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Republic of the Marshall Islands

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Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) country brief


The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is located in the western Pacific Ocean, halfway between Hawaii and Australia, north of the equator and west of the International Date Line. RMI is an archipelago of 29 atolls, five low coral islands and 1,151 islets that shares maritime borders with the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Kiribati and Nauru. RMI's land mass totals 113 square kilometres spread over an exclusive economic zone of 1.2 million square kilometres. RMI's capital is Majuro.  The unofficial census results of 2023 estimate the population is approximately 42,000, with approximately 23,000 people living in Majuro. Outmigration to the US has been a significant trend in the past 15-20 years, with more than 25,000 Marshallese estimated to be living in the US.

Political overview

RMI is an independent country in a Compact of Free Association (the Compact) with the United States. RMI's constitution was adopted in 1979, with a Nitijela (Parliament) elected every four years by universal suffrage (the last election was held 20 November 2023). Each of RMI's 24 electoral constituencies – one for each inhabited island and atoll – elect one or more representatives to the Nitijela, for a total of 33 senators. Senators elect the President from within the Nitijela. The President is both Head of State and Head of Government. The current President of RMI is H.E. Dr Hilda Heine, who is serving her second term as President – she previously served as President from 2016-2020. A Council of Iroji – comprising twelve tribal chiefs – advises cabinet on customary law and traditional practice.

Compact of Free Association with the United States

The RMI Compact of Free Association with the United States was first signed in 1982 and came into effect in 1986. The compact terms are indefinite, while the economic elements have a 20-year term, with reviews throughout the course of the term. In exchange for exclusive military operating rights, the United States provides RMI with economic assistance (including sector grants and trust fund contributions), access to federal services and programs (for instance postal and meteorological services), permission for citizens to enter, work/study and reside in US states and territories and assumes responsibility for RMI's defence and security.

The current Compact agreement between RMI and the United States was signed into law in March 2024 and is valued at USD2.3 billion for FY2024-43.  This phase of Compact assistance includes greater support for the environment, climate change adaptation, health care, education, and infrastructure.

The US Department of the Interior is responsible for oversight and coordination of funding under the Compact of Free Association.

Bilateral relations

Australia was the second country, after the United States, to establish diplomatic relations with RMI in 1987. Australia and RMI enjoy a close bilateral relationship based on shared regional interests. The Australian Embassy in Majuro opened on 4 May 2021.

Development assistance

Australia's development cooperation with RMI seeks to respond to RMI's priorities, including: economic development, climate change adaptation, women's empowerment, youth engagement and scholarships.

Australia Awards

Australia Awards are an important component of the Australian Government's overseas aid program. Australia Awards Pacific scholarships provide opportunities for students from RMI to study at selected education institutions in the Pacific region.


The Australian Volunteers program promotes economic growth and poverty reduction in the Indo-Pacific region by assisting host organisations to deliver effective and sustainable development outcomes. The Australian Volunteers program provides opportunities for skilled Australians to contribute to the Australian Government's development cooperation program.

Direct Aid Program (DAP)

The Direct Aid Program (DAP) is a small grants program funded from Australia's aid budget. It has the flexibility to work with local communities in developing countries on projects that reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development consistent with Australia's national interest.

Visit the Australian Embassy in the Republic of Marshall Islands website for further information on the DAP.

Economic overview

RMI's economy is dominated by grants and constrained by its small population, vulnerability to external shocks, narrow range of natural resources, aspects of its geography (size, remoteness and dispersal) and the impacts of extreme weather events. External grants, taxation, fishing receipts and shipping registry fees are the key sources of government revenue.

The Government of RMI is the country's major employer, followed by the commercial and retail sectors. The construction industry is expanding but there is limited domestic production. Fisheries, copra, handicrafts and subsistence agriculture are the most significant sectors of the economy. The fishing industry was boosted by the introduction of the Vessel Day Scheme under the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, but COVID-19 caused a downturn in the sector

Annual exports are dominated by fish, copra oil, copra cake and handicrafts. Imports are dominated by food, fuel, machinery and equipment.

Trade and investment

The 2022-23, two-way goods and services trade between Australia and RMI totalled $42.8 million.  The main exports to RMI were aircraft, spacecraft, and other parts ($1.2 million) and meat ($1 million) and the main imports from RMI were services ($29 million).

High level visits

  • January 2024: Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister Patrick Gorman attended the Presidential inauguration ceremony in Majuro on 22 January 2024. He was accompanied by Australia's Special Envoy for the Pacific and Regional Affairs, Ewen McDonald. They held bilateral talks with President Heine and Foreign Minister Kaneko.
  • July 2023: Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy represented Australia at the Forum Fisheries Ministerial meetings from 3-5 July 2023, which were held in RMI. During his visit, he met with then President Kabua and then Acting Foreign Minister Loeak.
  • October 2022: Foreign Minister Penny Wong visited Majuro 12-14 October 2022. During the visit she met then President David Kabua, then Foreign Minister Kitlang Kabua, Council of Iroij (chiefs) Chairman Iroij Jimata Kabua and then University of the South Pacific Pro-Chancellor Hilda Heine. The Foreign Minister officially opened the Australian Embassy, formalised regular Bilateral Partnership Talks (first held in March 2023), announced a $2 million contribution to address water security across RMI's atolls and islands, alongside UNDP and the Green Climate Fund; and announced a five-year, $2.5 million climate initiative with RMI Government to strengthen water and food security, and support climate governance and advocacy.
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