Time to put the Malvinas Question back on track

By Jorge Argüello*

The Malvinas Question has recovered the dimension it deserves as a central State policy of the Argentine Republic aligned with the anti-colonial principles of the United Nations (UN).

When the UN was born, 75 years ago, about 750 million people, almost a third of the world's population, still lived in territories that depended on colonial powers. But with the support of the two major post-war powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, the UN began to establish a legal framework to bring an end to this scourge.

In fact, for US President Franklin D. Roosevelt winning the war would mean a new post-imperial world order. “I can't believe that we can fight a war against fascist slavery, and at the same time not work to free people all over the world from a backward colonial policy”, he told British Prime Minister Winston Churchill before signing the Atlantic Charter (1941).

In line with this historic turn, from its first session (1946-47) the UN General Assembly played a central role in decolonization matters, confirmed and reinforced by different resolutions and decisions of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). and other organs of the Organization.

But even today, in the 21st century, there are still 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories under the decolonization process of the United Nations, where the administering Powers have the international obligation to bring that colonial situation to a speedy and unconditional end in accordance with international law.

Colonialism is a problem for humanity as a whole, a situation of injustice against which the Argentine people fought and continue to fight from the very moment of its birth as a nation in 1810.

Last July 9, the 204 years of independent life were celebrated in most of the country. Almost everywhere, because 187 years ago there was a part of our territory in which the Argentines haven't completely broken its colonial chains yet. 

The Malvinas, South Georgia, and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime spaces, Argentine territories under colonial occupation, are today an imperialist obstacle sustained by the recalcitrant intransigence of the United Kingdom. Without respecting its international obligations, London fails to comply with the United Nations resolutions that call for the solution of the sovereignty dispute as a way to put an end to this special and particular case of colonialism.

To avoid negotiating with Argentina, as indicated by the international community as a whole, the United Kingdom will try anything. Even falling into embarrassing contradictions, as proved in the arguments put forward by London before the International Court of Justice in the Advisory Opinion on the Chagos Archipelago.

In this procedure, the United Kingdom denied that in the 1960s, that is, in the midst of the process of decolonization, the principle of self-determination of peoples had a legal and therefore binding character.

This principle of fundamental importance for international law, whose correct application Argentina has always defended, is incorrectly invoked by the United Kingdom in the Malvinas Question to avoid negotiating with our country the solution to the dispute, but ignored in the case of the people of the Republic of Mauritius. Thus for the United Kingdom, population is a mere adjustment variable.

The powers of the General Assembly in matters of decolonization are central. It is the GA, and not the colonial power, that must observe the application of the right of self-determination, a function granted to it by the Charter of the United Nations.

It also corresponds to the Assembly to pronounce and supervise the modalities of decolonization of a territory and the Decolonization Committee is the body in charge of monitoring the mechanisms for a territory to be decolonized. In the Malvinas Question, this must be achieved by solving the sovereignty dispute between the only parties to the dispute, taking into account the interests of the population of the Islands.

Since December 2019, Argentina has put back on track and placed the Malvinas Question, one of the oldest and most important foreign policy issues in our country, at the top of Argentina's international priorities.

Clear examples of this are the upgrade to the rank of Secretariat of the area of ​​the Foreign Ministry in charge of Malvinas, in charge of Ambassador Daniel Filmus, as well as the strong messages of President Alberto Fernández before the National Congress, and of Foreign Minister Felipe Solá when sending to Congress three bills to strengthen our legal position and seek the necessary consensus to establish a State policy on the Malvinas Question, once and for all.

Two of the above-mentioned bills already have the approval of Congress, which was unanimously achieved by all political forces both in the Senate and in the Chamber of Deputies, setting a historic milestone. The first one creates the National Council of Affairs relative to the Malvinas, South Georgia, and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime spaces, within the scope of the Presidency of the Nation in order to help generate the necessary political and social consensus to design and implement State policies that aim at recovering the effective exercise of sovereignty over the Malvinas. The second one refers to the establishment of the final demarcation of the outer limit of the Argentine Continental Shelf beyond 200 miles.

This shows a substantial change in relation to the orientation followed by the previous government, which was concentrated in adopting measures that in practice have facilitated the British presence and interests in the islands, leaving the main question of sovereignty, forgotten, under the “umbrella” figure. The most complete expression of this was the Joint Declaration of September 13, 2016, known as the Foradori-Duncan Agreement, which is being totally reversed by the current national government, as Foreign Minister Solá has stated.

In this spirit, there are voices that ask “not to love them so much” and others that, under a veil of false patriotism, seek to keep the sovereignty dispute ad eternum intact, with the irresponsibility that this entails. But the will of the Argentine people is clear.

The recovery of the effective exercise of sovereignty over the Malvinas, South Georgia, and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime spaces is a constitutional mandate. Certainly, not in any way, nor at any cost.

The path is that of peace, dialogue and international law. Firmly and defending our position, with no need to worry about pleasing the counterpart, which has proven to favor their illegitimate occupation. Here, the only “obstacle” to be removed is the sovereignty dispute.

The decolonization process has largely stalled due to the intransigence of the administering powers that do not comply with their international obligations. Argentina, like so many other examples in the world, is a nation that believes in the fairness of its rights and as such will continue working in all areas and using all the tools that the law provides to enforce and put an end to colonialism in our territory.

As President Fernández said, “there is no place for colonialism in the 21st century”.


*Jorge Argüello is Ambassador of Argentina to the United States