Photos of Nauru

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.
Nauru holds the distinction of being the third-smallest country in the world, the smallest country in the Pacific Ocean, the smallest country outside of Europe, the world's smallest island country, and the world's smallest independent republic.  Located 53 km (32 m) south of the Equator, Nauru is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean. Image courtesy of the US Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program.

Introduction

Background

By 1000 B.C., Micronesian and Polynesian settlers inhabited Nauru, and the island was divided among 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 was 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. In 1962, recognizing the phosphate stocks would eventually be depleted, 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, and the country went nearly bankrupt by 2000. Nauru sued Australia in 1989 for the damage caused by mining when Australia administered the island. Widespread phosphate mining officially ceased in 2006.

As its economy faltered, Nauru briefly tried to rebrand itself as an offshore banking haven, an initiative that ended in 2005, and the country made a successful bid for Russian humanitarian aid in 2008. 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 closed in 2008 but reopened in 2012. The number of refugees steadily declined after 2014, and in 2020, the remaining people were moved to a hotel in Brisbane, Australia, effectively shuttering the NRPC. However, in 2023, Australia agreed to continue funding NRPC for two years and restarted settling asylees in the center in mid-2023. The center remains the Government of Nauru’s largest source of income.  

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

comparison ranking: total 238

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 (2022)

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

total: 9,892

male: 4,856

female: 5,036 (2024 est.)

comparison rankings: female 222; male 222; total 222

Nationality

noun: Nauruan(s)

adjective: Nauruan

Ethnic groups

Nauruan 94.6%, I-Kiribati 2.2%, Fijian 1.3%, other 1.9% (2021 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 Gilbertese 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% (Nauruan Congregational 34.7%, Assemblies of God 11.6%, Pacific Light House 6.3%, Nauru Independent 3.6%, Baptist 1.5, Seventh Day Adventist 1.3%, other Protestant 1.4%), Roman Catholic 33.9%, other 4.2%, none 1.3%, no answer 0.3% (2021 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 29.6% (male 1,493/female 1,433)

15-64 years: 66% (male 3,220/female 3,309)

65 years and over: 4.4% (2024 est.) (male 143/female 294)

2023 population pyramid:
2023 population pyramid

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 69.9

youth dependency ratio: 66

elderly dependency ratio: 3.9

potential support ratio: 25.8 (2021)

Median age

total: 27.8 years (2024 est.)

male: 27.3 years

female: 28.4 years

comparison ranking: total 156

Population growth rate

0.39% (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 161

Birth rate

20.2 births/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 66

Death rate

6.5 deaths/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 138

Net migration rate

-9.8 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 222

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 (2023)

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

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.49 male(s)/female

total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2024 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 7.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2024 est.)

male: 9.8 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 5.3 deaths/1,000 live births

comparison ranking: total 151

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 68.6 years (2024 est.)

male: 65 years

female: 72.3 years

comparison ranking: total population 187

Total fertility rate

2.55 children born/woman (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 68

Gross reproduction rate

1.25 (2024 est.)

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: NA

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: NA

total: 0% of population (2020 est.)

Physician density

1.35 physicians/1,000 population (2015)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 96.3% of population

rural: NA

total: 96.3% of population

unimproved: urban: 3.7% of population

rural: NA

total: 3.7% of population (2017 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

61% (2016)

comparison ranking: 1

Alcohol consumption per capita

total: 2.44 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

beer: 0.54 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

wine: 0.09 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

spirits: 1.81 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

other alcohols: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: total 125

Tobacco use

total: 48.5% (2020 est.)

male: 47.8% (2020 est.)

female: 49.1% (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 1

Education expenditures

7.1% of GDP (2021) NA

comparison ranking: 20

Literacy

total population: NA

male: NA

female: NA

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

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 (2023)

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

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Revenue from forest resources

0% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 172

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 7.4 micrograms per cubic meter (2019 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 0.05 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 0.01 megatons (2020 est.)

Waste and recycling

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

Total renewable water resources

10 million cubic meters (2020 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 require 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 David ADEANG (since 30 October 2023)

head of government: President David ADEANG (since 30 October 2023)

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

elections/appointments: president indirectly elected by Parliament for 3-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 30 October 2023 (next to be held in 2026)

election results: 2023: David ADEAGN elected president over Delvin THOMA, 10-8

note: the president is both chief of state and head of government

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 September 2022 (next to be held in September 2025)

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

Judicial branch

highest court(s): 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 does not have formal political parties; alliances within the government are often formed based on extended family ties

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 Margo DEIYE (since 1 December 2021); note - also Permanent Representative to the UN

chancery: 801 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

upper-middle-income Pacific island country; phosphate resource exhaustion made island interior uninhabitable; licenses fishing rights; houses Australia’s Regional Processing Centre; former tax haven; largely dependent on foreign subsidies

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$139.656 million (2022 est.)
$137.491 million (2021 est.)
$133.161 million (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 221

Real GDP growth rate

1.57% (2022 est.)
3.25% (2021 est.)
4.24% (2020 est.)

note: annual GDP % growth based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 178

Real GDP per capita

$11,000 (2022 est.)
$11,000 (2021 est.)
$10,800 (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 138

GDP (official exchange rate)

$151.648 million (2022 est.)

note: data in current dollars at official exchange rate

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

5.1% (2017 est.)
8.2% (2016 est.)

comparison ranking: 76

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 6.1% (2009 est.)

industry: 33% (2009 est.)

services: 60.8% (2009 est.)

comparison rankings: services 118; industry 59; agriculture 120

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 fruits, pork, eggs, pork offal, pork fat, chicken, papayas, vegetables, cabbages (2022)

note: top ten agricultural products based on tonnage

Industries

phosphate mining, offshore banking, coconut products

Industrial production growth rate

4.3% (2014 est.)

note: annual % change in industrial value added based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 91

Unemployment rate

23% (2011 est.)
90% (2004 est.)

comparison ranking: 211

Youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24)

total: 26.6% (2013)

male: 20.9%

female: 37.5%

comparison ranking: total 53

Remittances

4.99% of GDP (2018 est.)
9.46% of GDP (2017 est.)
12.04% of GDP (2016 est.)

note: personal transfers and compensation between resident and non-resident individuals/households/entities

Budget

revenues: $195 million (2020 est.)

expenditures: $158 million (2020 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

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

comparison ranking: 206

Public debt

62% of GDP (2017 est.)
65% of GDP (2016 est.)

comparison ranking: 75

Taxes and other revenues

44.35% (of GDP) (2020 est.)

note: central government tax revenue as a % of GDP

comparison ranking: 7

Current account balance

$8.406 million (2018 est.)
$14.11 million (2017 est.)
$2.079 million (2016 est.)

note: balance of payments - net trade and primary/secondary income in current dollars

comparison ranking: 65

Exports

$187 million (2021 est.)
$105 million (2020 est.)
$32.7 million (2019 est.)

note: balance of payments - exports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 203

Exports - partners

Thailand 59%, Philippines 19%, South Korea 11%, India 3%, Japan 2% (2022)

note: top five export partners based on percentage share of exports

Exports - commodities

fish, phosphates, gas turbines, power equipment, plastic products (2022)

note: top five export commodities based on value in dollars

Imports

$94.2 million (2021 est.)
$103 million (2020 est.)
$88.2 million (2019 est.)

note: balance of payments - imports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 216

Imports - partners

Australia 47%, China 17%, Japan 12%, Fiji 11%, NZ 2% (2022)

note: top five import partners based on percentage share of imports

Imports - commodities

ships, plastic products, other foods, cars, refined petroleum (2022)

note: top five import commodities based on value in dollars

Debt - external

$33.3 million (2004 est.)

comparison ranking: 199

Exchange rates

Australian dollars (AUD) per US dollar -

Exchange rates:
1.442 (2022 est.)
1.331 (2021 est.)
1.453 (2020 est.)
1.439 (2019 est.)
1.338 (2018 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2022 est.)

Electricity

installed generating capacity: 19,000 kW (2022 est.)

consumption: 37.48 million kWh (2022 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 3.922 million kWh (2022 est.)

comparison rankings: transmission/distribution losses 8; consumption 206; installed generating capacity 205

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 88.9% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

solar: 11.1% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

Petroleum

refined petroleum consumption: 500 bbl/day (2022 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

70,000 metric tonnes of CO2 (2022 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 70,000 metric tonnes of CO2 (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: total emissions 211

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: (2018 est.) 0

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: (2014 est.) less than 1

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 10,000 (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 80 (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 219

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: relies on satellite as the primary Internet service provider and mobile operator; internet connectivity on the island is very limited and unstable due to the vulnerability of the network infrastructure to bad weather and limited network coverage, with several blind spots (2022)

domestic: fixed-line 0 per 100 and mobile-cellular subscribership approximately 80 per 100 (2021)

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

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: 10,920 (2021 est.)

percent of population: 84% (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total 218

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 950 (2010 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 10 (2010 est.)

comparison ranking: total 209

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 (2018) mt-km

Airports

1 (2024)

comparison ranking: 226

Roadways

total: 30 km

paved: 24 km

unpaved: 6 km (2002)

comparison ranking: total 221

Merchant marine

total: 6 (2023)

by type: other 6

comparison ranking: total 164

Ports

total ports: 1 (2024)

large: 0

medium: 0

small: 0

very small: 1

ports with oil terminals: 1

key ports: 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 (2024)

Military - note

under an informal agreement, defense is the responsibility of Australia

Nauru has a "shiprider" agreement with the US, which allows local maritime law enforcement officers to embark on US Coast Guard (USCG) and US Navy (USN) vessels, including to board and search vessels suspected of violating laws or regulations within Nauru's designated exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or on the high seas; "shiprider" agreements also enable USCG personnel and USN vessels with embarked USCG law enforcement personnel to work with host nations to protect critical regional resources (2023)

Transnational Issues

Refugees and internally displaced persons

stateless persons: 140 (2022)