Coordinates: 1°25′N 173°00′E / 1.417°N
173.000°E / 1.417; 173.000
Republic of KiribatiRibaberiki
Coat of arms
Motto: "Te Mauri, Te Raoi ao Te Tabomoa""Health, Peace and
Prosperity"Anthem: Teirake Kaini KiribatiStand up,
173°2′E / 1.467°N 173.033°E / 1.467;
173.033Official languagesEnglishGilberteseEthnic groups
(2000)98.8% Gilbertese1.2% OthersDemonym(s)
KiribatianGovernmentUnitary parliamentary republic• President
Taneti Mamau• Vice-President Kourabi Nenem
LegislatureHouse of AssemblyIndependence• from the United
Kingdom 12 July 1979
Area • Total811 km2
(313 sq mi) (172nd)Population• 2015 census110,136• Density152/km2
(393.7/sq mi) (73rd)GDP (PPP)2019 estimate• Total$250
capita$2,135GDP (nominal)2019 estimate• Total$187
capita$1,599HDI (2014) 0.590medium · 137thCurrencyKiribati
Australian dollar (AUD)Time zoneUTC+12, +13, +14Driving
ISO 3166 codeKIInternet TLD.ki
Kiribati (/ˌkɪrɪˈbæs, -ˈbɑːti/), officially the
Kiribati (Gilbertese: Ribaberiki
Kiribati), is a sovereign state in
Micronesia in the central Pacific Ocean. The permanent population is
just over 110,000 (2015), more than half of whom live on
The state comprises 32 atolls and reef islands and one raised coral
island, Banaba. They have a total land area of 800 square kilometres
(310 sq mi) and are dispersed over
3.5 million square kilometres (1.3 million square miles). Their
spread straddles both the equator and the 180th meridian, although the
International Date Line
International Date Line goes round
Kiribati and swings far to the
east, almost reaching the 150°W meridian. This brings the Line
Islands into the same day as the
Kiribati Islands. Kiribati's
easternmost islands, the southern Line Islands, south of Hawaii, have
the most advanced time on Earth:
Kiribati became independent from the
United Kingdom in 1979. The
capital, South Tarawa, which is now the most populated area, consists
of a number of islets, connected by a series of causeways. These
comprise about half the area of
Kiribati is a member of the
Pacific Community (SPC), Commonwealth of
Nations, the IMF, and the World Bank, and became a full member of the
United Nations in 1999.
2.1 Early history
2.2 Colonial era
3.1 Foreign relations
3.2 Law enforcement and military
3.3 Administrative divisions
4.1 Environmental issues
6.1 Ethnic groups
7.4 Outside perspectives
8 See also
10 Cited sources
11 External links
Kiribati was adopted at independence. It is the local
enunciation of Gilberts. This name derives from the main archipelago
that forms the nation. It was named the
Gilbert Islands after the
British explorer Thomas Gilbert. He sighted many of the islands in
1788 while mapping out the Outer Passage route from
Port Jackson to
Kiribati archipelago was named Îles Gilbert (
Gilbert Islands in
English), in about 1820, by Russian admiral Adam von Krusenstern and
French captain Louis Duperrey. Both their maps, published in 1820,
were written in French. In English, the archipelago was often referred
to as the Kingsmills in the 19th century, although the name Gilbert
Islands was used increasingly, including in the Western Pacific Order
in Council of 1877.
The name Gilbert was incorporated into the name of the entire Gilbert
Ellice Islands Colony from 1916, and was retained after the Ellice
Islands became the separate nation of
Tuvalu in 1976. The spelling of
Gilberts in the
Gilbertese language as
Kiribati may be found in books
in Gilbertese prepared by missionaries and others (see e.g. Hawaiian
Board of Missionaries, 1895).
It is often suggested that the indigenous name for the Gilbert Islands
proper is Tungaru (see e.g. Arthur Grimble, 1989).
However, the name
Kiribati was chosen as the name of the new
independent nation by local consensus, on such grounds that it was
modern[clarification needed], and to acknowledge
the inclusion of islands (e.g. the Phoenix Group and Line Islands),
which were never considered part of the Tungaru (or Gilberts)
The pronunciation differs: Kiribas is the official pronunciation as ti
Gilbertese language makes an s sound.
Main article: History of Kiribati
Gilbertese warriors of Tabiteuea, with shark's teeth weapons, about
The area now called
Kiribati has been inhabited by Micronesians
speaking the same Oceanic language since sometime between 3000
BC and AD 1300. The area was not isolated;
invaders from Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji, later introduced Polynesian and
Melanesian cultural aspects, respectively. Intermarriage tended to
blur cultural differences and resulted in a significant degree of
British Western Pacific Territories
British Western Pacific Territories and Gilbert and
Chance visits by European ships occurred in the 17th and 18th
centuries, as these ships attempted
circumnavigations of the world or sought sailing routes from the south
to north Pacific Ocean. A passing trade, whaling the On-The-Line
grounds, and labour ships associated with
blackbirding visited the islands in large
numbers during the 19th century with social, economic, political,
religious and cultural consequences.
The passing trade gave rise to European, Chinese, Samoan and other
residents from the 1830s: they included beachcombers, castaways,
traders and missionaries. In 1892 local authorities (an uea, a chief
from the Gilbert Group, and atun te boti or head of a
clan) on each of the
Gilbert Islands agreed to Captain
Davis of the Royal Navy declaring them part of a British protectorate
with the nearby Ellice Islands. They were administered by a resident
commissioner based in
Tarawa (1896–1908) and
Banaba (1908–1941), who was under the Western Pacific High
Commission based in Fiji. Banaba, known to Europeans as
Ocean Island, was added to the protectorate in 1900.
Stamp with portrait of King George VI, 1939
The conduct of W. Telfer Campbell, the resident commissioner of the
Gilberts of 1896 to 1908, was criticised as to his legislative,
judicial and administrative management (including allegations of
forced labour exacted from islanders) and became the subject of the
1909 report by Arthur Mahaffy. In 1913 an anonymous
correspondent to the New Age journal described the mis-administration
of W. Telfer Campbell and questioned the partiality of Arthur Mahaffy
as he was a former colonial official in the Gilberts. The
anonymous correspondent also criticised the operations of the Pacific
Phosphate Company on Ocean Island.
The islands became the crown colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands
in 1916. The Line Islands, including Christmas Island
(later spelled Kiritimati) and
Fanning Island (Tabuaeran), were added
to the colony in 1919 and the
Phoenix Islands were added in 1937.
Colonial flag of Gilbert and Ellice Islands
Arthur Grimble was a cadet administrative officer based at Tarawa
(1913–1919) and became Resident Commissioner of the Gilbert and
Ellice Islands colony in 1926.
In 1902, the Pacific Cable Board laid the first trans-Pacific
telegraph cable from Bamfield, British Columbia to Fanning Island
(Tabuaeran) in the
Line Islands and from
Fiji to Fanning Island, thus
completing the All Red Line, a series of telegraph lines
circumnavigating the globe completely within the British Empire. The
location of Fanning Island, one of the closest formations to Hawaii,
led to its annexation by the
British Empire in 1888. Nearby candidates
including Palmyra Island were disfavored due to the lack of adequate
165th Infantry assault wave attacking Butaritari, Yellow Beach Two,
Makin Atoll, 20 November 1943
United States eventually incorporated the Northern Line into its
territories and did the same with the
Phoenix Islands which lie
Kiribati and the
Line Islands including Howland, Jarvis, and
Baker islands, thus, bringing about a territorial dispute. This was
eventually resolved and they became part of
Kiribati as part of the
Treaty of Tarawa. This was signed shortly after independence and
ratified in 1983, the
United States relinquishing all claims to the
Phoenix Islands and those of the
Line Islands that
are part of
American Marines assault a Japanese bunker during the Battle of
Tarawa, November 1943.
Tarawa Atoll and others of the Gilbert group were occupied by Japan
from 1941 to 1943 during World War II.
Betio became an airfield and
supply base. The expulsion of the Japanese military in late 1943
involved one of the bloodiest battles in US Marine Corps history.
Marines landed in November 1943 and the Battle of
Further military operations in the colony occurred in the late 1950s
and early 1960s when
Christmas Island was used by the United States
United Kingdom for nuclear weapons testing including hydrogen
Institutions of internal self-rule were established on
about 1967. The
Ellice Islands were separated from the rest of the
colony in 1975 and granted their own internal self-rule institutions.
In 1978 the
Ellice Islands became the independent nation of
Gilbert Islands gained independence as the Republic of
12 July 1979. The
United States gave up most of the Line
Islands and recognised
Kiribati in 1983.
Kiribati received Canton
Island, Enderbury Island, Birnie Island, Mckean Island, Rawaki, Manra,
Nikumaroro from the Phoenix Islands; and Teraina,
Tabuaeran, Kiritimati, Malden Island, Starbuck Island, Caroline
Islands, Vostok Islands and
Flint Island from the Line Islands.
Although the indigenous
Gilbertese language name for the Gilbert
Islands proper is "Tungaru", the new state chose the name "Kiribati",
I-Kiribati enunciation of "Gilberts", as an equivalent of the
former colony to acknowledge the inclusion of Banaba, the Line
Islands, and the Phoenix Islands. The last two of these were never
occupied by I-Kiribati[clarification needed] until the British
authorities, and later the Republic Government, resettled I-Kiribati
there under resettlement schemes.
In the post-independence era, overcrowding has been a problem, at
least in British and aid organisations' eyes. In 1988, an announcement
was made that 4,700 residents of the main island group would be
resettled onto less-populated islands.
Teburoro Tito was elected president in 1994. In 1995,
Kiribati unilaterally moved the international date line far to the
east to encompass the
Line Islands group, so that the nation would no
longer be divided by the date line. The move, which fulfilled one of
President Tito's campaign promises, was intended to allow businesses
across the expansive nation to keep the same business week. This also
Kiribati to become the first country to see the dawn of the
third millennium, an event of significance for tourism. Tito was
re-elected in 1998.
Kiribati gained UN membership in 1999.
Kiribati passed a controversial law that enabled the
government to shut down newspapers. The legislation followed the
launching of Kiribati's first successful non-government-run newspaper.
President Tito was re-elected in 2003 but was removed from office in
March 2003 by a no-confidence vote and replaced by a Council of State.
Anote Tong of the opposition party
Boutokaan Te Koaua was elected to
succeed Tito in July 2003. He was re-elected in 2007 and in
In June 2008,
Kiribati officials asked
New Zealand to
Kiribati citizens as permanent refugees.
Kiribati is expected
to be the first country to lose all its land territory to global
warming. In June 2008, the
Anote Tong said that the
country has reached "the point of no return." He added, "To plan for
the day when you no longer have a country is indeed painful but I
think we have to do
In early 2012, the government of
Kiribati purchased the 2,200-hectare
Natoavatu Estate on the second largest island of Fiji, Vanua Levu. At
the time it was widely reported
that the government planned to evacuate the entire population of
Kiribati to Fiji. In April 2013, President Tong began urging citizens
to evacuate the islands and migrate elsewhere. In May
2014, the Office of the President confirmed the purchase of some 5,460
acres of land on
Vanua Levu at a cost of 9.3 million Australian
Main article: Politics of Kiribati
Kiribati Parliament House.
The Presidential residence.
Kiribati Constitution, promulgated 12 July 1979, provides for free
and open elections. The executive branch consists of a president (te
Beretitenti), a vice-president and a cabinet. The president, who is
also chief of the cabinet, is elected from the legislature and is
limited to three four-year terms. He remains a member of the Assembly
while serving as president. The cabinet is composed of the president,
vice-president, and 10 ministers (appointed by the president) who are
also members of the House of Assembly.
The legislative branch is the unicameral Maneaba Ni Maungatabu (House
of Assembly). It has elected members, including by constitutional
mandate a representative of the Banaban people in
Fiji (Banaba Island,
former Ocean Island), in addition to the attorney general, who serves
as an ex-officio member. Legislators serve for a four-year term.
The constitutional provisions governing administration of justice are
similar to those in other former British possessions in that the
judiciary is free from governmental interference. The judicial branch
is made up of the High Court (in Betio) and the Court of Appeal. The
president appoints the presiding judges.
Local government is through island councils with elected members.
Local affairs are handled in a manner similar to town meetings in
colonial America. Island councils make their own estimates of revenue
and expenditure and generally are free from central government
controls. There are a total of 21 inhabited islands in Kiribati. Each
inhabited island has its own council. Since independence,
no longer divided into districts (see Subdivisions of Kiribati).
Kiribati has formal political parties but their organisation is quite
informal. Ad hoc opposition groups tend to coalesce around
specific issues. Today the only recognisable parties are the Boutokaan
te Koaua Party, Maneaban te Mauri Party, Maurin
Kiribati Party and
Tabomoa Party. There is universal suffrage at age 18.
Main article: Foreign relations of Kiribati
Kiribati maintains close relations with its Pacific neighbours,
Australia, New Zealand,
Republic of China
Republic of China (Taiwan),
Japan and Fiji.
The first three of these provide the majority of the country's foreign
Japan also have specified-period licences to fish in
Kiribati's waters. There are four resident diplomatic
missions headquartered in Kiribati: the Embassies of the Republic of
China (Taiwan) and
Cuba and the High Commissions of
Australia and New
In November 1999
Kiribati agreed to allow Japan's National Space
Development Agency to lease land on
Christmas Island for 20 years, on
which to build a spaceport. The agreement stipulated that
Japan was to pay US$840,000 per year and would also pay for any damage
to roads and the environment. A Japanese-built downrange
tracking station operates on Kiritimati and an abandoned
airfield on the island was designated as the landing strip for a
proposed reusable unmanned space shuttle called HOPE-X. HOPE-X,
however, was eventually cancelled by
Japan in 2003.
Taneti Mamau meets with Taiwanese President Tsai
Ing-wen on 23 May 2016
As one of the world's most vulnerable nations to the effects of global
Kiribati has been an active participant in international
diplomatic efforts relating to climate change, most importantly the
UNFCCC conferences of the parties (COP).
Kiribati is a member of the
Alliance of Small Island States
Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), an intergovernmental
organisation of low-lying coastal and small island countries.
Established in 1990, the main purpose of the alliance is to
consolidate the voices of
Small Island Developing States
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to
address global warming. AOSIS has been very active from its inception,
putting forward the first draft text in the Kyoto Protocol
negotiations as early as 1994.
In 2009, President Tong attended the
Climate Vulnerable Forum
Climate Vulnerable Forum (V11) in
the Maldives, with 10 other countries that are vulnerable to climate
change, and signed the Bandos Island declaration on 10 November 2009,
pledging to show moral leadership and commence greening their
economies by voluntarily committing to achieving carbon neutrality.
In November 2010,
Kiribati hosted the
Tarawa Climate Change Conference
(TCCC) to support the president of Kiribati's initiative to hold a
consultative forum between vulnerable states and their partners. The
conference strove to create an enabling environment for multi-party
negotiations under the auspices of the UNFCCC. The conference was a
successor event to the Climate Vulnerable Forum. The
ultimate objective of TCCC was to reduce the number and intensity of
fault lines between parties to the COP process, explore elements of
agreement between the parties and thereby to support Kiribati's and
other parties' contribution to
COP16 held in Cancun, Mexico, from 29
November to 10 December 2010.
In 2013, President Tong has spoken of climate-change induced sea level
rise as "inevitable". "For our people to survive, then they will have
to migrate. Either we can wait for the time when we have to move
people en masse or we can prepare them—beginning from now
..." In New York in 2014, per The New Yorker, President
The New York Times
The New York Times that "according to the projections,
within this century, the water will be higher than the highest point
in our lands". In 2014, President Tong finalized the
purchase of a 20 km2 stretch of land on Vanua Levu, one of the
Fiji islands, 2,000 km away. A move described by Tong as
an "absolute necessity" should the nation be completely submerged
In 2013 attention was drawn to a claim of a
Kiribati man of being a
"climate change refugee" under the Convention relating to the Status
of Refugees (1951). However this claim was determined by
New Zealand High Court to be untenable. The New
Zealand Court of Appeal also rejected the claim in a 2014 decision. On
further appeal the
New Zealand Supreme Court confirmed the earlier
adverse rulings against the application for refugee status, but
rejected the proposition “that environmental degradation resulting
from climate change or other natural disasters could never create a
pathway into the Refugee Convention or protected person
jurisdiction.” In 2017,
Kiribati signed the UN treaty on
the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Law enforcement and military
Law enforcement in Kiribati
Law enforcement in Kiribati is carried out by the
Service which is responsible for all law enforcement and paramilitary
duties for the island nation. There are police posts located on all of
the islands. The police have one patrol boat.
no military and relies on both
New Zealand for its
The main prison in
Kiribati is located in Betio, named the Walter
Betio Prison. There is also a prison in Ronton (London) on Kiritimati
Male homosexuality is illegal in Kiribati, with a penalty up to 14
years in prison, according to a British law, but this law is not
enforced. Female homosexuality is legal, but lesbians may face
violence and discrimination. However, employment discrimination on the
basis of sexual orientation is prohibited.
Caroline Atoll channel between west side of Long
Island and Nake Island.
Marakei Atoll, North Gilbert Islands
Main article: Districts of Kiribati
There are a total of 21 inhabited islands in Kiribati.
divided geographically into three island groups, including a group
that unites the
Line Islands and the
Phoenix Islands (ministry at
Kiritimati Island). The groups have no administrative
function. They are:
Phoenix Islands, in one of the largest marine protected areas on Earth
(was largest from 2008 to 2010)
The original districts before independence were:
Northern Gilbert Islands
Central Gilbert Island
Southern Gilbert Islands
Four of the former districts (including Tarawa) lie in the Gilbert
Islands, where most of the country's population lives. Five of the
Line Islands are uninhabited (Malden Island, Starbuck Island, Caroline
Vostok Island and Flint Island). The
Phoenix Islands are
uninhabited except for Kanton, and have no representation. Banaba
itself is sparsely inhabited now. There is also a non-elected
representative of the Banabans on
Rabi Island in Fiji.
Each of the 21 inhabited islands has its own local council
that takes care of daily affairs. There is one council for each
inhabited island, with two exceptions:
Tarawa Atoll has three
Betio Town Council, Te Inainano Urban Council (for the rest
of South Tarawa) and Eutan
Tarawa Council (for North Tarawa); and
Tabiteuea has two councils.
Main article: Geography of Kiribati
A map of Kiribati.
Coconut palms in Abaiang
Kiribati consists of 32 atolls and one solitary island (Banaba),
extending into the eastern and western hemispheres, as well as the
northern and southern hemispheres. It is the only country that is
situated within all four hemispheres. The groups of islands
Banaba: an isolated island between
Nauru and the Gilbert Islands
Gilbert Islands: 16 atolls located some 1,500 kilometres (932 mi)
north of Fiji
Phoenix Islands: 8 atolls and coral islands located some 1,800
kilometres (1,118 mi) southeast of the Gilberts
Line Islands: 8 atolls and one reef, located about 3,300 kilometres
(2,051 mi) east of the Gilberts
Banaba (or Ocean Island) is a raised-coral island. It was once a rich
source of phosphates, but was exhausted in mining before
independence. The rest of the land in Kiribati
consists of the sand and reef rock islets of atolls or coral islands,
which rise only one or two metres above sea level.
The soil is thin and calcareous. It has a low water-holding capacity
and low organic matter and nutrient content—except for calcium,
sodium, and magnesium. Banaba is one of the least suitable places for
agriculture in the world.
Kiritimati (Christmas Island) in the
Line Islands is the world's
largest atoll. Based on a 1995 realignment of the International Date
Line Islands were the first area to enter into a new year,
including year 2000. For that reason,
Caroline Island has been renamed
Millennium Island. The majority of Kiribati, including the
capital, is not first, for example
New Zealand (
UTC+13 in January) has
an earlier new year.
According to the
Pacific Regional Environment Programme
Pacific Regional Environment Programme (previously
South Pacific Regional Environment Programme), two small uninhabited
Kiribati islets, Tebua
Tarawa and Abanuea, disappeared underwater in
United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change predicts that sea levels will rise by about 50 cm
(20 in) by 2100 due to global warming and a further rise would be
inevitable. It is thus likely that within a century the nation's
arable land will become subject to increased soil salination and will
be largely submerged.
The exposure of
Kiribati to changes in sea levels is exacerbated by
the Pacific decadal oscillation, which is a climate switch phenomenon
that results in changes from periods of
La Niña to periods of El
Niño. This has an effect on sea levels. For example, in 2000 there
was a switch from periods of downward pressure of
El Niño on sea
levels to an upward pressure of
La Niña on sea levels, which upward
pressure causes more frequent and higher high tide levels. The
Perigean spring tide
Perigean spring tide (often called a king tide) can result in seawater
flooding low-lying areas of the islands of Kiribati.
The atolls and reef islands can respond to changes in sea-level. Paul
Kench at the
University of Auckland
University of Auckland in
New Zealand and Arthur Webb at
South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission in
Fiji released a
study in 2010 on the dynamic response of atolls and reef islands in
the central Pacific.
Kiribati was mentioned in the study, and Webb and
Kench found that the three major urbanised islands in
Kiribati—Betio, Bairiki and Nanikai—increased by 30% (36
hectares), 16.3% (5.8 hectares) and 12.5% (0.8 hectares),
The study by Paul Kench and Arthur Webb recognises that the islands
are extremely vulnerable to sea level rise, and concluded that: "This
study did not measure vertical growth of the island surface nor does
it suggest there is any change in the height of the islands. Since
land height has not changed the vulnerability of the greater part of
the land area of each island to submergence due to sea level rise is
also unchanged and these low-lying atolls remain immediately and
extremely vulnerable to inundation or sea water flooding."
The Climate Change in the Pacific Report of 2011 describes
having a low risk of cyclones; however in March 2015
Kiribati experienced flooding and destruction of seawalls and coastal
infrastructure as the result of Cyclone Pam, a
Category 5 cyclone that
Kiribati remains exposed to the risk
that cyclones can strip the low-lying islands of their vegetation and
Gradual sea-level rise also allows for coral polyp activity to raise
the atolls with the sea level. However, if the increase in sea level
occurs at a rate faster than coral growth, or if polyp activity is
damaged by ocean acidification, then the resilience of the atolls and
reef islands is less certain. Also, coral bleaching has
led to the death of up to 80% of the coral.
Kiribati Adaptation Program
Kiribati Adaptation Program (KAP), started in 2003, is a US $5.5
million initiative that was originally enacted by the national
Kiribati with the support of the Global Environment
Facility (GEF), the World Bank, the
United Nations Development
Program, and the Japanese government.
Australia later joined the
coalition, donating US $1.5 million to the effort. The program aims to
take place over six years, supporting measures that reduce Kiribati's
vulnerability to the effects of climate change and sea level rise by
raising awareness of climate change, assessing and protecting
available water resources, and managing inundation. At the start of
the Adaptation Program, representatives from each of the inhabited
atolls identified key climatic changes that had taken place over the
past 20–40 years and proposed coping mechanisms to deal with these
changes under four categories of urgency of need. The program is now
focusing on the country's most vulnerable sectors in the most highly
populated areas. Initiatives include improving water supply management
in and around Tarawa; coastal management protection measures such as
mangrove re-plantation and protection of public infrastructure;
strengthening laws to reduce coastal erosion; and population
settlement planning to reduce personal risks.
A tropical islet with palm fronds oriented in the direction of the
The climate is pleasant from April to October, with predominant
northeastern winds and stable temperatures close to 30 °C
(86 °F). From November to March, western gales bring rain.
Kiribati does not experience cyclones but effects may occasionally be
experienced during cyclone seasons affecting nearby Pacific Island
countries such as Fiji.
Precipitation varies significantly between islands. For example, the
annual average is 3,000 mm (120 in) in the north and
500 mm (20 in) in the south of the Gilbert
Islands. Most of these islands are in the dry belt of the
equatorial oceanic climatic zone and experience prolonged
Climate data for Tarawa
Average high °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Source: Pacific Climate Change Science Program
Further information: Wildlife of Kiribati
The bokikokiko (Acrocephalus aequinoctialis) is the only land
wildlife species endemic to Kiribati.
Because of the young geological age of the islands and atolls and high
level of soil salination the flora of
Kiribati is relatively poor. It
contains about 83 indigenous and 306 introduced plants on Gilbert
Islands, whereas the corresponding numbers for Line and Phoenix
Islands are 67 and 283. None of these species are endemic, and about
half of the indigenous ones have a limited distribution and became
endangered or nearly extinct due to human activities such as phosphate
mining. Coconut and pandanus palms and breadfruit trees
are most common wild plants, whereas the five
most cultivated crops are Chinese cabbage, pumpkin, tomato, watermelon
and cucumber. Over eighty percent of the population
participates in either farming or fishing.
Corals reefs, part of the
Phoenix Islands Protected Area
Seaweed farming is an important part of the economy[why?],
with two major species Eucheuma alcarezii and Eucheuma spinosium
introduced to the local lagoons from the
Philippines in 1977. It
competes with collection of the black-lipped pearl oyster (Pinctada
margaritifera) and shellfish, which are dominated by the
strombid gastropod (Strombus luhuanus) and Anadara cockles (Anadara
uropigimelana), whereas the stocks of the giant clam (Tridacna gigas)
have been largely exhausted.
Kiribati has a few land mammals, none being indigenous or endemic.
They include the Polynesian rat (Rattus exulans), dogs and pigs. Among
the 75 bird species, the
Bokikokiko (Acrocephalus aequinoctialis) is
endemic to Kiritimati.
There are 600–800 species of inshore and pelagic finfish, some 200
species of corals and about 1000 species of
shellfish. Fishing mostly targets the family
Scombridae, particularly the skipjack tuna and yellowfin tuna as well
as flying fish (Cypselurus spp.).
Dogs introduced by European settlers have continued to grow in numbers
and are roaming in traditional packs, particularly around
Main article: Economy of Kiribati
A Bosj's warehouse in Kiribati.
Goods in a shop on the outer islands.
Exports of Kiribati
Kiribati has few natural resources. Commercially viable phosphate
deposits on Banaba were exhausted at the time of independence. Copra
and fish now represent the bulk of production and exports.
considered one of the least developed countries in the world.
In one form or another,
Kiribati gets a large portion of its income
from abroad. Examples include fishing licenses, development
assistance, worker remittances, and tourism. Given Kiribati's limited
domestic production ability, it must import nearly all of its
essential foodstuffs and manufactured items; it depends on these
external sources of income for financing.
The economy of
Kiribati benefits from international development
assistance programs. The multilateral donors providing development
assistance in 2009 were the
European Union (A$9 million), the United
Nations Development Programme (A$3.7 million), UNICEF, and the World
Health Organization (A$100,000). The bilateral donors
providing development assistance in 2009 were
Japan (A$2 million),
New Zealand (A$6.6 million), Taiwan
(A$10.6 million), and other donors providing A$16.2 million, including
technical assistance grants from the Asian Development
The major donors in 2010/2011 were
Australia (A$15 million), Taiwan
New Zealand (A$6 million), the
World Bank (A$4
million) and the Asian Development Bank.
Kiribati established a sovereign wealth fund to act as a
store of wealth for the country's earnings from phosphate mining.
In 2008, the
Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund was valued at US$400
million. The RERF assets declined from A$637 million (420%
of GDP) in 2007 to A$570.5 million (350% of GDP) in 2009
as the result of the global financial crisis and exposure to failed
Icelandic banks. In addition, draw downs were made by the government
Kiribati to finance budgetary shortfalls during this
In May 2011, the IMF country report assessment of the economy of
Kiribati is that “After two years of contraction, the economy
recovered in the second half of 2010 and inflation pressure
dissipated. It is estimated to have grown by 1.75% for the year.
Despite a weather-related drop in copra production, private sector
activity appears to have picked up, especially in retail. Tourist
arrivals rebounded by 20% compared to 2009, although from a very low
base. Despite the rise in world food and fuel prices, inflation has
bounced from 2008 crisis-highs into negative territory, reflecting the
strong appreciation of the Australian dollar, which is used as the
domestic currency, and a decline in the world price of rice. Credit
growth in the overall economy declined in 2009 as economic activity
stalled. But it started to pick up in the second half of 2010 as the
recovery gained traction.”
A major Australian bank, ANZ, maintains a presence on
Kiribati with a number of branches and ATM units.
Main article: Transport in Kiribati
Bonriki International Airport.
Since January 2009,
Kiribati has had two domestic airlines: Air
Kiribati and Coral Sun Airways. Both airlines are based in Tarawa's
Bonriki International Airport
Bonriki International Airport and serve destinations across the
Gilbert Islands only.
Neither the Phoenix nor
Line Islands are served by the domestic
carriers. The only airport served by any airline is Cassidy
International Airport on Kiritimati. Fiji's national carrier Fiji
Airways provides an international service from Fiji's main airport,
Nadi International Airport
Nadi International Airport to Cassidy Airport as well as to Bonriki
Main article: Demographics of Kiribati
I-Kiribati children in South Tarawa.
The November 2015 census showed a population of 110,136. About 90% of
that population lived in the Gilbert Islands, with about 40% of them
on South Tarawa. If nearby
Betio is included with South Tarawa, the
percentage rises to more than 50%.
Until recently, the people of
Kiribati mostly lived in villages with
populations between 50 and 3,000 on the outer islands. Most houses are
made of materials obtained from coconut and pandanus trees. Frequent
droughts and infertile soil hinder reliable large-scale agriculture,
so the islanders have largely turned to the sea for livelihood and
subsistence. Most are outrigger sailors and fishermen. Copra
plantations serve as a second source of employment. In recent years
large numbers of citizens have moved to the more urban island capital
of Tarawa. Increasing urbanisation has raised the population of South
Tarawa to 50,182.[page needed]
Village on Kiribati
The native people of
Kiribati are called I-Kiribati. Ethnically, the
I-Kiribati are Micronesians. Recent archaeological evidence indicates
Austronesians originally settled the islands thousands of years
ago. Around the 14th century, Fijians, Samoans, and Tongans invaded
the islands, thus diversifying the ethnic range and introducing
Polynesian linguistic traits. Intermarriage among all ancestral
groups, however, has led to a population reasonably homogeneous in
appearance and traditions.
The people of
Kiribati speak an Oceanic language called Gilbertese.
Although English is also an official language, it is not used very
often outside the island capital of Tarawa. It is more likely that
English is mixed in its use with Gilbertese. Older generations of
I-Kiribati tend to use more complicated versions of the language.
Several words in Gilbertese have been adopted from European settlers,
for instance, kamea is the Gilbertese word for dog, which
has its origins in the
I-Kiribati people hearing the European settlers
saying "come here" to their dogs, and adopting that as
Further information: Religion in Kiribati
Christian Church in Kiribati
Christianity is the major religion in Kiribati, having been introduced
by missionaries in the 19th century. The population is predominantly
Roman Catholic (56%) and Protestant faith (
Kiribati Protestant Church
Kiribati Uniting Church) account for (34%). The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baha'i and others
account for (10%).
The population of
Kiribati has a life expectancy at birth of 60 years
(57 for males, and 63 for females) and an infant mortality rate of 54
deaths per 1,000 live births.
Tuberculosis has a small
presence in the country, with 365 cases of 100,000 a year.
Government expenditure on health was at US$268 per capita (PPP) in
2006. In 1990–2007, there were 23 physicians per 100,000
persons. Since the arrival of Cuban doctors, the infant
mortality rate has decreased significantly.
Most health problems are related to consumption of semi-raw seafood,
limited amount of food storage facilities, and bacterial contamination
of fresh water supplies. In the early 2000s, between 1 and 7% of the
population, depending on the island, were annually treated for food
poisoning in a hospital. Modernization and cross-cultural exchange of
the late 20th century brought new issues of unhealthy diet and
lifestyle; heavy smoking, especially among the young population; and
external infections, including HIV/AIDS.
Kiribati is the country with the third highest prevalence of smoking,
with 54% of the population reported as smokers.
Fresh water remains a concern of
Kiribati – during the dry season
(Aumaiaki), water has been drilled for instead of using rain water
tanks. In recent years, there has been a longer than usual Aumaikai
season resulting in additional water having to be drilled from beneath
the water table. This has introduced water-borne illnesses,
compounding the health problems within Kiribati.
Further information: Education in Kiribati
The University of South Pacific,
Primary education is free and compulsory for the first six years, now
being extended to nine years. Mission schools are slowly being
absorbed into the government primary school system. Higher education
is expanding; students may seek technical, teacher or marine training,
or study in other countries. To date, most choosing to do the latter
have gone to
Fiji to attend University of South Pacific, and those
wishing to complete medical training have been sent to
Kiribati Ministry of Education is the education ministry. The
government high schools are King George V and Elaine Bernacchi School,
Tabiteuea North Senior Secondary School, and Melaengi Tabai Secondary
School. 13 high schools are operated by Christian
University of South Pacific
University of South Pacific has a campus in
distant/flexible learning, but also to provide preparatory studies
towards obtaining certificates, diplomas and degrees at other campus
The other prominent school in
Kiribati is the
Kiribati Institute of
Main article: Culture of Kiribati
Songs (te anene) and above all, dances (te mwaie), are held in high
Main article: Music of Kiribati
Kiribati folk music is generally based on chanting or other forms of
vocalising, accompanied by body percussion. Public performances in
Kiribati are generally performed by a seated chorus,
accompanied by a guitar. However, during formal performances of the
standing dance (Te Kaimatoa) or the hip dance (Te Buki), a wooden box
is used as a percussion instrument. This box is constructed to give a
hollow and reverberating tone when struck simultaneously by a chorus
of men sitting around it. Traditional songs are often love-themed, but
there are also competitive, religious, children's, patriotic, war and
wedding songs. There are also stick dances which accompany legends and
semi-historical stories. These stick dances
or "tirere" (pronounced seerere) are performed only during major
Main article: Dance in Kiribati
A welcome display.
The uniqueness of
Kiribati when compared with other forms of Pacific
island dance is its emphasis on the outstretched arms of the dancer
and the sudden birdlike movement of the head. The Frigate bird
(Fregata minor) on the
Kiribati flag refers to this bird-like style of
Kiribati dancing. Most dances are in the standing or sitting position
with movement limited and staggered. Smiling whilst dancing is
generally considered vulgar within the context of
This is due to its origin of not being solely as a form of
entertainment but as a form of storytelling and a display of the
skill, beauty and endurance of the dancer.
Kiribati at the Olympics
Kiribati at the Olympics and
Kiribati at the 2014
Kiribati has competed at the
Commonwealth Games since 1998 and the
Summer Olympics since 2004. It sent three competitors to its first
Olympics, two sprinters and a weightlifter.
its first ever
Commonwealth Games medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games
David Katoatau won Gold in the 105 kg
Kiribati national football team
Kiribati national football team is an associate member of the
Oceania Football Confederation, but not of world-governing body FIFA.
It has played ten matches, all of which it has lost, and all at the
Pacific Games from 1979 to 2011. The
Kiribati football stadium is
Bairiki National Stadium, which has a capacity of 2,500.
Betio Soccer Field is home to a number of local sporting
Edward Carlyon Eliot, who was Resident Commissioner of the Gilbert
Ellice Islands (now
Kiribati & Tuvalu) from 1913 to 1920
describes this period in his book "Broken Atoms" (autobiographical
reminiscences) Pub. G. Bles, London, 1938.
Arthur Grimble wrote about his time working in the British
colonial service in
Kiribati (then the Gilbert Islands) from 1914 to
1932 in two popular books A Pattern of Islands (1952) and
Return to the Islands (1957). He also undertook academic studies of
J. Maarten Troost's more recent autobiographical experiences on the
Tarawa Atoll are documented in his book The Sex Lives of Cannibals
List of towns and villages in Kiribati
Outline of Kiribati
^ a b c d e f Kiribati. CIA World Factbook.
^ "About Kiribati". Government of Kiribati. Archived from the original
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^ a b Publications Office — Interinstitutional style guide — Annex
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^ Based on a land area of 726 sq. km., as used by Kiribati's National
Statistics Office on page 32 of the 2015
Population and Housing
^ a b
^ "2015 Human Development Report" (PDF).
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^ "Kiribati: definition of
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^ a b c d e "Kiribati: 2011 Article IV Consultation-Staff Report,
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Samuel Eliot Morison
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distinguished historian recalls the past of two recently captured
pacific groups". Life. Retrieved 14 October 2009.
^ Hawaiian board of missions, publishers (1895). Te Rikitianere ni
baibara, ae te boki ni kaoti nanon taeka ianena aika 376 aika n te
baibara ni kiribati: ma te kankaotanti ae karako. Gilbert Islands
Bible dictionary, and pocket concordance of proper names and contents
of the Bible. Honolulu: E katauraoaki irouni beiñam.
^ Grimble, Arthur (1989). Tungaru traditions: writings on the atoll
culture of the Gilbert Islands. Penguin Travel Library. University of
Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-1217-1.
^ a b c Macdonald, Barrie (2001) Cinderellas of the Empire: towards a
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^ Sabatier, Ernest. Dictionnaire gilbertin-français Tabuiroa, 1954
Kiribati is already the meaning for all the Gilberts
District of GEIC.
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^ Maude, H. E.; Heyen, G. H. (1959). "Spanish Discoveries in the
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^ Best, P. B. (1983). "Sperm whale stock assessments and the relevance
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^ Geddes, W. H., Chambers, A., Sewell, B., Lawrence, R., &
Watters, R. (1982), Islands on the Line, team report. Atoll economy:
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^ "Leader of disappearing island nation says climate change an issue
of survival, not economics", the Associated Press, 5 June 2008.
^ "Kiribati's President: 'Our Lives Are At Stake': For the Islands of
Kiribati, Global Warming Poses Immediate Dangers", Australian
Broadcasting Corporation, 2 April 2007.
^ Marks, Kathy (6 June 2008) "Paradise lost: climate change forces
South Sea islanders to seek sanctuary abroad", The Independent.
^ Nair, Suchit (6 June 2008) "Tiny atoll in Pacific cries out for
help", The Times of India.
^ Chapman, Paul (7 March 2012). "Entire nation of
Kiribati to be
relocated over rising sea level threat". The Daily Telegraph. London.
^ Spektor, Dina (7 March 2012) Rising Sea Levels Threaten South
Pacific Nation Of Kiribati. Business Insider. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
Kiribati parliament to consider
Fiji land purchase". Radio NZ.
Wellington. 11 April 2012.
^ Kiribati: A Nation Going Under Archived 23 April 2013 at the Wayback
Machine, The Global Mail, 15 April 2013
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^ a b "
Kiribati Gives Okay to
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^ "FDSN Station Info – XMAS". Fdsn.org. 22 August 1997. Retrieved 14
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(PDF). Tiros Space Information News Bulletin. 41 (9). Australia.
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^ "Climate Change in Kiribati,
Tarawa Climate Change Conference Issues
Ambo Declaration". Office of the President of Kiribati. 12 November
2010. Archived from the original on 2 February 2012. Retrieved 28
^ Lagan, Bernard (16 April 2013). "
Australia urged to formally
recognise climate change refugee status". The Guardian. Retrieved 29
^ Betsy Morais (8 June 2014). "President Tong and His Disappearing
Islands". The New Yorker. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
^ Caramel, Laurence (30 June 2014). "Besieged by the rising tides of
Kiribati buys land in Fiji". The Guardian.
ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
^ "Pacific Islander Ioane Teitiota fails in bid to be first climate
change refugee". ABC News. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 11 February
^ Vernon Rive (14 August 2014). "'Climate refugees' revisited: a
closer look at the
Tuvalu decision". Point Source. Archived from the
original on 11 February 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
^ "Teitiota v Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment
 NZSC 107 (20 July 2015) ". NZLII. Retrieved
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of Nuclear Weapons".
United Nations Treaty Collection. 7 July 2017.
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Retrieved 14 May 2010.
^ "Cooks bill puts spotlight on Pacific's anti-gay laws". RNZ News. 21
^ Avery, Daniel (4 April 2019). "71 Countries Where Homosexuality is
Kiribati creates world's largest marine reserve". Reuters. 14
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^ Maslyn Williams & Barrie Macdonald (1985). The Phosphateers.
Melbourne University Press. ISBN 978-0-522-84302-6.
^ Ellis, Albert F. (1935). Ocean Island and Nauru; Their Story.
Sydney, Australia: Angus and Robertson, limited. OCLC 3444055.
^ a b c Thomas, 3
^ Harris, Aimee (April 1999). "Millennium: Date Line Politics".
Honolulu Magazine. Retrieved 14 June 2006.
^ "Islands disappear under rising seas". BBC News. 14 June 1999.
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Issue of Irreparable Change". The Washington Post. Retrieved 7 May
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and the Urgency of Response". HuffPostGreen. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
^ Zukerman, Wendy (2 June 2010). Shape-shifting islands defy sea-level
rise. New Scientist Magazine; issue 2763.
^ a b Webb, A.P.; Kench, P.S. (2010). "The dynamic response of reef
islands to sea-level rise: Evidence from multi-decadal analysis of
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doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2010.05.003. Archived from the original (PDF)
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^ Kench, Paul. "Dynamic atolls give hope that Pacific Islands can defy
sea rise". The Conversation. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
^ Arthur P. Webb & Paul S. Kench (2010). "The dynamic response of
reef islands to sea-level rise: Evidence from multi-decadal analysis
of island change in the Central Pacific". Global and Planetary Change.
72 (3): 234–246. Bibcode:2010GPC....72..234W.
^ Warne, Kennedy (13 February 2015). "Will Pacific Island Nations
Disappear as Seas Rise? Maybe Not –
Reef islands can grow and change
shape as sediments shift, studies show". National Geographic.
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^ "Ch.6 Kiribati". Climate Change in the Pacific: Volume 2: Country
Australia Government: Pacific Climate Change Science Program.
^ "Flooding in Vanuatu,
Tuvalu as Cyclone Pam
strengthens". SBS Australia. 13 March 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
^ Kench, Paul. "Dynamic atolls give hope that Pacific Islands can defy
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^ Government of
Kiribati Climate Change Strategies. climate.gov.ki
Climate, climate variability and change of
Kiribati Archived 2 May
2013 at the Wayback Machine. Pacific Climate Change Science Program,
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Britannica. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
^ Thomas, 14
^ Moseley, William G. (2014). An Introduction to Human-Environment
Geography: Local Dynamics and Global Processes. Chichester, West
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^ Thomas, 17
^ Thomas, 17–19
^ Lobel, P.S. (1978). "Gilbertese and Ellice Islander names for fishes
and other organisms" (PDF). Micronesica. 14 (2).
^ Thomas, 23
^ Thomas, 15
^ Kiribati: life on a tiny island threatened by the rising sea – in
pictures The Guardian
^ a b c "Kiribati: Statistical Appendix". International Monetary Fund
Country Report No. 11/114. 24 May 2011. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
^ "Kiribati: 2011 Article IV Consultation-Staff Report, Informational
Annexes, Debt Sustainability Analysis, Public Information Notice on
the Executive Board Discussion, and Statement by the Executive
Director for Kiribati".
International Monetary Fund
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11/113. 24 May 2011. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT)".
Retrieved 10 September 2010.
^ Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute. Swfinstitute.org. Retrieved 2 March
^ Personal – Online Banking ANZ Kiribati. Anz.com. Retrieved on
Population and Housing Census, Volume 1: Management Report and
Basic Tables" (PDF). National Statistics Office (Ministry of Finance,
Kiribati). September 2016. The populations of
Kiribati and of South
Tarawa appear in Table 1b ("
Population and No. of Households by
Island, Ethnicity and Land Area: 2015") on page 32. The population of
Tarawa is 39,058. If the population of nearby
included, the figure increases to 56,388. The population located in
Gilbert Islands is 99,633 and is given in Table A3 ("Population
Summary by Island: 1931–2015") on page 195.
^ Te taetae ni
Kiribati Language Lessons – Glossary.
Trussel.com. Retrieved on 2016-01-29.
^ Harold Thornton Stearns (1973). Geologic Setting of the Fossil Goose
Bones Found on Molokai Island, Hawaii. Bernice P. Bishop Museum.
p. 228. Malayo-Polynesian terms for the dog, te kiri, and the
pig. te buaka, occur in Gilbertese word lists, but in general usage
the dog is often called te kamea (from "come here") and the pig is
known only as te beki.
^ Kiribati. Country Profile, WHO.
^ "Human Development Report 2009 – Kiribati". Hdrstats.undp.org.
Retrieved 14 May 2010.
^ "Public Health: Physicians per 100,000 people". Earthtrends.wri.org.
Archived from the original on 11 June 2011. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
^ Meetai, Airam (19 July 2007). "Cuban doctors reduce
mortality rate by 80 percent". Rnzi.com. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
^ Thomas, 8–9
^ "Number of smokers up by 35 million in 30 years, study finds". The
^ Fresh water supply Climate Change. Climate.gov.ki. Retrieved on
^ Pacific Magazine:
I-Kiribati Students Perform Well In Cuba, Pacific
Islands Broadcasting Association, 24 December 2007.
^ "VSA Assignment Description Assignment title English Language
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^ Robert Louis Stevenson's In the South Seas and the Montana New
Zealand Book Awards winner Akekeia! by Tony & Joan Whincup,
^ Lopresti, Mike (19 August 2004). "Small step at Olympics is giant
leap for tiny island nation". USA Today. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
^ Johnston, Neil (30 July 2014). "Glasgow 2014:
David Katoatau claims
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^ Djazmi, Mani (20 April 2012). "The hardest job in football?". BBC
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^ Troost, J. Maarten (2004) The Sex Lives of Cannibals, Broadway,
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Kiribatiat's sister projects
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Resources from Wikiversity
Kiribati National Tourism Office
Parliament of Kiribati
Kiribati National Climate Change Portal
Chief of State and Cabinet Members
"Kiribati". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency.
Kiribati from UCB Libraries GovPubs
Kiribati at Curlie
Kiribati from the BBC News
Wikimedia Atlas of Kiribati
Phoenix Islands Protected Area
Paradise Lost? (A recent PBS/NOW program on global warming)
Exhibit: The Alfred Agate Collection: The
United States Exploring
Expedition, 1838–1842 from the Navy Art Gallery
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Commonwealth of Nations
International Organization for Migration
Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)
BNF: cb11951476g (data)
ISNI: 0000 0004 0458 7152
WorldCat Identities (via