatu met with the Minister of State, Alain Juppé, in Paris on 17 April 2012.
Philippe Germain, President of the New Caledonian Government visited Port Vila on 1 April 2016 with heads of Caledonian companies in order to support business activities and strengthen cooperation in the area of education in particular.
Although trade between France and Vanuatu remains weak (€6 million in 2015) due to this narrow market, France remains one of the main foreign investors behind Australia, Japan and New Zealand. There have been investments made in the agri-food sector, the banking sector, water and sanitation, energy distribution and real estate. Metropolitan France is the leading supplier excluding neighbouring countries.
France’s cooperation with Vanuatu is part of a strategy to integrate French Pacific communities in their regional environment.
Strong sectors for our cooperation are traditionally education (scholarships, support for schools) and health (modernizing healthcare facilities).
It is based on several complementary pillars.
The French Development Agency (AFD): in recent years, it served as an agency for projects funded by France in the area of infrastructures: renovation of airports (Malakula, Aoba, Pentecost, Tanna Islands) and healthcare facilities (hospital in Luganville on Santo island, nursing school). The Tanna Airport, renovated and enlarged with AFD funds, was connected to the electricity grid by Unelco, a subsidiary of GDF/Suez-
The Pacific Fund. It can be used for economic, social and cultural cooperation projects involving a French Pacific community. Vanuatu is the leading beneficiary of the Pacific Fund.
The bilateral cooperation budget of the French Embassy in Port Vila. This focuses on projects in education, training of high ranking figures and cultural outreach.
As regards Francophonie, bilingualism is recognized in Vanuatu’s constitution. French and English are the languages used for teaching in Vanuatu and the country seeks to establish true bilingualism in its education system. A Francophone bachelor’s degree in Economic and Social Administration was introduced in Port Vila in April 2013 in collaboration with the University Agency for Francophonie (AUF) and the University of Toulouse I Capitole. The network of Alliances françaises boasts 2,000 members. Around 35% of Vanuatu’s population speaks French.
Lastly, the success of the first French-speaking university curriculum in Port Vila established in partnership with the University of Toulouse and the AUF in 2013 on French funds led Vanuatu’s Government to endorse the development project of the national university in August 2016.
This project was modelled after French universities and is a real step forward for Francophonie.
Relations between New Caledonia and Vanuatu
Relations between New Caledonia and Vanuatu are governed by a cooperation agreement for France, New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Concluded in 2002 and extended in 2006 and 2010, this agreement was renewed a fourth time on 23 February 2015. This agreement focuses on the following priorities: economic development, education, improving the employability of young people, technology transfer and research, culture and sports, health, good governance and decentralized cooperation. Its financing is ensured by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development (Pacific Fund) and the Government of New Caledonia. The annual meeting of the joint France/New Caledonia/Vanuatu commission created by the agreement defines the projects to conduct. For the first time in its history, it was held entirely in French, since 100% of the Vanuatu delegation spoke French.
Bilateral military cooperation
As regards defence, cooperation projects were conducted by the New Caledonian Armed Forces (FANC) with Vanuatu, focused on monitoring Vanuatu’s Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), training and civil assistance, with Castor operations to renovate public buildings. An agreement in the form of an exchange of letters, on the status of French forces in Vanuatu was signed in Port Vila on 6 and 7 July 2011 and published in the Journal Officiel (official gazette) on 30 November 2011.