sábado, 9 de maio de 2015

The Falkland Islands Case: diplomatic alternatives for its resolution

Jaqueline Ananias Ferronato*

            The “Islas Malvinas” as called by the Argentinians, or the Falkland Islands as named by the British, are composed by more than 700 islands close to Antarctica. Due to that, the islands have never had an indigenous population. As object of conflict between Argentina and the UK since the XIX century, it is considered by the Argentinians as part of their heritage from the former settler, Spain, although the United Kingdom has claimed it since 1811, from when they affirm the British arrived in the islands, before the French and Spanish. This claim is based on the strategic position of the islands, considering that by then the Panama Canal had not been built yet. So after the expulsion of the Argentinians from the mentioned territories in 1833 by the UK, British people have been invited to live in the territory and colonize it.
During the 80’s, Argentina under a dictatorship regime was motivated to invade the Islands another time, but the UK turned out to be the winner by its powerful navy. The consequences were strong: the Argentinian military dictatorship got weak and the Falkland Islands conflict allowed the conservative party in UK to thrive under the mandate of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Nowadays the population of the Islas Malvinas consists of 2,840 people, predominantly British descendants, with an HDI of 0,874, which is considered very high. The democratic institutions in the Islands work very well. They are financially self-sufficient and almost self-governing, considering the UK takes care only of their defense and foreign affairs. Another important fact is that in the recent years petroleum was found it the islands, what increased the competition between Argentina and the UK.
            By now Argentina not only complains that the UK explores the natural resources of the region, but also keep affirming that the islands belong to the Argentinians. Because of that, all the Falkland Islands’ attempts to maintain a good neighborhood relationship with Argentina have failed, since Argentina wasn’t willing to cooperate. These failures can be very clear on the words used by the Falkland Islands government website:

More recent actions such as attempts to ban their ships from entering the South America ports, Decree 256 which denies innocent passage of vessels transiting Argentine waters, the banning of charter flights in support of our tourism industry, laws threatening sanctions against companies involved in peaceful commerce in both countries, all point to a desire by Argentina to frustrate our international trade and attempt to isolate us.

            According to the self-determination principle applied by the United Nations as a fundamental human right, a plebiscite is ordered to decide to whom the islands must belong. As the article 21, 3, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets:

The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

The last plebiscite occurred in 2013, when the Argentinian president Cristina Kirchner claimed that the Falkland’s population didn’t want to be under the British authority. But opposed to the president’s opinion, the Falklands Islands confirmed the will of 99.8% of the population to keep as British Overseas Territory. By a process of constructivism, the Falkland islanders formed an identity which shows the world they are able to keep their autonomy in the building of their institutions and economic issues, but they also make clear they are not interested in paying the defense expenses nor taking the lead on their foreign affairs.
            When we analyze this conflict, we are able to associate it with the first principle in Article 2 of the United Nations Charter, since both countries involved in the conflict have ratified the United Nations Convention: “The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members”. This principle justifies the right of both countries to fight for the Falkland Islands territory. Nevertheless, since the UK has a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, it will always have an advantage, so the following article also featured in the UN Charter can easily be used as a defense argument by the UK: Article 24: “(…) the UN (…) confer on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of the international peace and security”. That being considered, it can be applied by UK as protection from Argentina not just against an armed conflict (which could easily involve the NATO), but this position can also be used for its own benefit, because of the British veto power. This scenario can be changed in the future, if eventually a reform in the Security Council happens, which could lead to a consequent power shift in the global balance.
            Looking to that scenario and assuming that a reform in the United Nations Security Council is hard to occur, then a call on the diplomatic affair is necessary for the resolution of this conflict. At first it would be required a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA), consisted in the meeting of a Zone of Possible Agreement (ZOPA) between the countries. This way, both States can be pleased to accomplish its accorded obligations. Since Argentina, in the recent years, hasn’t demonstrated willingness in giving in, thus a good proposal by the UK must be offered. Possibly, any economic issue would be very welcomed by the Argentinians, due to the current economic crisis they are facing. In exchange, Argentina would have to yield in some points, included in their current embargo in the UK and mainly the one which involve the Falkland Islands. It would drive forward the economy not just in trade topics, but also in touristic sector.
            If a bilateral negotiation doesn’t work, then surely a mediation with muscle shall be pursued to act like was aforementioned. The mediator in this case must be a State which has the confidence of both countries to ensure the mediation effectiveness. Seeing the current global power balance and considering the MERCOSUR existence, Brazil could be a valid mediator, because even if Argentina in theory is always against Brazil’s positions, in practice both countries are very dependent on each other and of course trading relations with the Falkland Islands would be a Brazilian interest. In addition, the last years have shown to the world that the emerging countries also have power which can affect the global balance. In the eyes of the developed countries, those emerging powers have been shifting the diplomatic agenda, and as Brazil is included in that category, its foreign policy has also changed accordingly. Because of that, the country has turned into a potential mediator between the developed countries and the Latin America ones.
            Considering the complex context currently experienced by Argentina and the UK in the matter of the Malvinas or Falkland Islands, it is possible to deduce that the accomplishment of a solution for the conflict is achievable, but by all means a BATNA is needed for Argentina and UK to give in, finding a common ground and developing a better way thru a pacific relationship.

<www.falklands.gov.fkAccessed on 26th January 2015.
<www.un.org/en/documents/charter/index.shtml >Accessed on 26th January 2015.
Prola, Gabriel Sobolewski. A Disputa pela Soberania das Ilhas Falkland (Malvinas) na Perspectiva do Direito Internacional Público. Porto Alegre, 2013.

*Jaqueline Ananias Ferronato é aluna do sétimo período do curso de Relações Internacionais do Unicuritiba e integrante do Grupo de Iniciação Científica "Educação para a Paz" coordenado pelo Professor Thiago Assunção.

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