January first 2009 marks an important milestone in the history of the Falkland Islands as a new constitution takes effect, providing enhanced local democracy and internal self-government and enshrining the right of self-determination.
The Falklands have developed considerably both economically and socially since the previous Falkland Islands' Constitution came in to operation in 1985, and the new Constitution reflects this. The Islanders' right to determine their own future has been reinforced, as self-determination is now embedded in the main body of the Constitution. The Constitution enhances local democracy, while retaining sufficient powers for the UK Government to protect UK interests and to ensure the overall good governance of the territory. It provides for greater transparency and accountability through the creation of a Public Accounts Committee and a Complaints Commissioner, and the rights chapter has been brought up to date to bring it into line with international agreements. The new Constitution makes much clearer Councillors' responsibility for most domestic policies and that, in general, the Governor will now have to abide by the advice of the Executive Council on such matters. But the new Constitution will also enshrine a power for the Governor not to act upon Executive Council's advice "in the interests of good governance", or in relation to external affairs, defence, internal security, the administration of justice, audit, and management of the public service. Commenting on the new constitution, Councillor Mike Summers, spokesperson for the Falkland Islands Government said: "This is a post-colonial Constitution which the Falkland Islands Government initiated and on which the Falkland Islands people were consulted. It recognises the reality of the modern world in which the rights of free peoples are paramount and the assertion of territorial rights, irrespective of the wishes of those who live there, has no place. "We have freely exercised our right of self-determination on numerous occasions by clearly indicating our wish to remain British. This new Constitution re-states our right to decide our own future and enhances our powers of self-government." A copy of the Constitution is available to download at: http://www.falklands.gov.fk/site/legco/constitution.phpThe Falkland Islands are a British Overseas Territory located 350 miles east of Argentina in the South Atlantic. Over the past 26 years, the Falkland Islands have become one of the most modern and dynamic OT of the UK enjoying a sophisticated system of internal government. They are also economically self-sufficient in all areas except defence, which is estimated to be less than half of one percent of Britain's overall defence budget. The Islands' population has risen from 1,800 in 1982 to around 2,500 in 2006 (the latest Census). Nearly 96% of the population is British and 79% of the population is aged 55 years and under. The majority of young Islanders who have gone overseas for their third level education chose to return to the Islands to live and work, contributing to its thriving private and public sector.