Marshall Islands

Introduction After almost four decades under US administration as the easternmost part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the Marshall Islands attained independence in 1986 under a Compact of Free Association. Compensation claims continue as a result of US nuclear testing on some of the atolls between 1947 and 1962. The Marshall Islands hosts the US Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) Reagan Missile Test Site, a key installation in the US missile defense network.
History

Although the Marshall Islands were settled by Micronesians in the 2nd millennium BC, little is known of their early history. Spanish explorer Alonso de Salazar was the first European to see the islands in 1526, but they remained virtually unvisited by Europeans until the arrival of British Captain John Marshall in 1788; the islands are now named after him.

A German trading company settled on the islands in 1885, and they became part of the protectorate of German New Guinea some years later. Japan conquered the islands in World War I, and administered them as a League of Nations mandate.

In World War II, the United States invaded and occupied the islands (1944) destroying or isolating the Japanese garrisons, and they were added to the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (including several more island groups in the South Sea). From 1946 to 1958 the US tested 66 nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands,[1] including the largest nuclear test the US ever conducted, Castle Bravo. Nuclear claims between the US and the Marshall Islands are ongoing, and health effects from these tests linger.

In 1979, the Government of the Marshall Islands was officially established and the country became self-governing. In 1986 the Compact of Free Association with the United States entered into force, granting the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) its sovereignty. The Compact provided for aid and US defense of the islands in exchange for continued US military use of the missile testing range at Kwajalein Atoll. The independence was formally completed under international law in 1990, when the UN officially ended the Trusteeship status.

On March 21, 2007, the government of the Marshall Islands declared a state of emergency due to a prolonged drought.

Geography Location: Oceania, two archipelagic island chains of 29 atolls, each made up of many small islets, and five single islands in the North Pacific Ocean, about half way between Hawaii and Australia
Geographic coordinates: 9 00 N, 168 00 E
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 181.3 sq km
land: 181.3 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: the archipelago includes 11,673 sq km of lagoon waters and includes the atolls of Bikini, Enewetak, Kwajalein, Majuro, Rongelap, and Utirik
Area - comparative: about the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 370.4 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; hot and humid; wet season May to November; islands border typhoon belt
Terrain: low coral limestone and sand islands
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Likiep 10 m
Natural resources: coconut products, marine products, deep seabed minerals
Land use: arable land: 11.11%
permanent crops: 44.44%
other: 44.45% (2005)
Irrigated land: 0 sq km
Natural hazards: infrequent typhoons
Environment - current issues: inadequate supplies of potable water; pollution of Majuro lagoon from household waste and discharges from fishing vessels
Environment - international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: the Marshall Islands Bikini and Enewetak are former US nuclear test sites; Kwajalein, the famous World War II battleground, is used as a US missile test range; island city of Ebeye is the second largest settlement in the Marshall Islands, after the capital of Majuro, and one of the most densely populated locations in the Pacific
Politics

he government of the Marshall Islands operates under a mixed parliamentary-presidential system. Elections are held every four years in universal suffrage (for all citizens above 18 years of age) with each of the twenty-four constituencies (see below) electing one or more representatives (senators) to the lower house of RMI’s bicameral legislature, the Nitijela. (Majuro, the capital atoll, elects five senators.) The President, who is head of state as well as head of government, is elected by the 33 senators of the Nitijela.

Legislative power lies with the Nitijela. The upper house of Parliament, called the Council of Iroij, is an advisory body comprising twelve tribal chiefs.

The executive branch consists of the President and the Presidential Cabinet (ten ministers appointed by the President with the approval of the Nitijela.)

The twenty-four electoral districts into which the country is divided correspond to the inhabited islands and atolls: There are currently three political parties in the Marshall Islands: AKA, UPP & UDP. The ruling party is combined of both the AKA and UPP.

People Population: 63,174 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 38.5% (male 12,404/female 11,946)
15-64 years: 58.6% (male 18,937/female 18,095)
65 years and over: 2.8% (male 869/female 923) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 21 years
male: 21 years
female: 20.9 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.142% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 31.52 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 4.57 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -5.52 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.94 male(s)/female
total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 26.36 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 29.58 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 22.98 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 70.9 years
male: 68.88 years
female: 73.03 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.68 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: Marshallese (singular and plural)
adjective: Marshallese
Ethnic groups: Micronesian
Religions: Protestant 54.8%, Assembly of God 25.8%, Roman Catholic 8.4%, Bukot nan Jesus 2.8%, Mormon 2.1%, other Christian 3.6%, other 1%, none 1.5% (1999 census)
Languages: Marshallese (official) 98.2%, other languages 1.8% (1999 census)
note: English (official), widely spoken as a second language
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 93.7%
male: 93.6%
female: 93.7% (1999)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Republic of the Marshall Islands
conventional short form: Marshall Islands
local long form: Republic of the Marshall Islands
local short form: Marshall Islands
abbreviation: RMI
former: Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, Marshall Islands District
Government type: constitutional government in free association with the US; the Compact of Free Association entered into force 21 October 1986 and the Amended Compact entered into force in May 2004
Capital: name: Majuro
geographic coordinates: 7 06 N, 171 23 E
time difference: UTC+12 (17 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 33 municipalities; Ailinginae, Ailinglaplap, Ailuk, Arno, Aur, Bikar, Bikini, Bokak, Ebon, Enewetak, Erikub, Jabat, Jaluit, Jemo, Kili, Kwajalein, Lae, Lib, Likiep, Majuro, Maloelap, Mejit, Mili, Namorik, Namu, Rongelap, Rongrik, Toke, Ujae, Ujelang, Utirik, Wotho, Wotje
Independence: 21 October 1986 (from the US-administered UN trusteeship)
National holiday: Constitution Day, 1 May (1979)
Constitution: 1 May 1979
Legal system: based on adapted Trust Territory laws, acts of the legislature, municipal, common, and customary laws
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Litokwa TOMEING (since 7 January 2008); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Litokwa TOMEING (since 7 January 2008)
cabinet: Cabinet selected by the president from among the members of the legislature
elections: president elected by Parliament from among its members for a four-year term; election last held 7 January 2008 (next to be held in 2012)
election results: Litokwa TOMEING elected president; TOMEING received 18 votes to 15 for incumbent NOTE
Legislative branch: unicameral legislature or Nitijela (33 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 17 November 2003 (next to be held by November 2007)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - independents 33
note: the Council of Chiefs or Ironij is a 12-member body comprised of tribal chiefs that advises on matters affecting customary law and practice
Judicial branch: Supreme Court; High Court; Traditional Rights Court
Political parties and leaders: traditionally there have been no formally organized political parties; what has existed more closely resembles factions or interest groups because they do not have party headquarters, formal platforms, or party structures; the following two "groupings" have competed in legislative balloting in recent years - Aelon Kein Ad Party [Michael KABUA] and United Democratic Party or UDP [Litokwa TOMEING]
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: ACP, ADB, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, IDA, IFC, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, ITU, OPCW, PIF, Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, WHO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Banny DE BRUM
chancery: 2433 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 234-5414
FAX: [1] (202) 232-3236
consulate(s) general: Honolulu
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Clyde BISHOP
embassy: Oceanside, Mejen Weto, Long Island, Majuro
mailing address: P. O. Box 1379, Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands 96960-1379
telephone: [692] 247-4011
FAX: [692] 247-4012
Flag description: blue with two stripes radiating from the lower hoist-side corner - orange (top) and white; there is a white star with four large rays and 20 small rays on the hoist side above the two stripes
Culture

Cultural values and customs, or manit, make Marshallese society unique. Land is a focal point for social organization in this island nation. All Marshallese have land rights as part of a clan, or jowi, that owes allegiance to an Iroij (chief), is supervised by the Alap (clan head), and supported by the Rijerbal (workers). The Iroij have ultimate control of such things as land tenure, resource use and distribution, and dispute settlement. The Alap supervises the maintenance of lands and daily activities. The Rijerbal are responsible for all daily work on the land including cleaning, farming, and construction activities. The society is matrilineal and, therefore, land is passed down from generation to generation through the mother.

With the land to tie families together into clans, family gatherings tend to become big events. One of the most significant family events is the kemem, or first birthday of a child, where relatives and friends come together to celebrate with feasting and song.

Although now in decline, the Marshallese were once able navigators, using the stars and stick and shell charts. They are also experienced in canoe building and still hold annual competitions involving the unique oceanic sailing canoe, the proa.

Economy Economy - overview: US Government assistance is the mainstay of this tiny island economy. The Marshall Islands received more than $1 billion in aid from the US from 1986-2002. Agricultural production, primarily subsistence, is concentrated on small farms; the most important commercial crops are coconuts and breadfruit. Small-scale industry is limited to handicrafts, tuna processing, and copra. The tourist industry, now a small source of foreign exchange employing less than 10% of the labor force, remains the best hope for future added income. The islands have few natural resources, and imports far exceed exports. Under the terms of the Amended Compact of Free Association, the US will provide millions of dollars per year to the Marshall Islands (RMI) through 2023, at which time a Trust Fund made up of US and RMI contributions will begin perpetual annual payouts. Government downsizing, drought, a drop in construction, the decline in tourism, and less income from the renewal of fishing vessel licenses have held GDP growth to an average of 1% over the past decade.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $115 million (2001 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $144 million (2005)
GDP - real growth rate: 3.5% (2005 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $2,900 (2005 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 31.7%
industry: 14.9%
services: 53.4% (2004 est.)
Labor force: 14,680 (2000)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 21.4%
industry: 20.9%
services: 57.7% (2000)
Unemployment rate: 30.9% (2000 est.)
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3% (2005 est.)
Budget: revenues: $42 million
expenditures: $40 million (1999)
Agriculture - products: coconuts, tomatoes, melons, taro, breadfruit, fruits; pigs, chickens
Industries: copra, tuna processing, tourism, craft items (from seashells, wood, and pearls)
Industrial production growth rate: NA%
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 99%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 1% (solar)
Exports: $9.1 million f.o.b. (2000)
Exports - commodities: copra cake, coconut oil, handicrafts, fish
Exports - partners: US, Japan, Australia, China (2006)
Imports: $54.7 million f.o.b. (2000)
Imports - commodities: foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels, beverages and tobacco
Imports - partners: US, Japan, Australia, NZ, Singapore, Fiji, China, Philippines (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $56.56 million (2005)
Debt - external: $86.5 million (FY99/00 est.)
Currency (code): US dollar (USD)
Currency code: USD
Exchange rates: the US dollar is used
Fiscal year: 1 October - 30 September
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 4,500 (2004)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 600 (2004)
Telephone system: general assessment: digital switching equipment; modern services include telex, cellular, Internet, international calling, caller ID, and leased data circuits
domestic: Majuro Atoll and Ebeye and Kwajalein islands have regular, seven-digit, direct-dial telephones; other islands interconnected by high frequency radiotelephone (used mostly for government purposes) and mini-satellite telephones
international: country code - 692; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean); US Government satellite communications system on Kwajalein (2001)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 3, shortwave 0 (additionally, the US Armed Forces Radio and Television Services (Central Pacific Network) operate one FM and one AM station on Kwajalein) (2005)
Radios: NA
Television broadcast stations: 2 (both are US military stations; Marshalls Broadcasting Service, a cable company, operates on Majuro) (2005)
Televisions: NA
Internet country code: .mh
Internet hosts: 3 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2002)
Internet users: 2,200 (2006)
Transportation Airports: 15 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 11
914 to 1,523 m: 10
under 914 m: 1 (2007)
Roadways: total: 64.5 km
paved: 64.5 km
note: paved roads on major islands (Majuro, Kwajalein), otherwise stone-, coral-, or laterite-surfaced roads and tracks (2002)
Merchant marine: total: 902 ships (1000 GRT or over) 33,260,440 GRT/55,644,008 DWT
by type: barge carrier 2, bulk carrier 215, cargo 61, carrier 1, chemical tanker 165, combination ore/oil 6, container 171, liquefied gas 28, passenger 6, petroleum tanker 228, refrigerated cargo 2, roll on/roll off 10, specialized tanker 2, vehicle carrier 5
foreign-owned: 857 (Australia 1, Belgium 1, Bermuda 5, Canada 4, Chile 4, China 3, Croatia 4, Cyprus 39, Denmark 9, Finland 2, Germany 214, Greece 226, Hong Kong 4, Italy 3, Japan 5, South Korea 3, Latvia 10, Malaysia 3, Monaco 7, Netherlands 5, Norway 62, Romania 1, Russia 4, Saudi Arabia 4, Singapore 12, Slovenia 3, Spain 3, Sweden 1, Switzerland 14, Turkey 41, UAE 14, UK 17, US 129) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Majuro
Military Military branches: no regular military forces; under the 1983 Compact of Free Association, the US has full authority and responsibility for security and defense of the Marshall Islands; Marshall Islands Police (2008)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 13,465 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 10,792 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 726 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: NA
Military - note: defense is the responsibility of the US
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: claims US territory of Wake Island