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South America and South Atlantic Islands

Falkland Islands (British Overseas Territory)

Flag of Falkland Islands


Last reviewed: 07 March 2012

Country information

Map of the Falkland Islands

THE FALKLAND ISLANDS TODAY

Country Facts

Status: British Overseas Territory
Area: 12,173 sq km (4,700 sq miles)
Population: 2,995 (2006 Census)
Capital City: Stanley
Languages: English
Religion(s): Christian, with Catholic, Anglican and United Reformed Churches in Stanley. Other faiths are also represented.
Currency: Falkland Island Pound (at par with sterling)
Head of State: HM Queen Elizabeth II
Governor: His Excellency Nigel Haywood, CVO

The majority of the population of the Falkland Islands are British by birth or descent.  Indeed, many can trace their family origins in the Islands back to the early nineteenth century.  The last census (in 2006) recorded 2,478 Falkland Islanders.  In addition to these, the census also recorded a significant minority of resident Chileans and St Helenians.  Most of the remaining population comprises people from the UK mainland and third countries working under contract at either the Mount Pleasant Airfield, or in certain government positions that require specialist skills.  

The Falkland Islands are one of fourteen British Overseas Territories.  As such, the UK recognises and encourages the Islanders’ right to self determination, including their right to remain British if that is their wish.  The Islands’ democratically elected leaders frequently state that wish.

The Falklands have been continuously, peacefully and effectively inhabited and administered by Britain since 1833.  The only exception to this was the brief illegal occupation by Argentine military forces in 1982.


DID YOU KNOW?

 

  • In 1690 John Strong, a British Naval captain, took part in the first recorded landing of the then uninhabited Falkland Islands. He named the Islands after Viscount Falkland, who shortly afterwards became the First Lord of the Admiralty.
  • Since 1998, the Islanders have been financially self sufficient in all areas except defence.
  • 40, 542 cruise ship passengers were cleared to land in the Falklands between October 2010 and April 2011.
  • The Falkland Islands have their own postcode, FIQQ 1ZZ, and commission their own postage stamps, coins and banknotes.

ECONOMY

Basic Economic Facts

GDP: £104 million (2007) (Currently have 2009 figures but awaiting approval from Members to publish)
GDP per head: £34,944 (2007) (as above)
Major Industries: Fisheries, Tourism, Agriculture
Exchange rate: UK£1 = FI£1

Since 1982 the economy of the Islands has grown rapidly. Initially this was as aresult of UK development aid, but by 1998 the Islands were self-sufficient in alll areas except defence.

Since 1982 the economy of the Islands has grown rapidly. Initially this was as a result of UK development aid, but by 1998 the Islands were self-sufficient in all areas except defence.

The Falkland Islands Government’s stated aim is to ensure a diverse and sustainable economy for the future. The latest Island Plan (2010 – 2015) is available at their website: http://www.falklands.gov.fk/. A new iteration of the Islands Plan is produced annually.  It outlines their vision for improved financial management, quality of life and communications while ensuring a sustainable economy.


Major Industries

In 1987 the Falklands Islands Government started licensing all fishing within 150 nautical miles of the Falklands, extending the limit to 200 nautical miles in 1990. The income from these license fees fluctuates, but currently makes up some 60% of the government's revenue.

The role of tourism in the Islands' economy is also increasing. Tourist numbers continue to grow, with many attracted by the diverse wildlife. Besides the tourists who fly in to stay on the Islands, the number of cruise ship passengers making the day trips to Stanley and the surrounding countryside has grown significantly.

Agriculture was the chief industry for most of the last century and remains an important part of the Islands' economy and culture.  Though its contribution to GDP in recent years has been lower than the fisheries sector, it remains one of the largest sectors for employment outside of the public sector. The Government has recently encouraged the modernisation of this sector, for example setting up a modern abattoir designed to meet EU standards and strongly supporting organic farming.

Social Services

Medical treatment is provided free for Islanders and other residents, with a good level of general health care.  There is only one hospital in Stanley, but it is modern and has a full complement of medical, dental and nursing staff.  However, given the size of the population, its medical facilities are understandably limited.  Therefore in cases of critical illness, or where specialist medical knowledge is not available on Island, the Falkland Islands Government can provide for patients to be medically evacuated by air to Chile or the UK.

Social care needs are also provided free by the Falkland Islands Government to Islanders. These include caring for the elderly (including the provision of some sheltered housing), looking after those with physical disabilities or long-term mental health problems, as well as providing child care services.  

Education is free and compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 and 16. The Islands’ schools are well equipped and follow the English curriculum.  The Falkland Islands Government also provides funds or grants for students who are able and willing to study beyond the age of 16 to do so abroad.  Most of these students choose to study in the UK.  In 2006, roughly 25% of the Islanders had tertiary qualifications.  

Energy

The Falkland Island Government has encouraged the increased use of wind power technology.  In addition to protecting the environment, this has reduced the need for imported fuel oil and lowered energy costs on the Islands.  Some 40% of Stanley’s energy is now provided by wind turbines and there has been a major take up of this technology in the settlements and farms outside Stanley.  

As a result of recent rising oil prices, the waters surrounding the Falkland Islands have again become an attractive area for oil companies to explore for new reserves of oil or gas. This potential sector is still in its infancy. Some exploratory drilling was carried out in 1998. But the major oil companies pulled out of the area when the price of oil dropped dramatically in the late Nineties. In 2008, the UK approved the Falkland Islands Government's request to resume Open Door Licensing for offshore oil exploration and production in five blocks. A second phase of exploratory drilling began in 2010.  This is continuing.

Security

Since 1982, the British defensive posture in the Falklands remains unchanged. The UK is fully committed to the defence and security of the Islands and maintains an appropriate force which can be reinforced rapidly if needed. The current Commander of the British Forces South Atlantic Islands is Brigadier Bill Aldridge.


Additionally, the Falkland Islands Government funds, and is responsible for, the Falkland Islands Defence Force.  This is a locally maintained volunteer unit similar to the UK’s Territorial Army.  It works alongside the UK military to ensure the security of the islands.

HISTORY

Navigators of several countries have been credited with first sighting the Falklands but the earliest sighting that has been conclusively authenticated was by the Dutch sailor Sebald van Weert in 1600. The first known landing was made in 1690 by a British naval captain, John Strong. He named the Islands after Viscount Falkland, who was his patron at the time and shortly afterwards became First Lord of the Admiralty. A few years later, the French called the Islands 'les Iles Malouines' after the port of St Malo, and it was from this that the Spanish designation, las Islas Malvinas, originated.

In 1764, a small French colony, Port Louis, was established on East Falkland. Three years later this was handed over to Spain on payment of £24,000. The Spanish renamed the settlement Puerto de la Soledad.

A British expedition reached West Falkland in 1765, and anchored in a harbour which it named Port Egmont. It took formal possession of it and of 'all the neighbouring islands' for King George III. The following year, another British expedition established a settlement of about 100 people at Port Egmont. This settlement was withdrawn on economic grounds in 1774, but British sovereignty was never relinquished or abandoned. The Spanish settlement on East Falkland was withdrawn in 1811, leaving the Islands without inhabitants or any form of government. In November 1820, Colonel David Jewett, an American national, visited the Islands and claimed formal possession of them in the name of the Government of Buenos Aires, but only stayed on the Islands for a few days. At the time, the Government of Buenos Aires, which had declared independence from Spain in 1816, was not recognised by Britain or any other foreign power. No act of occupation followed Jewett's visit and the Islands remained without effective government. On 10 June 1829, the Buenos Aires Government issued a decree setting forth its rights, purportedly derived from the Spanish Viceroyalty of La Plata, and purported to place the Islands under the control of a political and military commandant, Louis Vernet. Britain protested that the terms of the decree infringed British sovereignty over the Islands, which she had never relinquished.

In 1831, a United States warship, the Lexington, broke up Louis Vernet's tiny settlement at Puerto de la Soledad as a reprisal for the arrest of three American vessels by Vernet, who was attempting to establish control over sealing in the Islands. The captain of the Lexington declared the Falklands free from all government and they remained once again without visible authority until September 1832, when the Government of Buenos Aires appointed Juan Mestivier as Civil and Political Governor on an interim basis. The British Government once again protested to the Buenos Aires Government that this appointment infringed British sovereignty over the Islands. Mestivier sailed to the Falklands at the end of 1832 and was murdered shortly after his arrival by his own soldiers. In January 1833, after receiving instructions to visit the Islands to exercise British rights of sovereignty, the British warship HMS Clio arrived at Puerto de la Soledad and told the 24-man garrison that had arrived with Mestivier to leave. British administraton was therefore resumed and a naval officer arrived the following year to administer the Islands.

In 1841, a civil Lieutenant Governor was appointed and, in 1843, the civil administration was put on a permanent footing by an Act of the British Parliament. The Lieutenant Governor's title was changed to Governor and, in 1845, the first Executive and Legislative Councils were set up. Although there was a majority of official members in the Legislative Council until 1951, nominated members played an increasingly important part, and in 1949 members elected by universal adult suffrage were introduced into the Council. The Falklands were invaded and illegally occupied by Argentine military forces on 2 April 1982. A British task force was despatched immediately and, following a conflict in which over 900 British and Argentine lives were lost, the Argentine forces surrendered on 14 June 1982. Since then, the pace of development in the Islands has accelerated with the construction of a new hospital, a new senior school, port facilities and an international airport.

SOVEREIGNTY OF THE ISLANDS

The British Government has no doubt about Britain's sovereignty over the Falkland Islands. With the exception of the 2 months of illegal occupation in 1982, the Falklands have been continuously, peacefully and effectively inhabited and administered by Britain since 1833. Argentina's claim to the Falklands is based on the grounds that, at the time of British repossession of the Islands in 1833, Argentina had sovereignty over them through her inheritance, upon independence, of Spain's possessory title (uti possedetis), through her attempts to settle the Islands between 1826 and 1833, and through the concept of territorial contiguity. However, uti possedetis is not accepted as a general principle of international law. Moreover Spain's title to the Islands was disputed and in 1811 the Spanish settlement was evacuated, leaving the Islands without inhabitants or any form of government. Argentina's subsequent attempts at settlement were sporadic and ineffectual. As for territorial contiguity, this has never been a determinant for title to islands (otherwise the Canary Islands, for example, might be Moroccan) and should not be used to overrule the right of self-determination. The Argentine Government has argued that the Falkland Islanders do not enjoy the right of self-determination, on the (false) basis that they replaced an indigenous Argentine population expelled by force. However there was no indigenous or settled population on the Islands until British settlement.

The people who live in the Falklands now are not a transitory population. Many can trace their origins in the Islands back to the early 19th century. Britain is committed to defend their right to choose their own future. The Islanders are fully entitled to enjoy the right of self-determination. It is a right which cannot be applied selectively or be open to negotiation, and one which is recognised in the UN Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Self-determination does not necessarily mean independence. Britain has willingly granted independence where it has been requested, and will continue to do so where it is an option, while remaining committed to those of its Overseas Territories which choose to retain the British connection. In exercise of their right of self-determination, the Falkland Islanders have repeatedly made known their wish to remain British. An Argentine-inspired poll, conducted in 1994, revealed that 87% of them would be against any form of discussion with Argentina over sovereignty, under any circumstances.

In 1960 the United Nations General Assembly adopted its Declaration of the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (GAR 1514). A committee was set up to oversee implementation of this resolution. This Committee, which became known as the Committee of Twenty-four, considered the question of the Falklands for the first time in 1964. Following its recommendations, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 2065 in 1965. The Resolution invited the British and Argentine Governments to begin negotiations 'with a view to finding a peaceful solution to the problem, bearing in mind the provisions and objectives of the UN Charter and of GAR 1514 and the interests of the population of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).' During 1967 and 1968 Britain entered into negotiations with Argentina based on a willingness to transfer sovereignty. Although the British Government had no doubt about British sovereignty of the Falklands, they were concerned by the difficulty of defending the Islands, and by the threat to the Islands' economy from declining world demand for wool and from their isolation without links to the mainland. However, Britain maintained throughout that any transfer of sovereignty must be subject to the wishes of the Islanders. It was on this issue that negotiations foundered.

After the 1982 conflict, Britain sought ways to restore normal relations with Argentina while upholding her commitment to the Falkland Islanders. Diplomatic relations were re-established in February 1990, less than a year after Dr Carlos Menem was elected President of Argentina. The resumption of links followed a series of talks in Madrid, in which the two sides agreed a formula to protect their respective positions on sovereignty and maritime jurisdiction over the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The formula has enabled the two governments to make progress in many fields. Nonetheless, Argentina continued to claim sovereignty over the Falklands. President Menem asserted that the Islands would be Argentine by the year 2000 and suggested shared sovereignty as a possible intermediate step. His Foreign Minister, Dr Guido di Tella, also suggested other possible forms of association between the Falklands and Argentina.

In 1994, the Argentine Constitution was amended to include a clause asserting sovereignty over the Islands, which would be pursued 'in accordance with international law'. Argentina continued to ask the United Nations to call for negotiations on the issue of sovereignty. Although the United Nations General Assembly has not debated the question of the Falklands since 1988, the Committee of Twenty-four has continued to adopt resolutions calling for negotiations between Britain and Argentina. These resolutions are flawed because they make no reference to the Islanders' right to choose their own future. Several members of the Committee have acknowledged this omission. The principle of self-determination is included in every other resolution considered by the Committee. The British position that sovereignty is not for negotiation remains unaltered. There will be no change in the status of the Falklands without the Islanders' consent.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Relations with the UK

Diplomatic Representation

The principal points of contact in the British Government are either:

the Overseas Territories Directorate at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, Telephone 020 7008 1500 or by email to otdenquires@fco.gov.uk

or, alternatively, Government House in Stanley, Telephone + 500 28200, or by email to gov.house@horizon.co.fk.

The Falkland Islands Government maintains an office in the UK, Telephone 020 7222 2542, or by email to reception@falklands.gov.fk  

30th Anniversary of the Falklands Conflict


2012 marks the 30th Anniversary of the Conflict.  There will be a number of events both on the Islands and in the UK. It is important that we commemorate and remember all those who served and fought so hard and some who gave their lives for the freedom of the Falkland Islands people.   Jeremy Browne MP, FCO Minister responsible for the Falkland Islands will visit the Islands in June 2012.  


Current international issues directly involving the Falkland Islands

Britain is pledged to look after the Overseas Territories international relations. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office represents the Islands’ interests abroad, but does so in consultation with the Falkland Island Government.

Argentine relations with the Islands

In 1999 the elected Legislative Councillors of the Falklands Islands asked Britain to arrange talks with Argentina on South Atlantic issues of mutual interest. The British Government, which had consistently encouraged the Islanders to broaden their contacts with Argentina while reassuring them that this would have no implications for sovereignty, welcomed their decision. Following meetings in London and New York, the Foreign Secretary and the Argentine Foreign Minister signed a Joint Statement and exchanged letters on 14 July to record the understandings reached. As a result:

  • The Falkland Islands Government lifted their ban on visits by Argentine passport holders introduced in 1982;
  • Argentina secured the consent of Chile to the immediate resumption of the weekly Chilean airline flight between Chile and the Falklands (suspended by Chile since April in connection with the detention of General Pinochet in Britain). Since 16 October 1999 the flights have made one stop per month in each direction at Rio Gallegos in Argentina;
  • The parties enhanced co-operation on conservation of fish stocks and implemented practical measures against poaching of fish stocks by unlicensed vessels from third countries;
  • A memorial to members of the Argentine armed services killed in action in 1982 has been constructed at the Argentine cemetery in the Islands. It was inaugurated during two visits by the next of kin of the Argentine fallen in October 2009;

Argentina’s approach towards the Islands has deteriorated recently.  In 2003 Argentina imposed a ban on chartered aircraft flying from, or through, their airspace to the Falkland Islands.  They have also introduced legislation designed to penalise hydrocarbons operators in Argentina who also have interests in the Falkland Islands.  In March 2007 Argentina withdrew from the 1995 Anglo-Argentine Joint Declaration on Co-operation over Offshore Activities in the South West Atlantic.  In 2008 they introduced legislation designed to penalise fishing companies operating in both Argentine and Falkland Island waters.

The UK Government and the Falkland Islanders regret this unjustified change in Argentine policy.  Despite this, the UK Government remains keen to seek opportunities to work with Argentina on areas of mutual interest in the South Atlantic (e.g. fisheries conservation), and to promote better co-operation within the region and between the people of Argentina and the Islands.  But only if these areas do not infringe upon the rights of the Islanders to determine their own future.  

Landmines

In 2008, the UK sought and obtained a 10 year extension to March 2019 to its original 2009 deadline to clear all the mined areas in the Falkland Islands under the Ottawa Convention (anti-personnel mine ban convention). The UK funded a four-site clearance programme, which started on 4 December 2009 and was completed in August 2010. The sites formed a representative sample of the Islands' varied terrain and contained a significant quantity of mines. A second phase project in the Falkland Islands, aimed at land clearance,  commenced early 2012.

There have never been any civilian injuries in the Islands from landmines since the conflict ended.  The mined areas are clearly marked, fenced and monitored.  When landmines do surface and potentially pose a threat in and around the mined areas they are cleared by an Explosive Ordnance Team that is permanently based on the Falkland Islands.  The ongoing work by the EOD team means the mined areas pose a minimal risk to the Falkland Islanders.

GEOGRAPHY

The Falkland Islands are an archipelago of around 700 islands in the South Atlantic, the largest being East Falkland and West Falkland. They are situated about 770km (480 miles) north-east of Cape Horn and 480km (300 miles) from the nearest point on the South American mainland. The Islands have a total land area of 12,173 sq km (4,700 sq miles) – about the size of Northern Ireland – and a permanent population of 2,995 (2006 census). The capital is Stanley, which is the only town on the Islands, though it qualifies as a city by virtue of its cathedral. Elsewhere in Camp (the local term for the countryside), there are a number of smaller settlements.

The climate is characterised by a narrow temperature range (-5° C to 24°C), strong winds, fairly low rainfall evenly distributed throughout the year, and a higher number of sunshine hours than most parts of Britain. The Islands are generally hilly – the highest points are Mount Usborne (705m) on East Falkland and Mount Adam (700m) on West Falkland, but the surrounding countryside remains, for the most part, unspoiled. There are few trees, the natural vegetation being grassland, but there are over 250 species of plant in the Falkland Islands, of which 164 are recorded as native - including the Islands' national flower, the Pale Maiden. The Islands are also noted for their abundant range of wildlife, particularly the Rockhopper, Magellanic, Gentoo, King and Macaroni Penguins. In addition to the varied bird species, elephant, lion and fur seals also breed on the Islands.  There is also a wide range of marine animals around the coast, including dolphins and Orcas, Sei and Sperm whales.

TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Major trading partners: United Kingdom, Spain, Chile


Communications

The principal air link between the Falkland Islands and the UK is maintained by the Royal Air Force and operates twice a week.  Both civilian and military passengers are carried. LAN Chile also operates a weekly service between the Falkland Islands and Chile, stopping at Rio Gallegos in southern Argentina once a month.

External telecommunications are operated by Cable and Wireless. Telephone and fax links via satellite mean that the Islands have contact with the rest of the world. 73.8% of all households have internet access.

Business opportunities

One of the Falkland Islands Development Corporation roles is to encourage niche business, marketing or service industry ventures in the Falkland Islands.

Address: Shackleton House, Davis Street East, Stanley, Falkland Islands, FIQQ 1ZZ
Tel: +500 27211

POLITICS


CONSTITUTIONAL STATUS

The Falkland Islands are a United Kingdom Overseas Territory by choice. Supreme authority is vested in HM The Queen and exercised by a Governor on her behalf, with the advice and assistance of the Executive Council and Legislative Assembly, and in accordance with the Falkland Islands Constitution.

The present Constitution dates from January 2009. The Constitution includes the Islanders' right of self-determination.

The Governor presides over an Executive Council composed of five members: three elected and two ex-officio (the Chief Executive and the Financial Secretary). In addition, the Attorney General and the Commander of the British Forces in the Falkland Islands attend by invitation. The Legislative Assembly has eight members elected by universal adult suffrage as well as the two ex-officio members of the Executive Council. It is chaired by a Speaker.

As is usual in British Overseas Territories, the elected Members have a substantial measure of responsibility for the conduct of their Territory's affairs. The Governor is obliged to consult the Executive Council in the exercise of his functions (except in specified circumstances, for example on defence and security issues, where he must consult and follow the advice of the Commander of the British Forces in the Islands). Although he has the constitutional power to act against the advice of the Executive Council, he would be required, without delay, to report such a matter to the UK Government with the reasons for his action.

Elections

The most recent elections, to the eight person legislative Council took place on 5 November 2009. The next elections will be held in November 2013. By-elections were held in June and December 2011. The current Members are:

Representing Stanley area:

The Hon. Dick Sawle MLA, The Hon. Jan Cheek MLA, The Hon. Barry Elsby MLA, The Hon. Gavin Short MLA, the Hon. Mike Summers MLA

Representing the Camp (countryside) areas:

The Hon. Roger Edwards MLA, The Hon. Sharon Halford MLA, The Hon. Ian Hansen MLA

HUMAN RIGHTS

In March 2010, as part of an FCO-funded project run by the Commonwealth Foundation on “Building Human Rights Capacity in the Overseas Territories”, a small team of trainers visited the Falklands.  They delivered training to public officials and civil society in the practical application of human rights, for example in policy making and court remedies.  Further training took place during July 2011, focusing on enabling Falkland Islanders to develop their own National Action Plan on Human Rights.

The Falkland Islands Government (FIG) has made significant steps over the last decade in the protection of human rights on the Islands. For example, a new video link for giving evidence in court has been introduced to protect children and other vulnerable witnesses, and employment legislation is under review with the introduction of a national minimum wage scheduled for 2012.  The new Constitution contains an updated fundamental rights chapter which largely mirrors the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.

More broadly, Overseas Territories legislation should comply with the same international obligations to which Britain is subject. The following major Conventions apply in the Falkland Islands:

  • European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)
  • International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights (ICESCR)
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
  • UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT)
  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)
  • UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
  • UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

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Contacts

Falkland Islands, Stanley, Government House

Address:

Government House
Stanley, FIQQ 1ZZ

Telephone:

(500) 28200
(500) 27110 Secretariat for Chief Executive

Fax:

(500) 28201

Email: gov.house@horizon.co.fk

Office hours:

GMT (early Sept to Mid April): Mon-Fri: 1100-1500 / 1615-1930

GMT (Mid April to early Sept): Mon-Fri: 1200-1600 / 1715-2030

Local Time: Mon-Fri: 0800-1200 / 1315-1630