Nauru -- Geography --
Official Name: Republic of Nauru
Capital City: no official capital; government offices in Yaren District
Languages: Nauruan, English
Religions: Nauru Congregational 35.4%, Roman Catholic 33.2%, Nauru Independent Church 10.4%, other 21%,
Population: 14,019 (July 2009 est.)
Ethnic groups: Nauruan 58%, other Pacific Islander 26%, Chinese 8%, European 8%
Land Area: total: 21 sq km
Landforms: Sandy beach rises to fertile ring around raised coral reefs with phosphate plateau in center
Land Divisions: 14 districts: Aiwo, Anabar, Anetan, Anibare, Baiti, Boe, Buada, Denigomodu, Ewa, Ijuw, Meneng, Nibok, Uaboe, Yaren.
Nauru -- History --
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. 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 independence in 1968 and joined the UN in 1999 as the world's smallest independent republic.
Nauru -- Economy --
Revenues of this tiny island have traditionally come from exports of phosphates now significantly depleted. An Australian company in 2005 entered into an agreement intended to exploit remaining supplies. Few other resources exist with most necessities being imported, mainly from Australia its former occupier and later major source of support. The rehabilitation of mined land and the replacement of income from phosphates are serious long-term problems. Reserves of phosphates may only last until 2010 at current mining rates. 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. As a result of heavy spending from the trust funds, the government faces virtual bankruptcy. To cut costs the government has frozen wages and reduced overstaffed public service departments. Nauru lost further revenue in 2008 with the closure of Australia's refugee processing center, making it almost totally dependent on food imports and foreign aid. Housing, hospitals, and other capital plant is deteriorating. The cost to Australia of keeping the government and economy afloat continues to climb. Few comprehensive statistics on the Nauru economy exist with estimates of Nauru's GDP varying widely.
Nauru -- Culture --
The inhabitants of Nauru traditionally wear the usual tropical clothes: short trousers and light shirts. Fishing still follows a traditional method: the island anglers wait in small light boats for fish to arrive. The custom of fishing has been preserved by trained Fregattvoegeln.
Radio Nauru has collected numerous recordings of local people's music. But even old Nauruans can rarely understand the contents of these songs.
Whilst the traditional culture rapidly gives way to the contemporary, as elsewhere in Micronesia, music and dance still rank among the most popular art forms. Rhythmic singing and traditional reigen are performed particularly at celebrations and craftsmen make articles of clothing and fans of Kokosfasern and the sheets of the screw tree and use geometrical samples, which resemble those of the Indonesian culture. Also the wood of the kokospalme is used for the production of arts and crafts.They have 800 different languages.
Symbolism. The frigate bird is a major symbol; it is found on the fin of Air Nauru planes and appears as the official logo. The crest consists of two palm trees encircling an orb that includes a Christian cross above a resting frigate bird and a flower. Above the orb is a twelve-pointed star representing the twelve tribes of Nauru. Beneath the orb are the words "God's Will First," indicating the Christian basis of the community's way of life. Phosphate has become another symbol, forming the basis of the nation's wealth.
Classes and Castes. Nauruans pride themselves on being a democratic society and denounce the two classes that formerly marked their society. The temonibe and amenengame classes consisted of the senior matrilineage as opposed to those in the junior matrilineages. These two classes were distinguished from the itsio, or slave class, which included those who arrived on Nauru from outside and had no land holdings. Heads of lineages were drawn from the temonibe class. A chiefly system instituted in 1927 was replaced in 1951 by the Nauru Local Government Council which consists of elected members.
Symbols of Social Stratification. Symbols of stratification are more latent than overt. Elites with large off-shore bank accounts are known by reputation, as it is not acceptable to flaunt wealth on the island. Trucks or motorbikes and large houses are the extent of manifestations of wealth.
Nauru -- Life style --
Almost all food is imported, with the exception of fish caught by Kiribati fishermen. Nauru provided pandanus and fish in premining times, and these were eaten with coconut meat. In times of drought, food shortages could last for two or more years. As a result of mining revenues, the people have a variety of supermarket foods, from turkey to milk. Rice is the basic staple, and fish with rice is the ideal meal. This diet is said to contribute to a high rate of obesity, which often is a precursor to diabetes.
1 Jan New Year's Day.
31 Jan Independence Day.
17 May Constitution Day.
26 Oct Angam Day.
25 Dec -26 Dec Christmas.
Nauru -- Political system, law and government --
Nauru's constitution -- adopted on January 29, 1968, and amended on May 17, 1968 -- established it as a republic with a parliamentary system of government.
The president is head of state as well as head of government. He is elected by the Parliament from among its members every three years. In his role as prime minister, he appoints four or five members of Parliament to join with him to form the cabinet. Cabinet ministers, including the president, take charge of the various government departments and are collectively responsible to Parliament.
The unicameral Parliament consists of eighteen members, who are elected every three years by resident Nauru citizens over the age of twenty. The Parliament chooses a speaker and a deputy speaker, as well as the president, from among its members.
A Supreme Court was established by the constitution and a District Court and a Family Court also operate. In most cases, the highest court of appeal is the High Court of Australia.
The Nauru Local Government Council, prior to its dissolution, exercised important governmental functions. Charged with responsibility for Nauruan community affairs before independence, the council retained certain powers within the republic. In particular, it owns and controls many of Nauru's economic enterprises and investments. Following a poor track record of investments as well as accusations of mismanagement, the Nauru Local Government Council underwent a reorganization following its dissolution by an act of Parliament in 1992 and its replacement with Nauru Island Council. The new Nauru Island Council has very limited powers and functions now as an advisory to the national government on local matters and is bound to concentrate its efforts on local activities. Furthermore the Nauru Island Council is charged with the dual objectives of rejuvenating local government by concentrating on activities more relevant to Nauruans, and to ensure that the serious shortcomings of the old Council are not repeated. The Cabinet, with the president as minister in charge, have taken over the old council's financial network until its affairs are reconciled with government objectives, or further legislation is enacted. Contrary to earlier practice, an elected member of the Nauru Island Council can no longer simultaneously be a member of parliament.
The political system -- dominated by Hammer DeRoburt until his death on July 15, 1992 -- has been relatively stable. DeRoburt was the first and longest running president of Nauru, having served in this capacity from independence until 1989, except for a fourteen-month period between December 1976 and May 1978 when he was replaced by Bernard Dowiyogo (Lagumont Harris served for three weeks in 1978). However, after an August 1989 vote of no confidence deposed DeRoburt for the last time, he was replaced by Kenas Aroi, chairman of the Nauru Phosphate Corporation and former finance minister. Aroi held the presidency only until the general elections in December 1989 when Bernard Dowiyogo was again elected president. The consummate politician, DeRoburt also held the position of Head Chief of the Nauru Local Government Council continuously from 1955 until his death.
Electoral politics in Nauru has more to do with kin relationships than issues. Parliamentary factions form from time to time but, apart from the Nauru Party, which appeared briefly to oppose DeRoburt in 1976, there are no formal political parties.
Phosphate exports of about 1.75 million tons annually generate huge revenues for the Nauru government and allow it to levy no taxes and to provide free health and education services. Many of the material necessities of life, including water, are imported. At present rates of extraction, the phosphate will be worked out in the late 1990s. However, a significant proportion of the phosphate revenue has been invested in commercial enterprises and overseas real estate developments, thereby assuring some future income for Nauru. Nevertheless, Nauru will face considerable difficulties when the economic life of phosphate is exhausted. In anticipation of this eventuality, the government of President Dowiyogo have taken steps to adjust present methods of economic, financial, and social management to prepare for the post-phosphate economy.
In September 1991, Nauru became the fifty-second member of the Asian Development Bank, allowing it to participate in the bank's regional programs, a move which should allow access to funds for addressing the task of rehabilitating mined phosphate lands. Nauru has also withdrawn from several money-loosing joint ventures (one in India and another in the Philippines) in an attempt to better manage its financial resources.
Meanwhile, Nauru won its long standing court case against Australia -- and, by extension, the other partner governments that comprised the administering authority under United Nation trusteeship; namely New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The precedent setting decision handed down by the International Court of Justice at The Hague determined that Australia had failed to fulfill its "trust obligation" and therefore owed Nauru approximately Aust.$72 million in land rehabilitation damages for phosphate lands mined-out prior to independence. Australia is presently negotiating with the other partner governments to share in the payment of these damages.