Flag of Nauru

Nauru country brief

Introduction

Nauru is an island republic in the Pacific Ocean, 42 kilometres south of the Equator and 4000 kilometres northeast of Sydney. A raised, fossilised coral atoll, Nauru is one of three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean – the other two being Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Makatea in French Polynesia. Nauru has a total land area of 21 square kilometres.

Nauru has a population of approximately 10,000 people, most of whom are indigenous Nauruans of predominantly Micronesian origin. Non-Nauruans are principally other Pacific Islanders, Chinese, Australian and Filipino expatriates.

Political overview

Nauru is one of the world's smallest independent, democratic states. Its constitution, adopted in 1968, established it as a republic with a Westminster style parliamentary system of government. The President is elected by, and responsible to, the unicameral Parliament and is both head of government and head of state.
As there are no political parties in Nauru, all MPs stand as independents. MPs are elected every three years by Nauruan citizens over the age of 20. At its first sitting, where possible, Parliament chooses a Speaker, a Deputy Speaker and Chairs of Committees before proceeding to elect the President from among the remaining members. The President then appoints a minimum of four members of Parliament to join him (or her) in forming a Cabinet. Following elections on 8 June 2013, Baron Waqa was appointed President.

Economic overview

Nauru's economy faces significant constraints common to other island atoll states. These include its small size, remoteness, a harsh natural environment with infertile soils, limited exploitable resources and the need to create jobs and promote growth for an expanding population. Pelagic fish abound in Nauruan waters, but Nauru has been unable to establish a fishing industry of its own. Fees from fishing licences issued to distant water fishing nations are an important source of revenue for Nauru. An Australian-funded fisheries adviser has been engaged to help maximise revenue from the country's marine assets.

Bilateral relationship

Australia enjoys good relations with Nauru and is its key trade, investment and development assistance partner. In August 2009, then President Stephen signed a Pacific Partnership for Development at the Pacific Islands Forum in Cairns with then Prime Minister Rudd. The Australian Government upgraded its mission in Nauru from Consulate-General to High Commission in August 2009.

In September 2012, Australia established a Regional Processing Centre in Nauru for the purpose of processing asylum seekers international protection claims. Nauru participates in the Seasonal Worker Program. Under the Program, seasonal horticultural workers from Pacific countries are recruited by horticultural enterprises in Australia to meet their seasonal harvest needs.

In December 2013, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, led a parliamentary delegation to Nauru, accompanied by Senator Brett Mason, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Members of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek and Matt Thistlethwaite, and Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja AM.

The ICJ Case and Compact of Settlement

In August 1993, the Nauru and Australian Governments signed a Compact of Settlement (NACOS) which ended litigation by Nauru against Australia in the International Court of Justice over rehabilitation of phosphate land mined before independence. As part of the settlement, Australia paid Nauru $57 million in cash and agreed to provide $50 million over a period of 20 years (paid in annual installments of $2.5 million indexed at 1993 values, e.g. $3.9 million in 2011-12). The projects to be undertaken with this money are governed by the Rehabilitation and Development Cooperation Agreement (RADCA). Australia and Nauru are cooperating closely on using NACOS funds to facilitate the mining of residual primary and, later, secondary phosphate reserves, followed by the rehabilitation of mined-out lands.

Australian development assistance to Nauru

Australia's development assistance to Nauru is based on a Partnership for Development and focuses on improving education, health, infrastructure, and public sector management, and building the private sector.

Australia's aid to Nauru supports the Nauru Government's own development strategy (the National Sustainable Development Strategy – NSDS). Australia provides more aid to Nauru than any other donor, supporting most areas of government and public services. The Australian Government provides skilled people to operate in key leadership and management roles in government agencies such as the Departments of Finance, Education and Health as well as in State Owned Enterprises such as the Nauru Utilities Corporation, and Nauru's Fisheries Agency. The AFP provides some senior policing advisers.

Australian aid also provides funding toward repairing and maintaining Nauru's school buildings and hospitals as well as electricity generation and water desalination equipment. The Australian funded redevelopment of the Nauru Secondary School (NSS) was finalised in March 2010 and includes Nauru's first-ever trade training school. The NSS provides schooling for up to 450 students. Australia's aid also provides pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies for the hospital. Nauru has successfully used Australian funding to improve its media network including radio and television broadcasting and to improve revenue collection and financial management.

More information on Australia's development assistance to Nauru

Bilateral economic and trade relationship

Australian merchandise exports to Nauru in 2012-13 totalled $60.5 million (principally prefabricated buildings and civil engineering equipment and parts).

Visitor information

Australians travelling to Nauru are advised to consult the Smartraveller travel advice.

Updated March 2014