Falklands and the right to self-determination (part 3)

The government of the United Kingdom supports a referendum based on the idea of recognising the right to self-determination to the Falklands islanders. The government of Argentina rejects both the referendum and the right to self-determination. In fact, Argentina’s representatives reject any attempt of the Falklands islanders in order to have a discussion with them (or to be more precise, they simply ignore them).

The government of Argentina believes that accepting the right to self-determination of the Falklands islanders would result in resigning to their claim in regards to sovereignty. It is true that self-determination is often seen as linked to or as an step prior to independence. However, that is completely different from seeing them as concepts that have the same implications. So, we have to make clear that self-determination does not mean independence. We need to make clear that it may lead to solutions other than independence.

We have previously seen that self-determination is a principle that allows people to decide their destiny, who will govern them. See below the link to the respective posts:

Falklands and the right to self-determination (part 1)
Falklands and the right to self-determination (part 2)

Although both are legal and political concepts, sovereignty gives priority to the State whereas self-determination gives preeminent place to the people. It is more often than not in sovereignty conflicts that the population of the territory that is being claimed wants independence by applying the principle of self-determination. However, the fact that this territory is granted self-determination, and may become independent, translates into the rejection of at least one of the States that is claiming sovereignty. Falklands islands and the Argentinean position in relation to self-determination is an example.

Indeed, self-determination may result in final independence. But it is not true that independence is the only way in which self-determination may evolve. Indeed, the population may vote to be administered by, or integrated into, one of the States claiming sovereignty. Then self-determination may lead to different results since the population might decide: a) to be independent; to be administered by or be part of one party; c) to have shared sovereignty.

The main problem in the Falklands case for Argentina is that the government of Argentina has been and still is towards rejecting any attempt the islanders make in order to have a closer relationship with the continent. So, why would they be interested in any other result than independence or association to the United Kingdom if the other interested party (Argentina) simply keeps pushing them away? Or is is that the Argentinean government wants to secure a never ending story? For a clarification about what I mean by never ending story in the case of the Falklands see:

Falklands: another never ending story? (part 1)
Falklands: another never ending story? (part 2)

To recapitulate, self-determination may have been useful in specific cases because of their characteristics (e.g. Kosovo). But to use the same international institutions in the same form in cases in which the interrelation amongst the involved agents is already peaceful, apart from the sovereignty difference, adds an unnecessary element of disagreement that goes against peaceful international relations.

To obtain independence through self-determination is not a solution that can be
taken by default. It is exceptional remedy for situations in which a given sovereign State has a certain tension with a group of people, this group of people is large enough, their human rights are not acknowledged, and they have a common identity.
Then, it is not that self-determination is good or bad as a right or as an international remedy per se. Yet, because of the specific situation in which it is applied and the way in which it is used may be.

Therefore, in the case of sovereignty conflicts like the ones we are dealing with, a
solution between status quo and complete independence could be reached. And self-determination can indeed open the door for such a solution.

Self-determination is a collective right a group has to determine their political status. The government of the United Kingdom acknowledges the right to self-determination to the Falkland islanders. The Falkland islanders themselves maintain they have the right to self-determination. The government of Argentina rejects the right to self-determination. Hence, we will see the referendum in March. We will see what the islanders decide. However, because of the lack of Argentinean “validation”, the right to self-determination may only have a moral weight.
Indeed, the right to self-determination can be an institution that may offer a positive result. But until the claiming parties recognise they are three and that they have their interests, and therefore, mutually accept their existence and these interests, any solution will be virtual.

One comment

  1. The Falkland Islanders will decide on their own future on 10-11th March, 2013 in a referendum in which the they will answer Yes or No to the following question:”Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?”Let's see people go public and trash the democratic will of the people after that. Who will take them seriously? I like Sean Penn. He's a talented actor/director. Perhaps he's just a bit thick? It doesn't take a genius to pick apart his position and that of other grandstanders. Argentina's economy is in trouble and its government seeks to bolster its faint electoral chances so they start bleating about 'Las Malvinas' again.Here is an excellent article that shows how silly such claims are and hypocrisy behind them:http://www.thisisadnauseam.com/index.php/Global/california-dreaming-by-richard-fountainIf Argentina insists on 'having a go', well, they know the inevitable result. It would do better to address the grievances of millions of indigenous tribal people whose descendents originally occupied the land now called Argentina for many centuries prior to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors who proceeded to beat them up, enslaving many whilst killing huge numbers and banishing the rest to the periphery.Of note also is that whilst independence from Spain was originally declared on 9th July 1816, following the war of independence, civil war and strife Buenos Aires finally rejoined the Argentine Confederation, and Bartolomé Mitre was elected the first president of the unified country in 1862.A similar tale relates to most of South America. It has nothing to teach the world about democracy and human rights. Whilst I support the fact that countries gained their independence, they have yet to really address issues much closer to home and that are perhaps a little too awkward for them still. They'll have to do so one day though. Perhaps in future when they become more mature nations.BBC – Q&A: Falkland islanders referendumhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21350571


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