The Marshall Islands

(Officially the Republic of the Marshall Islands) Today, 1 May, and every year since 1979, Marshall Islanders have celebrated the Independence Day of this Pacific state

The flag is a blue background with a white starlike sun in the left corner and from the bottom left corner to the top right corner is a white and orange stripe which gets wider as it goes towards the top corner

This Independent country’s population is recorded by Wikipedia as 61,988 as of Saturday, 29 April, 2023 based on United Nations estimates, and the country is spread out over five islands and 29 coral atolls.

For comparison here are some Scottish populations as counted in 2020:

Glasgow 635,640, Edinburgh 506,250, Aberdeen 198,590, Dundee 148,260 and it is maybe worth noting that the Scottish city with the nearest comparative population to The Marshall Islands is Inverness, with a population of 46,000 people in 2020.  

The capital and largest city of the Marshall Islands is Majuro.

The Marshall Islands has the largest portion of its territory composed of water of any sovereign state, at 97.87%. The islands share maritime boundaries with Wake Island to the north, and Kiribati to the southeast, Nauru to the south, and the Federated States of Micronesia to the west.

About 52.3% of Marshall Islanders (27,797 at the 2011 Census) live on Majuro.

In 2016, 73.3% of the population were defined as being “urban”. The UN also indicates a population density of 760 inhabitants per square mile, so this is not a densely populated country, but it is an independent state. Interestingly its motto is “Jepilpilin ke ejukaan” which, in English, translates as “Accomplishment through joint effort”, and its anthem is “Forever Marshall Islands”.

The Globe below shows The Marshall Islands in red to the north east of Australia

a globe showing the location of The Marshall Islands in the Pacific

The Marshall Islands may only have 61,988 people but lots of countries and international organisations have recognised its right to self governance since 1979, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands has been a United Nations member state since 1991.

So, what kind of country are we talking about?

The Marshall Islands has been a member of the Pacific Community since 1983

Politically, the Marshall Islands is a parliamentary republic with an executive presidency in free association with the United States, with the U.S. providing defence, subsidies, and access to U.S.-based agencies and the United States Postal Service.

It was not until 1999, following political corruption allegations, that the aristocratic government was overthrown and replaced by a representative democracy

In October 2011, the government declared that an area covering nearly 2,000,000 square kilometers (772,000 sq mi) of ocean shall be reserved as a shark sanctuary and this, at present, is the world’s largest shark sanctuary, extending the worldwide ocean area in which sharks are protected

With few natural resources, the islands’ wealth is based on a service economy as well as fishing and agriculture, but aid from the United States represents a large percentage of the country’s gross domestic product.

In February 2018, the Marshall Islands became the first country in the world to recognise its cryptocurrency as its own legal tender for digital currency.

The Marshall Islands sit atop ancient submerged volcanoes rising from the ocean floor and the country consists of a total of 29 atolls and five individual islands situated in about 180,000 square miles (470,000 km2) of the Pacific Ocean. The largest atoll with a land area of 6 square miles (16 km2) is Kwajalein. It surrounds a 655-square-mile lagoon. Twenty-four of the atolls and islands are inhabited and the remaining atolls are uninhabited due to poor living conditions, lack of rain, or nuclear contamination.

The climate has a relatively dry season from December to April and a wet season from May to November. Many Pacific typhoons begin as tropical storms in the Marshall Islands region, and grow stronger as they move west toward the Mariana Islands and the Philippines.

The Runit Dome was built on Runit Island to deposit U.S. produced radioactive soil and debris, including lethal amounts of plutonium. There are ongoing concerns about deterioration of the waste site and a potential radioactive spill.

Since the late 1980s, Marshallese have migrated to the US, with over 4,000 in Arkansas and over 7,000 in Hawaii according to the 2010 US Census.

an aerial photo at sunset of the extremely densely packed capital city of Majuro as it streams out into the surrounding sea
Majuro The Marshall Islands credit Jamison Logan, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

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