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Area: 811 sq km
Population: 103,500 (2010 Kiribati Census)
Capital city: Tarawa
People: Predominantly Micronesian with some Polynesian. Native people of Kiribati are called I-Kiribati.
Languages: English (official although not widely spoken outside of Tarawa) and Kiribati
Religions: Roman Catholic 54%, Protestant (Congregational) 30%, Other 16% (Seventh-Day Adventist, Baha'i, Latter-day Saints, Church of God)
Currency: Australian dollar (AUD)
Major political parties: Boutokaan Te Koaua Party (Pillars of Truth), Maneaban Te Mauri Partyand Tabomoa Party.
Government: Unicameral House of Assembly or Maneaba Ni Maungatabu (members are elected by popular vote, including the attorney general, who serves as an ex-officio member anda representative of the Banaba people (former Ocean Island); members serve four-year terms)
Head of State, President, Foreign & Immigration Minister: Anote Tong
Membership of international groups/ organisations: Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Commonwealth, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), International Development Association, International Finance Corporation (IFC), International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (Intelsat) (nonsignatory user), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement (SPARTECA), Pacific Community (SPC), South Pacific Forum (SPF), United Nations (UN), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Universal Postal Union (UPU), World Health Organisation (WHO), Pacific Islands Forum (PIF)
Kiribati has an estimated population of 103,500 [2010 Kiribati Census]. Due to sea water rises many of the outer islands are now uninhabitable resulting in most of the population living on South Tarawas. The people are predominantly Micronesian, and nearly all are Christian, divided between Protestant and Catholic. Collectively, the people are called I-Kiribat.
Health care facilities in Kiribati are adequate for routine medical care, but extremely limited in availability and quality. Serious medical conditions requiring hospitalization or evacuation may cost thousands of dollars. All water should be regarded as a potential health risk and only water that is bottled, boiled or otherwise sterilized should be drunk. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit should be peeled before it is eaten.
There has been a steady improvement in health indicators over the last decade, but people in Kiribati still have a shorter life span than those in most other Pacific islands. Life expectancy at birth is estimated at 57 for males and 63 for females.
In 2006, 65.0% of the population had access to an improved water source. South Tarawa and Kiritimati Island have public water supply infrastructures, with over 3500 households in South Tarawa and 400 in Kiribati connected to a reticulated, treated water system. The remaining population rely on rainwater supplies and well-water. The protection of the well-water and the water sources from pollution, mainly from nearby sanitation systems, is a constant public health concern.
Basic economic facts
GDP per capita: US$6,200 (2010 est.)
GDP: US$619.5 million (2010 est.)
Annual Growth: 1.5% (2010 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture 12.4%, industry 0.9%, trade 18.5%, commercial trade 5.7%, services 5.7% (2008)
Major Industries: fishing, copra, seaweed cultivation
Major Trading Partners: Japan, US, NZ, Australia and Taiwan
Exchange rate: Kiribati uses the Australian dollar (AUD$)
Kiribati is one of the world’s poorest countries. It has few natural resources and is considered one of the least developed Pacific Islands. Copra and fish now represent the bulk of production and exports. The economy has fluctuated widely in recent years. Economic development is constrained by a shortage of skilled workers, weak infrastructure and remoteness from international markets. Tourism provides more than one fifth of GDP. Private sector initiatives and a financial sector are in the early stages of development. Foreign financial aid from the EU, US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, UN Agencies and Taiwan accounts for 20-25% of GDP. Remittances from seamen on merchant ships abroad account for more than $5million each year. Kiribati receives around $15 million annually for government budget from an Australian Trust Fund.
The UK Government's engagement in the Pacific is largely delivered through multilateral organisations including the United Nations, the Commonwealth, European Union, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. The UK actively supports the development of work programmes in those organisations and contributes significantly to funding their activities.
After a constitutional conference in London the Gilbert Islands became the independent Republic of Kiribati on 12 July 1979.
Longer historical perspective
The present inhabitants descend mainly from Samoans, who migrated to Kiribati at some time during the 11th to 15th centuries. Traces of later contact with other Pacific Islanders and the Chinese remain in the population and culture. Social structures are diverse with chiefs ruling in the northern islands and councils of elders having authority in the South.
The Gilbert Islands and Ellice Islands became a single British protectorate in 1892, and were renamed the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony in 1916. During WWII the Japanese occupied several islands including Tarawa and Ocean (Banaba). The islands were retaken in 1943 by US marines following the Battle of Tarawa. In 1975 the Gilbert and Ellice Islands were separated and granted internal self-government by Britain. In 1978 the Ellice Islands became the independent nation of Tuvalu and on 12 July 1979 the Gilbert Islands became independent as Kiribati. After Independence a Treaty of Tarawa was signed and ratified in 1983 by the United States relinquishing all claims to Phoenix and Line Islands, which are part of the Kiribati territory.
Kiribati's relations with its neighbours
Kiribati is an active member of the Pacific Islands Forum.
Kiribati's relations with the international community
Kiribati is a full member of the Commonwealth, the IMF and the World Bank, and became a full member of the UN in 1999. Kiribati has Least Developed Country Status and its interests rarely extend beyond the region. Through accession to the EU Cotonou Agreement, Kiribati is also a member of the African Caribbean and Pacific Group. Kiribati established diplomatic relations with Taiwan in December 2003. The Kiribati Government has a resident High Commissioner in Suva, Fiji.
Kiribati's relations with the UK
Britain has long-standing historic links with Kiribati. The first British visitor to Kiribati was reputed to be Commodore John Byron in 1765, the immediate predecessor of Cook's more famous explorations of the Pacific between 1769-1779. With the growth of the British settlement in Australia's New South Wales, whaling became a key element of the regional economy, and up to the 1870s British whalers were regular visitors to the waters surrounding Kiribati.
The British High Commissioner to Kiribati is based in Suva, Fiji. The Kiribati Government has an active Honorary Consul, in the UK.
In August 2009 a four member CPA Delegation visited to strengthen relations and gain a better understanding of the Kiribati Parliament, the impact and consequences of Climate Change and Kiribati’s position in the International Community.
The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced 'Kiribass') comprises 32 atolls and one raised coral reef in three main groups, of which 21 are inhabited - the Gilbert, Phoenix and Line Islands - scattered over 3.5m sq miles of ocean. It has the second largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world. Most islands are low-lying with little vegetation except coconut palms and pandanus trees. The low-lying atolls of Kiribati, rising no higher than three meters above sea-level, makes the country very vulnerable to climate change and rises in sea-level. It is estimated (World Bank Regional Economic Report 2000) that, without appropriate adaptation measures, 25%-54% of the land in areas of South Tarawa and 55%-80% in North Tarawa will be inundated by 2050.
The natural environment in urban areas is under pressure due to groundwater depletion, marine-life and sea-water contamination from human and solid waste, over-fishing of the reefs and lagoons, ad hoc construction of seawalls, coastal erosion and illegal beach mining, and contamination. The country is also facing considerable socioeconomic difficulties due to the ad hoc management of urban growth. (source: WHO).
Kiribati is the only country in the world to be located in all four hemispheres by straddling the Equator and lying on both sides of the 180th meridian and the International Date Line.
Kiribati is experiencing the increasing effects of Climate Change through rising sea levels including other regional challenges like earthquakes, tsunami and cyclones. Over the past few years, whole villages had to be entirely relocated, with increased demands for the construction of sea defences to protect public infrastructure and private property as sea water intrudes into food crop production sites and fresh water wells. In his address at the 2nd Session of Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction Conference in Geneva in June 2009, President Tong of Kiribati, reported that “We have also accepted the reality that in the longer term our islands will increasingly become unable to sustain the current levels of population and acknowledge the ultimate need to relocate our people”.
As Kiribati cannot escape Climate Change it must adapt to it and is focusing on the country’s most vulnerable sectors in the most populous areas. That includes improving water supply management in and around the capital, Tarawa; coastal management protection measures such as mangrove re-plantation and protection of public infrastructure; strengthening laws to reduce coastal erosion; and population settlement planning to reduce the risks of injury and loss of life. The Government of Kiribati has prepared a long-term training plan to make its people’s skills more “marketable” in other countries to assist in international relocation.
Trade and investment with the UK
Direct trade with the UK is negligible, although some goods and services emanate from British subsidiaries based in Australia and New Zealand.
The Republic of Kiribati is an independent republic within the Commonwealth. It is also a full member of the United Nations and the Pacific Islands Forum, which it successfully hosted in October 2000.
The single–chamber Assembly (the 'Maneaba ni Maungatabu') elected by the universal adult suffrage. The President (who is Head of Government and State and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Immigration) is elected from candidates nominated by members of the Maneaba from their own ranks and is limited to three 4-year terms. Cabinet is composed of the President, Vice President and 10 ministers [appointed by the President] who are members of the Assembly.
There were no political parties before September 1985, and candidates continued to stand for election as independent individuals, though structured parties emerged thereafter.
In March 1998, among the main recommendations of the first review of the constitution since independence in 1979 was that foreign husbands of I-Kiribati women should have the same automatic rights to Kiribati citizenship as foreign wives of I-Kiribati men.
Recent political developments
Parliamentary elections were held in Kiribati on 21 and 28 October 2011. In the first round, exactly half of the MPs were elected, with the remained chosen in the second round. 29 candidates were re-elected and four government ministers lost their seats. Boutokaan Te Koaua Party was the leading political party taking 15 seats.
Presidential elections were held in Kiribati on 13 January 2012, following the parliamentary elections in October 2011. The elections were originally scheduled to take place in December 2011, but were postponed until after the Christmas and New Year period. The current incumbent Anote Tong defeated his two opponents with a little over 42% of the votes with his two opponents receiving 35% (Tetaui Taitai) and 23% (Rimeta Beniamina). The voter turnout for the 2011 Presidential election was 68% - higher than the 2007 election where the voter participation was just over 50%.
Kiribati was subject to the Universal Periodic Review in 2010. The outcomes were adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in October 2010. Kiribati had accepted 42 recommendations, declined to accept 11, with 37 still under consideration. There was no delegation from Kiribati at the meeting. Speakers were concerned about what they described as entrenched discrimination against women.
Kiribati acceded to the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in March 2004 and there is evidence that gender equality is improving. Women now comprise 51.8% of the workforce and girls outnumber boys in secondary and tertiary education. Women, however, are still underrepresented at all levels of decision-making, and domestic violence, linked to alcohol abuse, is an increasing problem.
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