The Falkland Islands have the status of a British Overseas Territory. The head of government is a governor appointed in London, but managing the islands together with a locally elected parliament. Thus, although they are directly part of British territory, they still have great autonomy and sovereignty in many areas. Now the Falkland Islands have taken a historic step and launched a junior ambassador program as the first overseas territory ever. The first graduates of the programme now have been officially appointed junior ambassadors of the Falkland Islands.
The nomination ceremony was held at Government House, the seat of the Governor of the Falkland Islands. In addition to the Governor Nigel Phillips CBE, the initiator of the ambassador’s program, MLA Hon. Roger Edwards was also present. The two locals Hannah McPhee and India Clarke were appointed ambassadors. The governor said in his speech that, to his knowledge, this program was the first of its kind. The two newly appointed ambassadors will now represent the Falkland Islands in the coming years and will represent them to the outside world.
Asked about the aim of the programme, the initiator Hon. Roger Edwards explains: “It is to promote the Islands’ unique culture, society and values, and our environmental and economic goals, whilst building on relationships and garnering support for the Islanders right to self-determination.” These are also the goals of the newly appointed ambassadors. Both are currently completing their medical, resp, health and social care training in the UK. Both Hannah and India originate from the Falkland Islands and had left the islands in 2014 for their further education in the UK. This was also one of the selection criteria for a possible application. The programme is open to all locals aged between 18 and 25 who are undergoing at least two years of training in the UK. Twenty-three applicants met these criteria and had to go through a three-day intensive course on the Falkland Islands, but also through public speaking, interview techniques, etiquette and their representational tasks. In the end, the selection was completed with the help of exams, presentations and a final interview. Both ambassadors are now allowed to hold the title of junior ambassador between two and four years (depending on their time studying in the UK) and will represent their islands.
The Falklands have been at odds with Argentina over the sovereignty of the islands for decades. After a kind of thaw in relations with the previous Macri government, the situation with the new Fernandez government has once again shifted more towards confrontation. The appointment of junior ambassadors to promote the islands and their concerns and sovereignty to the outisde is likely to promote a reaction from the government in Buenos Aires. So far, however, there has been no response.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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