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UN’s Fourth Committee Consider the Falklands – no action pending

18 Oct

The United Nation’s Fourth Committee opened its annual consideration on the issue of decolonization on October 7th and concluded on the 14th.

As with previous years the Committee had before it the Reports of its sub-Committee, the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples – known informally as the Special Committee or the C24.

Again, in a repetition of the course of business that takes place every year, Argentina and its allies were heard to repeat the mantra that the Falkland Islands were in some way a special case despite the UN’s General Assembly never having said any such thing. Those representatives were also at some pains to include along with the Falklands – South Georgia and the South Shetland Islands, together with the more recently added “surrounding maritime areas.” In fact so much effort was spent in the attempt to include these locations, none of which fall onto any UN list for decolonization, that the official Press Release from the Committee for the first day had to be withdrawn and re-done to Argentina’s specifications.

In particular, the input from Chile had to be largely re-written as, according to the first press report, her representative had failed to mention the Falklands Islands, etc, etc, at all.

The most important statement to come out of the Fourth Committee’s deliberations over the week was the affirmation that the process of decolonization was both “irresistible and irreversible,” although typically Argentina attempted to distance the Falkland Islands, etc., etc., from the decolonization process even though the Fourth Committee, and indeed the UN, has no remit to resolve any sovereignty dispute. Argentina appears to like the decolonization forum while trying to convince the world that the Falklands should not actually be considered a case for decolonization.

It seems that yet again they failed. At the conclusion on Monday the Fourth Committee reaffirmed that there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination before forwarding 11 draft- Resolutions to the General Assembly for adoption, none of which directly concerned the Falkland Islands, although some of the more general expressions may be applied.

Having voted in favour, Argentina, as every year, then attempted to say that its vote did not recognise the Falkland Islanders as having any right to self-determination despite the fact that this is now recognised as a fundamental Human Right. They even referred to the long-dead Resolution 2065 which had been killed off in 1982 – by Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, etc., etc., etc.

Another year gone.


Referendum – a game changer

7 Apr

Mike Summers, speaking on his return from his United States tour, told the Falkland Islands Radio Service that the American Congressmen that he had met talked about the Falklands Referendum being a “game changer.” BA Herald Editor

Summers, a Member of the Falklands’ Legislative Assembly, reviewed the trip which he’d made with Sharon Halford; ” We had a wide range of discussions on the first Monday in the States. I stopped in Miami for a while and talked to some cruise companies there … and also met with Congressman Mario Dules Belar who has a key interest in the cruise industry. ..  we had some very good discussions and confirmations from a couple of cruise vessel companies that they are reinstating their business in the Falklands again next year.

Sharon Halford carried on to Atlanta to do some interviews with CNN and I was diverted to New York so Sharon also dealt with the announcement of the results of the referendum in Washington on Tuesday and did all the media work there.

Wednesday was a key day in Washington. We had a whole series of meetings with various Congressmen and we met people in important positions in the Western Hemisphere Committee, people in the Foreign Affairs Committee and others who we knew from other activities. And without exception the Congressmen were saying that the referendum changed the game in the Falklands.

It changes the way that people should be seeing the Falklands and it brings another clear dynamic to these discussions they were very supportive of our right to self-determination. And I am not sure if you have heard or it has been announced that there is a Motion now on the floor of Congress supporting the right to self-determination for the people of the Falkland Islands.

Thursday was a day back in New York where we met with UN Officials. We had a very good opportunity to present the Falklands case about the referendum, how it went and what the programme was going on from there. They listened very carefully. I think they were generally very supportive of what we had done and what we are doing but naturally much more cautious about what the UN might say as a result of the referendum. There is no indication at this stage that the UN as an institution will take any different view in public. But clearly they get the referendum and what it means.

The same day we had a very interesting meeting with a number of UN Ambassadors, all of whom sit on the C-24. It was a very positive discussion with people clearly understanding what it is we are doing and why we are doing it. Some of them are agreeing very strongly with the concept of self-determination for the people of the Falklands. Others perhaps are slightly more cautious. Even amongst countries that we may not have expected automatic support it was evident. Countries like Indonesia and Iraq expressed quite strong support for the right to self-determination for the people of the Falklands. We also had a good discussion led by the Ambassador from Papua New Guiana about different ways of doing business in the C-24 and I think there is a caucus of countries that sit in the C-24 who are frankly fed up with the way that it operates and that they need to do it differently. It was an interesting discussion that will be very helpful to us and I am looking forward to June.

On Friday we went back to Washington and had meetings in the National Security Council and State Department who are the advisors to the US Government on Foreign Policy. They were very supportive and agreed that the referendum changed the dynamic. .. at a personal level very much appreciate what we were doing and why we were doing it. In fact the US position on the Falklands has changed by a degree or so. We are not expecting a big bang. It has changed by a degree or so in that the statement by the US after the referendum was that it recognised the democratic nature of the referendum and it then went on to refer to negotiations between all parties. That’s different because previous statements had referred to both parties…”

Asked about the reaction of Argentina’s Government, Summers said; “I think they are struggling to know how to deal with it. I think it is inevitable that they would go to the UN. I think the arguments that we have about not being an implanted population and not being a colony and about Argentina wanting to colonise the Falklands and all those sorts of things are pretty powerful and pretty well understood and simply going there and repeating a number of slogans that have a limited base in fact will have limited effect.  I don’t think it will make that much difference.”

Timerman to complain to the UN – again!

23 Mar

Argentina’s Foreign Minister, Hector Timerman is due to hold meetings this coming week with both the United Nation’s Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon and the president of the Special Committee on Decolonization, Diego Morejón Pazmiño. United-Nations

The meetings are due to be held in New York and Timerman is expected yet again to raise his country’s claim to the British Falkland Islands.

Argentina maintains that the United Kingdom is in breach of several United Nations’ Resolutions demanding that the UK sit down and negotiate the issue of sovereignty over the Islands with the Government in Buenos Aires. The recent display of self-determination by the Falkland Islanders through the process of a referendum, has disturbed the Government of Cristina Fernandez which wishes to discuss the matter with the two figures at the UN.

Ban Ki-moon has recently rubbished the idea that the UK, as a permanent member of the UN’s Security Council, is in breach of any relevant UN Resolutions on the subject of the Falkland Islands. Pazmiño, on the other hand, does not believe that the Falklands should be on the UN’s decolonization list as he does not think the matter is one concerning decolonization but is purely a sovereignty dispute.

Argentina claims that British forces destroyed their fledgling colony on East Falkland in 1833 after they had ‘inherited’ the archipelago from Spain in 1816. The UK’s claim however goes back to 1765 and the British Government in 1829 clearly warned Buenos Aires of its ownership, and to stay away. Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982 but were thrown off by a British Task Force.

Argentina raises the issue every year at the UN but there have been no UN General Assembly Resolutions on the matter since 1988.


99% say Yes

12 Mar

The final result of the vote in the Falkland Islands’ Referendum reveals 99.8% of the Islanders affirming that they wish to retain their British status.

Of 1,517 votes cast in the two-day referendum, 1,513 (99.8%) were in favour of keeping the current status, and just three (0.2%) were against. There was a 92% turnout from 1,672 British citizens eligible to vote in a population of about 2,900.

Falklands Referendum – what next?

12 Mar

With the polls closed and counting underway, the effect of the Falkland Islands’ Referendum continues to reverberate around South America and many other parts of the world.

Condemned by Argentina’s Government as “illegal,” and criticised by many other South American Governments, including Uruguay, Venezuela and Ecuador, the plebiscite to determine the Islanders’ wishes regarding their future is sure to keep the issue of sovereignty in the press for some weeks to come while its importance is debated. Referendum 2

Argentina’s view is that the vote can in no way affect their claim to the South Atlantic archipelago; which, as they see it, is a bone of contention between themselves and Great Britain, unaffected by any third party. An argument in which the Islanders have no place and no say. Argentina’s position remains that they inherited the islands on their independence from Spain, and that the Falklands were taken from them by force in 1833 in an act of colonialism that remains to be addressed today.

The British view is that the Falkland Islanders, like any people living in a non-self governing territory, have the right to determine their own future. A right enshrined in the United Nations’ Charter – a multilateral treaty signed by both Argentina and the UK. Britain’s claim goes back to 1765 and the British Government in 1829, clearly warned Buenos Aires to stay away from British property. Britain has also had to eject two armed forces sent by Argentina to seize this British territory – in 1833 and 1982.

The United Nation’s position remains ambiguous. A supporter of both decolonization, and the human right of ‘self-determination,’ the UN has not issued any Resolution on the issue of the Falklands since 1988. The UN condemned Argentina’s invasion in 1982, and has appeared reluctant to deal with the issue following the renewal of diplomatic relations in 1989. One sub-sub-Committee of the UN’s General Assembly, the Decolonization Committee, supports Argentina but is seen as outdated and heavily biased against the UK.

In reality, the Referendum cannot be seen as illegitimate, as there is no law which bans it and it has been conducted within the normally accepted rules concerning such events. Rules observed by an international team of lawmakers put together by the Canadians and which includes observers from Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile; all of whom support Argentina’s supposedly “legitimate” rights. Therefore these two days have seen a perfectly legal event in which the Falklanders’ have been able to express their desires. There is little doubt about the result however, as the Islanders’ remain staunchly British.

What is in doubt is the effect that this event will have. Some say that it’ll make no difference to either Argentina’s aggressive demands or UN indifference. Others say that it has already made a difference as the world has been reminded that the Falklands are not just an empty group of windswept rocks but a land with a people.

A people with the right to speak.

Falklands Referendum – self determination in action

10 Mar

As the two-day Referendum on the Falkland Islands gets underway, expectations are that there will be a large turnout of Islanders in support of the question whether or not they should remain British. Referendum

Argentina, on the other hand, has already declared that the Referendum is both “illegitimate” and “irrelevant“, despite the fact that the event has attracted comment from news agencies around the world. Julián Domínguez,speaking in Argentina’s Lower House, maintained that the referendum was just; “another move by the English empire to continue justifying the illegal usurpation of land.” Domínguez stressed that, “the Falklands referendum has no legal international value, therefore, the will of the islanders and the United Kingdom is the same.”

The British Government asserts that the Falkland Islands people are perfectly entitled to decide their own future under the rights granted by the United Nations Charter, and that this Referendum is a way of reaching a conclusion. Its result will be known world-wide and such a free expression of will is unlikely to be ignored by members of the UN.

“We hope the undecideds, or the uninformeds, or those countries that might otherwise be prepared to give the nod to Argentina’s sovereignty claim might have pause for thought after the referendum,” said John Fowler, deputy editor of the islands’ weekly newspaper, the Penguin News. “This is an attempt to say ‘hang on a minute, there’s another side to the story’.”

The Falkland Islands were first claimed by Britain in 1765. France and Spain both had short-lived settlements on the Islands whilst Argentina’s attempt to colonise the archipelago met British resistance. Warned to stay away in 1829, Buenos Aires sent a military garrison to seize East Falkland in October, 1832. This was ejected by the Royal Navy in January 1833. Argentina’s next attempt to take the Islands by force was in 1982 which led to the brief Falklands War. Argentina was again ejected.

Argentina bases a claim to the Falklands on a supposed ‘inheritance’ from Spain on its independence in 1816. Spain actually maintained its own claim to East Falkland until 1863.

Argentina’s growing desperation

4 Mar

Argentina’s Ambassador to the UK, Alicia Castro, again weighed in to the Falkland Islands dispute yesterday, alleging that next week’s referendum in the Islands was just a “silly game,” and “100% predictable.” Alicia Castro

Castro compared the referendum to London’s China Town deciding it wished to become a separate territory and added; “We think it’s irrational that this very small community should obstruct relations between two sovereign nations and, more than that, should obstruct the relations between the United Kingdom and the whole Latin American region.”

The Ambassador also produced Marcelo Kohen, an Argentine professor of international law at the University of Geneva, whose views, unsurprisingly, supported those of his Government. “Different human communities have different rights,” he said, and; “not all are entitled to the right of self-determination … only peoples have the right to self-determination. The General Assembly has not recognised the existence of a separate Falklands people and so the General Assembly has not recognised the applicability of the principle of self-determination to the islands.”

As the United Nations has been dealing with the peoples of the Falkland Islands for the past 67 years, this conclusion is somewhat surprising. Indeed, every year, the UN’s Decolonization Committee listen to representatives of those very people that Mr. Kohen does not believe to exist.

The referendum is an opportunity, under the remit of the UN Charter, for the Falkland Islanders to decide their own future. This is a fundamental Human Right that even Argentina has supposedly signed up to. The fact that it is taking place at all is a clear demonstration of the growing maturity of the Falklanders’ as a people with political aspirations. This maturity and confidence seems to be rattling some cages in Buenos Aires. Keen to dismiss the referendum as “irrelevant“, it is perhaps a sign of Argentina’s desperation that the country is giving the referendum so much coverage.