A former British-French Condominium until independance in 1980, Vanuatu has very close cultural links to New Caledonia and has a special relationship with France, which is shown through regular meetings (visit by Prime Minister of Vanuatu to Paris in November 2015 for the France-Oceania Summit, meetings with the French Minister of Foreign Affairs in January 2017 in Paris and then again in May 2018 in Nouméa).
Cooperation activities are regulated by a France-New Caledonia-Vanuatu convention signed in 2002 and renewed for the fourth time on 23 February 2015. The annual meeting of the Joint Committee founded by the convention decides which projects should be implemented. France supports Francophonie-related projects through the Agence Française de Développement, the Pacific Fund and the French Embassy in Port-Vila starting with the development of the national university which was inaugurated on 17 February 2017.
Vanuatu is a trilingual nation with English, French and Bichlamar recognized in the constitution as offficial language. Some 40% of the population are thought to be French speakers and they are concentrated mainly on Espiritu Santo. Vanuatu is the only Oceanian State in the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) and was joined during the last summit in Madagascar on 27 November 2016 by New Caledonia (as an observer State).
While Vanuatu does not have an army per se, the New Caledonia Armed Forces (FANC) maintain relations with the coastguard to monitor the Vanuatu EEZ, training and civilian assistance. The FANC is also involved in the field of infrastructure through the “Castor” project which was last held in June 2017 (largely financed by the Pacific Fund and topped up by the Département.
As one of the four Least Developed Countries (LDC) in Océania, the Republic of Vanuatu is highly vulnerable to natural risks (the cost of damage related to cyclone Pam was equal to two thirds of GDP according to the World Bank). Within the framework of the FRANZ agreements (France-Australia-New-Zealand, for the coordination of post-catastrophe response), France is involved on a large scale in the humanitarian operations which followed the devastating cyclone Pam and, more recently, following the volcanic erruption on Ambae Island.
Updated: 14 June 2018