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Overview of the Marshall Islands

Facts in Brief

National Holidays


Overview of the Marshall Islands

The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is a nation of about 60,000 people living on 29 coral atolls and 5 low-lying islands in the central Pacific, mid-way between Hawaii and Australia. The RMI adopted its Constitution in 1979 and signed the Compact of Free Association with the United States in 1986. The RMI became a member of the United Nations in 1991.

The natural beauty and rich culture of the RMI attracts tourists from around the world. Pristine coral reefs teeming with marine life make the RMI a premiere dive destination. Yet our country faces formidable challenges in the form of rapid population growth and accelerated sea-level rise, among others.

The RMI offers great potential for small-scale tourism and economic investment. The country's open investment climate and close relationship with the United States under the Compact of Free Association make it particularly attractive to investors, which in turn help further the ultimate goal of sustainable economic development.


Facts in Brief

Country name (conventional long form): Republic of the Marshall Islands

Capital: Majuro, Majuro Atoll

Location: Micronesia (literally, "small islands"), northern-central Pacific Ocean, about half way between Hawaii and Australia

Geographic coordinates: 9 00 N, 168 00 E

Land Area: 181.3 sq km (about the size of Washington, DC)

Climate: hot and humid, with cooling trade winds and, in the southern atolls, frequent rain; average daily temperature is approximately 81 degrees Fahrenheit; wet season from May to November; the northern atolls are quite dry (averaging around 20 inches of rain a year); islands border typhoon belt, but such storms are rare.

Terrain: low coral limestone and sand islands

Elevation extremes: lowest point Pacific Ocean 0m highest point unnamed location on Likiep 10m

Geography: two archipelagic island chains of 29 atolls and 5 coral islands; Bikini and Enewetak are former US nuclear test sites; Kwajalein, the famous World War II battleground, is now used as a US missile defense test range

Religions: predominantly Protestant (including Congregationalist, Assembly of God, Baptist, and Seventh Day Adventist sects); but there is also a strong Catholic and Mormon presence as well as a Bahai center

Languages: Both Marshallese (which has two dialects) and English are recognized as the nation's official languages

Government type: constitutional government in free association with the US; the Compact of Free Association entered into force October 21, 1986

Independence: October 21, 1986 (from the US-administered UN trusteeship)

National holiday: Proclamation of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, May 1 (1979)

Constitution Adopted: May 1, 1979

Legal system: based on adapted Trust Territory laws, acts of the legislature, municipal, common, and customary laws

Suffrage: all citizens 18 years of age

Executive branch: chief of state: President Kessai Hesa Note (the president is both the chief of state and head of government)

Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament or Nitijela (33 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) and Council of Iroij (12 tribal chiefs)

Elections: president elected by Parliament from among its own members for a four-year term; election last held November 2003

Industries: copra (dried coconut meat) production and processing, coconut oil, fishing; tourism, and craft items from shell, wood, and pearls

Currency: United States dollar

Military: as stated in the Compact of Free Association, national defense is primarily the responsibility of the United States

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National Holidays

New Year's Day                             January 1

Nuclear Survivor's Day                   March 1  

Constitution Day                             May 1

Fisherman's Day                             First Friday in July

Rijerbal Day (Worker's Day)          First Friday in September

Manit Day (Customs Day)              Last Friday in September

President's Day                              November 17

Kamolol Day (Thanksgiving Day)   Third Thursday in November

Gospel Day                                    First Friday in December

Christmas Day                                December 25

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