Two small children proudly hold up their drawings.
Photo: © UNICEF/UN0262160

The United Nations in Nauru

Nauru is one of the Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) that fall under the leadership of the Pacific Multi-Country Office (MCO)

Nauru is one of the world’s smallest independent states; located in the Pacific Ocean, 42 kilometres south of the Equator, with a population of 12,581 people (World Bank, 2019). A raised, fossilised coral atoll, Nauru is one of three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean – the other two being Banaba in Kiribati and Makatea in French Polynesia. Nauru does not have an official capital city. Nauru is ringed by stunning coral reef and does not have a port, although works are currently underway to construct one.

Nauru has the worst human development indicators in the region and the highest incidence of food poverty, with one in four people living below the basic needs poverty line. Infant, child, and adult mortality rates remain high and Nauru has the shortest life expectancy of any country in the Pacific. In the 1970s and 1980s Nauru had one of the highest per capita incomes in the world due to a booming phosphate extraction industry, however in the past decade Nauru has faced severe financial crises and political instability,

The economy relies on the re-established phosphate mining sector, processing of asylum seekers in the Australian government’s Regional Processing Centre (RPC), fishing licenses, and the Australian Seasonal Workers Program. Nauru imports staple foods and water, and land degradation from strip mining has destroyed around 80% of the island, severely limiting the potential for agriculture. Future projections for climate change predict hotter daily temperatures, higher sea levels, and further rainfall irregularity.

Nauru has a mixed record on promoting gender equality, despite ratifying The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Information about women’s economic participation is lacking. Women’s political participation is limited, with two women national Members of Parliament. Nearly half of all Nauruan women have experienced gender-based violence.

UN presence in Nauru

The UN has been present in Nauru since 1984, with 12 agencies implementing programs: FAO, IOM, OHCHR, UNDP, UN Environment, UNESCAP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNISDR, UN Women and WHO.

Development goals and objectives

The United Nations Pacific Strategy (UNPS) 2018-2022 is a five year strategic framework that outlines the collective response of the UN system to the development priorities in 14 Pacific Island countries and territories, including Nauru, and supports governments and peoples in the Pacific to advance a localised response to the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The UNPS complements the Nauru National Sustainable Development Strategy 2005-2025 “Partnership for Quality of Life”; particularly in the areas of economic development, infrastructure, and social and community development.

COVID-19 pandemic

Nauru remains one of only 10 countries globally with no confirmed cases of COVID-19. A National State of Disaster was first declared by the Nauru government of 16 March 2020, until 15 June 2020. Nauru is currently operating at a ‘level 1’ alert, with no restrictions on schools, business or large public gatherings. The Nauru government has released a travel advisory stating that travel to Nauru should only be undertaken if it is “absolutely necessary”. International flight schedules have been reduced to one per week between Brisbane and Nauru. Freighter flights are continuing to bring in food, fuel and other essential goods, with strict protocols in place. Many Nauru citizens remain stranded overseas, including Nauruan students in Fiji and seasonal workers in Australia and New Zealand. There are also concerns regarding the welfare of refugees and asylum seekers in the RPC and settlements in Nauru during COVID-19, and emergency measures have impacted the ability of expatriate staff to travel for employment in the RPC.

The UN’s system-wide and multi-sectoral approach provides a coordinated and comprehensive response that complements the Nauru government’s COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan through three targeted components.

  1. Health response: stop virus transmission and care for affected people Guided by the regional Joint Incident Management Team; the UN, led by WHO, is supporting Nauru to prepare for COVID-19 identification, mitigation and containment including: technical assistance to government partners, procurement of medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE), capacity building of healthcare staff, and risk communications and community engagement. WHO and UNICEF procured two GeneXpert machines, 20 testing kits and 20,615 pieces of PPE including goggles, masks and gowns. Further supplies are being procured through global COVID-19 Supply Chain System established by the UN Secretary-General’s Supply Chain Task Force. WHO deployed three technical officers to support COVID-19 infection and prevention control and case management; and in partnership with DFAT, facilitated a joint simulation exercise for COVID-19 preparedness and response. WFP has established a COVID-19 toll-free hotline to share information and advisories. 
  2. Humanitarian response: address immediate multi-sectoral needs Under the Pacific Humanitarian Response Plan the UN is supporting Nauru to respond to urgent humanitarian needs of those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Priority needs in Nauru include education, food security and livelihoods, protection and safe water and sanitation. UNICEF provided essential nutritional supplements to 1,600 children and 60 pregnant and lactating women, and reached 7,150 people with awareness-raising messages on COVID-19 and child protection.
  3. Socio-economic response: address immediate social and economic impact The UN reprogrammed US$140,000 (5%) of programs and activities from a total of US$2.7 million from the 2020 UN Nauru Joint Country Action Plan to increase support for the response to COVID-19, in consultation with the Nauru government. A planned socio-economic impact assessment will identify vulnerabilities in Nauru across five pillars of the UN Framework for the Immediate Socio-Economic Response to COVID-19 to guide response plans for the next 12-18 months; including health, social protection and basic services, economic recovery, macroeconomic response and multilateral collaboration. A regional report was completed for Nauru in 2020. The UN mobilised US$429,875 for the Nauru government from the Asian Development Bank’s Pacific Disaster Response Fund to support humanitarian priorities.

To learn more visit:

To visit the Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) Multi-Country Office website, visit:

UN Nauru Country Team

Resident Coordinator Office
UN Entities in Nauru

UN Key Documents

UNDAF/United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (CP)

01 January 2018
31 December 2022
01 January 2023