Indigenous peoples in Kiribati

Kiribati comprises 33 islands, with one raised island (Banaba), covering almost 4,000 km of the Pacific Ocean straddling the equator. The area is equivalent in size to that of the continental United States of America. The majority of the atolls are little more than six metres above sea level. The three main groups are the Gilbert, Phoenix and Line Islands. Approximately 90% of the population inhabit the Gilbert Islands. The Phoenix Islands Protected Area is one of the world’s largest marine reserves in the world.

The 112,850 inhabitants of Kiribati are 99% Micronesian, with the majority engaged in subsistence and sustainable economic and ecological practices, farming copra, taro, breadfruit and sweet potatoes.

The House of Assembly (Maneaba) is a unicameral body of 45 members. Each member serves a four–year term. Most candidates present themselves as independents, campaigning through informal meetings in traditional meeting houses.

Ieremia Tabai was the first President (Te Beretitenti), serving the maximum three terms. Teburoro Tito was the second president. The third president, Anote Tong, has been very active in the Pacific Islands Forum on environmental and sustainability discussions since his re-election in October 2007.

Kiribati became a member of the United Nations in 1999 but does not maintain an ambassador at the UN headquarters in New York. Kiribati’s vote is usually cast by New Zealand via a proxy arrangement.

Download the 2009 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in Kiribati to read more about major developments and events during 2008


IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. The Indigenous World 2019.

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