The percentage of island countries that are democratic is higher than that of continental countries. Historically, they have been more prone to political instability than their continental counterparts.
Island countries have often been the basis of maritime conquest and historical rivalry between other countries. Island countries are more susceptible to attack by large, continental countries due to their size and dependence on sea and air lines of communication. Many island countries are also vulnerable to predation by mercenaries and other foreign invaders, although their isolation also makes them a difficult target. Powerful countries, such as the United Kingdom, may develop a navy for protection and promotion of their interests, sometimes known as a sea power.
Many island countries rely heavily on fish for their main supply of food. Some are turning to renewable energy—such as wind power, hydropower, geothermal power and biodiesel from copra oil—to combat the rise in oil prices.
Some island countries are more affected than other countries by climate change, which produces problems such as reduced land use, water scarcity and sometimes even resettlement issues. Some low-lying island countries are slowly being submerged by the rising water levels of the Pacific Ocean. Climate change also impacts island countries by causing natural disasters such as tropical cyclones, hurricanes, flash floods and drought. In 2011, the Center for Climate Change Law (CCCL) held a conference attended by 272 registrants from 39 island nations titled Legal Issues for Threatened Island Nations.
Many island countries rely heavily on imports and are greatly affected by changes in the global economy. The economies of island countries are usually smaller and more vulnerable to shipping costs, environmental damage to infrastructure, and isolation from other economies than those of larger, continental countries; exceptions include Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom. The dominant industry for many island countries is tourism.
Island countries are typically small with low populations.
Some island countries are centred on one or two major islands, such as the United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, New Zealand, and Singapore. Others are spread out over hundreds or thousands of smaller islands, such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Seychelles, and the Maldives. Some island countries share one or more of their islands with other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Ireland; Haiti and the Dominican Republic; and Indonesia, which shares islands with Papua New Guinea, Brunei, East Timor, and Malaysia.
Geographically, the country of Australia is considered a continental landmass rather than an island, covering the largest landmass of the Australian continent. In the past, however, it was considered an island country for tourism purposes (among others) and is still often referred to as such.
- List of Caribbean island countries by population
- List of island countries
- List of islands by area
- List of islands (by country)
- List of sovereign states and dependent territories in Oceania
- List of sovereign states and dependent territories in the Indian Ocean
- Pacific Islands Forum
- Small Island Developing States
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