The Republic of Vanuatu is an island state in the South Pacific Ocean, made up of a Melanesian archipelago of more than 80 islands. Most of these islands have volcanic origin, and only 67 are inhabited. The administration of the island state is divided into six provinces: Malampa, Penama, Sanma, Shefa, Tafea and Torba. Espiritu Santo and Malakula are the two largest islands. However, Port Vila, capital of Vanuatu, is located on the much smaller island of Efate and, with about 44,000 inhabitants, is the largest urban settlement of the entire archipelago. Vanuatu's urban population is quite small, comprising 26 per cent of the total population. Hurricanes and storm tides repeatedly devastate the group of islands, and the people in the immediate coastal areas and in urban slums are most severely affected. Cyclone Pam in April 2015 left the country severely devastated. More than half of the nation's population, or about 166,000 people, were affected. In Port Vila, the cyclone damaged or destroyed nearly 90 per cent of the houses, leaving more than 111,000 people in the state without access to safe drinking water immediately after the event.
Despite its small urban population, Vanuatu has made several efforts to address the issue of urbanisation in the country. Vanuatu is an active member in all Pacific Urban Forums and contributed significantly to the formulation of the Pacific Urban Agenda in April 2015, which highlights urban equity as one of the main pillars for sustainable urban development in the Pacific. Vanuatu is also spearheading the discussion on the localisation of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by holding national consultations on the issue. Port Vila is a member of the UN-Habitat Cities and Climate Change Initiative (CCCI) whereby the draft report on the Climate Vulnerability Assessment acknowledges that informal settlements are a hotspot for extreme climate events.
Vanuatu is currently in Phase 1 of the program. The PSUP is implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the three cities of Port Vila, Luganville and Lenakel. Through the PSUP, the partner ministry as well as other ministries, the three participating urban councils and community members have been trained on participatory processes in decision making, urban assessment, results-based management, gender and youth in the city and the human rights-based approach. They have also been sensitised on planning, basic urban services, and housing and land issues in connection with slums in urban areas.
This has allowed the PSUP country team to contribute to the World Bank findings for a National Housing Policy and will also enable the Government of Vanuatu to incorporate outcomes of the PSUP in the global debate in preparation for Habitat III for Housing and Sustainable Urban Development.
The established PSUP country team with its improved knowledge on addressing urban issues was also key in providing guidance after cyclone Pam in April 2015. This event devastated the country, with the slum areas being hit the hardest. Therefore, UN-Habitat is taking the lead in the formulation of the National Urban Shelter and Recovery Strategy within the Shelter Working Group. This involves coordination with shelter and urban actors on early recovery and community livelihoods, whereby the principles of PSUP and the People’s Process have been mainstreamed in the whole recovery and rehabilitation process.