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Why Falklands are not extended the right to self determination: “shame on G24”

Tuesday, October 21st 2014 - 02:10 UTC
Full article 112 comments
Luke Coffey is a Margaret Thatcher Fellow of the Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy of the Heritage Foundation Luke Coffey is a Margaret Thatcher Fellow of the Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy of the Heritage Foundation

Since 1961 the UN Committee of 24 has brought almost 750 million people out of a colonial status, based on their right of self-determination, but “what a shame it won’t extend this same right to another 2,500 people of the Falkland Islands”, said US born Luke Coffey, member of the Heritage Foundation and one time advisor to the UK Defense ministry.

Mr. Coffey was one of several speakers at the “Self-determination, devolution and independence in the 21st century” symposium organized by the Gibraltar Garrison Library and sponsored by the Gibraltar government which addressed recent cases such as Catalonia, Basque country, Scotland, Turks & Caicos, Gibraltar and the Falklands.

”The free will of men and women voting in a democratic and open process without the threat of force or arms but simply because they have chosen to decide collectively how and by whom they wish to be governed, is self determination and is more powerful than any UN General Assembly or G24 resolution“ underlined Mr. Coffey in his conference ”The Falklands, self-determination and countering the myths”.

The Margaret Thatcher Fellow of the Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy of the Heritage Foundation based his presentation on why the current inhabitants of the Falkland Islands enjoy the right of self-determination; some of the myths that are commonly heard about the issue and finally the US position on the Falkland Islands.

Mr. Coffey said that self determination is a fundamental right and is closely linked to other human rights, such as the existence of a free press, freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom from arbitrary power.

Self-determination is established as a right, not only by Articles 1, 2, 55, 56 and 75 of the United Nations Charter… …but in Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights… … and Article 1 in both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

And regarding the Falkland Islands specifically: in 1946 the UN agreed that the Falkland Islands are a Non-Self-Governing Territory and Chapter 11 of the UN Charter states that the inhabitants of all Non-Self-Governing Territories have a right to self-determination.

In the chapter referred to myths, Mr. Coffey says that Argentina’s enthusiasm for using the UN – and for employing the concept of decolonization to the Falkland Islands– may be related to the fact that UN Special Committee on Decolonization or G24 is chaired by a representative from Ecuador (which is closely aligned with Argentina), and has diplomats from Sierra Leone, Cuba, and Syria at the head of its bureau. Other countries on the committee include Russia, Iran, China, Mali among others. Most of the members of the committee have a dubious track record of human rights.

In effect 21 out of the 29 countries in the committee were ranked as being either “not free” or “partly free” by the 2014 Freedom House “Freedom in the World” Survey.

“Assuming that this committee had any credibility to determine matters dealing with freedom and democracy, it lost any remaining credibility when it ignored the outcome of the 2013 Referendum”, which was organized by the Falklands Legislative Assembly and with all the guarantees and international observation experts.

Finally regarding the US position of the Falklands, Mr. Coffey regrets the current administration position since over the past three years, “the US has repeatedly called on Argentina and Britain to negotiate the status of the Falkland Island”.

“This is not the same as taking no position on the dispute. Under the guise of neutrality, the U.S. echoed Argentina’s position”.

And Coffey underlines that “the call for talks has not been a simple slip of the tongue: they are well documented and have been made at different levels of the Obama administration. The U.S. has even backed Argentina’s position at the Organization of American States”.

Coffey points out that to this date the US State Department does not recognize that the outcome of the March 2013 Referendum representing the legitimate will of the Falkland Islanders to determine their own future, which “is an unwise policy”

But “thankfully, the United Kingdom has not only promised to respect the right of self-determination for the Islanders but is has also committed to defending and guaranteeing this right”, concludes Coffey.

Follows the full speech:

The Falklands, Self-Determination and Countering the Myths.

By Luke Coffey

I would first like to thank the organizers of this event, the staff of the Gibraltar Garrison Library—and especially Dr. Jennifer Ballantine Perera, for all of their hard work involved in pulling off this fantastic symposium.
It is also great to be back in Gibraltar. Every time I come here I am immediately reminded of the close links between the U.S. and Gibraltar. These links date back to 1801 and are still very strong today.
And it was great to see the U.S.-Gibraltar relationship recently recognized by a bipartisan resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives.
But as much as I love Gibraltar—I am here today to talk about the Falkland Islands. There are two main issues I will address in my remarks today.
First, I want to explain why the current inhabitants of the Falkland Islands enjoy the right of self-determination.
I will also highlight some of the myths that we commonly hear about this issue.
Then I want to address the U.S. position of the Falkland Islands.
This conference is not about historical territorial and sovereignty disputes but on the right of self-determination— so I will keep my remarks focused on this topic.
But even though the history of the Islands is interesting, and Britain has a very strong claim to the sovereignty of Falkland Islands based on this history, I believe this is actually secondary to the Islanders right of self-determination.
In order to show the world their preference the Falkland Islanders held a popular referendum in March 2013.
I am sure the outcome is well known among those in the room but it is worth repeating. Voter turnout was 92%. 99.8% of those who voted did to remain as a British Overseas Territory. Only three people voted otherwise.
Argentinean officials often spread the myth that the British Government ordered the referendum.
It is simply not true.
The Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands decided to hold the referendum—not the British government in London.
Some in Argentina have criticized the vote by making the accusation that international observers didn’t supervise it.
This statement is also incorrect.
A team of 8 independent observers made up from current and retired legislators, civil society leaders, journalists and international observation experts from Brazil, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Uruguay and the United States of America, deployed to monitor the vote.
That equals one observer for every 190 people who voted. This must be one the highest ratios of observers-to-voters in any referendum, anywhere in the world.
But in the debate regarding the Falkland Islands the myths perpetuated by Argentina surrounding the referendum is only the tip of the iceberg.

Self-determination is a fundamental right

First, I want to address the mother of all myths: That the Falkland Islanders do not have the right of self-determination.
Self-determination is a fundamental right. It is the right of every person to control how they are governed and to whom they owe their allegiance.
As such, it is a natural right and is closely linked to other human rights, such as the existence of a free press, freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom from arbitrary power.
Self-determination is established as a right, not only by Articles 1, 2, 55, 56 and 75 of the United Nations Charter… …but in Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights… … and Article 1 in both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Regarding the Falkland Islands specifically here it is in simple terms:
In 1946 the UN agreed that the Falkland Islands are a Non-Self-Governing Territory.
Chapter 11 of the UN Charter states that the inhabitants of all Non-Self-Governing Territories have a right to self-determination.
The Falklands are on the list, so they have the right to determination.
Outside the Charter, the General Assembly has reaffirmed on dozens of occasions that Non-Self- Governing Territories enjoy this right.
Of course, regarding the Falkland Islands two specific resolutions stand out: 1514 and 2065.
Resolution 1514 states that cases of decolonization must be settled “…based on respect for the principles of equal rights and self-determination of all peoples… without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion”
It further states:
“All peoples have the right to self-determination by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”
There are no caveats; there are no exceptions.
Resolution 2065 states that the dispute over the Islands must take into account resolution 1514 and the interests of the population of the Falkland Islands.
Paradoxically, both of these resolutions Argentina uses to back its claim to the Islands.
Argentina’s reliance on these U.N. resolutions is telling, if irrelevant.
First, the UK is not in violation of either resolution. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon himself has made this point clear.
Secondly, Argentina cherry picks and misinterprets parts of these resolutions to suit their own aims while conveniently ignoring the repeated references to the right of self-determination.
Finally, these resolutions are an artifact of the 1960s, when many of the newly independent nations in the General Assembly saw most issues through the lens of decolonization.
Just like it does today, even in the 1960’s the General Assembly was voting in blocs rather than on the merits of a particular issues.

UN Special Committee on Decolonization

Argentina’s enthusiasm for using the U.N. – and for employing the concept of decolonization to the Falkland Islands – may be related to the fact that U.N. Special Committee on Decolonization –also known as the Committee of 24—is chaired by a representative from Ecuador (which is closely aligned with Argentina), and has diplomats from Sierra Leone, Cuba, and Syria (yes, that
Syria!) at the head of its bureau.
Other countries on the committee include Russia, Iran, China, Mali among others. Most of the members of the committee have a dubious track record of human rights.
21 out of the 29 countries in the committee were ranked as being either “not free” or “partly free” by the 2014 Freedom House “Freedom in the World” Survey.
Assuming that this committee had any credibility to determine matters dealing with freedom and democracy, it lost any remaining credibility when it ignored the outcome of the 2013 Referendum.
Then there is the myth that the Islanders are under the control of the government in London.
The degree to which the Islanders enjoy self-government should not be understated.
The Islands are entirely self-governing, except for defence and foreign affairs.
It has a democratically elected Legislative Assembly that creates laws and elects the executive branch—the 3 person strong Executive Council.
A Governor from the United Kingdom represents the Queen on the Islands and has the primary responsibility for defence and foreign affairs issues. The Governor chairs the Executive Council but does not have voting rights.
The Head of Government, called the Chief Executive, is appointed by the governor on the advice of the executive council. In the same ceremonial way the Queen technically appoints the Prime Minister in the UK.
The Islands are economically self-sufficient and have been so since the late 19th century—except for the cost of defense. Clearly there would be no need for a robust defensive posture on the Islands if Argentina didn’t have designs there.
The Falkland Islanders manage their own natural resources—including any oil or gas that might be extracted there. Contrary to Argentine claims, the Treasury in London will not reap the proceeds of oil and gas exploitation in the Falkland Islands—the people of the Falkland Islands will.
With the degree of self-government the Falkland Islanders enjoy, coupled with the outcome in last year’s referendum, the Falkland Islands meet the criteria outlined in UN Resolution 15411 to be removed from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Only politics, hidden agendas, and a very outdated view of the world inside the Committee of 24 prevent this from taking place.
It is ironic, But perhaps not surprising, that the Committee of 24, which has a mandate to look after the interests of the Non-Self-Governing Territories has now become a forum for bullying and contempt.

Another myth

Another myth is that the UK is in violation of multiple UN resolutions. If any country is in violation of UN Resolutions 1514 and 2065 it is Argentina—not the UK.
The UK, as the administrating power, has lived up to its primary responsibility and ensured that the islanders enjoy the right of self-determination as required by the resolutions. Principle VI, Option B: Free association with an independent State.
In fact, the UK is the sole guarantor of the Islander’s right to self-determination. I have little doubt that if the Islands were not heavily defended today, Argentina would be denying the inhabitants their right to self-determination.
The UK has also made every effort to resolve the situation peacefully as the resolutions require.
In the late 1960’s through the middle of the 1970’s Britain entered into negotiations with Argentina in accordance with resolution 2065.
Although the UK Government had no doubt about British sovereignty of the Falklands during this time—a point made on the record in the House of Commons on numerous occasions by numerous ministers, the UK was concerned by the difficulty of defending the Islands.
However, Britain maintained throughout these talks that any transfer of sovereignty must be subject to the wishes of the Islanders. It was on this issue that negotiations foundered in the 1970s.
On June 9th 2011 Professor Kohen wrote on his FaceBook page:
“As any student of international law knows, States have the obligation to solve their international disputes through peaceful means. The UK’s position simply flies in the face of this fundamental principle of international law.”
The idea that you can apportion blame to the United Kingdom for not trying to act in a peaceful manner regarding the Falkland Islands does not match with the reality.
It has been the longstanding policy of the Argentine government to harass and intimidate the Falkland Islanders.

Illegal invasion of the Falklands

Perhaps the most obvious—and tragic—example is Argentina’s illegal invasion in 1982 and the subsequent military occupation of the Islands.
This was a conflict in which 255 British and 649 Argentine soldiers were lost.
And I thought it was curious that we just heard Professor Kohen speak for 30 minutes about the Falkland Islands and he did not once mention the 1982 war.
It was Argentina that invaded, it was the Islanders that suffered, and it was the British that liberated—not the other way around.
How is this in line with resolving the dispute peacefully?
This sort of intimidation and aggressive behavior predates the 1982 Falkland’s war.
In 1976, Argentina landed an expedition in the South Sandwich Islands and kept a military presence there until 1982.
In 1977 the Argentine Navy cut off fuel supplies for Port Stanley Airport.
Again, neither is the spirit of the UN Charter or the resolutions regarding the Falkland Islands.
Lately, more pressure from Argentina has been mounting.
During the period leading up to the 2013 referendum, Argentina’s actions towards the Falkland Islanders was hardly in the spirit of promoting peace:
* The Argentine Navy intercepted and even boarded European fishing vessels operating under licenses issued by the Falkland Islands.
* With strong encouragement from Buenos Aires, Falkland Islands–flagged ships are increasingly banned from South American ports.
* President Kitchener has threatened to close the vital air link to the Islands.
* Cruise ships operating from American ports have been denied port calls in Argentina because they had previously visited the Islands.
* Argentina has threatened oil companies operating in the Falklands with sanctions and prosecution.
This economic, diplomatic, and propaganda campaign amounts to an Argentine policy of confrontation—not of promoting peace.
If any party today is blocking talks it is Argentina—and it is a self-imposed block.
The reason being that Argentina has repeatedly refused to engage with or even to meet representatives of the Falkland Islands…
…And rightly, Britain refuses to meet Argentine officials without members of the Falkland Islands government present.
So it is not true to suggest that Britain is not willing to talk about the Islands.
Now…To get around the fact that the UN is very clear that all Non-Self- Governing Territories have the right of self-determination, Argentina has created a further myth that self-determination doesn’t apply to a “population” (which is what they claim the Islanders are) and only to a “people” (which is what they say the Islanders are not).

George Orwell’s 1945 book Animal Farm

This reminds me of a quote in George Orwell’s 1945 book Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
In the case of the Falkland Islands, Argentina’s made up distinction between “population” and “people” is nothing more than semantics.
First, the terms “people” and “population” are neither explicit nor defined in any UN document.
Furthermore, there is no accepted definition in international law that makes a distinction between the two.
There is no amount of spin or misinformation that can change this fact.
There is another myth that the Falkland Islands are a “special circumstance”—so the right of self-determination doesn’t apply.
Again, the UN General Assembly or the Security Council has never declared, categorized or explicitly stated that the Falkland Islands are a “special circumstance”.
The Argentinean position that the Falkland Islanders might not constitute a “people” and that the situation of the Falkland Islands is a “special case” has its origins in a 1975 International court of Justice advisory opinion on Western Sahara…
…And just a reminder that an advisory opinion is exactly that: an opinion. There is no legally binding aspect to it—not even for the countries involved.
In my opinion, it takes a leap of faith to believe that this one sentence, in this one paragraph, in this 145 page non-legally binding advisory opinion on Western Sahara holds more validity than the rights and wishes of 2,500 people to choose by whom and how they are governed.
In reality, the words “people” and population” are used interchangeably in numerous UN resolutions on decolonization.
In Resolution 1514 the word “people” is used.
But Resolution 2065 the word “population” is used.
Article 73 of the UN Charter, dealing with the non self-governing territories uses “people” and adds an additional noun: “inhabitants”—stating that the “…interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount [… and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote …the wellbeing of the inhabitants of these territories.]”
The accusation that the Falkland Islanders are not a people was taken even one step further last year when Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timmerman said the “The Falklands islanders do not exist.”
I believe that this desperate tactic by Argentina… to call the Falkland Islanders a “population” and not a “people” is actually dehumanizing— and is the language that colonizers might use.
Another myth repeated by Argentine officials that in 1833 the British removed, by force, an Argentine population and implanted a British population in its place.
This claim is false and there are no historical records that support it.
The only people who were told to leave the Islands when HMS Clio arrived in 1833 was the remainder of the 26-man Argentine military garrison—ten of whom were involved in the murder of their commander.
A number of inhabitants from the civilian settlement there, were not only allowed, but were encouraged by the British, to remain on the Islands.
According to the report at the time by the British officer in charge of the mission, of the 33 civilian settlers who were residing on the Islands at the time the British returned in 1833, only four chose to leave. Of the 29 who stayed at least 12 were from Argentina.
The remainder of the settlement consisted of those from Germany, France, Jamaica and indigenous people from the mainland.
This is an inconvenient truth for the Argentine position.
Furthermore, the British population itself was very small in the 1830s and only gradually increased.
So this wasn’t a mass transplant of one foreign population at the expense of a local population.
As I said in my opening remarks, there was never an indigenous population on the islands. No natives were persecuted or forcibly removed like there was in North America in the 18th and 19th centuries or like Argentina’s Conquest of the Desert campaign in the 1870s.
In fact the closest thing to the Falklands having an indigenous population are its inhabitants today, some of whom can trace their ancestry back nine generations which is considerably longer than President Kitchener and Hector Timmerman’s families have been living in Argentina.
It is true that since the British settlement was reestablished the majority of immigrants have come from the United Kingdom—why does this surprise anyone?
The Falkland Islands have been under British administration for 181 years—where do you expect most of the inhabitants to come from?
Like the Falkland Islands, and the rest of the Western Hemisphere for that matter, Argentina is a country of immigrants too. During the 18th and 19th centuries Argentina was home to the second biggest immigration wave in the world after the U.S.
More than 2/3 of the current population in Argentina can trace their origins back to Italy or Spain. Roughly 85% of Argentines today can trace their roots back to Europe. Less than 2% of Argentina’s population today is indigenous.
Just because many Falkland Islanders can trace their ancestors back to Britain doesn’t make their sense of national identity any less than an Argentinian who can trace their ancestry back to Spain.
To suggest otherwise is wrong and hypocritical.
Also, Professor Kohen pointed out in his presentation that the population on the Falkland Islands is too small and does not have the growth to be considered a “people”.
The size and growth of the population is not relevant.
I would like to remind everyone of what former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali told the Committee of 24 on its 30th anniversary:
”…The general assembly has repeatedly reaffirmed that such factors as territorial size, size of population, and geographical location should in no way be an impediment to the exercise of the inalienable right to self-determination.”

The U.S. position

So of course, as an American you might find my views on how I see the current U.S. administration’s position over the islands to be interesting.
The U.S. also has three territories on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories: Guam, American Samoa and American Virgin Islands… …and like the UK, the US has been frustrated by the Committee of 24.
Although the situation differs from the Falkland Islands, by the fact that there is not a dispute over these territories, there are some similarities.
Leaders of America’s three Non-Self-Governing Territories have told the Committee of 24 that they no longer feel like colonies and they want to be struck off the list.
Due to the conduct of the committee both the UK and the US have stop engaging with it.
But the U.S. position on the Falklands is an interesting one.
The U.S. does have a limited, if not somewhat interesting history with the Islands.
The U.S. frequently takes no position on territorial disputes, apart from stating that they should be resolved peacefully and without intimidation, threats, or the use of force.
Regarding the dispute over the Falkland Islands, Argentina has clearly failed to live up to that standard: It used military force in 1982 and has since waged a campaign of intimidation and threats.
Sadly, the current U.S. Administration hasn’t lived up to this standard either.
- Argentine position is to call for talks over the sovereignty.
- The British position is that there is nothing to talk about.
Over the past three years, the U.S. has repeatedly called on Argentina and Britain to negotiate the status of the Falkland Island.
This is not the same as taking no position on the dispute. Under the guise of neutrality, the U.S. echoed Argentina’s position.
This call for talks has not been a simple slip of the tongue. They are well documented and have been made at different levels of the Obama administration. The U.S. has even backed Argentina’s position at the Organization of American States.
To this date the U.S. State Department does not recognize that the outcome of the March 2013 Referendum representing the legitimate will of the Falkland Islanders to determine their own future.
This is an unwise policy.
By supporting Argentina’s demand, the U.S. risks alienating Britain and encouraging Argentina to take even more aggressive actions. The question of sovereignty was settled in 1982 and the issue of self-determination in 2013.
These issues should not be reopened, and the U.S. should stop suggesting that it can be.
However, there are some sensible opinions in Washington.
Last year a bipartisan House Resolution recognizing the Falkland Islands referendum as the legitimate will of the Islanders’ right to self-determination was submitted in Congress.
Also, last year the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a Resolution honoring the life of Lady Thatcher which stated: “Whereas Baroness Thatcher in 1982 led United Kingdom efforts to liberate the Falkland Islands after they had been invaded and occupied by the Government of Argentina.”
In fact, in recent years two congressmen and numerous staffers have made the long to visit the Islands to learn more about their situation.
It is ultimately the inherent right of the Islanders to decide how they wish to be governed and to whom they owe their allegiance. The U.S. was founded in 1776 on an assertion of this right. It should live up to this heritage by respecting the wishes of the Falkland Islanders.

Conclusion

At the end of the day it is up to the Islanders t decide if they want to be part of Argentina, become independent, or stay as a British Overseas Territory.
In all the rhetoric coming from Argentina neither Kirchner nor Timmerman have made the case as to why the Islanders would be better off in Argentina than with their current status as a British Overseas Territory.
And why does Argentina insist on forcing the free people of the Falkland Islands to pledge allegiance to Buenos Aires when they have overwhelmingly made clear they want to remain British.
Let me ask you, which position sounds more like colonialism?
The Argentine position, which places a piece of land (and presumably the oil and gas there) as the most important consideration.
Or the British position, which places the wellbeing and the freedom of the people as the most important consideration.
Since 1961 the Committee of 24 has brought almost 750 million people out of a colonial status— based on their right of self-determination. What a shame it won’t extend this same right to another 2,500 people of the Falkland Islands.
This debate about self-determination—who is entitled to this right….who isn’t…are the Falkland Islanders a “people” or are they a “population”…
…All of this makes for interesting conferences, symposiums, academic papers and endless debate among international lawyers, academics and politicians.
The UN General Assembly can pass resolution after resolution and the Committee of 24 can continue with its old fashion view of the world.
But in reality it all means nothing because the free will of men and women…
…voting in a democratic and open process… …without the threat of force or arms… …but simply because they have chosen to decide collectively how and by whom they wish to be governed… …is more powerful than any of this.
And thankfully, the United Kingdom has not only promised to respect the right of self-determination for the islanders but is has also committed to defending and guaranteeing this right.
So while the incumbent government in Buenos Aires might gain domestic political advantage at home over the issue, the British flag will fly over Port Stanley for as long as the Islanders so wish.

Thank you.
 

Top Comments

Disclaimer & comment rules
  • paulcedron

    “blablabla... because they have chosen to decide collectively how and by whom they wish to be governed, is self determination...blablabla”

    of course they can decide how and by whom they wish to be governed.
    and of course they can decide if they want to be english wannabes, 4th class plebs or whatever.
    who cares about that?

    the thing is the lands they are squatting are not their property.
    hence, they cannot determine anything unilaterally.

    wonder what this twat would think about “the free will of men and women”, if those men and women were occupying his house.

    Oct 21st, 2014 - 02:45 am 0
  • Lord Ton

    The land that they live on has been British since 1765. Argentina did not exist in 1765 and inherited nothing from Spain.

    This matter has been settled since Argentine chose 'trial by combat' in 1982.

    Live with it.

    Oct 21st, 2014 - 05:09 am 0
  • Marcos Alejandro

    I just google their name

    “A Heritage of Shame: The Heritage Foundation's Economic Analysis of the Waxman-Markey Bill”

    “Hispanic Caucus rips Heritage immigration study as ‘ugly racism'

    Heritage Foundation

    ”The best-known and most influential right-wing think tank, the Heritage Foundation owes much of its success to savvy marketing and PR and the generous donations of right-wing benefactors, foundations and wealthy corporations. The foundation boasts about its influence on Capitol Hill yet insists that it does not “lobby.”

    Next time around the English in Malvinas should pay someone nicer.

    Oct 21st, 2014 - 05:10 am 0
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