The 43rd British Islands and Mediterranean Region (BIMR) Annual Conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), held in the Falkland Islands on the 12th and 13th February 2013, was described as both fascinating and provoking by delegates.
The theme of the two-day conference held on the 12th and 13th February was “Self-Determination and its role in Self Governance and Devolution”. Guest speakers were invited to address three plenary sessions.
The Rt Hon Baroness Scotland QC addressed the first Plenary Session, entitled “Self-Determination and its role in Self Governance and Devolution”. In her speech she placed the right to self-determination squarely within the international legal framework and gave examples of how fluid and varied a nation’s journey can be through different degrees of self-governance.
Professor Michael Keating addressed the second Plenary Session entitled “Arguments about Self-Determination”. He explained the different elements required for a nation to determine its own future, and the different ways in which this can occur. He concluded with a statement describing how over time a group can constitute itself as a people to determine their own future, so long as it can be demonstrated that there is a genuine desire to do so.
These Plenary Sessions were followed by two workshops, focusing on “The challenges of Governance in smaller territories and regions” and “Theories of Self-Determination: How have these theories been applied in recent years across the world and what are the international trends?
The second day of the conference saw The Hon Samantha Sacramento MP deliver a speech on behalf of Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of Gibraltar prior to the third Plenary Session entitled “The Right to Self Determination is not curtailed by Sovereignty Claims”. The speech described Gibraltar’s own journey of self-determination, and the challenges faced by small states in exercising their right to decide their own political future.
The final Open Plenary discussed “Experiences in the Development of Greater Regional and National Autonomy”.
MLA Jan Cheek said: “besides the relevance and thought provoking quality of the presentations and workshops I enjoyed the opportunity to talk in the margins to most of the participants. We have much to learn from one another and many valuable contacts were made.”
MLA Summers added that “it was an interesting experience for all parties to the Conference to be able to compare the varying levels of devolved government in their territories, and the important role played by self-determination in reaching those positions. The right of the people to choose their relationship with others remains a key determinant in their interrelationships, and remains one of the most fundamental of human rights.
MLA Dick Sawle said: “for me the thing that stood out was that there is no one size fits all definition of self determination. All of the paths that countries/territories have taken in the exercise of self-determination have been different. Ours is a classic case of finding a path forward for the Falkland Islands that meets the requirements of our home and people.”