Satellite photo of Nauru vividly displays some of the prominent features of the island including roadways, the landing strip of the international airport in the south, and the Buada Lagoon in the southwest. Image courtesy of the US Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program.
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Introduction

Background

Nauru was inhabited by Micronesian and Polynesian settlers by around 1000 B.C. and the island was divided in 12 clans. Nauru developed in relative isolation because ocean currents made landfall on the island difficult. As a result, the Nauruan language does not clearly resemble any other in the Pacific region. In 1798, British sea captain John FEARN became the first European to spot the island. By 1830, European whalers used Nauru as a supply stop, trading firearms for food. In 1878, a civil war erupted on the island, reducing the population by more than a third. Germany forcibly annexed Nauru in 1888 by holding the 12 chiefs under house arrest until they consented to the annexation. Germany banned alcohol, confiscated weapons, instituted strict dress codes, and brought in Christian missionaries to convert the population. Phosphate was discovered in 1900 and heavily mined, although Nauru and Nauruans earned about one tenth of one percent of the profits from the phosphate deposits.

Australian forces captured Nauru from Germany during World War I, and in 1919, it was placed under a joint Australian-British-New Zealand mandate with Australian administration. Japan occupied Nauru during World War II and used its residents as forced labor elsewhere in the Pacific while destroying much of the infrastructure on the island. After the war, Nauru became a UN trust territory under Australian administration. Recognizing the phosphate stocks would eventually be depleted, in 1962, Australian Prime Minister Robert MENZIES offered to resettle all Nauruans on Curtis Island in Queensland, but Nauruans rejected that plan and opted for independence, which was achieved in 1968. In 1970, Nauru purchased the phosphate mining assets, and income from the mines made Nauruans among the richest people in the world. However, Nauru subsequently began a series of unwise investments in buildings, musical theater, and an airline. Nauru sued Australia in 1989 for the damage caused by mining when Australia administered the island. Widespread phosphate mining officially ceased in 2006.

Nauru went nearly bankrupt by 2000 and tried to rebrand itself as an offshore banking haven, although it ended that practice in 2005. In 2001, Australia set up the Nauru Regional Processing Center (NRPC), an offshore refugee detention facility, paying Nauru per person at the center. The NRPC was closed in 2008 but reopened in 2012. The number of refugees has steadily declined since 2014, and the remaining people were moved to a hotel in Brisbane, Australia, in 2020, effectively shuttering the NRPC. In a bid for Russian humanitarian aid, in 2008, Nauru recognized the breakaway Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Oceania, island in the South Pacific Ocean, south of the Marshall Islands

Geographic coordinates

0 32 S, 166 55 E

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

total: 0 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

highest point: Command Ridge 70 m

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

Natural resources

phosphates, fish

Land use

agricultural land: 20% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 20% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0% (2018 est.)

forest: 0% (2018 est.)

other: 80% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

0 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

extensive phosphate mining made approximately 90% of the island unsuitable for farming; most people live in the fertile coastal areas, especially along the southwest coast

Natural hazards

periodic droughts

Geography - note

Nauru is the third-smallest country in the world behind the Holy See (Vatican City) and Monaco; it is the smallest country in the Pacific Ocean, the smallest country outside Europe, the world's smallest island country, and the the world's smallest independent republic; situated just 53 km south of the Equator, 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

People and Society

Population

9,770 (July 2021 est.)

Nationality

noun: Nauruan(s)

adjective: Nauruan

Ethnic groups

Nauruan 88.9%, part Nauruan 6.6%, I-Kiribati 2%, other 2.5% (2007 est.)

Languages

Nauruan 93% (official, a distinct Pacific Island language), English 2% (widely understood, spoken, and used for most government and commercial purposes), other 5% (includes I-Kiribati 2% and Chinese 2%) (2011 est.)

note: data represent main language spoken at home; Nauruan is spoken by 95% of the population, English by 66%, and other languages by 12%

Religions

Protestant 60.4% (includes Nauru Congregational 35.7%, Assembly of God 13%, Nauru Independent Church 9.5%, Baptist 1.5%, and Seventh Day Adventist 0.7%), Roman Catholic 33%, other 3.7%, none 1.8%, unspecified 1.1% (2011 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 30.87% (male 1,337/female 1,684)

15-24 years: 16.35% (male 734/female 866)

25-54 years: 42.57% (male 2,115/female 2,050)

55-64 years: 6.72% (male 262/female 396)

65 years and over: 3.48% (male 122/female 219) (2020 est.)

This is the population pyramid for Nauru. A population pyramid illustrates the age and sex structure of a country's population and may provide insights about political and social stability, as well as economic development. The population is distributed along the horizontal axis, with males shown on the left and females on the right. The male and female populations are broken down into 5-year age groups represented as horizontal bars along the vertical axis, with the youngest age groups at the bottom and the oldest at the top. The shape of the population pyramid gradually evolves over time based on fertility, mortality, and international migration trends. <br/><br/>For additional information, please see the entry for Population pyramid on the Definitions and Notes page.

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: NA

youth dependency ratio: NA

elderly dependency ratio: NA

potential support ratio: NA

Median age

total: 27 years

male: 28.2 years

female: 25.9 years (2020 est.)

Population growth rate

0.42% (2021 est.)

Birth rate

21.49 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

Death rate

6.24 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

Net migration rate

-11.05 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

Population distribution

extensive phosphate mining made approximately 90% of the island unsuitable for farming; most people live in the fertile coastal areas, especially along the southwest coast

Urbanization

urban population: 100% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 0.18% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Sex ratio

at birth: 0.84 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 0.79 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 0.85 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.66 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.56 male(s)/female

total population: 0.88 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 7.96 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 10.25 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 5.59 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 67.62 years

male: 64.06 years

female: 71.3 years (2021 est.)

Total fertility rate

2.65 children born/woman (2021 est.)

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 100% of population

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

1.35 physicians/1,000 population (2015)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 96.3% of population

total: 96.3% of population

unimproved: urban: 3.7% of population

total: 3.7% of population (2017 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea

vectorborne diseases: malaria

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 26.6%

male: 20.9%

female: 37.5% (2013)

Environment

Environment - current issues

limited natural freshwater resources, roof storage tanks that collect rainwater and desalination plants provide water; a century of intensive phosphate mining beginning in 1906 left the central 90% of Nauru a wasteland; cadmium residue, phosphate dust, and other contaminants have caused air and water pollution with negative impacts on health; climate change has brought on rising sea levels and inland water shortages

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Convention, Ozone Layer Protection, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 12.53 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 0.05 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 0.01 megatons (2020 est.)

Climate

tropical with a monsoonal pattern; rainy season (November to February)

Land use

agricultural land: 20% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 20% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0% (2018 est.)

forest: 0% (2018 est.)

other: 80% (2018 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 100% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 0.18% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Revenue from forest resources

forest revenues: 0% of GDP (2018 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea

vectorborne diseases: malaria

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 6,192 tons (2016 est.)

Total renewable water resources

10 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Nauru

conventional short form: Nauru

local long form: Republic of Nauru

local short form: Nauru

former: Pleasant Island

etymology: the island name may derive from the Nauruan word "anaoero" meaning "I go to the beach"

Government type

parliamentary republic

Capital

name: no official capital; government offices in the Yaren District

time difference: UTC+12 (17 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

14 districts; Aiwo, Anabar, Anetan, Anibare, Baitsi, Boe, Buada, Denigomodu, Ewa, Ijuw, Meneng, Nibok, Uaboe, Yaren

Independence

31 January 1968 (from the Australia-, NZ-, and UK-administered UN trusteeship)

National holiday

Independence Day, 31 January (1968)

Constitution

history: effective 29 January 1968

amendments: proposed by Parliament; passage requires two-thirds majority vote of Parliament; amendments to constitutional articles, such as the republican form of government, protection of fundamental rights and freedoms, the structure and authorities of the executive and legislative branches, also requires two-thirds majority of votes in a referendum; amended several times, last in 2018

Legal system

mixed legal system of common law based on the English model and customary law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Suffrage

20 years of age; universal and compulsory

Executive branch

chief of state: President Lionel AINGIMEA (since 27 August 2019); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government

head of government: President Lionel AINGIMEA (since 27 August 2019)

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president from among members of Parliament

elections/appointments: president indirectly elected by Parliament (eligible for a second term); election last held on 27 August 2019 (next to be held in 2022)

election results: Lionel AINGIMEA elected president; Parliament vote - Lionel AINGIMEA (independent) 12, David ADEANG (Nauru First) 6

Legislative branch

description: unicameral parliament (19 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by majority vote using the "Dowdall" counting system by which voters rank candidates on their ballots; members serve 3-year terms)

elections: last held on 24 August 2019 (next to be held in 2022)

election results: percent of vote - NA; seats - independent 19; composition - men 17, women 2, percent of women 10.5%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court (consists of the chief justice and several justices); note - in late 2017, the Nauruan Government revoked the 1976 High Court Appeals Act, which had allowed appeals beyond the Nauruan Supreme Court, and in early 2018, the government formed its own appeals court

judge selection and term of office: judges appointed by the president to serve until age 65

subordinate courts: District Court, Family Court

Political parties and leaders

Nauru First (Naoero Amo) Party [David ADEANG]

International organization participation

ACP, ADB, AOSIS, C, FAO, G-77, ICAO, ICCt, IFAD, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, OPCW, PIF, Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, WHO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Marlene Inemwin MOSES (since 13 March 2006)

chancery: 800 2nd Avenue, Third Floor, New York, NY 10017

telephone: [1] (212) 937-0074

FAX: [1] (212) 937-0079

email address and website:
nauru@onecommonwealth.org

https://www.un.int/nauru/

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: the US does not have an embassy in Nauru; the US Ambassador to Fiji is accredited to Nauru

Flag description

blue with a narrow, horizontal, gold stripe across the center and a large white 12-pointed star below the stripe on the hoist side; blue stands for the Pacific Ocean, the star indicates the country's location in relation to the Equator (the gold stripe) and the 12 points symbolize the 12 original tribes of Nauru; the star's white color represents phosphate, the basis of the island's wealth

National symbol(s)

frigatebird, calophyllum flower; national colors: blue, yellow, white

National anthem

name: "Nauru Bwiema" (Song of Nauru)

lyrics/music: Margaret HENDRIE/Laurence Henry HICKS

note: adopted 1968

Economy

Economic overview

Revenues of this tiny island - a coral atoll with a land area of 21 square kilometers - traditionally have come from exports of phosphates. Few other resources exist, with most necessities being imported, mainly from Australia, its former occupier and later major source of support. Primary reserves of phosphates were exhausted and mining ceased in 2006, but mining of a deeper layer of "secondary phosphate" in the interior of the island began the following year. The secondary phosphate deposits may last another 30 years. Earnings from Nauru’s export of phosphate remains an important source of income. Few comprehensive statistics on the Nauru economy exist; estimates of Nauru's GDP vary widely.

The rehabilitation of mined land and the replacement of income from phosphates are serious long-term problems. In anticipation of the exhaustion of Nauru's phosphate deposits, substantial amounts of phosphate income were invested in trust funds to help cushion the transition and provide for Nauru's economic future.

Although revenue sources for government are limited, the opening of the Australian Regional Processing Center for asylum seekers since 2012 has sparked growth in the economy. Revenue derived from fishing licenses under the "vessel day scheme" has also boosted government income. Housing, hospitals, and other capital plant are deteriorating. The cost to Australia of keeping the Nauruan government and economy afloat continues to climb.

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$150 million note: data are in 2017 dollars (2019 est.)

$150 million note: data are in 2017 dollars (2018 est.)

$137 million (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2015 dollars

Real GDP growth rate

4% (2017 est.)

10.4% (2016 est.)

2.8% (2015 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$13,500 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2019 est.)

$13,600 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2018 est.)

$10,667 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$114 million (2017 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

5.1% (2017 est.)

8.2% (2016 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 6.1% (2009 est.)

industry: 33% (2009 est.)

services: 60.8% (2009 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 98% (2016 est.)

government consumption: 37.6% (2016 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 42.2% (2016 est.)

exports of goods and services: 11.2% (2016 est.)

imports of goods and services: -89.1% (2016 est.)

Agricultural products

coconuts, tropical fruit, vegetables, pork, eggs, pig offals, pig fat, poultry, papayas, cabbages

Industries

phosphate mining, offshore banking, coconut products

Labor force - by occupation

note: most of the labor force is employed in phosphate mining, public administration, education, and transportation

Unemployment rate

23% (2011 est.)

90% (2004 est.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 26.6%

male: 20.9%

female: 37.5% (2013)

Budget

revenues: 103 million (2017 est.)

expenditures: 113.4 million (2017 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-9.2% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Public debt

62% of GDP (2017 est.)

65% of GDP (2016 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

90.3% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Fiscal year

1 July - 30 June

Current account balance

$5 million (2017 est.)

$2 million (2016 est.)

Exports

$30 million note: data are in current year dollars (2018 est.)

$110.3 million (2012 est.)

Exports - partners

Thailand 34%, Australia 16%, United States 13%, South Korea 10%, Philippines 9%, Japan 7%, France 5% (2019)

Exports - commodities

fish, calcium phosphates, low-voltage protection equipment, air conditioners, leather apparel (2019)

Imports

$90 million note: data are in current year dollars (2018 est.)

$64.9 million (2016 est.)

Imports - partners

Taiwan 52%, Australia 28% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, construction vehicles, tug boats, poultry meats, cars (2019)

Debt - external

$33.3 million (2004 est.)

Exchange rates

Australian dollars (AUD) per US dollar -

1.311 (2017 est.)

1.3452 (2016 est.)

1.3452 (2015 est.)

1.3291 (2014 est.)

1.1094 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 99.8% (2018)

electrification - urban areas: 99.4% (2018)

electrification - rural areas: 98.7% (2018)

Electricity - production

24 million kWh (2016 est.)

Electricity - consumption

22.32 million kWh (2016 est.)

Electricity - exports

0 kWh (2016 est.)

Electricity - imports

0 kWh (2016 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels

86% of total installed capacity (2016 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels

0% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants

0% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources

14% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)

Crude oil - production

0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

Crude oil - exports

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil - imports

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves

0 bbl (1 January 2018 est.)

Natural gas - production

0 cu m (2017 est.)

Natural gas - consumption

0 cu m (2017 est.)

Natural gas - exports

0 cu m (2017 est.)

Natural gas - imports

0 cu m (2017 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 0 (2018 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 0 (2018 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 10,000 (2018)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 94.58 (2019 est.)

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: adequate local and international radiotelephone communication provided via Australian facilities; geography is a challenge for the islands; there is a need to service the tourism sector and the South Pacific Islands economy; mobile technology is booming (2018)

domestic: fixed-line 14 per 100 and mobile-cellular 95 per 100 (2019)

international: country code - 674; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

Broadcast media

1 government-owned TV station broadcasting programs from New Zealand sent via satellite or on videotape; 1 government-owned radio station, broadcasting on AM and FM, utilizes Australian and British programs (2019)

Internet users

total: 6,771 (2021 est.)

percent of population: 57% (2019 est.)

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 950 (2010)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 9.5 (2018)

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 5

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 45,457 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 7.94 million mt-km (2018)

Airports

total: 1 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2019)

Roadways

total: 30 km (2002)

paved: 24 km (2002)

unpaved: 6 km (2002)

Merchant marine

total: 3

by type: oil tanker 1, other 2 (2021)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Nauru

Military and Security

Military and security forces

no regular military forces; the police force, under the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, maintains internal security and, as necessary, external security

Military - note

Nauru maintains no defense forces; under an informal agreement, defense is the responsibility of Australia

Transnational Issues

Refugees and internally displaced persons

stateless persons: 140 (2020)