English  |  Español  |  Français

Vanuatu - Country Profile

Show map

Status and Trends of Biodiversity


At present little is known about the full range of flora and fauna of Vanuatu. As a result of changing land uses, most significantly increased commercial and subsistence agriculture, and forest activities, the area of primary and secondary forest has declined. In preparing its National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy, Vanuatu has identified plant species, animal species and areas of significance for biodiversity conservation. Plant species identified for conservation include Agathissilbae(Kauri), Bambusasop (Bamboo, Agathis macrophyum(Keuri), Calamusvanuatuensis Cordylinefruticosa(Nangaria), Agathissilbae(Kauri), (Rattan), and Cyatheaceasspp (Tree Ferns). These animal species for conservation include all flying-fox species, all land crabs and some mountain pigeons. The threats to Vanuatu’s biodiversity include overharvesting and increasingly commercial use of biodiversity.

Number and Extent of Protected Areas

Vanuatu has established 28 protected areas, 5 of which are marine protected areas.

Percentage of Forest Cover

Vanuatu’s forest cover is 447,000 ha, with 444,000 ha for natural forests and 3,000 ha for plantation areas.

National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan

Major features of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

Vanuatu completed its National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy in 1999. The strategy highlights six key objectives for effective management of biological resources: (a) Ensure sustainable management and conservation of Vanuatu's biodiversity; (b) Develop appropriate policy, planning and legal mechanisms for the management of biodiversity; (c) Improve knowledge about biodiversity in Vanuatu; (d) Improve the capacity of national, provincial, NGO and community organisations to manage biodiversity; (e) Increase local awareness of the importance and value of biodiversity; (f) Foster community participation in the management and conservation of biodiversity. The strategy has identified 20 priority actions to meet the objectives mentioned above.

Implementation of the Convention

Initiatives in Protected Areas

The focus of much present work in country is on resource use and management systems that are both applicable and practical at a local level and that are compatible with in-situ conservation of biodiversity. Support will be needed for monitoring to document the effectiveness of these approaches; extension services to promote and expand awareness of compatible resource use systems. Significant gains have initially been made in the Fisheries sector, but much work is still required for forest and agricultural ecosystems.

Initiatives in Access and Benefit Sharing

Access to genetic resources is an important issue in Vanuatu, and complicated by the fact that land and the resources associated with land belong to the traditional landholders and cannot be alienated. Particular priority has been given to identifying ways to protect the property rights of Vanuatu people to their knowledge and use of biodiversity, including local cultivars of subsistence and commercial crops. This results from a strong perception that local knowledge of biodiversity and its uses have been exploited in recent times, with inadequate recognition of benefits to local peoples. Policy, planning and legal mechanisms that monitor, facilitate and regulate access to genetic resources, and provide a means of protecting the rights of traditional landholders are being discussed and developed. Proposals are being drafted for a Scientific Research Council to facilitate and monitor biodiversity related research, and licensing of bio-prospecting activities in the context of environmental legislation. At present relevant government departments are discussing appropriate responses in this regard, together with key interest groups. Legal provisions requiring formal prior informed consent apply to cultural research in fields such as anthropology, archaeology, linguistics etc. Temporary provisions applying to other forms of scientific research are not in place to formally require informed consent prior to research commencing. It is hoped that as this system is refined and legalised, such provisions can be included and enforced.

Initiatives for Article 8(j)

The Constitution gives clear recognition to the rights and interests of traditional landholders, who remain the principal managers and users of biological resources and systems in Vanuatu. Objectives 2, 4 and 6 of Vanuatu’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan contain priority actions that relate specifically to the maintenance of, and respect for, the traditional practices and innovations of Vanuatu people.

Under a capacity building enabling activity a working group has been established to discuss priority concerns relating to the maintenance of and respect for traditional practices and innovations. Priority needs relate to the documentation of traditional knowledge and practices; the management and application of this information; and formal recognition of traditional biodiversity knowledge and management systems within modern legal and administrative systems.

Priority has also been given to discussions around the equitable sharing of benefits from the wider use of traditional knowledge and innovations. Administrative systems to protect the rights to traditional information and innovations have been incorporated into draft environmental legislation, and into administrative systems to monitor and facilitate research.

The Vanuatu Cultural Centre is a key partner in work to record, preserve and maintain traditional practices and innovations. Its network of voluntary field workers has demonstrated valuable capacity to gather information from the many cultural groups in the country. Provisions for protection of expressions of indigenous knowledge have been included in the Copyright Bill and in the draft Trademarks, Patents and Designs Bills which are currently before parliament. The Malvatamauri (National Body of Chiefs) has a national policy that clearly protects rights to indigenous knowledge, but this has limited legal status. The Vanuatu National Cultural Centre has a national research policy that includes conditions relating to the use of indigenous knowledge and expressions, and this policy is supported by legislation.

Rate this page - 69 people have rated this page 
  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme