(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)
|Introduction||The exact origins of the Nauruans are unclear, since their language does not resemble any other in the Pacific. The island was annexed by Germany in 1888 and its phosphate deposits began to be mined early in the 20th century by a German-British consortium. Nauru was occupied by Australian forces in World War I and subsequently became a League of Nations mandate. After the Second World War – and a brutal occupation by Japan – Nauru became a UN trust territory. It achieved its independence in 1968 and joined the UN in 1999 as the world’s smallest independent republic.|
|History||Nauru was first inhabited by Micronesian and Polynesian people at least 3,000 years ago. There were traditionally 12 clans or tribes on Nauru, which are represented in the 12-pointed star in the nation’s flag. The Nauruan people called their island “Naoero”; the word “Nauru” was later created from “Naoero” so that English speakers could easily pronounce the name. Nauruans traced their descent on the female side. Naurans subsisted on coconut and pandanus fruit, and caught juvenile ibija fish, acclimated them to fresh water conditions and raised them in Buada Lagoon, providing an additional reliable source of food.
British Captain John Fearn, a whale hunter, became the first Westerner to visit the island in 1798, and named it Pleasant Island. From around the 1830s, Nauruans had contact with Europeans from whaling ships and traders who replenished their supplies at the island. Around this time, beachcombers and deserters began to live on the island. The islanders traded food for alcoholic toddy and firearms; the firearms were used during the 10-year war which began in 1878 and by 1888 had resulted in a reduction of the population from 1400 to 900 persons.
Nauru annexed in 1888 by Germany.
The island was annexed by Germany in 1888 and incorporated into Germany’s Marshall Islands Protectorate; they called the island Nawodo or Onawero. The arrival of the Germans ended the war; social changes brought about by the war established Kings as rulers of the island, the most widely known being King Auweyida. Christian missionaries from the Gilbert Islands also arrived at the island in 1888. The Germans ruled Nauru for almost 3 decades.
Phosphate was discovered on the island in 1900 by prospector Albert Ellis and the Pacific Phosphate Company started to exploit the reserves in 1906 by agreement with Germany; they exported their first shipment in 1907. Following the outbreak of World War I, the island was captured by Australian forces in 1914. After the war, the League of Nations gave Australia a trustee mandate over Nauru; the UK and New Zealand were also co-trustees.  The three governments signed a Nauru Island Agreement in 1919, creating a board known as the British Phosphate Commission (BPC), which took over the rights to phosphate mining.
A Nauruan warrior in 1880
Nauru Island under attack by B-24 Liberator bombers of the US Seventh Air Force.
Japanese forces occupied the island on August 26, 1942. The Japanese-built airfield on the island was bombed in March 1943, preventing food supplies from reaching the island. The Japanese deported 1,200 Nauruans to work as labourers in the Chuuk islands, where 463 died. The island was liberated on September 13, 1945 when the Australian warship HMAS Diamantina approached the island and Japanese forces surrendered. Arrangements were made by the BPC to repatriate Nauruans from Chuuk, and they were returned to Nauru by the BPC ship Trienza in January 1946. In 1947, a trusteeship was approved by the United Nations, and Australia, NZ and the UK again became trustees of the island. Nauru became self-governing in January 1966, and following a two-year constitutional convention, became independent in 1968, led by founding president Hammer DeRoburt. In 1967, the people of Nauru purchased the assets of the British Phosphate Commissioners, and in June 1970, control passed to the locally owned Nauru Phosphate Corporation. Income from the exploitation of phosphate gave Nauruans one of the highest living standards in the Pacific and per capita, in the world.
In 1989, the country took legal action against Australia in the International Court of Justice over Australia’s actions during its administration of Nauru, in particular, Australia’s failure to remedy the environmental damage caused by phosphate mining. The action led to an out-of-court settlement to rehabilitate the mined-out areas of Nauru. Diminishing phosphate reserves has led to economic decline in Nauru, which has brought increasing political instability since the mid-1980s. Nauru had 17 changes of administration between 1989 and 2003. Between 1999 and 2003, a series of no-confidence votes and elections resulted in two people, René Harris and Bernard Dowiyogo, leading the country for alternating periods. Dowiyogo died in office in March 2003 and Ludwig Scotty was elected President. Scotty was re-elected to serve a full term in October 2004.
In recent times, a significant proportion of the country’s income has been in the form of aid from Australia. In 2001, the MV Tampa, a Norwegian ship which had rescued 433 refugees (from various countries including Afghanistan) from a stranded 20-metre (65 ft) boat and was seeking to dock in Australia, was diverted to Nauru as part of the Pacific Solution. Nauru operated the detention centre in exchange for Australian aid. In November 2005, two refugees remained on Nauru from those first sent there in 2001, and the last of them finally achieved resettlement at the end of 2006. The Australian government sent further groups of asylum seekers to Nauru in late 2006 and early 2007. In late January 2008, following Australia’s decision to close the processing centre, Nauru announced that they will request a new aid deal to ease the resulting blow to the economy.
|Geography||Location: Oceania, island in the South Pacific Ocean, south of the Marshall Islands
Geographic coordinates: 0 32 S, 166 55 E
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 21 sq km
land: 21 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: about 0.1 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 30 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical with a monsoonal pattern; rainy season (November to February)
Terrain: sandy beach rises to fertile ring around raised coral reefs with phosphate plateau in center
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location along plateau rim 61 m
Natural resources: phosphates, fish
Land use: arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: periodic droughts
Environment – current issues: limited natural fresh water resources, roof storage tanks collect rainwater, but mostly dependent on a single, aging desalination plant; intensive phosphate mining during the past 90 years – mainly by a UK, Australia, and NZ consortium – has left the central 90% of Nauru a wasteland and threatens limited remaining land resources
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: Nauru is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean – the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Makatea in French Polynesia; only 53 km south of Equator
|Politics||Nauru is a republic with a parliamentary system of government. The president is both the head of state and of government. An 18-member unicameral parliament is elected every three years. The parliament elects a president from its members, who appoints a cabinet of five to six members. Nauru does not have a formal structure for political parties; candidates typically stand as independents. 15 of the 18 members of the current parliament are independents, and alliances within the government are often formed on the basis of extended family ties. Three parties that have been active in Nauruan politics are the Democratic Party, Nauru First and the Centre Party. The fact that Nauru is a democracy makes Nauru a counterexample of the traditional theory of the rentier state, as the sale of Nauru’s natural resource has not led to authoritarianism.
Since 1992, local government has been the responsibility of the Nauru Island Council (NIC). The NIC has limited powers and functions as an advisor to the national government on local matters. The role of the NIC is to concentrate its efforts on local activities relevant to Nauruans. An elected member of the Nauru Island Council cannot simultaneously be a member of parliament. Land tenure in Nauru is unusual: all Nauruans have certain rights to all land on the island, which is owned by individuals and family groups; government and corporate entities do not own land and must enter into a lease arrangement with the landowners to use land. Non-Nauruans cannot own lands.
Nauru has a complex legal system. The Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice, is paramount on constitutional issues. Other cases can be appealed to the two-judge Appellate Court. Parliament cannot overturn court decisions, but Appellate Court rulings can be appealed to the High Court of Australia; in practice, this rarely happens. Lower courts consist of the District Court and the Family Court, both of which are headed by a Resident Magistrate, who also is the Registrar of the Supreme Court. Finally, there also are two quasi-courts: the Public Service Appeal Board and the Police Appeal Board, both of which are presided over by the Chief Justice.
Nauru has no armed forces; under an informal agreement, defence is the responsibility of Australia. There is a small police force under civilian control.
|People||Population: 13,770 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 35.5% (male 2,492/female 2,393)
15-64 years: 62.5% (male 4,237/female 4,363)
65 years and over: 2.1% (male 148/female 137) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 21.3 years
male: 20.7 years
female: 21.9 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.772% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 24.26 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.54 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.08 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 9.43 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 11.84 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 6.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 63.81 years
male: 60.2 years
female: 67.6 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.94 children born/woman (2008 est.)