Title: New Caledonia

Population: 293,608

Population Change: 0.97

National Average Age: 34

Urban Percentage: 72

Christian Population: 0

Christian Percentage:

Introduction: 'New Caledonia is a French territory comprising dozens of islands in the South Pacific. It''s known for its palm-lined beaches and marine-life-rich lagoon which at 24000-sq.-km is among the world''s largest. A massive barrier reef surrounds the main island Grand Terre a major scuba-diving destination. The capital Nouméa is home to French-influenced restaurants and luxury boutiques selling Parisian fashions.'

Overview: Settled by both Britain and France during the first half of the 19th century the island became a French possession in 1853. It served as a penal colony for four decades after 1864. Agitation for independence during the 1980s and early 1990s ended in the 1998 Noumea Accord which over a period of 15 to 20 years will transfer an increasing amount of governing responsibility from France to New Caledonia. The agreement also commits France to conduct a referendum between 2014 and 2018 to decide whether New Caledonia should assume full sovereignty and independence.