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Abstract

Local government came late to Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides) and even then was more a response to external events than a reflection of community interests. The first local council experiment, from 1957 to 1958, failed because of rivalry between the colonial powers, Britain and France. Subsequently national political developments set up additional obstacles to the successful functioning of local government. Political conflicts at the national level, reflecting the divisions created by the Anglo-French condominium, delayed implementation and undermined the administrative viability and democratic quality of local councils. Popular support for and trust in local government has not developed. A system created in haste and altered to serve the interests of competing national elites has not been able to adapt to the needs of local communities. A viable system of decentralization requires a degree of national consensus to be combined with local involvement in planning and implementation.