UN Decolonisation Committee meets in New York: June 2017
MLAs Ian Hansen and Mike Summers, representing the Falkland Islands Government (FIG) at the UN Decolonisation Committee (C24) meeting in New York in June, roundly condemned Argentina for its economic sanctions against the Falkland Islands, which amounted to "pure, raw economic colonialism”, and criticised the C24 Committee for failing in its duty to understand the nature of the UK’s relationship with the UK Overseas Territories. Both repeated the FIG’s long-standing invitation to the Committee to visit the Falkland Islands and challenged Argentina not to block its acceptance yet again.
The UN Special Committee on Decolonisation (known as the C24 Committee), meeting in New York under the hardly impartial chairmanship of Venezuela, passed its usual annual resolution on 23 June 2017, without a vote, calling on the UK and Argentina to resume negotiations to find a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute. This has become a largely ritualistic and meaningless exercise, with some C24 members becoming concerned more generally about the lack of credibility and influence attaching to the Committee. The C24 has passed such a resolution every year since 1988 without recommending it to the UN Fourth Committee (or to the UN General Assembly) for adoption.
Argentina’s new Foreign Minister, Jorge Faurie,1 repeated the historically inaccurate canard that the UK had forcibly expelled the Argentine population in 1833, claiming that the UN principle of self-determination therefore did not apply.2 The discredited Islander, Alexander Betts, and Luis Gustavo Vernet, a descendant of Luis Vernet who ran cattle in the Falklands, also peddled their versions of Falkland Islands history in Argentina’s favour.
Ian Hansen, Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), reminded the Committee that he was a 6th generation Falkland Islander with forebears first settling in the Falklands in 1842. Other Islanders could trace their Falkland Islands heritage to nine generations. This could not be regarded as an implanted population to which the right of self-determination did not apply. He asserted that "at no point has the United Nations ever explicitly stated that this fundamental right does not apply to the Falkland Islanders.” He went on to present a positive picture of the Falkland Islands’ development – a self-reliant Territory receiving no aid from the UK, except in defence and foreign affairs, with full legislative authority over internal matters including the Islands’ natural resources, and direct regulation of all commercial activity in the Islands. Since 2007, the Islands’ economy had grown at an annual rate of more than 2.3% even during the global economic downturn, with full employment and an almost 90% labour participation rate. The Islands’ population was also increasing with the latest census showing an annual growth rate of 4%. The Falkland Islands were not an oppressed colony, notwithstanding Argentina’s attempts at an ‘economic blockade’.
Mike Summers, MLA, in his last appearance before the Committee, accused the Committee of being ‘stuck in an ideological time warp’. Participants in the Committee’s regional seminar in St Vincent in May had been concerned that no non-self-governing territory from the Caribbean had turned up. This was because the C24 was no longer relevant to them: the C24 failed to accept that these Territories were on a developmental path that may not ever lead to independence. If the Territories were satisfied with their position, why should the C24 intervene? As for the Falklands, Argentina had taken measures designed to undermine the economy of the Falkland Islands, to prevent the peaceful development of the Islands’ economy, to subjugate and control the people of the Falkland Islands through economic pressure by preventing free trade and access to neighbouring states. How could the C24 support such ‘economic colonialism’? In September, Argentina had made various commitments, including the removal of these restrictions, but with the exception of the ICRC’s project to identify the Argentine war dead buried in the Darwin cemetery, Argentina had failed to honour their undertakings. Mike Summers did, however, acknowledge that the Argentine Presidency wanted to do so but was hampered by elements of the opposition in Congress and in the Administration that remained committed to their continuation and enforcement.
Both MLAs repeated the Falkland Islands Government’s long-standing invitation to the C24 to visit the Falkland Islands and challenged Argentina to remove their block against it.
1 Faurie’s predecessor, Susana Malcorra, resigned on 29 May 2017 to relocate to Madrid to ‘see more of her family’ in Spain. She had stood unsuccessfully in 2016 for the post of UN Secretary General, which went to Antonio Guterres of Portugal. A lawyer by training, Faurie was Argentina’s Ambassador to France towards the end of a long career as a diplomat. He served briefly as Deputy Foreign Minister in 2002 before the Kirchner regime.