In 1974, ethnic differences within the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands caused the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands to vote for separation from the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands. The following year, the Ellice Islands became the separate British colony of Tuvalu. Independence was granted in 1978. In 2000, Tuvalu negotiated a contract leasing its Internet domain name .tv for $50 million in royalties over a 12-year period. The agreement was subsequently renegotiated but details were not disclosed.


Location: Oceania, island group consisting of nine coral atolls in the South Pacific Ocean, about half way from Hawaii to Australia. Area 26 sq km. Coastline: 24 km

Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm, contiguous zone: 24 nm, exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate: tropical; moderated by easterly trade winds (March to November); westerly gales and heavy rain (November to March)

Terrain: low-lying and narrow coral atolls

Elevation: lowest point Pacific Ocean 0 m, highest point: unnamed location 5 m

Natural resources: fish, coconut (copra)

Land use: agricultural land: 60%, arable land 0%; permanent crops 60%; permanent pasture 0%; forest: 33.3%; other: 6.7% (2011 est.)

Natural hazards: severe tropical storms are usually rare, but in 1997 there were three cyclones; low levels of islands make them sensitive to changes in sea level

Environment – since there are no streams or rivers and groundwater is not potable, most water needs must be met by catchment systems with storage facilities; beachhead erosion because of the use of sand for building materials; excessive clearance of forest undergrowth for use as fuel; damage to coral reefs from increasing ocean temperatures and acidification; Tuvalu is concerned about global increases in greenhouse gas emissions and their effect on rising sea levels, which threaten the country’s underground water table; in 2000, the government appealed to Australia and New Zealand to take in Tuvaluans if rising sea levels should make evacuation necessary

Environment international agreements – party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Whaling

Note: one of the smallest and most remote countries on Earth; six of the nine coral atolls – Nanumea, Nui, Vaitupu, Nukufetau, Funafuti, and Nukulaelae – have lagoons open to the ocean; Nanumaya and Niutao have landlocked lagoons; Niulakita does not have a lagoon

People and Society

Nationality: noun Tuvaluan(s)

Ethnic groups: Polynesian 96%, Micronesian 4%

Languages: Tuvaluan (official), English (official), Samoan, Kiribati (on the island of Nui)

Religions: Protestant 98.4% (Church of Tuvalu (Congregationalist) 97%, Seventh-Day Adventist 1.4%), Baha’i 1%, other 0.6%

Population: 10,869 (July 2015 est.)

Urbanization: urban population: 59.7% of total population (2015), rate of urbanization: 1.9% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.). Major urban areas – population: FUNAFUTI (capital) 6,000 (2014)

Physicians density: 1.09 physicians/1,000 population (2009)

Hospital bed density: 5.6 beds/1,000 population (2001)

Drinking water source – improved: urban: 98.3% of population, rural: 97% of population, total: 97.7% of population. Unimproved: urban: 1.7% of population, rural: 3% of population, total: 2.3% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access – improved: urban: 86.3% of population, rural: 80.2% of population, total: 83.3% of population. Unimproved: urban: 13.7% of population, rural: 19.8% of population, total: 16.7% of population (2012 est.)


Country name: Tuvalu. Note: “Tuvalu” means “group of eight” referring to the country’s eight traditionally inhabited islands

Government type: parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm

Capital: Funafuti; note – administrative offices are in Vaiaku Village on Fongafale Islet

Time difference: UTC+12 (17 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions: 7 island councils and 1 town council*; Funafuti*, Nanumaga, Nanumea, Niutao, Nui, Nukufetau, Nukulaelae, Vaitupu

Independence: 1 October 1978 (from the UK), National holiday: Independence Day, 1 October (1978)

Constitution: previous 1978 (at independence); latest effective 1 October 1986; amended 2007, 2010, 2013 (2015)

Legal system: mixed legal system of English common law and local customary law

Executive branch: chief of state Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952) represented by Governor General Iakoba TAEIA Italeli (since 16 April 2010)

Head of government: Prime Minister Enele SOPOAGA (since 5 August 2013). Cabinet appointed by the governor general on recommendation of the prime minister

Elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on recommendation of the prime minister; prime minister and deputy prime minister elected by and from members of House of Assembly following parliamentary elections

Election results: Enele SOPOAGA elected prime minister by House of Assembly; House of Assembly vote count on 4 August 2013 – 8 to 5; note – Willie TELAVI removed as prime minister by the governor general on 1 August 2013

Legislative branch: unicameral House of Assembly or Fale I Fono (15 seats; members directly elected in single- and multi-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms)

Judicial branch: highest court(s) Court of Appeal is the Fiji Court of Appeal on Fiji Island (consists of the chief justice who visits twice a year); High Court, located on Fiji, consists of the chief justice of Fiji who presides over its sessions

Political parties and leaders: there are no political parties but members of parliament usually align themselves in informal groupings

International organization participation: ACP, ADB, AOSIS, C, FAO, IBRD, IDA, IFAD, IFRCS (observer), ILO, IMF, IMO, IOC, ITU, OPCW, PIF, Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO

National symbol(s): maneapa (native meeting house); national colors: light blue, yellow

National anthem: “Tuvalu mo te Atua” (Tuvalu for the Almighty)


Tuvalu consists of a densely populated, scattered group of nine coral atolls with poor soil. Only eight of the atolls are inhabited. It is one of the smallest countries in the world, with its highest point at 4.6 meters above sea level. The country is isolated, almost entirely dependent on imports, particularly of food and fuel, and vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels, which pose significant challenges to development.

The public sector dominates economic activity. Tuvalu has few natural resources, except for its fisheries. Earnings from fish exports and fishing licenses for Tuvalu’s territorial waters are a significant source of government revenue. In 2013, revenue from fishing licenses doubled and totaled more than 45% of GDP.

Official aid from foreign development partners has also increased. Tuvalu has substantial assets abroad. The Tuvalu Trust Fund, an international trust fund established in 1987 by development partners, has grown to $141 million in 2013 and is an important cushion for meeting shortfalls in the government’s budget. While remittances are another substantial source of income, the value of remittances has declined since the global financial crisis of 2008. Growing income inequality is one of many concerns for the nation.

Agriculture: products coconuts and fish

Industries: fishing

Population below poverty line: 26.3% (2010 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 4.7% (2015 est.)

Exports – commodities: copra, fish

Imports – commodities: food, animals, mineral fuels, machinery, manufactured goods

Currency: Tuvaluan dollars or Australian dollars

Energy Electricity 240V Britannic plug-in type

Communications Telephone system: serves particular needs for internal communications; domestic: radiotelephone communications between islands; international: country code – 688; international calls can be made by satellite (2007)

Broadcast media: no TV stations; many households use satellite dishes to watch foreign TV stations; 1 government-owned radio station, Radio Tuvalu, includes relays of programming from international broadcasters (2009)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 1, shortwave 0 (2004)

Internet country code: .tv

Internet users:

percent of population: 38.1% (2014 est.)


Airports – with unpaved runways: 1 (2013)

Roadways: total: 8 km paved

Merchant marine: 58, by type: bulk carrier 4, cargo 24, chemical tanker 15, container 1, passenger 2, passenger/cargo 1, petroleum tanker 10, refrigerated cargo 1; foreign-owned: 33 (China 4, Indonesia 1, Maldives 1, Singapore 19, South Korea 1, Turkey 1, Vietnam 6) (2010)

Ports and terminals: major seaport(s): Funafuti

Military and Security – no regular military forces; Tuvalu Police Force (2012)