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Shared Borders and The Melanesian Spirit: the Tirvau Agreement


Mutual Relationships. That is the soul of Melanesian society.


Graced with a traditional Temotu gifting and cultural performance, the Tirvau Agreement was signed between the Solomon Islands and the Republic of Vanuatu on 21 June 2024, in Honiara, Solomon Islands.


What is it about?


The Tirvau Agreement is a framework that will govern and regulate joint border arrangements and movements between the maritime border of Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.


Why is important?


The people of Temotu Province in Solomon Islands and Torba Province in Vanuatu share a history of common heritage, trade, and inter-island movement that predates the modern designated maritime boundaries of these two countries.


The Tirvau Agreement is crucial as it requires both countries to collaborate in ensuring ongoing governance of their border is effective, and to cooperate on mutual sectoral and humanitarian issues.


Land as the ultimate seal


Most importantly, the strong relationship between these two countries originated through the people of Torba Province and Temotu Province. In 2023, Torba Province gifted land to the Solomon Islands Government and Temotu Province. At the recent signing ceremony of the Tirvau Agreement, the Premier of Temotu Province assured that Temotu Province would reciprocate the gesture by providing land for the Vanuatu Government and Torba Province.


In Melanesian society, gifting of land or sealing an arrangement with land is the ultimate offer in custom for settling the agreement and is the highest marker of a unified relationship that will be respected and upheld forever.  


Existing Agreements


Vanuatu and Solomon Islands have an existing agreement called the Motalava Treaty which was signed in 2016 between the two countries. The Tirvau Agreement is an extension of the Motalava Treaty, providing the guiding framework to enact the treaty.


Obligations and Responsibilities


Given the risks posed by changing maritime boundaries due to rising sea levels and coastal erosion, the common interests in natural resources and ocean biodiversity, and security threats like illegal fishing, it is crucial to protect the historic trade routes between the people of Temotu Province and Torba Province. It is timely and essential to ratify these shared obligations and establish a legal framework to govern the interests of both Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.


Pacific Legal Network


Pacific Legal Network has a strong connection with people of both countries and an active presence in the legal and business space of both jurisdictions. It is encouraging to see ongoing regional unity led in true Melanesian spirit in this vast body of ocean and sovereign states.



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