ADDRESS TO THE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONISATION BY THE HONOURABLE IAN HANSEN, MEMBER OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF THE FALKLAND ISLANDS – 23RD JUNE 2017
UN Decolonisation Committee – June 2017
Mr Chairman, Honourable Delegates, Ladies & Gentlemen,
Thank you for the opportunity to address this committee on behalf of the Falkland Islands and its people.
I am a sixth generation Falkland Islander who has been fortunate to represent my country as an elected member of Government for the last twelve years. My ancestors arrived on our shores some 175 years ago. The name Hansen is of Scandinavian origin in our case of Swedish descent. Many other Scandinavians came and made the Falklands their home during this time. If you look in our telephone book today, you will see the name Hansen, Anderson, Bernsten and Clausen prominent amongst others. Names from my mother’s ancestors. McKay, Mcleod, McGhie, McMullen and McDonald to mention a few indicate the will of people all those years ago to be pioneers in making the Falklands what it is today.
Therefore, I do not believe in any way I can be regarded as a part of an implanted population sent from the UK, as we are often described by the Government of Argentina. Indeed, there are Falkland Islanders who are of 9th generation heritage from many countries of the world today.
It is an honour for me to stand here and address this committee as a proud Falkland Islander who is speaking on behalf of those who wish to remain a free, confident and successful community. Sadly there have been in the past, quislings who have sacrificed family values and honesty for a perceived better life. Thankfully these are few and far between in the Falklands today.
More than 3400 people, from more than 60 countries, live and work in the Falkland Islands which proves without doubt that the Falklands have an inclusive and multicultural society. People have come here over many, many years and made the Islands their home. There was no native population in the Falklands before my and others ancestors arrived to settle. Our culture is based upon the diverse, shared heritages of the different nationalities who have settled here. And we continue to grow and to welcome new people who share our values and democratic ideals.
The Argentine claim to our Islands is unfounded and unwelcome. We are a peaceful people who only wish to be left to our own devices to continue to develop our community. We are willing to work with and trade with all our South American neighbours.
However, the Government of Argentina continue to enforce an economic blockade on our country. Access for another flight from South America is denied to us, Falkland flagged vessels have difficulty using ports in Chile, Uruguay and Brazil, and cruise ship agencies are continually harassed to remove the Falklands as a destination. Charter flights to our country through Argentine airspace are banned so cruise ship passenger exchanges cannot take place.
There is legislation in Argentina that states that any oil company working in our territorial waters is doing so illegally and can be held to account.
Invitations to visit our country by politicians and private sector trades people are under Argentine scrutiny. Often prospective visitors will be pressured to the extent they will cancel. Does this kind of action appear to this Committee to be acceptable in the democracy of the right of free movement between countries?
Sharing scientific data on fishery stock conservation and hydrocarbons is denied to both our scientists and theirs. How can it be right that environmental issues can be politicised?
Even now with the promise of better relationship between Argentina and UK we in the Falkland Islands have seen no indication of removing these sanctions imposed by the previous Argentine Government.
In the vision of the democratic world it is difficult to even begin to understand why any country would wish to take the fundamental right of self-determination, and the way of life forged over many decades, away from another territory.
Our right to the principle of self-determination is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. Article 1 of the Charter clearly draws the link between respect for the principle of self-determination and the strengthening of universal peace. The right to self- determination is entrenched in common article 1 of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. In its practice, the 4th Committee of the UN General Assembly has upheld the applicability of the principle of self-determination. At no point has the United Nations ever explicitly stated that this fundamental right does not apply to the Falkland Islanders.
Our desire to exercise that right was highlighted in 2013 when a referendum was held (under international scrutiny) asking the people of the Falklands if they wished to remain with the current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. An overwhelming 99.8% of a 92% turnout voted to retain that status.
Indeed, Mr Chairman why would we wish to change our way of life? The term ‘colony’ may well have applied in the 1950s and 1960s but that is certainly not the case today. We receive no financial aid from the UK we make our own laws and directly regulate all industry activities in our territory. Many other countries have evolved from being colonies and the Falkland Islands are no different. We rely only on the UK for defence and foreign affairs. If the Argentine Government were to respect our undoubted right to self- determination, we would not need the presence of British troops at all. This presence is minimal and maintained at the smallest possible force to deter—certainly not to be aggressive. Argentine claims of a massive military build -up in the South Atlantic are pure fiction.
During the last three decades, the Falkland Islands have witnessed exponential economic growth, a testament to the sound economic and political judgement of our elected Government. This has occurred despite the roadblocks Argentina has sought to impose.
Since 2007 our economy has continued to grow at an annual rate of more than 2.3%, even during the global economic downturn. We enjoy full employment and an almost 90% labour participation rate. Our population is also increasing, with the latest census showing a 4% annual growth rate.
This economic performance has not been an accident.
In 1986 an Exclusive Economic Zone was declared around our Islands to regulate and manage our offshore fisheries to the highest international standards. Our fishery now contributes around 44% of GDP and £18 million annually to Falkland Islands Government revenues.
Income from Agriculture has also vastly transformed from what it was 35 years ago. New laws limiting foreign land ownership have given Falkland Islanders control over our agricultural lands which in turn has ensured that the income from wool and meat production remains in the Falkland
Tourism is growing in the Falkland Islands and now also contributes significantly to the economic health of our country. With prudent political leadership we have ensured that revenues from these three main industries ensure that we, the Falkland Islands Government can provide high quality essential services to our community.
We are fortunate to have had sensible and responsible exploration for potential hydrocarbons exploitation. Since the late 1990s when the first wells were drilled, legislation and regulation of the highest standards have been in place to ensure that our environment is protected while any offshore activities take place. This has been achieved despite the best efforts of the Argentine Government to put as many barriers in the way to halt this happening. The revenue from the exploitation of hydrocarbons will lead to financial security for many years for the Falklands people. We of the present day are very aware that we have responsibilities to make sure that the future for our children and their children’s children is just that, and not a return to becoming a colony once more under a country with a false claim to our heritage.
Over the past couple of centuries the Falkland Islands have prospered in great part to our unique and productive environment. Our Islands are home to globally significant numbers of seabirds and marine animals as well as the incredibly rich waters of the South Atlantic from which we sustainably extract commercial fish stocks.
The Falkland Islands Government ensures that environmental considerations are important throughout our political decision making process. We welcome and value independent input from Falkland Island environmental organisations a number of who partner with organisations overseas. Increasingly, despite active efforts from the Government of Argentina to curtail this, we draw on regional expertise and now have NGO partners in countries such as USA, Canada, Brazil, Colombia and Chile to name a few.
To help expand the breadth of our understanding of regional environmental issues the Falkland Islands Government created the ‘South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute’ in 2012. Since its inception this organisation has grown to administer over £1 million of environmental grants annually, and has employed in excess of 25 researchers over recent seasons. This obviously helps inform Falkland Islands Government in decision making but also partners and shares data so that the entire regional eco-system can be better managed.
Sadly the Government of Argentina has deliberately excluded itself from this work and does not engage in matters of mutual interest such as fisheries data management.
Mr Chairman, honourable delegates, I hope this brief address gives you the true picture of the Falkland Islands and the wishes of its people. I extend an invitation to you and other members of this committee to visit our Islands and see for yourselves that my version of life in the Falklands is the real one, a peaceful community wanting no more than to prosper and have the right to determine their own future.
In conclusion I ask this committee to ignore the false claims put forward by Argentina, and support our wishes to remain an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, as indeed is the correct role of this committee.
Mr Chairman, I again thank you for this opportunity to make this address.