Self-determination and the Falklands: interview to Lisa Watson

Lisa Watson, editor of the ‘Penguin News’, gave an interview last week after the referendum in the Falklands. Amongst many issues, she talked about self-determination.

In what if of interest here, she said:

“Of course I have imagined it; and following a recent Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in the Falklands it was fascinating to hear the very varied versions there are of the concept of self determination. It was described by delegates from all over the world the different ways that greater autonomy can develop. It is not a matter of having to choose between being an old style ‘colony’ or being fully independent, there are examples all over the world of so many different status in between; and all accepted and respected by the international community.”

Indeed, she is very precise. The term self-determination is a very flexible one. That is because it is associated to people rather than sovereignty. That is to say, it is linked to a group of people as a nation and not as a State.

Self-determination is the right a certain group of people that fulfill criteria to decide upon the way they will be governed. From there, it can lead to independence and Statehood, but to be a State is not the only possible outcome when applying self-determination to a sovereign conflict.

Lisa is right when she says that “greater autonomy can develop”. This has to do with the way Falkland Islanders (like any other group of people) do and will govern themselves. It may have to do with future independence and Statehood. It does not need to. Self-determination does not imply per se independence.

Lisa is even clearer in that respect when she says “[i]t is not a matter of having to choose between being an old style ‘colony’ or being fully independent”. Indeed, between black and white we have a grey scale. The same happens with self-determination. It offers the chance to opt for independence, free association, shared sovereignty, leaseback, titular sovereignty and autonomy (the case of Aland Islands and Finland, and so on. This list is by no means exhaustive or complete. The choices that self-determination give are multiple.

Therefore, when the various governments in Argentina since the 1982 war claim that self-determination is a subterfuge for independence, they are simply not right. Indeed, independence can be one of the outcomes when self-determination is applied. But it is not the only one.

The main problem Argentina’s government has to face is to be able to offer a more viable way in order to work together with the Falkland Islanders. So far, Argentina’s government has done very little (if anything at all) to approach the Falkland Islanders and work collaboratively with them towards a solution fair to all.

The only outcome Argentina’s government is securing with these attitudes is to put more distance between Argentina and the Falkland Islanders. As a result, the Falkland Islanders have to consider other options open by application of the right to self-determination, none of them giving Argentina much involvement. However, why would the Falkland Islanders think of using self-determination as a way to get closer to Argentina when Argentina’s government is literally ignoring them?

Argentina’s government must realise we live in a world in which international cooperation is a must. We are no longer part of a more or less developed society. What happens in China affects the United States as well as Zimbabwe. To play selfish games may work internally, but the international society has other rules. We may shout at home, but if we shout outside we will be segregated.

It is the time to be realistic and bear in mind all human beings have equal moral worth. The Falkland Islanders are open to dialogue. The United Kingdom supports whatever decision they make in regards to their political future-i.e. they openly recognise the right to self-determination to the Falkland Islanders. What is Argentina’s government waiting for?


For the complete interview and Lisa Watson’s opinions visit:
Interview to Lisa Watson

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