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Amy English

Congressional Liaison for the Foreign and Security Policy Group

Part of UK in USA

22nd March 2013 Washington DC, USA

After YES: Falkland Islanders make sweeping tour of US

In land far, far away, a community of people sent an emphatic message to the rest of the world, definitively declaring their political status for the first time in history. “YES!” screamed from social media feeds on Monday 11 March, where the Falkland Islands announced their wish to retain their status as a British Overseas Territory.

Falkland MLA Mike Summers, New York Consul General Danny Lopez and Falkland Islands journalist Teslyn Barkman

Capitalizing YES hardly encapsulates the level of support in favour of keeping their current status. 99.8 percent – all but three people – voted in favour, with a staggering 92 per cent turnout.

With such an emphatic result, this referendum offers an opportunity for the Falklands to send a message to world leaders about their strength of identity, and their desire for recognition as a community with a right to express their collective desires as Falkland Islanders.

Starting their global whirlwind tour in the US, three Falkland Islanders hit the ground running. Two members of the Legislative Assembly, Mike Summers and Sharon Halford, were accompanied by Teslyn Barkman, a young Islander working for the Penguin News (the weekly publication) Together, they embarked upon a tour of an introduction to their islands, an explanation of the referendum, and a request to support their expression of self-determination.

Due to their distance, a special visit by Falkland Islanders offers Congress a unique opportunity to hear their wishes from the Islanders themselves. Last Wednesday, the UK Congressional Caucus hosted a briefing for the Falkland Islanders, where Sharon Halford and Mike Summers (members of the Falklands government) were welcomed by Congressmen and staffers to hear about the motivations of the referendum, dispel myths about the Falklands and learn how they can help in Congress.

Halford and Summers were also welcomed by representatives from the US overseas territories including Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, who represents Guam and Rep. Camacho Sablan from the Northern Mariana Islands. Although the territories are separated by large distances, there is a unique link between island people, and the conversation immediately led to opportunities for collaboration in the future such as fisheries conservation.

Although Washington remains the heart of the US foreign policy community, Falkland Islanders escaped beyond the beltway to spread their message to Miami, Washington and New York. In Atlanta, MLA Sharon Halford interviewed with CNN and in Miami, MLA Mike Summers met  Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart in Miami, a strong advocate for the Falkland Islanders.

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Miami Consul General Kevin McGurgan, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Falkland MLA Mike Summers and Falkland Islands journalist Teslyn Barkman

Stopping off in New York, they were hosted by CG Danny Lopez at the British consulate for an afternoon tea and film screening, where curious New York City residents were introduced to a taste of life in the Falklands. As Danny highlighted, the population of the Islands would fill 6% of seats at Yankee Stadium, but their small size is deceiving – especially considering a penguin population which could fill Yankee Stadium many times over! Journalists left enchanted by the place, asking for flight recommendations and places to stay – and mulling over cruises to visit their southern neighbours, South Georgia.

New York City residents watch a film on the Falkland Islands at the British Consulate General in New York.

After planes, trains and automobiles of travel, the Islanders had no respite before they continued their tour into the Caribbean. But the Falkland Islanders left with a sense of accomplishment: with an overwhelming sense of support, the US strengthens its understanding of the Falkland Islanders, and its support for the referendum.

About Amy English

Amy English is Congressional Liaison for the Foreign and Security Policy Group at the British Embassy in Washington. Before joining the Embassy, Amy managed communications and public affairs for a…

Amy English is Congressional Liaison for the Foreign and Security Policy Group at the British Embassy in Washington. Before joining the Embassy, Amy managed communications and public affairs for a nonprofit organization against child sex trafficking, travelling throughout the United States and the Caribbean to raise the level of response among civil society, governments and legislators. Amy has spent her life crossing the pond; she studied Politics at the University of San Diego, but returned to her homeland to obtain her postgraduate degree in International Relations from the University of Warwick.