Civil Society Briefs: Vanuatu
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Important concepts for understanding civil society in Vanuatu are wantok, “big man,” and kastom. Wantok are the ties that bind kinship, language, and clan groups, and these ties can cut across organizational and political groups, including civil society. Wantok ensures a high level of community participation and social protection, but it also creates reciprocity and obligations between kin. The related concept of “big men” is also important in Vanuatu, which ties in with the chiefly system and those who can earn power and status by working for the community. In addition to the chiefly system, many of the earliest civil society organizations (CSOs) in the Pacific were established by missionaries, who, in addition to their religious roles, formed youth and women’s groups.
The ADB has been working with Vanuatu since 1981 and In 2016, opened an extended mission in Vanuatu, further strengthening ADB’s in-country presence. ADB-supported activities involving civil society in Vanuatu include supporting the preparation of the National Sustainable Development Plan and the Vanuatu Women’s Development Scheme (VANWODS). ADB has been supporting VANWODS to upgrade its institutional capacity and governance arrangements. Following Cyclone Pam, support focused on rebuilding and restoring VANWODS facilities and equipment to enable its operations to continue following the cyclone. ADB in Vanuatu is also involved with the Coral Triangle Initiative.