Island country

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Sovereign states and states with limited recognition fully on islands (Australia is regarded as a continent) those with land borders shaded green, and those without shaded dark blue

An island country, island state, or island nation is a country whose primary territory consists of one or more islands or parts of islands. Approximately 25% of all independent countries are island countries.[1] Island countries are historically more stable[1] than many continental states but are vulnerable to conquest by naval superpowers. Indonesia is the largest and most populated island country in the world, while the United Kingdom is the most populous island country outside of Asia.[2][3]

There are great variations between island country economies: they may rely mainly on extractive industries, such as mining, fishing and agriculture, and/or on services such as transit hubs, tourism, and financial services. Many islands have low-lying geographies and their economies and population centers develop along coast plains and ports; such states may be vulnerable to the effects of climate change, especially sea level rise.

Remote or significant islands and archipelagos that are not themselves sovereign are often known as dependencies or overseas territories.


Historically, island countries have tended to be less prone to political instability than their continental counterparts. The percentage of island countries that are democratic is higher than that of continental countries.[1]

Island territories[edit]

While island countries by definition are sovereign states, there are also several islands and archipelagos around the world that operate semi-autonomously from their official sovereign states. These are often known as dependencies or overseas territories and can be similar in nature to proper island countries.


Island countries have often been the basis of maritime conquest and historical rivalry between other countries.[4] Island countries are more susceptible to attack by large, continental countries due to their size and dependence on sea and air lines of communication.[5] Many island countries are also vulnerable to predation by mercenaries and other foreign invaders,[6] although their isolation also makes them a difficult target.

Natural resources[edit]

Many developing small island countries rely heavily on fish for their main supply of food.[7] Some are turning to renewable energy—such as wind power, hydropower, geothermal power and biodiesel from copra oil—to defend against potential rises in oil prices.[8]


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.[9] Climate change also impacts island countries by causing natural disasters such as tropical cyclones, hurricanes, flash floods and droughts.[10]

Climate change[edit]

Surface area change of islands in the Central Pacific and Solomon Islands[11]

The effect of climate change on small island countries can be extreme because of low-lying coasts, relatively small land masses, and exposure to extreme weather.[12] The effects of climate change, particularly sea level rise and increasingly intense tropical cyclones, threaten the existence of many island countries, island peoples and their cultures, and will alter their ecosystems and natural environments. Several Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are among the most vulnerable nations to climate change.

Some small and low population islands are without adequate resources to protect their islands, inhabitants, and natural resources. In addition to the risks to human health, livelihoods, and inhabitable space, the pressure to leave islands is often barred by the inability to access the resources needed to relocate. The nations of the Caribbean, Pacific Islands and Maldives are already experiencing considerable impacts of climate change, making efforts to implement climate change adaptation a critical issue for them.[13]

Efforts to combat these environmental changes are ongoing and multinational. Due to their vulnerability and limited contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, some island countries have made advocacy for global cooperation on climate change mitigation a key aspect of their foreign policy. Governments face a complex task when combining gray infrastructure with green infrastructure and nature-based solutions to help with disaster risk management in areas such as flood control, early warning systems, nature-based solutions, and integrated water resource management.[14] As of March 2022, the Asian Development Bank has committed $3.62 billion to help small island developing states with climate change, transport, energy, and health projects.[15]


Japan is an archipelago in Asia that constitutes one of the richest and most populated nations on Earth.

Many island countries rely heavily on imports and are greatly affected by changes in the global economy.[citation needed] Due to the nature of island countries their economies are often characterised by being smaller, relatively isolated from world trade and economy, more vulnerable to shipping costs, and more likely to suffer environmental damage to infrastructure; exceptions include Japan, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.[16][17][18] The dominant industry for many island countries is tourism.[19]


Island countries are typically small with low populations, although some, like Indonesia and Japan, are notable exceptions.[20]

Some island countries are centred on one or two major islands, such as the United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, New Zealand, Cuba, Bahrain, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Iceland, Malta, and Taiwan. Others are spread out over hundreds or thousands of smaller islands, such as Indonesia, the Philippines, The Bahamas, 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. Bahrain, Singapore, and the United Kingdom have fixed links such as bridges and tunnels to the continental landmass: Bahrain is linked to Saudi Arabia by the King Fahd Causeway, Singapore to Malaysia by the Johor–Singapore Causeway and Second Link, and the United Kingdom has a railway connection to France through the Channel Tunnel.

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[21] (among others) and is sometimes referred to as such.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Ott, Dan (1996). Small is Democratic. Routledge. p. 128. ISBN 0-8153-3910-0. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  2. ^ "Island Countries Of The World". Archived from the original on 2017-12-07. Retrieved 2019-08-10.
  3. ^ "Total Population Estimates 2015-2019". The World Bank. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  4. ^ Chasle, Raymond (1 Oct 1986). "The quest for identity. (island countries)". UNESCO Courier. Archived from the original on 2013-06-15. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  5. ^ Perry, Walt L.; Robert W. Button; Jerome Bracken; Thomas Sullivan; Rand Corporation; United States Navy; Jonathan Mitchell (2002). Measures of Effectiveness for the Information-age Navy. Rand Corporation. p. 7. ISBN 0-8330-3139-2. Archived from the original on 2023-03-30. Retrieved 2020-11-01.
  6. ^ WREN, CHRISTOPHER S. (December 9, 1989). "Mercenary Holding Island Nation Seeks Deal". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2020-01-22. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  7. ^ "Many of the world's poorest people depend on fish". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2005-06-07. Archived from the original on 2019-08-26. Retrieved 2017-09-30.
  8. ^ Xingwei, Huang (2008-10-17). "Pacific Islands countries switch to renewable energy source due to increasing fuel prices". Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  9. ^ "Leader of disappearing island nation says climate change an issue of survival, not economics". June 5, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-06-05. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  10. ^ "FAO: Climate change threatens food security of Pacific island countries". December 2, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-12-07. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  11. ^ Simon Albert; Javier X Leon; Alistair R Grinham; John A Church; Badin R Gibbes; Colin D Woodroffe (1 May 2016). "Interactions between sea-level rise and wave exposure on reef island dynamics in the Solomon Islands". Environmental Research Letters. 11 (5): 054011. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/5/054011. ISSN 1748-9326. Wikidata Q29028186.
  12. ^ IPCC, 2014. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. [Barros, V.R., C.B. Field, D.J. Dokken, M.D. Mastrandrea, K.J. Mach, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L. White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, US, pp. 688.
  13. ^ Betzold, Carola (2015-12-01). "Adapting to climate change in small island developing states". Climatic Change. 133 (3): 481–489. Bibcode:2015ClCh..133..481B. doi:10.1007/s10584-015-1408-0. ISSN 1573-1480. S2CID 153937782.
  14. ^ "ADB's Work on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management". Asian Development Bank. 11 November 2020. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  15. ^ "ADB's Work in FCAS and SIDS". Asian Development Bank. 30 March 2022. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  16. ^ "WTO/FORSEC Trade Policy Course for Pacific island countries". 9 March 2001. Archived from the original on 2013-10-02. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  17. ^ "NZ calls for global solutions to problems faced by small island nations". 2005-01-18. Archived from the original on 2012-10-24. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  18. ^ Garg, Sarika. "U.N. ambassador gives keynote". Archived from the original on 2019-10-29. Retrieved 2017-09-05.
  19. ^ "China enlists Pacific island countries as tourist destinations, XINHUA". The America's Intelligence Wire. 10 August 2004. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2009.
  20. ^ "Wen pledges new aid to Pacific countries". International Herald Tribune. April 5, 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-02-17. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
  21. ^ "Australian Naval Defence". The Brisbane Courier. 24 July 1897. Archived from the original on 2017-12-06. Retrieved 2009-01-31.
  22. ^ "China, Pacific island countries discuss cooperation at forum meeting". Archived from the original on 2012-10-13. Retrieved 2009-02-01.

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