The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal




Tuvalu, with about 9,500 people, occupies a land surface area 
of 26 square kilometers on 9 atolls in the central South 
Pacific.  The population is primarily Polynesian.  Tuvalu 
became independent from the United Kingdom on October 1, 1978, 
and it is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.  Its 
Constitution provides for a Westminster-style parliamentary 
democracy.  Tuvalu's Head of State is the British Queen, 
represented by the Governor General who must be a Tuvaluan 

A 32-member police constabulary, the only security apparatus, 
is responsible to and effectively controlled by civilian 

The economy, primarily subsistence based, relies mainly on 
coconuts, taro, and fishing.  Tuvalu depends heavily on foreign 
aid, mainly from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Taiwan.  
Remittances from Tuvaluans working abroad and the sale of 
commemorative and thematic postage stamps and of fishing 
licenses to foreign vessels provide additional sources of 
foreign exchange.  Tuvalu's isolation and meager natural 
resources severely limit prospects for economic 

Tuvaluan society is egalitarian, democratic, and respectful of 
human rights.  Social behavior, as determined by custom and 
tradition, however, is considered as important as the law and 
is ensured by the village elders.  Land is also key to much of 
the structure of Tuvaluan society.  There were no reports of 
specific human rights abuses in 1994.  However, in the 
traditional culture of the islands, women occupy a subordinate 
role, with limits on their job opportunities, although recently 
there has been substantial effort to accord women equality in 
employment and decisionmaking.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of politically motivated or other 
extrajudicial killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution forbids torture and inhuman or degrading 
punishment, and there were no reported instances of such 
practices.  Local hereditary elders exercise considerable 
traditional authority--including the seldom invoked right to 
inflict corporal punishment for infringing customary 
rules--which can be at odds with the national law.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Constitutional safeguards against arbitrary arrest and 
detention are observed in practice.  There is no exile.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system consists of the higher courts, namely, the 
Privy Council, the Court of Appeal, and the High Court; and the 
lower courts, i.e., those of the senior and resident 
magistrates, the island courts, and the land courts.  The Chief 
Justice, who is also Chief Justice of the neighboring island 
nation of Nauru, sits on the High Court about once a year.

The right to a fair public trial is ensured by law and observed 
in practice.  The Constitution provides that accused persons 
must be informed of the nature of the offenses with which they 
are charged and be provided the time and facilities required to 
prepare a defense.  An independent people's lawyer is ensured 
by statute.  The services of this public defender are available 
to all Tuvaluans free of charge.  The right to confront 
witnesses, present evidence, and appeal convictions is 
enshrined in law.  Procedural safeguards are based on English 
common law.  The judiciary is independent and free of 
governmental interference.  Tuvalu has no political prisoners.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The Government adheres in practice to the legal protection of 
privacy of the home.  It does not arbitrarily intrude into the 
private life of the individual.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Government respects in practice freedom of speech and 
press.  Tuvalu has a radio station under government control.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and 
association, and there are no significant restrictions in 

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for separation of church and state 
and imposes no restrictions on freedom of religion.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens are free to travel within the country and abroad.  The 
Government does not restrict repatriation.  Tuvalu has no 
refugees or displaced persons.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

The people freely and directly elect a 12-member unicameral 
Parliament, whose normal term is 4 years.  Each of Tuvalu's 
nine atolls is administered by six-person councils, also 
elected by universal suffrage to 4-year terms.  The minimum 
voting age is 18 years.

The Cabinet consists of the Prime Minister, elected by secret 
ballot from among the Members of Parliament, and up to four 
other ministers, appointed and removed from office by the 
Governor General with the advice of the Prime Minister.  The 
Prime Minister may appoint or dismiss the Governor General on 
behalf of the British Monarch.  There are no formal political 
parties in Tuvalu.  The Prime Minister may be removed from 
office by a parliamentary vote of no confidence.

In an effort to cement his leadership, Prime Minister Kamuta 
Latasi in June named Tulaga Manuella to be the Governor 
General, replacing Toomu Sione, who had served in that position 
only for 7 months.  Latasi revoked Sione's appointment on the 
grounds that it was a political appointment from the last days 
of former Prime Minister Paeniu's government.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

There have been no reported allegations of human rights 
violations by the Government and no known requests for 
investigations.  While no known barriers block their 
establishment, there are no local nongovernmental organizations 
that concern themselves with human rights.  Tuvalu is not a 
member of the United Nations.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, 
creed, sex, or national origin.  Women increasingly hold 
positions in the health and education sectors.  This trend was 
partly due to former Prime Minister Paeniu, who favored greater 
opportunities for women.  Paeniu named women among his senior 
advisers, including them in his Cabinet.  Although the current 
Prime Minister has not appointed any women to his Cabinet, he 
has encouraged the participation of women in other areas of the 
Government, especially in the Tuvaluan Education for Life 

Violence against women is rare in Tuvalu.  If wife beating 
occurs, it is infrequent and has not become a source of 
societal concern.


There are no reports of child abuse.  If it does occur, it is 
rare.  The Government is committed to children's human rights 
and welfare and provides commensurate funding for children's 
welfare within the context of the total resources available to 
the State.

     People with Disabilities

Although there are no mandated accessibility provisions for the 
disabled, there are no known reports of discrimination in 
employment, education, or provision of other state services.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Workers are free to organize unions and choose their own labor 
representatives, but most of the population lacks permanent 
employment and is engaged in subsistence activity.  The law 
provides for the right to strike, but no strike has ever been 

In the public sector, the country's civil servants, teachers, 
and nurses--who, taken together, total less than 1,000 
employees--are grouped into associations which do not presently 
have the status of unions.  The only registered trade union, 
the Tuvalu Seamen's Union, has about 600 members, who work on 
foreign merchant vessels.  The Seamen's Union is a member of 
the International Transportation Workers' Federation.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Industrial Relations Code (1978) provides for conciliation, 
arbitration, and settlement procedures in cases of labor 
disputes.  Although there are provisions for collective 
bargaining, the practice in the private sector is for wages to 
be set by employers.  For both the private and public sectors, 
the legal procedures for resolving labor disputes noted above 
are seldom used; instead, the two sides normally engage in 
nonconfrontational deliberations in the local multipurpose 
meeting hall.

Tuvalu is not a member of the International Labor Organization.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Article 74 of the Tuvalu Employment Ordinance (1978) prohibits 
forced or compulsory labor, and there have been no reports of 
either being practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Employment law prohibits children under the age of 14 from 
working.  Education is compulsory for children from 6 through 
13 years of age.  The law also prohibits children under 15 
years of age from industrial employment or work on any ship and 
stipulates that children under the age of 18 years are not 
allowed to enter into formal contracts, including work 
contracts.  Children are rarely employed outside the 
traditional economy.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The modest minimum wage, set administratively by the 
Government, is sufficient to allow a worker and family in the 
wage economy to maintain a decent standard of living.  The 
present minimum wage in the public (government) sector is $0.40 
per hour ($A0.55) per hour.  This rate applies regardless of 
sex and age.  In most cases, the private sector adopts the same 
minimum wage rate.

The Labor Office may specify the days and hours of work for 
workers in various industries.  The workday is legally set at 8 
hours.  The majority of workers are outside of the wage 
economy.  The law provides for rudimentary health and safety 
standards.  It requires employers to provide an adequate 
potable water supply, basic sanitary arrangements, and medical 
care.  Specific provisions of the law provide for the 
protection of female workers.  The Ministry of Labor, Works and 
Communications is responsible for the enforcement of the 
rudimentary safety and health regulations but is able to 
provide only minimum enforcement.


[end of document]


Department Seal

Return to 1995 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.