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Argument: Falkland Islanders have a right to self-determination

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Supporting quotations

Dr. Lyubomir Ivanov. "The Future Of The Falkland Islands And Its People". Feb. 2003 - Self-determination

Self-determination is a well-established principle of contemporary International Law. The practice of its exercising however is a political rather than legal process, indeed the UN Charter enshrining that same principle has no relevant list of nations/peoples appended, leaving open the key practical question: Who is entitled to self-determination and who is not? In each particular case, for self-determination to take place there should be a community of people considering themselves a distinct nation/people in the first place, then they must claim their right to self-determination and the opportunity to choose a self-determination option of their preference, and last but not least, that claim needs to be recognized by the respective central government.

More often than not this process goes not without obstacles and hardship, suffices to mention the self-determination of the Kurdish, Palestinian, Timorese or Tibetan people. This has nothing to do with numerical strength as some people wrongly believe; indeed the Kurds are numbering over 20 millions. At the same time the New Zealand possession of Tokelau, whose population is just half that of the Falklands, has its right to self-determination duly recognized both by New Zealand and the UN alike.

The Falklanders are a nation same like the Scots, the Welsh or the English -- or the people of Tokelau for that matter. Moreover, their right to self-determination has already been officially and formally recognized and guaranteed by the British Government through the process of enacting the 1985 Falklands Constitution. This act of transfer of prerogatives from London to Stanley entails that any future decisions regarding the sovereignty of the Islands would be up to the Falklanders alone to make, and this is irreversible. Once recognized/granted, the self-determination cannot be taken away.

Yet even the Falklands self-determination has been achieved not without the determined bold effort of the Falklanders themselves, a turning point probably being their successful rejection and blocking of the attempted ‘lease back solution’ back in the Nineteen-seventies.

It must be pointed out that the Falklands self-determination is an internal affair between the Falklands people on the one hand, represented by their elected government exercising sovereignty on the Islands themselves, and the British Government on the other hand exercising Falklands sovereignty internationally. Neither Argentina nor the UN could be parties to this bilateral business.

Any recognition of the Falklands self-determination by third parties like the UN is desirable but not crucial at all. While such recognition will come inevitably in the context of more global political developments expanding the practice of self-determination worldwide, it is nevertheless worth keeping the pressure on the UN Decolonization Committee for recognition and abandonment of its double standards.

The UN involvement is useful in countries like Western Sahara or Timor, where there could hardly have been any self-determination without it. However, all the other ‘non self-governing territories’ presently monitored by the UN Decolonization Committee are exercising their right of self-determination regardless of any UN sponsorship. A comparison between the Freedom House annual ratings of the ‘decolonized’ (the present 16 territories subject to UN ‘decolonization’) and their ‘decolonizers’ (the 24 members of the Decolonization Committee) would suggest that the former are three times more democratic than the latter. And surely, as much better off, too.

To cap it all, the ‘decolonizers’ themselves happen to administer such territories as Tibet (China), Irian Jaya or West Papua (Indonesia), Kashmir (India) and Chechnya (Russia), where democracy is scarce and self-determination denied. Naturally, the 16 UN-labeled ‘non self-governing territories’ seek to adopt the high standards of their respective ‘administering powers’, i.e. those of Britain, the USA, France and New Zealand, rather than those of Cuba, Iraq, China, Congo, Iran, Syria, Venezuela and other Committee members.

The Argentine sovereignty claim cannot be an obstacle to the Falklands self-determination either. Such claims may exist before the self-determination and continue to stay in place for some time after its exercise, as demonstrated by the precedents of Mayotte, Belize, Kuwait or Guyana.

When the Comoro Islands exercised their self-determination (independence from France) in 1974, the island of Mayotte opted otherwise and since then is a ‘territorial collectivity’ of France still claimed by the Comoros. Belize became independent in 1981 while being subject to Guatemalan sovereignty claim that was subsequently downscaled, remaining confined to part of southern Belize today. At the time of its independence in 1961 Kuwait was subject to Iraqi sovereignty claim that stayed in place until as late as 1994. Prior to Guyana’s independence in 1966, Venezuela used to claim two-thirds of its territory (Essequibo region), a claim that has not been formally renounced yet.

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