Toleration and the Falklands

Different genders, ethnicities, religions and beliefs, social and financial situations: the world is a mixture of different diversities. Argentina, the United Kingdom and the Falkland islands are but one of many examples around the world with three societies with their problems, interests, realities. Therefore, how can joint enterprises amongst sovereign States with different interests be possible? How can sovereign States of different kinds participate in shared projects? Is that possible at all?

In order to live together in concord a minimum mutual acceptance is required amongst sovereign members of any societal organization (national or international), which establishes a sort of invisible net that makes them part of the same conglomerate: e.g., a nation or the international scenario. They are tolerant with respect to each other’s existence and difference. However, what does it mean to be tolerant? To tolerate something or someone implies to recognise its existence. If the thing or person did not exist, the first individual would not even need to think about tolerating them. The fact that individuals tolerate each other does not imply they are equal or even similar. The same ideas can be applied to the sovereign State. The international community is constituted by several agents; amongst them, the State has a pre-eminent role. Every State is expected –at least- to tolerate its peers although they may have important internal and external differences (e.g. type of government).

It may be argued that sovereignty and tolerance are not conceptually closed. As sovereignty implies absolute imperium or supreme authority over a given territory and its population (sovereign State), it may have an antithetical relationship with tolerance. However, the fact that sovereignty can –and it does- have constraints refutes that postulate. The question here is what it is understood by a tolerant behaviour amongst sovereign States.

A sovereign State is not tolerant if it does not respect its peers –i.e. if it does not respect others’ sovereignty. Does Argentina respect the United Kingdom in the case of the Falklands and viceversa? In what specifically concerns to sovereignty conflicts, every involved sovereign State objects or disapproves its opponent claims over the third territory resulting in a zero sum game for all the involved agents. By adding toleration to the equation, these sovereign States would at least secure its reciprocal respect as international peers and, possibly, the mutual acknowledgement as interested agents in relation to the third territory. How far can this special kind of international toleration be extended? The answer to this question is crucial because depending on its outcome, toleration may imply respect of the status quo in sovereignty conflicts or include behaviours to move towards a viable solution.

At first glance, toleration seems to be usually understood as implying negative obligations –in the form of not to do, not to interfere with someone else. Similarly, at international level, the principle of non-interference is core to international relationships.

Both Argentina and the United Kingdom can act in relation to the Falkland islands, they know about their existence and that of their competitor, and they refrain from fully putting their claimed rights into action. There is indeed a certain degree of toleration between Argentina and the United Kingdom. In fact, the main –only?- problem between them is the dispute about the sovereignty over the Falklands. Can an umbrella of toleration be the answer?

A first –and mature- step in order to move forward is that both the governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom accept their competitor in the conflict as well as the Falkland islanders. We have already seen why the Falkland islanders should be included in ANY negotiations and have a say. See:

Falkland islanders and equal worth
Sovereignty over the Falklands: who has the right to claim?

Once they finally acknowledge mutually their existence and the FACT that there are all claiming the same piece of land, the THREE parties can go into negotiations. And all this is actually covered simply by being tolerant. Is that so hard to ask for?


  1. Do we tolerate Argentina’s Foreign Minister, Hector Timerman visiting this country and making statements such as the ones quoted below? the answer is that in this country, yes we do.Yesterday Hector Timerman speaking at a news conference said this “The Falklands islanders do not exist. What exists is British citizens who live in the Islas Malvinas.”Hector Timerman and C.F.K have in the past said that they want a dialogue with the British Government on the issue of the Falkland Islands, C.F.K quotes John Lennon at us “All we are saying is give peace a chance” she says, and then goes on to say that “Its good to talk” but Hector at a meeting of the all-party UK/Argentina group with British MPs said this “The self-determination referendum doesn’t apply to the Malvinas. It is not a colonised people, it is a colonised territory,.. It is not a matter for negotiation.” Two faced and intolerant as this kind of talk may be, we tolerated it, and we tolerated him ! but I do wonder what the reaction would be in Argentina if William Hague were to visit there and make similar daft utterances ?


  2. Hi Ted,Thank you for your comment. Firstly, to make clear once again that the only intention of these posts is to have an open floor for discussion, hence that's why I don't give an opinion. Secondly, and now that yo mentioned recent events that have to do both with Falklands and this particular post, I can only AGREE with you.When I refer to toleration or tolerance, I am talking about the three parties, namely Argentina, the United Kingdom and the Falkland Islands. It is mora than clear now (if there was any doubt at all) that the Falkland islanders are willing to have an open discussion. With them, the current government in the United Kingdom supports the same idea, with one and only one condition: to invite the Falkland islanders to any meeting in relation to the islands. Both Cameron and Hague have made it clear a number of times both in verbally and in writing. In relation to Argentina, I'd divide the issue. Argentineans are more than ever open to dialogue. The current government is not. I'll focus on the latter. There can be man valid or arguable reasons for this: internal affairs, international relations, finance, and so on. However, to base the rejection upon the non existence of the Falkland islanders is simply being intolerant. There is no other possible interpretation. If any representative wanted to look for a worse argument to defend Argentina's position, I doubt they could have found one.Toleration is the minimum value or attitude we all need to discuss anything. As I made it clear in this post, to tolerate implies accepting at least the existence of that one I'm tolerating. Therefore, one thing is to say I'm not happy with you “existing next to me” and another quite different is simply to tell you: “you don't exist”. If I wanted to be politically correct (or naive), I'd see statement as a mistake or something childish. But, the same statement coming from who is supposed to lead the Foreign Affairs of a democratic and sovereign State can only be understood as intolerant and hence completely opposed to international values and principles.Indeed, the Falklands islanders, their representatives, the government of the United Kingdom, the Britons have been tolerant. And that is exemplar. All of us should be aiming higher, not lower. Therefore, the only response an intolerant behaviour deserves is a tolerant contemplation. Never let yourself be brought down to a lower level, that's the lesson the United Kingdom as a whole and the Falklands islanders in particular have to show and are showing.


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