ADDRESS TO THE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONISATION BY THE HONOURABLE MIKE SUMMERS OBE, MEMBER OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF THE FALKLAND ISLANDS – 23RD JUNE 2017
UN Decolonisation Committee – June 2017
Mr Chairman, Ambassadors, C24 Members, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am happy to once again represent my country here at the United Nations, to support and endorse the description my colleague has given to you of the modern-day Falklands, to re-confirm that my country is not a colony of the United Kingdom, and to defend my country against the support that some members of this Committee give to the colonial aspirations of Argentina.
The Falkland Islands is internally self-governing and economically self-sufficient, save for the cost of defence.
We are not a colony of the United Kingdom, but an Overseas Territory, that has progressed well beyond colonial status. We have expressed our clear wish, in a free, open and internationally observed referendum, to remain an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, with HM The Queen as Head of State. This is not an unusual arrangement, but one which many others have followed in their progress from colonial possession to independent nation state. That is the journey the Falkland Islands is on, and in the last 35 years we have made very considerable progress.
Mr Chairman, we wholeheartedly agree that colonialism must be eradicated in all its manifestations. That no people should be subjugated against their will, or have their people, their governance or their natural resources under the control of another country, against their wishes, is a fundamental human right. It is for that reason that Chapter 1 Section 1 of the Falkland Islands Constitution contains the following:
a) all peoples have the right to self-determination, and by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development, and may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources…..
b) the realisation of the right to self-determination must be promoted and respected in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.
The Constitution then goes on the confirm the fundamental rights and freedoms of all people living in the Falkland Islands, as you would expect to see in a well-developed country, under the rule of law.
So, as you can see, we do not suffer the problems of some other Territories where the Administering Power is the controlling authority over natural resources. In the Falkland Islands, we have the responsibility to manage and maintain natural resources for the long-term benefit of Falkland Islanders, and that is what we do.
Mr Chairman, I recently attended the Decolonisation Committee Seminar in St Vincent, as several others here did. I am undecided whether it was refreshing or depressing, to hear so many Members of this Committee finally accept that it has achieved precious little in the last two decades, and that it has manifestly failed in its duty towards the people of the NSGT. I and others have been saying this to you for years, but it has apparently fallen on deaf ears, until now.
I wish to thank, and pay tribute to, those Members of this Committee who have joined because they do believe in de-colonisation, and the fundamental principle of self-determination which sits behind it. I would like to thank them for their enduring attempts to drag this Committee into the 21st century, and to employ some new thinking about the role of the Committee, and how it might achieve some positive progress.
There was dismay from some Members in St Vincent because the NSGT from the Caribbean region did not come to the seminar.
British Virgin Islands
Turks & Caicos
American Virgin Islands
all did not attend. Why could it be they wondered, when all this effort had been made in their own region, for their benefit.
Mr Chairman, it is no surprise to me that they did not attend; because the C24 has nothing to offer them. The C24 has for at least two decades failed to move with the times, failed to modernise its thinking and its mode of operation. It has failed to engage with the NSGT in any meaningful way, failed to understand their political and economic developments, failed to understand their social and cultural thinking, and most fundamentally, failed to accept that these Territories are on a developmental path that does not necessarily lead to integration or free association with the administering power, and may or may not ever lead to full independence.
There is a legitimate and acceptable state of development for small island states that falls short of full independence. But that does not mean that we are therefore colonies, or that we should be made to feel, or be treated, like second class citizens, with an all too evident lack of respect, from this Committee in particular.
Many of us on the C24 list in fact enjoy a full measure of internal self-government, that far exceeds that available in many other unlisted territories, including those who have opted for integration. We are not colonies, with people subjugated and brow-beaten as some would like to have you believe. We are very capable of thinking for ourselves, and achieving what we consider to be right for our own countries.
The problem is that the C24 is stuck in an ideological time warp, seemingly unable to recognise or accept that being non-self-governing is not the same as being a colony. Frankly even the term NSGT is anachronistic, since most of us enjoy a very considerable measure of self-government.
To be classified as no longer a colony, the people of the territory must have been given the opportunity to choose what they consider to be in their best interest. In many cases that will not be one of the options which are the sole focus of this Committee, integration, free association or independence. It can be any other status acceptable to the people of that territory. So if the people of Bermuda, Cayman, American Virgin Islands the Falkland Islands, or anyone else, have achieved such a position, and they are satisfied with it, who are you to tell them that they have not, and must do something else? Who are you to tell us we are wrong, and that what we have decided is not in our best interest. Mr Chairman, it is well past time for the C24 to catch up with reality.
Let me remind you of the words of the Secretary General in February.
“We want to reaffirm the commitment of this Special Committee to assist each Territory in finding an appropriate format and timing for the completion of its decolonization process, taking into account the Territory’s particular circumstances. Achieving that goal requires proactive and sustained engagement by all parties involved — the administering Powers, the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, the United Nations and other stakeholders.”
“……to assist each territory….”, Chairman. Not to bully them, not to brow beat them, not to ignore their views, not to force on them arrangements they don’t wish for. “……..to assist each territory…..”. That is your task, and your only task.
Mr Chairman, I also attended the C24 seminar in Quito, Equador in 2013. In his opening speech to the seminar the then Foreign Minister spoke about the need to eradicate colonialism in all its forms, including the need to address the issue of economic colonialism. His contention was that larger nations with economic strength should not exert their influence in a colonial manner, should not attempt to subjugate and control people in other countries and territories through the use of economic levers. This view was widely supported by the CELAC representatives present.
Mr Chairman, let me remind you that Argentina exercises a series of economic sanctions against the people of the Falkland Islands. Not against the United Kingdom, with whom they say they have a dispute, but against the people of the Falkland Islands. These sanctions have been described to you in brief by my colleague. Mr Chairman I have a list of 19 restrictive measures and actions taken by Argentina affecting the economic and social development of the Falkland Islands, which has been provided to the Government of Argentina. None of this affects the economy of the United Kingdom, with whom Argentina says it has a dispute, but is directed solely at the people of the Falkland Islands.
The stated intention of these sanctions, confirmed in public time and again by Argentine Ministers, is to undermine the economy of the Falkland Islands. That means, to try to make our agriculture, hydrocarbons, fishing and tourism industries less successful. That means, to try to prevent the peaceful development of our economy. And, that means, to try to make Falkland Islanders poorer; to subjugate and control the people of the Falkland Islands through economic pressure, by preventing free trade and free access to neighbouring states.
What is this but economic colonialism, a concept which according to earlier testimony, is anathema to CELAC and its membership. Pure, raw, economic colonialism. A clear attempt to subjugate through the use of superior economic power.
Mr Chairman it is simply not good enough for a significant proportion of the Members of this Committee to support economic colonialism in the case of the Falkland Islands, whilst condemning it elsewhere. And it is simply not good enough for another significant proportion of this Committee to turn a blind eye to economic colonialism exercised by Argentina, because they don’t want to get involved in a sovereignty dispute.
Those few who do oppose this unacceptable behaviour have my admiration and respect. For the others, I challenge you today, to depart from your set piece speeches, lamenting the failures of others in the de-colonisation process, and condemn the use of economic colonialism to attempt to subjugate and oppress the people of the Falkland Islands, or indeed any other territory.
The Argentine Government under President Macri, in September 2016, reached an accord with the Government of the United Kingdom, on how to approach a re-set in relations between the two countries. It seemed that much welcome progress had been made, including in the Joint Statement a section on the South Atlantic which included the following:
“In a positive spirit, both sides agreed to set up a dialogue to improve cooperation on South Atlantic issues of mutual interest. Both Governments agreed that the formula on sovereignty in paragraph 2 of the Joint Statement of 19 October 1989 applies to this Joint Communique and to its consequences. In this context, it was agreed to take the appropriate measures to remove all obstacles limiting the economic growth, and sustainable development, of the Falkland Islands, including in trade, fishing, shipping and hydrocarbons. Both parties emphasised the benefits of cooperation and positive engagement for all concerned.
In accordance with the principles set out in the 14 July 1999 Joint Statement and Exchange of Letters, both sides agreed that further air links between the Falkland Islands and third countries would be established. In this context, they agreed the establishment of two additional stops per month in mainland Argentina, one in each direction. The specific details will be defined”.
It also included a section on the DNA identification of unknown Argentine combatants buried in the Falkland Islands.
Mr Chairman, meetings took place in Geneva in December on DNA identification, in which I took a full part. Agreement was reached on a Humanitarian Project Plan which was signed in London in the following weeks. Work will start this week, and complete in the Islands by August 2017.
Meetings also took place on how to move forward the issue of flights to third countries; processes and procedures were discussed at length, and agreed.
However, since those meetings the Argentine Government has failed to honour any of its outstanding commitments, or to carry out any of the necessary actions to enable the procurement process on flights to commence. Nor has Argentina moved forward on any of the other commitments in the Joint Statement in respect of the Falkland Islands, including co-operation in the important areas of fisheries science.
Whilst it is our understanding that the Argentine Presidency recognises the inappropriateness of economic sanctions against Falkland Islanders, and wishes to deliver on its commitments, it is hampered by elements of the opposition in Congress, and in the administration, that are committed to sanctions against Falkland Islanders, and to the process and policy of economic colonialism, and subjugation by force.
Mr Chairman, supporting (or turning a blind eye) to economic sanctions against the Falkland Islands is not an act of support to the Argentine Government. It is an act of support of colonialism in its worst form, and should be roundly condemned by all Members of this Committee.
I would like to close by reminding you of two things.
Firstly, the section of the UN Covenant, which says:
“All peoples have the right to self-determination, and by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development….”.
Secondly, the words of the Secretary General who said “We want to reaffirm the commitment of this Special Committee to assist each Territory…..”. Not some territories, not all territories except the Falkland Islands; each territory. Every territory.
I can confidently predict you will hear assertions later today that Falkland Islanders are not a people, and therefore not entitled to self-determination. You have already heard from my colleague that this is not correct. It is a contrived and facile argument, designed only to deny this most fundamental of human rights to Falkland Islanders. An argument which lacks any intellectual rigor, and relies on the application of the most outrageous of double standards. It invites the Committee to deny the free movement of people, and the right of small island developing states to grow and to prosper in accordance with the Millennium Goals. Even the most ardent of Argentine supporters cannot think that is reasonable, or right.
Mr Chairman this will be my last appearance before this Committee, as my country moves into free and open democratic elections in November, and I drift off into retirement. My final act therefore, is to formally invite the Committee, one more time, to visit the Falkland Islands, and witness for yourselves the political, social and economic developments that I and my colleague have described to you, so that you can properly understand the subject matter before you.
And in doing so, we challenge the Government of Argentina, and its supporters, not to once again block such a visit, but allow and accept that knowledge and understanding should be at the core of your deliberations and decision making.