Disability bai no limitim: Vanuatu Electoral Office, Civil Registration and Identity Management Department and Partners Launch Registration Campaign for People with Disabilities

February 23, 2024

Guests at the Vanuatu Electoral Office, Civil Registration and Identity Management Department and Partners Launch Registration Campaign for People with Disabilities.

Photo: UNDP

Vanuatu - Ensuring People with Disabilities (PWD) are visible, have access to government services, and are enfranchised as voters has always been a challenge in Vanuatu, but also around the world.  The Civil Registration and Identity Management Department (CRIM), Vanuatu Electoral Office (VEO), Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Justice and Community Services (MOJCS), and other partners, such as Vanuatu Society for People with Disabilities (VSPD), are working together to drive a campaign to increase the registration of people with disabilities. 

To be able to be counted as voters and access various services it is important that all persons with disability have a national identity card and they are registered with the Disability Desk Officers of Ministry of Justice and Community Services (MOJCS). As important elections for Sanma Provincial Council, by-elections in Ambrym and the National Referendum are inching closer, it is essential that all voters have updated their information. 

To encourage persons with disability to identify themselves and get registered, the VEO, CRIM, Disability Desk Officers of MOJCS and VSPD along with other partners launched the Accessibility in Elections film and a song at VSPD on Friday 23 February 2024.  

CRIM has been developing a new National ID civil registry database and population register, supported by UNDP’s Vanuatu Electoral Environment Project (VEEP) funded by New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT). The database captures information on people with disabilities so that their information can be used for planning and targeted support. It is important to note that having accurate data is the first step to empowering people. 

The registration efforts and database are part of a larger People with Disabilities (PWD) strategy of the Vanuatu Electoral Office (VEO), empowering every citizen to be able to vote.  VEO is committed to making sure people with disabilities engage meaningfully in elections at all levels, from voting to contesting in every election.  VEO and CRIM joint teams are already going out to communities to register every individual specially those of 18 years and above to make sure no one is left behind. 

Speaking on behalf of VEO and CRIM, the Principle Electoral Officer Guillain Malessas in his remarks said that the electoral office believes that no citizens should be left behind when it comes to exercising their right to vote and participate in public life. He said CRIM and VEO were undertaking joint field work across the country to verify voter information ahead of the National Referendum. He also strongly encouraged persons with disabilities to self-identify themselves to provide accurate data. 

He said the Civil Registration and Identity Management (CRIM) Department has already issued National Identity Cards to 97% of the population of Vanuatu and it is now working hard to register the remaining 3%. 

The National Human Rights Coordinator of the Ministry of Justice & Community Services, Albert Nalpini, in his remarks said that the Disability Desk of the Ministry was working with all key stakeholders and departments like VEO and CRIM to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. He said close cooperation and coordination between various government departments was important. 

Principle Electoral Officer Guillain Malessas.

Photo: UNDP

Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Vanuatu Society for People with Disabilities, Sherol George, said there was a need to engage with persons with disability based on the principle of “nothing for us without us”. She said it was great to see that the VSPD and persons with disabilities were being consulted and included in the registration and awareness campaigns. 

Chief Technical Advisor of UNDP/VEEP Project, Anne-Sofie Gerhard, in her remarks said the political inclusion of all people living with physical, psychosocial, or intellectual disabilities, both visible and invisible, is imperative for a thriving and vibrant democracy. “The Vanuatu Electoral Environment Project is pleased to join hands with our local counterparts for inclusive elections. We believe today’s launch will go a long way in achieving of our shared goal of leaving no one behind and making every vote count!” she said. 

While registration is only one small part of ensuring people with disabilities vote, VEO and CRIM are working together to support other components of enfranchisement, such as infrastructure or bringing elections to those who cannot travel. The new Electoral Act passed by the Parliament in December 2023, offers people with any kind of disability or other challenges to use alternative options for voting. 

The release of the film and song is part of a larger, comprehensive approach to engage and empower all populations to be ready to vote in the first national referendum of Vanuatu’s history. 


For media enquiries, please contact: 

Niaz Kandhir, Electoral Specialist, Vanuatu Electoral Enviornment Project on email: niaz.kandhir@undp.org