Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Happy Independence Day to Nauru

In our continuing coverage of celebrating democracy, I want to highlight the festivities on Nauru today. As some of you may know, today is Independence Day for Nauru (pronounced NAH-oo-roo). 38 years ago today Nauruians threw off the oppressive yoke of the Australians and established the smallest independent republic in the world.

This little island nation is located in the Pacific Ocean northeast of Papua New Guinea. Nauru is right on equator, south of the Marshall Island and north of the Solomon Island. It is only 21 square km or about 1/10 size of Washington DC. It has no official capital city. Politically, they have an 18 member parliament who serve 3 year terms.

There are about 13,000 Nauruians and the population is growing at 1.3% annually with the average women producing 3.19 children. Nauru's climate is extremely humid year-round because of its proximity to the Equator.

The only industry on the island for the last 90 years was phosphate mining. For a short time, this allowed Nauru to have 2nd highest GNP/capita in the world. However, recently the phosphates have run out and Nauru has hit a stretch of bad times. After a shorted-lived experiment as a tax haven, which allowed the Russian mafia to launder millions of dollars, Nauru moved into the criminal detention industry and Nauru currently houses a detention centre, which holds and processes asylum seekers as part of Australia's Pacific Solution.