Home *
Policy *
Countries & Regions *
Country Profiles *
* *
Afghanistan *
* *
Africa *
* *
Iraq *
* *
Latin America & Caribbean *
* *
Middle East Peace Process *
* *
Western Balkans *
* *
* search
*  Go
* * *
Sitemap Search Page Subscribe Page Feedback Page Home Text Only
* * *

Flag of Falkland Islands

Full Country Name: Falkland Islands


Full Name: Falkland Islands

Map of the Falkland Islands

Status: UK Overseas Territory
Area: 2,173 sq km (4,700 sq mi)
Population: 2,379 (2001 Census)
Capital City: Stanley
Languages: English
Religion(s): Christian, with Catholic, Anglican and United Reformed Churches in Stanley. Other Christian churches are also represented.
Currency: Falkland Island Pound (at par with sterling)
Governor: His Excellency Howard Pearce


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 770 km (480 miles) north-east of Cape Horn and 480 km (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) – more than half the size of Wales – and a permanent population of 2,913 (2001 census). Stanley, the capital (population 1981 in 2001), is the only town. Elsewhere in Camp (the local term for the countryside), there are a number of smaller settlements. The population is almost exclusively of British birth or descent, and many families can trace their origins in the Islands back to the early post-1833 settlers. English is the national language and 99 per cent of the population speak English as their mother tongue. There are Anglican, Roman Catholic and Nonconformist churches in the Islands.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 higher 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. There are few trees, the natural vegetation being grassland with some species of heath and dwarf shrubs.


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, First Lord of the Admiralty at the time. French seal hunters, who were frequent visitors to the area in the eighteenth century, 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 Daniel Jewett, an American national, claimed formal possession of the Islands 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 governor, 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, destroyed the fort 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 requested that the Argentines leave. British occupation was therefore resumed and the Islands were administered by a naval officer.

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 1,000 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.


Throughout 2002 a series of events were held for the 20th Anniversary of the Falklands conflict. A commemoration of the Liberation of the Islands took place on 14th June, and was attended by the British Minister for the Armed Forces, Adam Ingram, MP. This followed an earlier visit in the year, by the British Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon MP. A pilgrimage of 217 South Atlantic Medal Association veterans and pilgrims for Remembrance Sunday took place in November 2002, which coincided with a visit by HRH The Duke of York.. In his New Year Address to the Falklands the Prime Minister stated that he hoped these events would be approached in an atmosphere of ‘remembrance and reconciliation’; remembrance for those lost during the conflict and reconciliation with Argentina, which has renounced the use of force against the Islands. The media coverage of the 20th Anniversary events also offers an opportunity for Islanders to present their Islands as they are today: a vibrant community with a rapidly developing economy.


The British Government has no doubt about Britain's sovereignty over the Falkland Islands. With the exception of the two 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. 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 nineteenth 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 per cent 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 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 1990, 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. The White Paper Britain and the Overseas Territories, presented to Parliament by the Foreign Secretary in March 1999, did not propose any change of status. It charted a new partnership with all our Overseas Territories, founded on several core principles including the right of self-determination. In the White Paper the Government said, 'Our Overseas Territories are British for as long as they wish to remain British. The UK has a very special relationship with the Falkland Islands. Numbers of Islanders coming to the UK for higher education are rising annually and, crucially, most of those students later return to the Islands. The UK Government remains committed to developing the links.

Both Baroness Patricia Scotland and John Battle visited the Islands in 2001 when they were Foreign Office Ministers, and both were impressed by the dynamism of the Islanders. In 2002 the Secretary of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon, visited the Islands in March, and in June 2002, Adam Ingram, Minister for the Armed Forces, joined veterans of the Falklands conflict for the 20th Anniversary Liberation Day events. In addition, in November 2002, HRH The Duke of York will pay a visit to the Falklands to commemorate Remembrance Sunday. Each year the Prime Minister makes a traditional New Year’s Address to the Falkland Islands. In 2001 the Prime Minister stated in his Address that, ‘The firmness of Britain’s commitments on the security and sovereignty of the Falkland Islands and on your right to self-determination provides the basis for you to shake off the insecurity of the past, and to plan your future with certainty’.


The former President, Carlos Menem, visited Britain on 27 October to 1 November 1998, the first visit to Britain by an Argentine Head of State since the 1982 conflict. During his visit British and Argentine veterans watched him lay a wreath at the Falklands war memorial in St Paul's Cathedral. In a lecture at Lancaster House, he reiterated remarks he had made in Argentina renouncing the use of force against the Falklands. HRH The Prince of Wales made official visits to Argentina, Uruguay and the Falklands from 9 to 15 March 1999. His visit to Argentina helped to develop the spirit of reconciliation and co-operation that President Menem had promoted during his visit to Britain. His visit to the Falklands demonstrated Britain's continued support for the Islands and for HM Forces stationed in the South Atlantic. He referred to the Falklands as follows in a speech in Buenos Aires: 'My hope is that the people of modern, democratic Argentina, with their passionate attachment to their national traditions, will in the future be able to live amicably alongside the people of another modern, if smaller, democracy lying a few hundred miles off your coast – a people just as passionately attached to their traditions – and be able to do so in a spirit of mutual understanding and respect, so that neither will again need to feel any fear from, or hostility towards, the other.'

In the light of the improved relations between Britain and Argentina, in May 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 Argentine visitors 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 will be constructed at the Argentine cemetery in the Islands;
  • The Argentine Government will review the Spanish names by which it refers to some places in the Falklands, for example 'Puerto Argentino' for Stanley (changed from the previous name of 'Port Stanley' in September 1991). It says in the Joint Statement that 'the United Kingdom delegation included members of the Falkland Islands Legislative Council'. Argentina had not been prepared formally to acknowledge this reality before.

Falklands Councillors participated actively in the talks. Seven of the eight Councillors approved the Joint Statement before signature by two of them, among others, as witnesses. The Joint Statement has shown how Britain and Argentina can manage their differences arising from the sovereignty issue while making practical arrangements on matters of common interest. It was an important milestone on the path towards reconciliation. Since 1999 Argentina has made plain its commitment to continuing the dialogue and policy launched by the Joint Statement. Former President De La Rua assured the Prime Minister of this when they met in Argentina in August 2001, following a meeting in July between the Foreign Secretary and the former Argentine Foreign Minister. We continue to make progress on implementing the Joint Statement and to extend cooperation to other areas where it makes sense to do so.


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 and Legislative Councils, and in accordance with the Falkland Islands Constitution.

The present constitution dates from October 1985, amended by the Falkland Islands Constitution (Amendment) Order of 1997 and the Falkland Islands Constitution (Amendment) Order of 1998. 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 Council 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 Councillors 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 British Government with the reasons for his action. The governor retains responsibility for external affairs and the public service. A Constitutional review of the Falkland Islands Constitution is currently underway. The review is expected to be completed in 2003.


Governors Office:

His Excellency Howard Pearce Government House Stanley Falkland Islands.


The most recent elections took place on 22 November 2001. The following Councillors were returned:


Stephen Luxton John Birmingham Jan Cheek Richard Cockwell Mike Summers


Norma Edwards Roger Edwards Phillip Miller


Basic Economic Facts
GDP: £45 million (estimated 2001)
GDP per head: £14,780 (2001)
Annual Growth: 3% (estimated)
Inflation: 1% (estimated)
Major Industries: Fisheries, Tourism, Agriculture
Major trading partners: United Kingdom, Spain, Chile
Exchange rate: UK£1 = FI£1

In the past, economic development was hindered by the lack of natural resources, the small size of the population and the remoteness of external markets. Wool was the traditional mainstay of the economy but the price of wool fell dramatically in real terms during the twentieth century. Since 1982 the economy has grown rapidly, initially as a result of UK aid but more recently from the development of fisheries. The Falkland Islands Government is working hard to ensure a diverse and sustainable economy for the future.

Since 1 February 1987 all fishing within 150 nautical miles of the Falklands has been subject to licensing by the Falkland Islands Government. (This limit was extended to 200 nautical miles in 1990.) The fishery now generates over £20 million per annum in licence fees, roughly half of government revenue. The Islands have received no aid from Britain since 1992 and are now self-sufficient in all areas except defence. Since 1990 Britain and Argentina have worked together to conserve fish stocks under the auspices of a British-Argentine South Atlantic Fisheries Commission.

A growing number of tourists are visiting the Falkland Islands, many of them attracted by the wildlife. Besides land-based tourism, over 30,000 passengers land in Stanley each year from cruise ships. A visitor and heritage centre has just been built at the jetty in Stanley. The Falkland Islands Government and the Falkland Islands Development Corporation are working to improve hotel accommodation, access and marketing.

Agriculture remains important, despite its poor economic performance in recent years, as the largest source of employment. The Falkland Islands Government has built a modern abattoir designed to meet EU standards and hopes to capitalise on the Falklands' certification as an organic country. Exploratory drilling for oil in the continental shelf to the north of the Falklands began in 1998. The initial phase, which ended in November 1998, encountered traces of hydrocarbons and gave some cause for optimism. But there is no evidence yet of oil deposits in recoverable quantities. Most recently, in March 2002 licences were awarded to the Falklands Hydrocarbon Consortium to conduct oil exploration surveying work in the South Falklands Basin, a previously underexplored area. In 1995 the UK and Argentina signed a Hydrocarbons Agreement committing both sides to co-operation in hydrocarbons exploration in a region known as the Special Co-operation Area (SCA) to the South-West of the Islands. A South_West Atlantic Hydrocarbons Commission was created under the Agreement which met until 2000, when the Argentine side announced it needed time for reflection before holding new talks. The UK stands ready to resume co-operation in the SCA with Argentina. The Falkland Island Government recently introduced 'The Islands Plan 2002/05' laying out plans to take the Islands forward over the next few years in sectors such as financial management, sustainable economy, quality of life and communications. Part of the plan also focuses on relations with Latin America, including cooperation with Argentina on practical matters of common interest such as oil exploration and fisheries


Diplomatic Representation

The principal point of contact is Overseas Territories Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Government House in Stanley.

UK Development Assistance

The Falkland Islands are self-supporting except for defence; the current annual cost of maintaining the garrison is approximately £70million.

Trade and Investment with the UK

UK exports: £2.317 million (1999)
EC exports: £35 million in 1999
UK imports: £16.35 million (1999)

This is an external link Trade Partners UK Country Profile: Falkland Islands


In April 2002 consultants from Social Development Direct visited the Falklands as part of a joint FCO/DfID project on "Realisation of Human Rights in the UK’s Overseas Territories". A report on their visit is expected soon. The Falkland Islands Government have made significant steps forward themselves in the protection of human rights on the Islands. For example, several initiatives have been introduced in the field of child protection, including a new video link for giving evidence in court, and FIG is conducting a review of its employment legislation to ensure it complies with international guidelines on labour rights. Human rights on board fishing vessels in Falklands waters remains an area of concern, although some succesful prosecutions have been brought. 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)


The Argentine Armed Forces laid 127 minefields on the Falklands in 1982. The British Ministry of Defence have estimated that 18,000 mines of all types were laid, including 14,000 anti-personnel mines. British forces carried out some clearance immediately after the conflict, lifting about 1400 mines, but stopped after several injuries to those involved. Such work is particularly difficult in the Falklands for several reasons including the shifting nature of the peat soil and sand dunes where many of the mines were laid. The remaining 101 minefields are marked and fenced, and therefore not an immediate hazard. The garrison conduct a public campaign to warn of the dangers. They make regular patrols and destroy mines which become exposed on the surface of the ground. Falklands Councillors have expressed the view that clearance should not resume unless it can be guaranteed to be 100 per cent effective. However the United Kingdom is committed to the Ottawa Convention, which requires all landmines to be removed within ten years unless an extension is granted. As a first step the British and Argentine Governments announced during Former President Menem's visit to the UK in October 1998 that they would work together to evaluate the feasibility and cost of mine clearance. Officials are currently discussing how this study will be carried out.


The principal air link between the Falkland Islands and Britain is maintained by the Royal Air Force and operates twice a week. Both civilian and military passengers are carried. The journey takes about 18 hours by Tri-star with a refuelling stop at Ascension Island. Lan Chile 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 first class contact with the rest of the world. Almost half of all households have internet access.


The British Government's Strategic Defence Review stated that the security of the Overseas Territories was a fundamental governmental responsibility. The Falklands are defended by a garrison comprising air, sea and land assets, backed up by the capability to reinforce if necessary. The Strategic Defence Review concluded that the composition of the land force in the Falklands was appropriate to ensure the security of the Islands. Adjustments are made from time to time, for example to reflect increased efficiency or new technology, but such adjustments will not affect Britain's ability to defend the Islands. Nor has there been any change in the air assets deployed. A Castle Class offshore patrol vessel will remain stationed in the Falklands and there will continue to be a Falkland Islands Guardship (either a destroyer or frigate) visiting the Falkland Islands throughout the year. The Ice Patrol Vessel HMS Endurance will continue to deploy to the South Atlantic each austral Summer and occasional deployments by nuclear submarines will continue. Total expenditure against the budget of the Commander of British Forces in the Falkland Islands in the financial year 1999/2000 was £71.1 million. This does not include the cost of operating the RAF airbridge, which also provides a lifeline to St Helena (and Ascension Island, one of the St Helena Dependencies), nor the cost of naval deployments in the South Atlantic. It does not follow that £71.1 million would be saved by withdrawing the garrison, because in that case many of the same military assets would be deployed elsewhere. In 1991 Britain and Argentina agreed several measures for co-operation between military authorities in the Falklands and Argentina: The Interim Reciprocal Information and Consultation System (IRICS) whereby a direct radio link was set up and the parties undertook to provide advance notice of certain military movements; maritime and air search and rescue co-operation; Exchange of information for safety of navigation; and Certain arrangements concerning air traffic control. On 17 December 1998 the United Kingdom replaced its arms embargo on Argentina with new arrangements. Licences are only granted for exports that the British Government are satisfied will not, now or in the foreseeable future, put at risk the security of our Overseas Territories in the South Atlantic or our forces operating there. All applications for licences to export goods to Argentina are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Government's export licensing criteria and those in the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports.


Overseas Territories Department
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Tel (020) 7008 1500
Fax (020) 7008 2086
Email: satlantic.fco@gtnet.gov.uk

Falkland Islands Government
London Office
Falkland House
14 Broadway
Tel (020) 7222 2542
Fax (020) 7222 2375

This is an external link Falkland Islands Government

Last updated – 10 January 2003

* *