|In 1974, ethnic differences within the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands caused the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands to vote for separation from the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands. The following year, the Ellice Islands became the separate British colony of Tuvalu. Independence was granted in 1978. In 2000, Tuvalu negotiated a contract leasing its Internet domain name “.tv” for $50 million in royalties over a 12-year period.
|Tuvaluans are a Polynesian people who settled the islands around 3000 years ago coming from Tonga and Samoa. During pre-European-contact times there was frequent canoe voyaging between the nearer islands. Eight of the 9 islands of Tuvalu were inhabited; thus the name, Tuvalu, means “eight standing together” in Tuvaluan. Possible evidence of fire in the Caves of Nanumanga may indicate human occupation thousands of years before that.
Tuvalu was first sighted by Europeans in 1568 with the arrival of Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira from Spain who also encountered the island of Nui (atoll) but was unable to land.
No other Europeans turned up again until the late 1700s when other European explorers reached the area. By the early 1800s whalers were roving the Pacific though visiting Tuvalu only infrequently, because of the difficulties of landing ships on the atolls, and no settlements were established by them.
Peruvian slave raiders (“blackbirders”) combed the Pacific between 1862 and 1864 and Tuvalu was one of the hardest-hit Pacific island groups with over 400 people taken from Funafuti and Nukulaelae, none of whom returned.
In 1865 the London Missionary Society, Protestant congregationalists, began their process of evangelisation of Tuvalu and the people’s conversion to Christianity was complete by the 1920s. Also in the late 1800s, European traders began to live on the islands hoping to profit from local resources.
In 1892 the islands became part of the British protectorate known as the Ellice Islands. The protectorate was incorporated into the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony in 1916. In 1943, during World War II, Tuvalu was selected as an operations base for Allied forces battling the Japanese in the Pacific. Thousands of marines were stationed there until December 1945.
In 1974 ethnic differences within the colony caused the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands to vote for separation from the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands (to become Kiribati). The following year the Ellice Islands became the separate British colony of Tuvalu. Independence was granted in 1978.
Tuvalu Independence Day is celebrated on 1 October. In 1979 Tuvalu signed a treaty of friendship with the United States that recognized Tuvalu’s rightful possession of four small islands formerly claimed by the United States.
As low-lying islands, lacking a surrounding shallow shelf, the island communities of Tuvalu are especially susceptible to changes in sea level and storm patterns that hit the island undissipated. It is estimated that a sea level rise of 20–40 centimetres (8–16 inches) in the next 100 years could make Tuvalu uninhabitable. The South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) suggests that while Tuvalu is vulnerable to climate change there are additional environmental problems such as population growth and poor coastal management that are affecting sustainable development on the island. SOPAC ranks the country as extremely vulnerable using the Environmental Vulnerability Index. While some commentators have called for the relocation of the population of Tuvalu to Australia, New Zealand, or Kioa (Fiji), the former Prime Minister Maatia Toafa said his government did not regard rising sea levels as such a threat that the entire population would need to be evacuated. In spite of persistent Internet rumours that New Zealand has agreed to accept an annual quota of 75 evacuees, the annual residence quota of 75 Tuvaluans under the Pacific Access Category (and 50 places for people from Kiribati) replaced the previous Work Schemes from the two countries and are not related to environmental concerns.
|Location: Oceania, island group consisting of nine coral atolls in the South Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to Australia
Geographic coordinates: 8 00 S, 178 00 E
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 26 sq km
land: 26 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: 0.1 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 24 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; moderated by easterly trade winds (March to November); westerly gales and heavy rain (November to March)
Terrain: very low-lying and narrow coral atolls
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location 5 m
Natural resources: fish
Land use: arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 66.67%
other: 33.33% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: severe tropical storms are usually rare, but, in 1997, there were three cyclones; low level of islands make them sensitive to changes in sea level
Environment – current issues: since there are no streams or rivers and groundwater is not potable, most water needs must be met by catchment systems with storage facilities (the Japanese Government has built one desalination plant and plans to build one other); beachhead erosion because of the use of sand for building materials; excessive clearance of forest undergrowth for use as fuel; damage to coral reefs from the spread of the Crown of Thorns starfish; Tuvalu is concerned about global increases in greenhouse gas emissions and their effect on rising sea levels, which threaten the country’s underground water table; in 2000, the government appealed to Australia and New Zealand to take in Tuvaluans if rising sea levels should make evacuation necessary
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: one of the smallest and most remote countries on Earth; six of the nine coral atolls – Nanumea, Nui, Vaitupu, Nukufetau, Funafuti, and Nukulaelae – have lagoons open to the ocean; Nanumaya and Niutao have landlocked lagoons; Niulakita does not have a lagoon
|Tuvalu is a constitutional monarchy and Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II recognised as the official Queen of Tuvalu. She is represented in Tuvalu by a Governor General, who is appointed upon the advice of the Prime Minister. The local unicameral parliament, or Fale I Fono, has 15 members and is elected every four years. Its members elect a Prime Minister who is the head of government. The Cabinet is appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. Each island also has its own high-chief or ulu-aliki, and several sub-chiefs (alikis) and elders. The elders form together an island council of elders or te sina o fenua (literally:”grey-hairs”). In the past, another caste, namely the one of the priests (tofuga) was also amongst the decision-makers. The sina o fenua, aliki and ulu-aliki exercise informal authority on a local level. Ulu-aliki are always chosen based on hericy, and their powers are now shared with the pule o kaupule (elected village presidents; one on each atol). There are no formal political parties and election campaigns are largely on the basis of personal/family ties and reputation.
The highest court in Tuvalu is the High Court; there are eight Island Courts with limited jurisdiction. Rulings from the High Court can be appealed to the Court of Appeal in Fiji.
Tuvalu has no regular military forces, and spends no money on the military. Its police force includes a Maritime Surveillance Unit for search and rescue missions and surveillance operations. The police have a Pacific-class patrol boat (Te Mataili) provided by Australia under the Pacific Patrol Boat Program for use in maritime surveillance and fishery patrol.
The government of Tuvalu is represented in the United Kingdom by an honorary consul, based at Tuvalu House, London.
|Population: 12,177 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 29.4% (male 1,826/female 1,754)
15-64 years: 65.4% (male 3,891/female 4,073)
65 years and over: 5.2% (male 236/female 397) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 25.2 years
male: 24.2 years
female: 26.4 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.577% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 22.75 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.98 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.59 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 18.97 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 21.56 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 16.25 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 68.97 years
male: 66.7 years
female: 71.36 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.94 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: Tuvaluan(s)
Ethnic groups: Polynesian 96%, Micronesian 4%
Religions: Church of Tuvalu (Congregationalist) 97%, Seventh-Day Adventist 1.4%, Baha’i 1%, other 0.6%
Languages: Tuvaluan, English, Samoan, Kiribati (on the island of Nui)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 11 years
male: 11 years
female: 11 years (2001)
Education expenditures: NA
|Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Tuvalu
local long form: none
local short form: Tuvalu
former: Ellice Islands
note: “Tuvalu” means “group of eight,” referring to the country’s eight traditionally inhabited islands
Government type: constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy
Capital: name: Funafuti
geographic coordinates: 8 30 S, 179 12 E
time difference: UTC+12 (17 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
note: administrative offices are located in Vaiaku Village on Fongafale Islet
Administrative divisions: none
Independence: 1 October 1978 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 1 October (1978)
Constitution: 1 October 1978
Legal system: NA
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Filoimea TELITO (since 15 April 2005)
head of government: Prime Minister Apisai IELEMIA (since 14 August 2006)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the recommendation of the prime minister
elections: the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister; prime minister and deputy prime minister elected by and from the members of Parliament; election last held 14 August 2006 (next to be held following parliamentary elections in 2010)
election results: Apisai IELEMIA elected Prime Minister in a Parliamentary election on 14 August 2006
Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament or Fale I Fono, also called House of Assembly (15 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 3 August 2006 (next to be held in 2010)
election results: percent of vote – NA; seats – independents 15
Judicial branch: High Court (a chief justice visits twice a year to preside over its sessions; its rulings can be appealed to the Court of Appeal in Fiji); eight Island Courts (with limited jurisdiction)
Political parties and leaders: there are no political parties but members of Parliament usually align themselves in informal groupings
Political pressure groups and leaders: none
International organization participation: ACP, ADB, C, FAO, IFRCS (observer), IMO, IOC, ITU, OPCW, PIF, Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, WHO
Diplomatic representation in the US: Tuvalu does not have an embassy in the US – the country’s only diplomatic post is in Fiji – Tuvalu does, however, have a UN office located at 800 2nd Avenue, Suite 400D, New York, NY 10017, telephone:  (212) 490-0534
Diplomatic representation from the US: the US does not have an embassy in Tuvalu; the US ambassador to Fiji is accredited to Tuvalu
Flag description: light blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant; the outer half of the flag represents a map of the country with nine yellow five-pointed stars symbolizing the nine islands
The traditional community system still survives to a large extent on Tuvalu. Each family has its own task, or salanga, to perform for the community, such as fishing, house building or defence. The skills of a family are passed on from father to son.
Most islands have their own futi, or government owned shops. Similar to a convenience store, you can buy canned foods and bags of rice, but goods are cheaper and fusis give better prices for their own goods due to government subsidy.
Another important building is the falekaupule or village hall, where important matters are discussed and which is used with certain events.
The traditional foods eaten in Tuvalu are pulaka, seafood (crab, turtle, some fish), bananas and breadfruit, coconut, and pork. Pulaka is the main source for carbohydrates. It is grown in large pits below the watertable in composted soil. Seafood is the main source of protein. Bananas and breadfruit are supplemental crops. Finally, coconut is used for its juice, making beverages and to make food tastier. Pork is eaten most with fateles (or parties with dance to celebrate certain events)
Sport and Leisure
A traditional sport played in Tuvalu is kilikiti, which is similar to cricket. Another sport popular and specific to Tuvalu is ano, which is played with 2 round balls of 12cm diameter.
More common sports such as football, cycling and rugby are also played in the country as recreational activities. Tuvalu has a national football team and competes officially with local nations, despite not being a FIFA member. However, there are no records of a rugby team, in either code, and rugby remains undeveloped in the country, although it is hoped that exposure to the NRL Grand Final, which is televised across the Pacific Islands will increase the popularity of rugby league enough to create a viable and competitive team. There are no training facilities for any sport in the country.
Tuvalu entered the Olympic Games for the first time at the 2008 summer games in Beijing, China, sending three competitors in two events.
Traditional music prior to European contact included poems performed in a sort of monotonal recitation, though this tradition has since become extinct, as well as work songs which the women performed to encourage the men while they worked.
The most famous form of Tuvaluan dance music, fatele, is influenced by European melody and harmony and is competitive, with each island divided into two sides or teams (called feitu’s). Feitus exist not only with the dancing at fatele’s (which is conducted much like a competition), but for other activities as well.
The two primary traditional dances of Tuvalu are the fakanu and fakaseasea. Of these, the fakanu has since died out, though the fakaseasea lives on, performed only by elders.
|Economy – overview: Tuvalu consists of a densely populated, scattered group of nine coral atolls with poor soil. The country has no known mineral resources and few exports and is almost entirely dependent upon imported food and fuel. Subsistence farming and fishing are the primary economic activities. Fewer than 1,000 tourists, on average, visit Tuvalu annually. Job opportunities are scarce and public sector workers make up the majority of those employed. About 15% of the adult male population work as seamen on merchant ships abroad and remittances are a vital source of income, contributing around $4 million in 2006. Substantial income is received annually from the Tuvalu Trust Fund (TTF), an international trust fund established in 1987 by Australia, NZ, and the UK and supported also by Japan and South Korea. Thanks to wise investments and conservative withdrawals, this fund grew from an initial $17 million to an estimated value of $77 million in 2006. The TFF contributed nearly $9 million towards the government budget in 2006 and is an important cushion for meeting shortfalls in the government’s budget. The US Government is also a major revenue source for Tuvalu because of payments from a 1988 treaty on fisheries. In an effort to ensure financial stability and sustainability, the government is pursuing public sector reforms, including privatization of some government functions and personnel cuts. Tuvalu also derives royalties from the lease of its “.tv” Internet domain name, with revenue of more than $2 million in 2006. A minor source of government revenue comes from the sale of stamps and coins. With merchandise exports only a fraction of merchandise imports, continued reliance must be placed on fishing and telecommunications license fees, remittances from overseas workers, official transfers, and income from overseas investments. Growing income disparities and the vulnerability of the country to climatic change are among leading concerns for the nation.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $14.94 million (2002 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $14.94 million (2002)
GDP – real growth rate: 3% (2006 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $1,600 (2002 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 16.6%
services: 56.2% (2002)
Labor force: 3,615 (2004 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: note: people make a living mainly through exploitation of the sea, reefs, and atolls and from wages sent home by those abroad (mostly workers in the phosphate industry and sailors)
Unemployment rate: NA%
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Budget: revenues: $21.54 million
expenditures: $23.05 million (2006)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3.8% (2006 est.)
Agriculture – products: coconuts; fish
Industries: fishing, tourism, copra
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: NA
Current account balance: -$11.68 million (2003)
Exports: $1 million f.o.b. (2004 est.)
Exports – commodities: copra, fish
Imports: $12.91 million c.i.f. (2005)
Imports – commodities: food, animals, mineral fuels, machinery, manufactured goods
Economic aid – recipient: $10.49 million
note: includes distributions from the Tuvalu Trust Fund (2006)
Debt – external: $NA
Currency (code): Australian dollar (AUD); note – there is also a Tuvaluan dollar
Currency code: AUD
Exchange rates: Tuvaluan dollars or Australian dollars (AUD) per U 1.2059 (2008 est.), 1.2137 (2007), 1.3285 (2006), 1.3095 (2005), 1.3598 (2004)
|Telephones – main lines in use: 900 (2005)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 1,300 (2005)
Telephone system: general assessment: serves particular needs for internal communications
domestic: radiotelephone communications between islands
international: country code – 688; international calls can be made by satellite
Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 1, shortwave 0 (2004)
Radios: 4,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 0 (2004)
Internet country code: .tv
Internet hosts: 56,209 (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: 1,300 (2002)
|Airports: 1 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2007)
Roadways: total: 8 km
paved: 8 km (2002)
Merchant marine: total: 80
by type: bulk carrier 7, cargo 30, chemical tanker 14, container 2, passenger 2, passenger/cargo 1, petroleum tanker 22, refrigerated cargo 1, specialized tanker 1
foreign-owned: 63 (China 16, Hong Kong 7, Kenya 1, South Korea 1, Malaysia 1, Maldives 1, Norway 1, Russia 2, Singapore 23, Thailand 1, Turkey 2, Ukraine 1, US 1, Vietnam 5) (2008)
Ports and terminals: Funafuti
|Military branches: no regular military forces; Tuvalu Police Force (2008)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 128
female: 125 (2008 est.)
Military expenditures: NA
|Disputes – international: none