- About the Region
About the Region
Pacific Island countries face common challenges resulting from their small size, geographic isolation and natural disaster vulnerability. The sub-region is experiencing high levels of poverty and slow economic growth and is in danger of missing critical Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets. Sustainable and equitable economic growth is dependent on significant governance improvements, but increasing concerns over alleged abuse of power and corruption are contributing to instability and failure to uphold human rights.
The Fiji Multi-Country Office covers the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Federated States of Micronesia
The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is the largest and most diverse part of the Micronesian sub-region of the vast Pacific region and is comprised of 607 islands. FSM’s total landmass is 438 square miles (702 km2) spread across an Exclusive Economic Zone of 1,161,578 square miles (1.6 million km2). Its elevation ranges from sea level to about 2,500 feet (760m). Its marine and terrestrial biodiversity are the nation’s living wealth with high levels of species endemism especially among the terrestrial biota. This high endemism is due to the isolation of the islands from one another and from other landmasses in the greater Micronesian region. The FSM is a federation of four semi-autonomous island States in geographic sequence from east to west – Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk, and Yap.
The Republic of Fiji consists of 322 islands, of which 110 are inhabited, with a total land area of 18,274 square kilometers enclosed in an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 1.26 million sq. km of ocean. The two largest islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for more than 85 per cent of the total land area with Viti Levu being the most developed and most populated island and the location of the capital city, Suva, the international airport in Nadi Town and most of the primary and secondary industrial development. While the majority of the islands are high and mountainous with peaks rising up to 1,300 meters and large navigable rivers, there are also a few low lying atolls. The rich soil and ample water for irrigation mean that agricultural products of many kinds grow very successfully with sugar being one of the country's major revenue earners. The population of Fiji is about 837,271 (2007 Census).
Kiribati sits astride both the equator and the International Date Line and consists of 33 low lying coral atolls scattered over four million sq km of the Paciﬁc Ocean. Twenty-one coral atolls are permanently inhabited and spread across an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 3.5 million sq.km, making it the largest in the Pacific. Being coral atolls and reef islands the soil is generally very poor and infertile making agriculture difficult. The total land area is only 726 sq. km., of which over half (388 sq km) is on Kiritimati (Christmas Island) situated some 1200 km south of Hawai’i and over 2,000 km. to the east of the capital on Tarawa. The 2005 census showed the population of 92,533 with more females (46,921) than males (45,612) and a young population with 37% under the age of 15 years. Increasing urban drift continues with Betio isle having a population density of 8,000 per sq km, one of the highest in the world. Kiribati is ranked as a Least Development Country (LDC).
The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) consists of two roughly parallel chains of 29 coral atolls and five single coral islands located between 160 and 173 degrees east longitude and between 4 and 14 degrees north latitude. The RMI’s total land mass measures about 181 square kilometers and its exclusive economic zone measures about two million square kilometers. The highest elevation is only 10 meters above sea level, and average elevation is two meters. The southern atolls and islands are characterized by more lush vegetation relative to the northern atolls and islands.
Nauru is one of the world’s smallest countries and one of the most remote. Situated almost on the equator between Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, its nearest neighbor, Kiribati, is 400 kilometers across the ocean. The country consists of a single island of 21 square kilometers. The island has a central plateau 40-60 meters above sea level and a perimeter strip of coastal land 150-300 meters wide, where most of the population lives. Nauruan is the official language of Nauru but English is widely understood, spoken, and used for most Government and commercial purposes. At home, most people speak Nauruan, a distinct language within the Micronesian family of Austronesian languages. All Nauruans have certain rights to land, and individuals and family groups own all land on the island. Government and other entities must enter into a lease arrangement with the landowners to use land. Non-Nauruans cannot own land.
The Republic of Palau consists of 340 islands, of which eight are inhabited. The most important islands are Angaur, Babeldaob, Peleliu and Koror. The population of Palau is about 20,796 (2009), and about two-thirds of the population lives in the capital city, Koror. After three decades as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific under US administration, Palau opted for independent status in 1978 rather than join the Federated States of Micronesia. The Republic of Palau adopted its own constitution in 1980 and has been an independent country since October 1994, the same year it entered into a Compact of Free Association with the United States.
Solomon Islands became an independent country exiting British colonial rule in 1978. In the same year Solomon Islands also became a sovereign member state of the United Nations. As this report is being written Solomon Islands has therefore benefited from 32 years of independent self-rule. Much of recent history for Solomon Islands has been a peaceful one, benefiting from growing democratic governance structures based on the British Parliamentary system, though a serious lapse in security took place from late 1999 until mid 2003.
The Kingdom of Tonga is a Polynesian archipelago in the South Pacific with approximately 718 sq km of land area scattered over 170 islands, of which 36 are inhabited. The country consists of four main island groups including Tongatapu seat of the capital city Nuku’alofa, and including, Vava’u, Hapa’ai, and the more remote islands in the Niuas. Tonga is the only country in the South Pacific that has never been formally colonized, although it was a British protectorate until 4 June 1970. Tonga is also the only monarchy in the region. Over the years, Tonga has undergone social, cultural, economic, political and demographic changes. As with many other Pacific islands, Tonga’s small size and isolation present challenges for development.
Tuvalu, formerly the Ellice Islands in the Gilbert and Ellice Island colony, comprises nine islands. These are scattered over 1.2 million square kilometers of the Pacific Ocean stretching in a North-South direction between latitudes 5 and 11 degrees south and over longitudes 176 and 180 degrees east. The total land area is 25.6 square kilometers. Tuvalu is formed of nine low lying coral islands seldom rising no more than four metres above sea level. Five of the islands (Nukufetau, Nanumea, Nui, Funafuti and Nukulaelae) are true coral atolls, with a reef platform surrounding a central lagoon while Nanumaga, Niutao and Niulakita are single islets composed of sand and coral materials thrown up by wind and wave action. Only Vaitupu has the character of both an atoll and reef island.
Vanuatu is an archipelago of 83 islands, of which 68 islands are permanently inhabited. Of all the islands, 14 have surface areas of more than 100 square kilometres, from largest to smallest. Its islands are young, small and highly disturbed as a result of frequent cyclone, seismic and volcanic activity. The country has a reasonable natural resource base for achieving sustainable human development. The economy is based primarily on subsistence or small-scale agriculture, which provides a living for 65 percent of the population. Fishing, offshore financial services, and tourism, are other mainstays of the economy. Having an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 735,893 square kilometers, it possesses substantial marine resources. Mineral deposits are negligible; the country has no known petroleum deposits.
Note: Statistics provided include the Pacific region and not only the countries covered by the Fiji Multi-Country Office.
Statistics Sources: 2012 UNDP Pacific Centre Annual Report; Urban Youth in the Pacific;