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All children have value in life. They have a right to grow and develop in an environment that is safe, protective, caring and free from all forms of abuse, exploitation, neglect and violence so that they can enjoy a full and decent life in dignity. Keeping children safe and protected is everyone’s responsibility and the Government of Vanuatu is committed to work with all stakeholders to ensure this happens.
For the purpose of this Policy a child is defined as: ‘every human being below the age of eighteen years’.1
Studies, research and consultations undertaken in Vanuatu over the past years identify a range of abuses faced by children. These include sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect and harmful traditional practices. Children are made significantly more vulnerable to abuses during emergencies, which is particularly relevant in a country that is as disaster prone as Vanuatu.
Threats related to cyberspace and information communications technology (ICT), in particular the use of internet, are a new and unexplored area in Vanuatu although findings of a small ‘test’ assessment in one Port Vila school in 2013 identified that online bullying, illicit content and online threats are taking place.2 The potential for grooming, fraud, cyber bullying and online child pornography is significant, in light of worldwide research that has been undertaken around internet related child abuse.
Although progress has been made to strengthen protection systems for children in Vanuatu (including adoption of the Family Protection Act in 2008), gaps remain particularly in relation to policy development, regulatory and legislative enforcement, mainstreaming of child protection across all sectors, and organizational structures to provide co-ordination and oversight. A National Children’s Policy developed in 2007 (which expired in 2011) did not contain any specific provisions for children’s protection from abuse, exploitation, neglect, or violence but did discuss the risky situations that children in especially difficult circumstances can face.
This National Child Protection Policy is therefore the first to set a strategic and high level direction for child protection and for the development and strengthening of the child protection system in the country. Its development has been informed largely by the Child Protection Systems Mapping exercise undertaken in 2011 (and updated in 2014) as well as the Policy Directives and Action Plan for Protection of Ni Vanuatu Children (2012). These key documents suggest that given the limited funding available in Vanuatu to expand formal child protection services, the logistical challenges in providing services to remote islands, and the cultural barriers that need to be addressed to protect children from abuse and exploitation, a child protection system is needed that builds on positive traditional community-based systems (kastom, religion) whilst strengthening mechanisms within the formal sector (Education, Health, Judiciary, Police, etc.).
The task of developing and implementing a child protection system is therefore not only for the Government but requires the engagement and commitment of multiple stakeholders at national, provincial and community levels, working collaboratively and co-operatively towards a shared and common goal of creating an environment where children of, or living in Vanuatu are safe and protected from abuse, exploitation, neglect and violence, and have access to services to support their recovery when needed. Policy Statement
The Government of Vanuatu is committed to leading in the development and implementation of child protection systems to ensure the protection of children from abuse, exploitation, neglect and violence at national, provincial and community level in line with international and national obligations; and through building on positive customary practice.