Over the past decade it is has become customary for a newly elected Legislative Assembly in the Falkland Islands to publish an ‘Islands Plan’. As there are no political parties in the Falkland Islands, all eight members of the Assembly are independents. Therefore there is no collective manifesto when elected to office. This has traditionally been addressed via a consensus-based Islands Plan.
This document, which currently stretches to 30 pages, looks to outline a collective vision and strategy for the Falkland Islands over their four-year term of office.
The Plan covers both domestic and overseas issues. It was produced over the past 5 months since the Assembly was elected in early November 2017. The current Chair of the Assembly, Hon. Roger Edwards, said that “…in developing these ambitions we have taken the time to really listen to a wide range of views from across the Islands, so that we can be confident that our plans genuinely reflect the values and the needs of the people we serve”.
The document begins by detailing an overarching vision of growth, prosperity and strong governance for the Islands over the coming years. This is broadly in line with previous such statements, though is more explicit in terms of its outward-looking focus and emphasis of the Islands place in terms of international affairs. Interestingly the Government have also committed to reviewing their current Constitution, ensuring that it meets their requirements as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. The constitution was last reviewed almost a decade ago and that process took a number of years. They have also committed to adopting international treaties looking to combat corruption and the financing of terrorism, most likely to ensure that the Islands continue to be viewed as having strong governance.
The remainder of the plan is then divided into sections focusing on particular thematic areas, such as culture, population, environment, transport and other areas of governance and development. In relation to their wider relationship with South America, the Plan makes a specific reference to promoting the Falklands as the natural “gateway to Antarctica”, a phrase and positioning that is utilised by cities in both Chile and Argentina. There is also a commitment to develop a cultural strategy for the Islands, and it will be interesting to see how much this emphasises the strong current and historical links the Islands have with the South American mainland. The existing practice of welcoming immigrants from a range of South American countries is likely to continue under this government, with specific commitments to continue to look to facilitate both economic and population growth.
The Legislative Assembly has discussed formally the importance of and potential negative consequences of Brexit for the Islands over the coming years. This issue receives a reference in the plan, citing the need to work with the UK Government and other Overseas Territories to both protect existing markets and also look to open up new ones.
The new Islands Plan will be presented to and discussed with the local community at the end of April. In its original press release the Government emphasised that “…the Islands Plan cannot just be promises written on a page. We must put these ideas into action”.