Marshall Islands

Aolepān Aorōkin M̧ajeļ
Republic of the Marshall Islands
Flag of Marshall Islands Coat of arms of Marshall Islands
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Jepilpilin ke ejukaan"
Anthem: Forever Marshall Islands
Location of Marshall Islands
Capital Majuro
Largest city Majuro
Official language Marshallese, English
Government
 - President Kessai Note
Independence  
 - from the United States October 21 1986 
Area
 - Total 181 km² (213th)
69.8 sq mi 
 - Water (%) negligible
Population
 - July 2005 estimate 61,963 (205th)
 - 2003 census 56,429
 - Density 326/km² (28th)
846/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2001 estimate
 - Total $115 million (220th)
 - Per capita $1,600 (2001 est.) (195th)
HDI  (n/a) n/a (unranked) (n/a)
Currency United States dollar (USD)
Time zone (UTC+12)
Internet TLD .mh
Calling code +692

The Marshall Islands, officially the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), is a Micronesian island nation in the western Pacific Ocean, located north of Nauru and Kiribati, east of the Federated States of Micronesia and south of the U.S. territory of Wake Island.

Contents

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History

Although they were settled by Micronesians in the 2nd millennium BC, little is known of the early history of the islands. Spanish explorer Alonso de Salazar was the first European to sight the Marshalls in 1526, but the islands remained virtually unvisited by Europeans for several more centuries, before being visited by British captain John Marshall in 1788; the islands owe their name to 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 occupied the islands (1944), and they were added to the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (including several more island groups in the South Sea). Between 1946 and 1958 the United States tested 67 nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands, including the largest nuclear test the United States ever conducted, Castle Bravo. Nuclear claims between the United States and the Marshall Islands are ongoing, and health effects still linger from these tests. (see Rongelap)

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 U.S. defense of the islands in exchange for continued U.S. 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.

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Administrative divisions

The Marshall Islands have no formal administrative division, but are divided into twenty-six legislative districts, which correspond to the inhabited islands and atolls of the country:

  • Ailinglaplap Atoll
  • Ailuk Atoll
  • Arno Atoll
  • Aur Atoll
  • Ebon Atoll
  • Enewetak Atoll
  • Jabat Island
  • Jaluit Atoll
  • Kili Island
  • Kwajalein Atoll
  • Lae Atoll
  • Lib Island
  • Likiep Atoll
  • Majuro Atoll
  • Maloelap Atoll
  • Mejit Island
  • Mili Atoll
  • Namorik (Namdrik) Atoll
  • Namu Atoll
  • Rongelap Atoll
  • Ujae Atoll
  • Ujelang Atoll
  • Utirik (Utrik) Atoll
  • Wotho Atoll
  • Wotje Atoll
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Geography

Map of the Marshall Islands.
Map of the Marshall Islands.
Average monthly temperatures (red) and precipitation (blue) on Majuro.
Average monthly temperatures (red) and precipitation (blue) on Majuro.

The country consists of twenty-nine atolls and five isolated islands. The most important atolls and islands form two groups: the Ratak Chain and the Ralik Chain (meaning "sunrise" and "sunset" chains). Two-thirds of the nation's population lives on Majuro (which is also the capital) and Ebeye. The outer islands are sparsely populated due to lack of employment opportunities and economic development. Life on the outer atolls is generally still fairly traditional, and the nutrition of the rural population, being grown and caught, is superior that of most of the urban residents, who rely considerably on white rice.

The uninhabited atolls are:

  • Ailinginae Atoll
  • Bikar (Bikaar) Atoll
  • Bikini Atoll
  • Bokak Atoll
  • Erikub Atoll
  • Jemo Island
  • Nadikdik (Knox) Atoll
  • Rongerik Atoll
  • Toke Atoll

The climate is hot and humid, with a wet season from May to November. The islands occasionally suffer from typhoons.

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Economy

United States Government assistance is the mainstay of the economy. Agricultural production is concentrated on small farms, and the most important commercial crops are coconuts, tomatoes, melons, and breadfruit. Small-scale industry is limited to handicrafts, fish 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. In 1999 a private company constructed a tuna loining plant, which employed upwards of 400 people, mostly women. The plant was closed in 2005, following a failed attempt to convert it from producing tuna loins to tuna steaks, a process that requires only half of the employee base. The owners noted that the plan would not be economically viable without government largesse and a reduction below the statutory minimum wage, neither of which the government cared to provide. As the guarantor of a $2 million loan to the business, the government took control of the plant facility following its closure, and is seeking to find another operator.

In 2005 Aloha Airlines canceled its flight services to the Marshall Islands as part of its withdrawal from several markets in the region. Though other international airlines still serve Majuro, the Aloha decision was a setback in the country's hopes of increased revenues from tourism.

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 foreign investment due to Asian financial difficulties, and less income from the renewal of fishing vessel licenses have held GDP growth to an average of 1% over the past decade.

The 2007 edition of "Doing Business," prepared by the World Bank's private sector development department, has declared the Marshall Islands to be the world's "Best Performer" for its ease and low expense in hiring and firing employees. By the same token, the same study gave the Marshall Islands extremely low ratings for its protection of investors and contract enforcement.

Not being among the 179 member countries of the ILO, Marshall Islands is among the handful of countries not obliged to abide by the core labour standards (elimination of forced labour, child labour and discrimination, and respect for freedom of association and right to collective bargaining) as required of ILO members.

The United States also maintains the U.S. Army's Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll. It is an important aspect of the Marshallese economy, as the Marshallese land owners receive rent for the base, and a large number of Marshallese work at the base. It is noted that the Majuro Atoll benefited from foreign assistance. The main airport was built by the Japanese (during World War II), the only tarmac road of the capital was built partly by the Taiwanese and partly by the Americans.

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Demographics

The Marshallese are of Micronesian origin and migrated from Asia several thousand years ago. Although English is an official language and is spoken widely, although not fluently, Marshallese is used by the government. Japanese is also occasionally spoken in some areas of Marshall Islands.

Virtually all Marshallese are Christian, most of them Protestant.

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Culture

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.

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See also

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External links

Government

Overviews

Former German Schutzgebiete (colonies and protectorates)

Colonies Africa German East Africa (Tanganyika, Rwanda, Burundi)
Witu   (sultan under protectorate)
German South-West Africa     (Namibia)
German West Africa (Kamerun, Togoland)

Pacific German New Guinea and   (German Solomon Islands, German Marshall Islands
associated Pacific islands  Caroline Islands, Mariana Islands, Nauru, Palau)
German Samoa

Concessions China Kiaochow / Kiautschou
Tsingtao (leased)

Unrecognized New Swabia
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