(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)
|Introduction||After three decades as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific under US administration, this westernmost cluster of the Caroline Islands opted for independence in 1978 rather than join the Federated States of Micronesia. A Compact of Free Association with the US was approved in 1986, but not ratified until 1993. It entered into force the following year, when the islands gained independence.|
Early Palauans may have come from Australia, Polynesia and Asia. Depending on the thread of the family, Palauans may indeed represent many parts of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. However, it is traditionally not considered to be Micronesian. According to geneticists, there are two distinctive strains of Melanesian bloodlines: one is associated with indigenous Australians/Papua New Guineans and the other is known to have originated in Asia. There has not been any link established between the two.
In the European and Australian world Belau/Pelew is better known by the name of “The Black Islands”. Vintage maps and village drawings can be found at the Australian library online, as well as photos of the tattooed and pierced Ibedul of Koror and Ludee.
Carbon dating and recent archaeological discoveries have brought new attention to the archipelago. Cemeteries uncovered in islands have shown Palau has the oldest burial ceremony known to Oceania. Prior to this there has been much dispute as to whether Palau was established during 2500 BC or 1000 BC. New studies seem to dispute both of these findings. Moreover, Palau’s ancient trading partner, Java, has also come under close scrutiny since Homo floresiensis was found. Like Flores, remains of small-bodied humans have been found in Palau.
For thousands of years, Palauans have had a well established matrilineal society, believed to have descended from Javanese precedents. Traditionally, land, money, and titles passed through the female line. Clan lands continue to be passed through titled women and first daughters but there is also a modern patrilineal sentiment introduced by imperial Japan. The Japanese government attempted to confiscate and redistribute tribal land into personal ownership during World War II, and there has been little attempt to restore the old order. Legal entanglements continue amongst the various clans
Historians take interest in the early navigational routes of European explorers in the Pacific. There is a certain controversy as to whether Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos, who landed in several Caroline Islands, spotted the Palau archipelago in 1543. No conclusive evidence exists but there are some who think he could have seen the tip of a southernmost island in the group.
Palau had limited relations—mainly with Yap and Java. Had it not have been for ship-wrecked islanders who accidentally took refuge in the Philippines, Europeans likely would not have found a route to Palau until much later. English Captain Henry Wilson also shipwrecked off the island of Ulong in 1783. Wilson dubbed Palau the “Pelew Islands”.
Like the Mariana Islands, the Caroline Islands and the Marshall Islands, Palau was part of the Spanish East Indies, and was administered from the Spanish Philippines until the Spanish-American War of 1898.
In 1885, after Germany occupied some of the islands, a dispute was brought to Pope Leo XIII, who made an attempt to legitimize the Spanish claim to the islands (but with economic concessions for Britain and Germany). Spain in 1899, after defeat during the Spanish-American War, sold the islands to Germany in the 1899 German-Spanish Treaty.
After the Spanish sold the islands to Germany, the Germans began an economic transformation in Micronesia. The Germans began mining bauxite (an aluminum ore), Phosphate, and other resources. The islands were also administered by German New Guinea. Mining continued throughout Micronesia even after the Germans lost the islands to Japan under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, after World War I. The Japanese continued and expanded the mining operations.
During World War I, under the terms of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, the Empire of Japan declared war on the German Empire and invaded German overseas territories in the Pacific Ocean, including the Palau Islands. Following Germany’s defeat, the League of Nations formally awarded Palau to Japan as a Class C League of Nations Mandate. 
Under the terms of a “Class C Mandate” Japan incorporated the islands as an integral part of its empire, establishing the Nanyo-cho government.  Initially under Imperial Japanese Navy administration, civilian control was introduced from 1922, and Palau was one of six administrative districts within the Mandate. Japan mounted an aggressive economic development program and promoted immigration by Japanese, Okinawans and Koreans. During this period, the Japanese established bonito (skipjack tuna) production and copra processing plants in Palau.
World War II
Peleliu was the scene of intense fighting between American and Japanese forces beginning September 1944 resulting in an Allied victory, though the cost in human terms was high for both sides. After WWII, the United Nations played a role in deciding the U.S. would administer Palau as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Eventually, in 1979, Palauans voted against joining the Federated States of Micronesia based on language and cultural differences. After a long period of transition, including the violent deaths of two presidents (Haruo Remeliik in 1985 and Lazarus Salii in 1988), Palau voted to freely associate with the United States in 1994 while opting to retain independence under the Compact of Free Association.
There are still roughly 100 American service members listed as Missing In Action (MIA) in Palau since WWII. Since 1993, a small group of American volunteers called The BentProp Project have searched the waters and jungles of Palau to attempt to locate information that can lead to the identification and recovery of remains of these American MIAs.
|Geography||Location: Oceania, group of islands in the North Pacific Ocean, southeast of the Philippines
Geographic coordinates: 7 30 N, 134 30 E
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 458 sq km
land: 458 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly more than 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 1,519 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; hot and humid; wet season May to November
Terrain: varying geologically from the high, mountainous main island of Babelthuap to low, coral islands usually fringed by large barrier reefs
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Ngerchelchuus 242 m
Natural resources: forests, minerals (especially gold), marine products, deep-seabed minerals
Land use: arable land: 8.7%
permanent crops: 4.35%
other: 86.95% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: typhoons (June to December)
Environment – current issues: inadequate facilities for disposal of solid waste; threats to the marine ecosystem from sand and coral dredging, illegal fishing practices, and overfishing
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: westernmost archipelago in the Caroline chain, consists of six island groups totaling more than 300 islands; includes World War II battleground of Beliliou (Peleliu) and world-famous rock islands
|Politics||Palau’s politics takes place in a multi-party framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Palau is both head of state and head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government, while legislative power is vested in both the government and the Palau National Congress. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
Palau gained its independence October 1, 1994, when the Compact of Free Association with the United States came into force. Palau was the last portion of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands to gain its independence. Under the Compact, the U.S. remains responsible for Palau’s defense for 50 years, and Palauans are allowed to serve in the U.S. military without having to possess permanent residency in the U.S.
Palau is a sovereign nation and conducts its own foreign relations. Since independence, Palau has established diplomatic relations with a number of nations, including many of its Pacific neighbors. Palau was admitted to the United Nations on December 15, 1994, and has since joined several other international organizations. In September 2006, Palau hosted the first Taiwan-Pacific Allies Summit, and its President has gone on several official visits to other Pacific countries, including the Republic of China (Taiwan).
The United States maintains the usual diplomatic delegation and an embassy in Palau, but most aspects of the two countries’ relationship have to do with Compact-funded projects, which are the responsibility of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs. This has led to some ambiguity in the official status of Palau, though regarded as de jure independent.
In 1981, Palau voted for the world’s first nuclear-free constitution. However, this delayed Palau’s independence as it also wanted a Compact of Free Association with the United States, which the U.S. would not agree to as long as the anti-nuclear clause was in place; thus the United Nations delayed terminating the U.S. trusteeship. Palauan independence was finally achieved after the anti-nuclear clause was repealed.
One of the notable aspects of the Palauan resistance to nuclear research is the leadership of women activists such as Cita Morei and Isabella Sumang.
|People||Population: 21,093 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 25.8% (male 2,797/female 2,637)
15-64 years: 69.4% (male 7,864/female 6,779)
65 years and over: 4.8% (male 482/female 534) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 32.3 years
male: 33.3 years
female: 31.3 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.157% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 17.4 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.73 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.9 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.16 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.9 male(s)/female
total population: 1.12 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 13.69 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 15.37 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 11.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 71 years
male: 67.82 years
female: 74.36 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.45 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Palauan(s)
Ethnic groups: Palauan (Micronesian with Malayan and Melanesian admixtures) 69.9%, Filipino 15.3%, Chinese 4.9%, other Asian 2.4%, white 1.9%, Carolinian 1.4%, other Micronesian 1.1%, other or unspecified 3.2% (2000 census)
Religions: Roman Catholic 41.6%, Protestant 23.3%, Modekngei 8.8% (indigenous to Palau), Seventh-Day Adventist 5.3%, Jehovah’s Witness 0.9%, Latter-Day Saints 0.6%, other 3.1%, unspecified or none 16.4% (2000 census)
Languages: Palauan 64.7% official in all islands except Sonsoral (Sonsoralese and English are official), Tobi (Tobi and English are official), and Angaur (Angaur, Japanese, and English are official), Filipino 13.5%, English 9.4%, Chinese 5.7%, Carolinian 1.5%, Japanese 1.5%, other Asian 2.3%, other languages 1.5% (2000 census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 92%
female: 90% (1980 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 15 years
male: 14 years
female: 15 years (2000)
Education expenditures: 10.3% of GDP (2002)