Let’s hear it for expense accounts !

May already! This occasional commentary piece has become very occasional. Of course the reason for this is that I’ve devoted rather more of my time to the Falklands History Blog and the Falklands News site.

Having said that, one of my particular grouses concerns the United Nations sub-sub-Committee known as the C24, and, as in previous years, they are gearing up once again for the show that they put on for a few weeks in summer.

This annual circus commences with a Regional Seminar which is held at one of the Non-Self-Governing Territories which remain on this rather outdated Committee’s ‘list’. Or perhaps not. This year it’s going to be held in Ecuador’s capital city. Well, I suppose the night life will be rather better than if they held it in a small wanna-be nation in the middle of the Pacific. Or in the Falklands for instance.

The original remit of this Committee was to oversea the transfer to full sovereignty of the oppressed colonies that once belonged to the supposed super-powers. This they did, in their early years. But these are not the early years, and there is a palpable sense at the UN of money being wasted seeing as how this Committee has failed to achieve very much in the last 20 years.

One of the things that they should be doing, is listening to the peoples of the NSG Territories. But it would seem that even this is beyond them. A number of NSGT’s have been shouting that they like the status quo, but does that get them off the list – oh no. Others have been asking for a visit by this Committee, but again their requests fall on deaf ears.

Ecuador then. Perhaps the perfect place for an old boys club where a goodly percentage of the old boys are from that region and are living high on expense accounts. At the expense of the NSGT’s certainly.

And what’s next? Well after the junket, the old boys will all return to the UN where they’ll spend a week listening to the same arguments that they heard last year, and, in fact, every year. They’ll then probably make the same recommendations to the Fourth Committee above them that they did last year, and every year.

Of course the one question that they’ll not consider is: Why do they bother ?




Oil Investment – Pros and Cons

News today from TELAM, the official Argentine news agency, that President Cristina Fernandez is on her way to New York next week for her annual speech to the United Nations. Unsurprisingly the news agency added that one of the main thrusts of her speech would be Argentina’s everlasting whine about the Falklands and the fact that Britain won’t sit down to negotiate.

Same speech as last year then, and the one before. Saves the speechwriters from thinking too much I suppose, although there may be more emphasis on oil this time.

Rockhopper’s news about its plans to take the find to a production phase will have hurt. It’s the one thing that Argentina’s politicians prayed would not happen. Why? Because an oil-producing Falklands makes the Overseas Territory totally self sufficient, and with their promise to contribute towards the Islands’ defence removes one source of antagonism with the British public. The only source of complaint, in these days of cost cutting.

So next week, the ‘Falklands Question’ will become the ‘Oil Question’.

There are a lot of opinions being expressed in the press about the viability of an oil production plan and whether or not Rockhopper Exploration can raise the necessary funding, which brings me back to yesterdays news.

The Foreign Office is to reassure the City that this Government is committed to the Islands’ defence. As I said, yesterday’s news. But there is one other ‘Question’ in the midst of all the speculation.

Who asked for the Foreign Office to provide some reassurance?

The obvious answer would be Rockhopper who desperately need the reinforcement in order to negotiate with the money men. But I’m not so sure. The Foreign Office have a history of viewing the Falklands as a nuisance; an irritation to better relations with South America and Brazil in particular. It is very well-known that the present British Government wish to dramatically improve their relationship with South America’s big performer. Even in the face of Brazil’s support for Argentina.

So Rockhopper are merely a part of the problem as far as the Foreign Office are concerned, and unlikely to get any swift support.

Maybe it wasn’t Rockhopper then. So who?

Could it be that some, even many, of the big investment houses in the City of London are seriously considering putting their money in? Seriously looking at the pros and cons? Weighing the risks?

Now they could generate a swift response from the notoriously lumbering Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Don’t you think?





If memory serves the British forces stationed on the Falkland Islands test their missiles every six months, which seems to make sense. No good pressing the button in time of need and nothing happening.

Now, a little known part of the 1989/90 agreement to restore diplomatic relations between Argentina and the UK, following  the break-down in 1982, deals with actions such as this by requiring a transfer of information. This also seems pretty sensible, one side keeping the other side informed so that no misunderstandings arise.

So far so good. But what happened in October 2010 was that Argentina suddenly woke up to the latest missile test and attempted to generate some political capital out of it. The result was complaints from a number of the ‘usual suspects’ and a formal protest laid before the International Maritime Organisation, whose bemused officers normally deal with such mundane issues as vessel safety.

The complaint was noted, and filed.

Now what do we have? News of Argentina asking Brazil to up-date their obsolete missiles, news of Argentina pushing for a UNASUR defence force and news of them seeking to join Brazil in producing a nuclear submarine.

Brazil has recently done a deal with France that will see just such a submarine entering into its service within the next few years. Argentina is hoping to join its larger trading partner by using an older submarine of their own and converting it to nuclear fuel.

Add to this United Nations’ concerns about a creeping militarization of Latin America and the result seems to be a near future return to the politics of the gun in the south cone. All potentially dangerous for the Falkland Islands and the few other territories held by European nations in that part of the world.

The reality of course may not be so bad. Brazil is more concerned with protecting its off shore oil fields than getting into anyone elses’ argument over small areas of territory. Quite why it is worried about someone attempting to take over the oil fields is not very clear, but it is. Brazil has even talked about the construction some kind of ‘sub-sea’ base within its EEZ so that it can keep a better eye on its territory.

Argentina is starting from a much lower position with its armed forces starved of cash for much of the last 25 years. And for all the bull and bluster about constructing a nuclear powered submarine, the vessel it is intending to use was never designed to take nuclear engines, and has been sitting on a dock in crates for the last 10 years.

Whether UNASUR is ever able to get its act together and make up a security force is something we’ll have to wait to see.

But the point is this, Argentina belly aches about what it sees as the militarisation of the South Atlantic, criticising the UK for the defence force that it keeps on the Falklands and whingeing anytime a Royal Naval vessel wants to dock in one of the mainland ports. Yet it fails to see the hypocrisy in its own moves to increase its military might in the same area.

It is doubtful that an Argentine nuclear submarine will ever see the light of day, but perhaps the British should protest and take the matter to the International Maritime Organisation.

Who of course, don’t give a damn!

Food Security – Fish in the south Atlantic

Last week Brazil’s new Defence Minister was proclaiming the need for closer ties amongst the UNASUR nations and South Africa to ensure that the south Atlantic turned into some kind of ‘peace zone’ under the control of the continents that border it.

Celso Amorim stated, ” The south Atlantic and its resources is a zone we share with African countries, and we want to make sure it remains an area of peace to the benefit of our peoples …. and it is the duty of the State to watch over the borders and protect our natural resources.”

This week comes a tale from the scientific experts at the Falkland Islands’ Fishery Department that the stocks of Southern Blue Whiting are so low that the fishery has become uncommercial. All as a result of Argentina’s lack of control over its fishing industry.

A little research with regard to fish stocks in the south Atlantic indicate that the demise of the Southern Blue Whiting is not an exceptional case however. Indeed the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization currently lists species that are either ‘Fully Exploited’, ‘Overexploited’ or ‘Depleted’.

Regions 41 and 47 cover the south Atlantic and the record reads –

Southwest Atlantic (FAO area 41)

Argentine Hake (Merluccius hubbsi) – Overexploited to depleted

Main fishing countries = Argentina, Uruguay

Southern Blue Whiting (Micromesistius australis) – Fully exploited to over exploited

Main fishing countries = Argentina, Japan, Chile

Argentina Croaker (Umbrina canosai) – Moderately exploited to overexploited

Main fishing countries = Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina

Whitemouth Croaker (Micropogonias furnieri) – Moderately exploited to overexploited

Main fishing countries = Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina

Striped Weakfish (Cynoscion striatus) – Moderately exploited to overexploited

Main fishing countries = Argentina, Uruguay

Brazilian Sardinella (Sardinella brasiliensis) – Overexploited

Main fishing countries = Brazil

Other shrimps – Fully exploited to over exploited

Main fishing countries = Argentina

Southeast Atlantic (FAO area 47)

Cape hakes (Merluccius capensis M. paradox) – Fully exploited to overexploited

Main fishing countries = Namibia, South Africa

Geelbeck Croaker (Atractoscion aequidens) – Depleted

Main fishing countries = South Africa

Red Steenbras (Petrus rupestris) – Depleted

Main fishing countries = South Africa

Kingklip (Genypterus capensis) – Overexploited

Main fishing countries = Namibia, South Africa

Bigeye Tuna (Thunnus obesus) – Overexploited

Main fishing countries = China, Taiwan, Japan

Southern Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) – Overexploited

Main fishing countries = Japan, China, Taiwan

Cunene Horse Mackerel (Trachurus trecae) – Overexploited

Main fishing countries = Angola

Cape Rock Lobster (Jasus lalandii) – Overexploited or recovering from depletion

Main fishing countries = South Africa, Namibia

Southern Spiny Lobster (Palinurus gilchristi) – Overexploited

Main fishing countries = South Africa

Perlemoen Abalone (Haliotis midae) – Overexploited

Main fishing countries = South Africa

Cape Hope Squid (Loligo reynaudi) – Fully exploited to over exploited

Main fishing countries = South Africa

Based on these figures it would seem that allowing UNASUR and the south African nations to take charge of the south Atlantic and its resources would be a little like putting the asylum into the care of the residents!