The Registrar of Cooperatives & Business Development Services (ORCBDS) is a statutory holder of the Office of the Registrar of Cooperatives appointed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) under the Cooperative Act 1986, Cap 152 (COSO Act). Mr Ridley M. Joseph was appointed to the position in March 2015.


As a statutory office holder responsible for the administration of the COSO Act, the Registrar has powers to intervene that are similar to those exercised by the Vanuatu statutory bodies


An office of staff, known as the Office of the Registrar of Cooperatives & Business Development Services, has been set up to help the Registrar administer the COSO Act and to support and regulate Cooperatives Societies for people throughout Vanuatu. ORCBDS also provides an avenue for new Cooperatives, delivering a tailored service that responds to the special needs of Community groups and small businesses, and striving for national and international best practice in cooperative governance. ORCBDS was previously known as the Department of Cooperatives & Ni-Vanuatu The name ORCBDS was adopted from Nov 2012.

Our Mission

To support the creation of sustainable ,inclusive,member owned and controlled cooperative business network, for the social and economic benefit of members and for the nation of Vanuatu

Our Purpose

  • Registrar Cooperative Societies that want to become Cooperative business
  • Help Ni-Vans Businesses run properly, according to their own rules and cultures, and to make sure they don't break the law
  • Offer support, advice and training to help Coop Societies do the best job for their communities.


  • Self Help
  • Self Responsibility
  • Democracy
  • Equality
  • Equity
  • Solidarity
  • In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others

Cooperative History

The co-operative movement has a long and in places tattered history in Vanuatu. During the period when France and England oversaw the country, co-operatives were given monopoly rights over the imports for commodities such as rice and sugar. Local managers were well trained and funded as part of the overall supply chain.

The Co-operative Movement was formally launched in 1962, and one of the first co-operatives operated was a shipping business in Vanuatu in 1968. The operations of the co-operatives were under the direct supervision of the Department of Co-operatives. The Department provided services relating to basic accounting and management training for co-operative managers. The main operations of the societies were in the marketing of local produce including copra, cocoa, coffee and some seashells, and retailing of consumer goods.

By 1979 the total number of societies was 287, with total membership strength of about 80% of total heads of households in the country.

With independence in the early 1980 came an entirely new era. The trade monopolies disappeared and soon financial and management difficulties arose. Less qualified local managers replaced trained mangers, and as a result throughout the eighties and nineties many co-operatives at both the local and secondary levels failed. What had been a national co-operative enterprise known as the Vanuatu Co-operative Federation (VCD) also failed. What had been a national savings and loan co-operative eventually was mismanaged and was taken over and folded into what is now the National Bank of Vanuatu. In simple terms the government and co-operatives were not adequately prepared for the consequences that came with independence.

Since those early times the Co-operative Movement has changed, expanded and contracted again. Their survival, moreover, is testament to the continuing value placed on them by rural communities and the Government.

The new interest in reviving the Co-operative Movement started in 2008-2009 with recognition by Government of Vanuatu of the need to stem the tide of migration into urban areas. The Government of Vanuatu formulated a number of policy initiatives to create employment and higher levels of income in rural communities. The result of these policies saw the re-emergence of co-operative support and the establishment of the Department of Co-operative & NI-Vanuatu Business Development Service as the Government’s key rural development agency.

In 2013, the Department of Co-operative & NI-Vanuatu Business Development Service and the function of the Co-operative Registrar, previously based in the Ministry of Trade and Tourism, were merged into the Office of the Registrar of Co-operatives & Business Development Services (ORCBDS). Even today many older co-operative members can recall times when there were many successful co-operative enterprises located across the country. In 2014, the ORCBDS on behalf of the co-operative in Vanuatu was admitted into membership in the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). The ICA is the global co-operative promotion and advocacy organization for co-operative around the world. By becoming a member of the ICA ORCBDS committed to ensuring all registered co-operatives across Vanuatu would adhere to the global co-operative statement of identity, which includes seven co-operative principles and four co-operative values, the origin of which were first stated in 1937.

For more information about starting a Cooperative Business and General Business Advisories