South Atlantic Council
Promoting communication and understanding
About the South Atlantic Council
In December 1983, two British MPs and two academics invited a wide-ranging group of people with special interest in, or expertise on, Argentine-British relations and the Falklands/Malvinas dispute to form a South Atlantic Council. The aim was to improve communications and mutual understanding between Argentina, Britain and the Islands, with the long-term goal of resolving the sovereignty dispute, in a manner that is acceptable to all three parties. The founders were George Foulkes MP (Labour), Cyril Townsend MP (Conservative), Dr Christopher Mitchell (City University) and Dr Walter Little (University of Liverpool). The current chairman is Martin O'Neill (Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan) and the Honorary Secretary is Robin Wallis.
The decision was taken to have a maximum of fifty members, all of whom would be British citizens. Thus, the SAC is not a public campaigning organisation, but a discrete lobby, seeking to influence policy-makers and opinion leaders. The membership has consisted of politicians, academics, business people, journalists, lawyers, retired diplomats and church leaders. The politicians have been from the three main parties and from both houses of Parliament. At times, two or three Argentines working in London have also been Associate Members. The Council has been funded by the members and by grants for specific activities. Three Quaker trusts made it possible, in 1984-87, to appoint one full-time researcher and co-ordinator, Dr Alaine Low. The annual budget – provided by members' subscriptions – was small and continues to be so. Companies sometimes meet travel, accommodation or other expenses for specific events, notably establishing the first political contacts between Britain and Argentina after the 1982 war.
The SAC has published a series of Occasional Papers to generate discussion about ideas that move beyond the zero-sum debate about sovereignty and promote the possibility of co-operation on a variety of issues. Both at the Council's own meetings and at other events, such as the Argentine-British Conferences, members have facilitated discussion among politicians and officials from Argentina, Britain and the Islands. In this work, the SAC has continually faced the danger of being seen by British officials and the Falkland Islands Association as pro-Argentine and by Argentine officials as speaking for the British government. The Council is independent and does not collectively take a position on what settlement to the dispute should be adopted, except that it should be acceptable to the three parties.
The SAC made a significant contribution to the resumption of diplomatic relations between Britain and Argentina in 1990 and the subsequent co-operation on fishing in the South Atlantic. Much effort was devoted to helping those in Argentina who had lost sons, brothers or husbands in the 1982 war to come to terms with their grief by being able to visit the war graves on the Islands. Several officially organised visits of the bereaved to the Islands have occurred. In recent years, the progress has been reversed and it has been more difficult to achieve effective communication.
For more details on the early years, see "About Us The Early Years".
Professor Peter Willetts
Copyright: South Atlantic Council, 2012.
Any text on this website may be freely used provided that (a) it is for non-commercial purposes, (b) quotations are accurate and (c) the South Atlantic Council and the website address - www.staff.city.ac.uk/p.willetts/SAC/INDEX.HTM - are cited.
Page maintained by Peter Willetts [P dot Willetts at city dot ac dot uk]
Page published on 2 March 2011 and re-formatted on 25 February 2012.