“Worlds in Collision”: an inquiry into the sources of corruption within Vanuatu government and society

Nimbtik, G 2016, “Worlds in Collision”: an inquiry into the sources of corruption within Vanuatu government and society, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title “Worlds in Collision”: an inquiry into the sources of corruption within Vanuatu government and society
Author(s) Nimbtik, G
Year 2016
Abstract This study of corruption in the context of Vanuatu government and society asserts that international models of “good governance” do not adequately acknowledge the role of culture and entrenched social practices in shaping relations between the governed and the governing. Of such influences, certain sections of Vanuatu’s elites have used kastom authority, kinship networks, and the power of the state to entrench their interests and those of their clients. There is, however, an aspect of kastom authority that may be a means to break down these power structures through processes of deliberation and reform that harness kastom practices as a way to re-engage the country’s populations in a national governance reform process. This research describes ways in which traditional ideas and practices and the modern world can be better reconnected in order for society to implement reforms that will avoid conflict. It also maps out layers of customary practice and authority in Vanuatu and highlights the ways in which their absorption into the modern structures of government has led to serious problems of official corruption. These findings were achieved through an empirical investigation of key selected case studies of government institutions, including the analysis of key government documents. The semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and nakamal storian were used to generate the data or inform its interpretation. This research data was analysed using a thematic and category analysis approach, and by interpretative methods which were informed by the grounded literature review from which the themes emerged. The emerging themes were discussed and analysed in accordance with the findings of the research outlined in previous chapters and the literature.

The findings illustrate that the clash between traditional ways of doing things and the expectations of international institutions about how things ought to be done creates a gap in which corrupt practices emerge. As such, what looks like corruption from a legal-rational point of view is actually perceived as normal behaviour by local communities. Understanding corruption as a consequence of tension between different social obligations and authority in a localised context, this research argues that addressing corruption in Vanuatu is not a matter of stamping it out, but rather of unravelling and addressing the social expectations and practices that have allowed corruption to evolve. Hence, this thesis proposes a collaborative and deliberative governance framework, using traditional authority structures in Vanuatu, to help guide Vanuatu through the process of social change that is necessarily to become a resilient and independent state. The Jifly institution (MNCC) and its nakamal system, despite some imperfections, are considered to be the best equipped institutions still within Vanuatu society to achieve reconnection and reform in order to restore state legitimacy.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Studies, Social Science and Planning
Keyword(s) Corruption
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Created: Mon, 03 Oct 2016, 08:01:28 EST by Denise Paciocco
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