In March 1968 the Falkland Islanders’ formed an Emergency Committee to oppose plans by the then British Government to discuss a handover of the Falklands to Argentina.
This change in the Government’s attitude had come about over a period of some years and reflected the pressure being exerted by Argentina in the United Nations.
In 1965 Argentina had perhaps achieved their biggest success in that political arena with General Assembly Resolution 2065 which noted the existence of a dispute and called for negotiations.
The Resolution invited, “the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to proceed without delay with the negotiations recommended by the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples with a view to finding a peaceful solution to the problem, bearing in mind the provisions and objectives of the Charter of the United Nations and of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) and the interests of the population of the Falkland Islands”.
A success as the Resolution recognised that a dispute existed and there is little doubt that this marked a high point in Argentina’s diplomacy at the UN on the issue of the Islands; but the Resolution’s call was qualified. It required both observance of the UN’s founding Charter and the “interests of the population of the Falkland Islands.”
Article 1 of the UN Charter raises the status of self-determination to an inviolable international principle of law; a Right. The Charter is, after all, a multi-lateral Treaty binding the Members.
Article 73 deals with non-self governing territories and highlights recognition of the paramountcy of the interests and well-being of the inhabitants of those territories.
So in 1966 the British Government felt itself under pressure to comply with 2065 and to that end had two low-key meetings with Argentine officials. These, in turn, led to a formal indication in March 1967, that the British Government would be prepared to cede sovereignty over the Islands under certain conditions, with the express provision that the wishes of the Islanders had to be respected. A Memorandum of Understanding was prepared to that effect.
It was information about this Memorandum, revealed to the Falklands people in February of 1968, that led to the Islanders’ Emergency Committee.
What followed was a wonderful example of self-determination in action.
The Islanders’ mounted an effective campaign both in Parliament and the press which completely scuppered the Memorandum and forced the British Government to recognise that the principle contained in Article 1 had to be recognised and that ‘interests’ and ‘well being’ coud not possibly be separated from the Islanders’ wishes. The rest is, as they say, history.
Arguments about the extent of Article 1 and its application to the Falkland Islands continue to this day with Argentina continuing to deny that the Falkland Islanders are a ‘people’ or that they have any Right of self-determination.
Which is a strange.
After all, the Falkland Islanders have been exercising their Right to self-determination since 1968.
And exercising that Right in the face of invasion, harassment, obstruction and threats.
There is no argument over self-determination. The argument was won a long time ago.