Constitution of Tuvalu 1986

Year of Version:1986
Date of Entry into Force:October 1, 1986
Date of Text (Adopted):October 1, 1986
Type of Text:Constitution / Basic Law
Subject Matter:Other
Tuvalu gained its independence from the UK on October 1, 1978. Formally known as Ellice Islands, Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country in the world, after Vatican, Monaco and Nauru (island country, Pacific Ocean). It is located in the South Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and Australia. The capital city is Funafuti.

The current Constitution, which was enacted in 1986 repealed and replaced the Constitution 1978 brought into force in the aftermath of its independence.
Under the terms of the current constitution, the country’s form of government is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. The unicameral Parliament (House of Assembly), called “Fale I Fono » in Tuvaluan, has 15 seats with members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. Tuvalu has as president the Queen of Great Britain represented in the country by a Governor-General, this is the reason why there are no presidential elections (the monarchy is hereditary). The Prime Minister is the one who suggests the Governor chosen from among the Tuvaluans.

The principal Court of Tuvalu is the High Court of Tuvalu with unlimited civil and criminal jurisdiction. Appeals from its decisions are determined by the Court of Appeal of Tuvalu with further appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. In addition, there are two forms of subordinate courts. A subordinate court, called a magistrate’s court, it deals with minor criminal and civil matters in the main island, and subordinate courts, called island courts, they deal with minor criminal and civil matters in the islands. Appeals from the island courts are determined by the magistrates' courts, and appeals from the magistrates' courts are determined by the High Court.

The Constitution of Tuvalu 1986 did not make any radical changes to the legal system.
The current Tuvalu legislation is made of those laws that have been enacted by Parliament since the independence in 1978. This legislation is extremely limited, and on independence it was agreed that the laws of England (together with those of other Commonwealth such as those which were in force prior to 1st January 1961 would continue to have effect provided that no subsequent enactment of legislation was passed. For example, the UK’s IP legislation still applies in Tuvalu.
English common law together with those of other Commonwealth jurisdictions such as Australia, New Zealand, etc. applies where necessary. Customary law is also applicable and is expressly provided for in the Laws of Tuvalu Act 1987 (section 42(2) and in the Constitution (section 11(2) (b) & section 13). The Laws of Tuvalu 1987 Schedule 1 paragraphs 3 & 4 state that courts must take customary law into account when considering specified matters in criminal and civil proceedings.

The Constitution does not contain specific provisions concerning intellectual property rights. However, the protection of the property rights are guaranteed to all citizens (Part II, Division 2, Sections 10, 11; Division 3, Sections 20, 21).
The Constitution also recognizes the importance of Tuvaluan values and culture (Part II, Division 2, Section 11. 2(b); Division 3, Section 29).
Available Texts: 

Constitution of Tuvalu 1986 Constitution of Tuvalu 1986, Complete document (pdf) [352 KB] Constitution of Tuvalu 1986, Complete document (htm) [1240 KB] (Version with Automatic Translation Tool)

WIPO Lex No.:TV005