The population of the Islands is 2,562 (Census 2012) and 90% are British. The majority of the population live in the capital, Stanley and the remainder live in Camp – the local term for the area outside Stanley. Many inhabitants are eighth or ninth generation Islanders, their way of life strongly reflecting their British origins.
Falkland Islanders enjoy internal self government as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. Under the Falkland Islands Constitution, eight Assembly Members are elected every four years to the Legislative Assembly, which is presided over by a Speaker. They in turn elect three of their number each year to serve on the Executive Council, whom the Governor is obliged to consult in the exercise of his functions. The Commander of the British Forces South Atlantic Islands attends as of right. Government officials also attend in either a constitutional or ex-officio capacity. Only elected Members have the right to vote.
Since 1982, the Falklands have become economically independent of Britain in all areas except defence, the cost to the UK representing less than half of one per cent per annum of Britain’s overall defence budget. The Falkland Islands Government already contributes to the garrison, including the provision of houses for married quarters, a swimming pool at the base, and the funding of the Falkland Islands Defence Force; FIG has expressed the wish to contribute more to defence costs, should oil be discovered in commercial quantities.
In recent years, the bedrock of the Falklands economy has been income from the sale of licences to fish the Islands’ waters. Investment income, agriculture and services, including tourism, are other principal contributors to the economy and employment. Potential off-shore oil reserves may provide an additional source of income and employment in the future.
Securing the Future
The people of the Falkland Islands seek good relations with all their South American neighbours. In 1999, at the instigation of Falkland Islands Councillors, a Joint Statement was signed between Britain and Argentina. Councillors participated in the talks and witnessed the final accord. The Statement covered measures to promote fishery conservation and prevent poaching, as well as areas such as hydrocarbon exploration, air links and the admission of Argentine passport holders to the Islands. In recent years the Argentine Government has repudiated the agreements on fisheries and hydrocarbons.
Falkland Islanders wish for nothing more than the right to live in peace in the country of their birth. They believe that citizens of small countries deserve the same human rights as those in larger nations, particularly the right of self-determination. This principle shapes Article 1 of the United Nations Charter and is enshrined in the Falkland Islands Constitution.
A referendum, held in March 2013, resulted in a 99.8% vote (on a 92% voter turnout) in favour of remaining as a British Overseas Territory.