The Ministry of Justice in 2006 when it was basically set up, was seen as a small ministry with a small portfolio. This was because the different institutions that operated and provided the law and Justice Services to the country since independence, used to operate independently under their own various Constitutional and Statutory Mandates, or Laws.
From 2006 onward, the Government made some important policy decisions that had seen changes especially such as from prisons to Correctional Services Department that has come under the Ministry of Justice and put the Ministry of Justice and Social Welfare in the spotlight publicly speaking.
Major and important Reform
Also on Tuesday 5th August 2008, the Council of Ministers (COM), made an important decision in the history of Vanuatu's Government machinery structures and this was to move some very important constitutional and statutory bodies, Government departments, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and Social Welfare. This also included responsibility for some important civil society organization (CSU's) or NGO's, such as the Vanuatu National Council of Women.
The Government has gone as far as giving Medal Awards to volunteers Workers, by the President of the Republic, and recognizing the value of voluntary work by its NGO partners under these Untied Nation Conventions.
A new Vanuatu Law and Justice Sector strategy and action plan 2009-2014-Major Development
A very important milestone and a major step forward for the country is the recent development of the Vanuatu Law and Justice Sector Strategy and Action Plan 2009-2014 which all the fifteen(15) bodies endorsed and the council of Ministers recently approved on Thursday 16th 2009.
The Implementation of this strategy will be overseen by the Law and Justice Agency Head Group made up of Honourable Chief Justice, Attorney General, Public Prosecutor, Public Solicitor, Ombudsman, President of National Council of Chiefs, President of the National Council of Women, Commissioner of Police, Commander of the Vanuatu Mobile Force, and other head of the key institutions and Civil Society groups appointed by the Minister under the strategy and action plan.
1.2 Institutional Settings
The Ministry of Justice and Social Welfare was only formed in 2006, with a key objective of managing and administering institutions and bodies within the justice system of Vanuatu. The Ministry also has the objectives of setting policy directions for Government to adopt in the areas of justice, Social welfare, court systems, rule of law and the legal profession. The development of national policies is becoming a significant feature of the role of the Ministry as Vanuatu crosses over the first 30 years of becoming an independent nation. The national policies are in the general areas of women, children, disability, civil society, custom institutions and religious institutions. While the Ministry of Justice & Social Welfare is not regarded as a " senior ministry" it carries an important role in ensuring that justice prevails in Vanuatu at all times and especially in the running of Government.
The Ministry of Justice and Social Welfare is also tasked with the work of administering several constitutional bodies such as the Judicial Services Commission, Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs, and Electoral Commission. These linkages are crucial in ensuring that justice prevails in the executive arms of government.
Since 2006, the Ministry of Justice and Social Welfare has taken on board the Vanuatu Correctional Services, a sector which was reformed and now removed from Police. This new edition has created an increase burden on the ministry, because it involves the running and administration of our correctional system, which has the principal function of complimenting the criminal justice system.
In August 2008, the council of Ministers passed a Resolution to change the name of the Ministry to "Ministry of Justice and community Services". This name was to marked the approval of Government to create a new ministry to oversee the 'Law & justice sector' in Vanuatu. This is also to involve the transfer, movement and re-alignment of relevant departments, commission, statutory bodies, offices and agencies under newly named Ministry.
Beginning 2009, the Ministry has approved the need to implement hey international Human right conventions that Vanuatu ratified, given that these conventions impinge on the notion of justice, good governance & welfare in Vanuatu. Therefore, in 2009, the Ministry formed the National Children's Committee, the National CDAW Committee to increase its structure to include new positions who will have direct functions in assisting Government implementation and advise over these convention.
The Role of the Ministry of Justice and Social Welfare in Government and country in 2009 and Onwards.
The Council of Ministers Decided in COM Resolution No 101/2008 on Tuesday 5th August 2008, which the Ministry of Justice and Social Welfare be responsible for the following:
• Constitutional Bodies
• Statutory Bodies
• Government Departments
• Non-Government Organizations, and
• Agencies as Listed Below:
o The Judiciary and Judicial Services Commission
o The Ombudsman
o The Public Prosecutor
o The Public Solicitor
o The Auditor General
o The Valuer General
o The Law Reform Commission
o The Land Tribunal
o Women Affairs
o Correctional Services Department
o Department of Women Affairs
o Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs
o United Nation Convention on the Rights of Children
o United Nation Convention on Persons with Disability
o United Nations Convention on Women
International Organizations' that the Ministry of Justice Occasionally liaises with and signs MOU's for the Project Support and also receives Technical Assistance from for the above bodies includes, but not limited to;
• The United Nations, especially UNICEF, UNIFEM, and UNDP
• The Commission Pacific Forum
• The World Bank
• The International Monetary Fund
• Regional NGO RRT and
These Bodies will prioritize the law and Justice sector development needs and advise Government on it and also on the sector policy development for the country.
Also included with these are the Ministry's Civil Society's Partners (CSO's/NGO's), such as the National Council of Women, Women's Centre, Vanuatu Disable Society, Disability Advocacy, and wan Smol bag recently, Save the Children, UNICEF, UNIFEM, in regard to Human Right, Good Governance and Anti-Corruption issues. The kind of work includes signed Annual Work Plans for the implementation of Vanuatu's obligation under United Nation Human Rights Convention.
The Objective of the Ministry is to ensure that it works effectively with the above Bodies to develop the Ministry's and their individual policies, strategies and action plans that deliver the services that are meant to provide to the Government and the People of Vanuatu and also Regional and Global Organization outside of Vanuatu.
The core business of the Department is strategic policy development and program implementation through strategic networking's and partnerships on women and gender. Children's Welfare and person with disability welfare.
And to ensure that all aspect of the work of the Department seek to advance their status and enhance their lives.
The program objective us to ensure equality for all in the following strategic areas;
• Economic empowerment of Vanuatu Women (poverty eradication)
• Gender mainstreaming (equity and equality\0
• Violence against women
• Improved women health
• Improved women literacy
Gender and Development
Increasing awareness of social equity and discrimination issues is evident in public in Vanuatu. The government is a signatory to the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and to conventions on disability and the rights of children, reflecting heightened recognition of the need to support the principles of equity and respect, to eliminate discriminatory policies and practises, and to protect all citizens, young and old.
The government plans to promote gender equity and to support the principles CEDW and the other conventions actively. The Department of Women's Affairs, for example, has recently sought donor funding to assess the extent to which its own programs and those of other departments have contributed to promoting gender equity and improving the status of women, and to prioritize initiatives on the basis of the findings.
Vanuatu Women in Development Schemem (VANWODS) does provide microcredit to women in support of the activities such as hadcrafts.
In 2008 the Department experience considerable difficulties with the security of the Correctional Centres culminating in the destruction of Stade correctional centre. The New Zealand government agreed to fund 44 million vatu for the reestablishment of temporary corrections facilities including a new high security centre.