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Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)

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Introduction

Background

Although first sighted by an English navigator in 1592, the first landing (English) did not occur until almost a century later in 1690, and the first settlement (French) was not established until 1764. The colony was turned over to Spain two years later and the islands have since been the subject of a territorial dispute, first between Britain and Spain, then between Britain and Argentina. The UK asserted its claim to the islands by establishing a naval garrison there in 1833. Argentina invaded the islands on 2 April 1982. The British responded with an expeditionary force that landed seven weeks later and after fierce fighting forced an Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982. With hostilities ended and Argentine forces withdrawn, UK administration resumed. In response to renewed calls from Argentina for Britain to relinquish control of the islands, a referendum was held in March 2013, which resulted in 99.8% of the population voting to remain a part of the UK.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Southern South America, islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, about 500 km east of southern Argentina

Geographic coordinates

51 45 S, 59 00 W

Map references

South America

Area

total: 12,173 sq km

land: 12,173 sq km

water: 0 sq km

note: includes the two main islands of East and West Falkland and about 200 small islands

country comparison to the world: 163

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Connecticut

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

1,288 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

continental shelf: 200 nm

exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm

Climate

cold marine; strong westerly winds, cloudy, humid; rain occurs on more than half of days in year; average annual rainfall is 60 cm in Stanley; occasional snow all year, except in January and February, but typically does not accumulate

Terrain

rocky, hilly, mountainous with some boggy, undulating plains

Elevation

highest point: Mount Usborne 705 m

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m

Natural resources

fish, squid, wildlife, calcified seaweed, sphagnum moss

Land use

agricultural land: 92.4% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 92.4% (2018 est.)

forest: 0% (2018 est.)

other: 7.6% (2018 est.)

Population distribution

a very small population, with most residents living in and around Stanley

Natural hazards

strong winds persist throughout the year

Geography - note

deeply indented coast provides good natural harbors; short growing season

People and Society

Population

3,198 (2016 est.)

note: data include all persons usually resident in the islands at the time of the 2016 census

country comparison to the world: 228

Nationality

noun: Falkland Islander(s)

adjective: Falkland Island

Ethnic groups

Falkland Islander 48.3%, British 23.1%, St. Helenian 7.5%, Chilean 4.6%, mixed 6%, other 8.5%, unspecified 2% (2016 est.)

note: data represent population by national identity

Languages

English 89%, Spanish 7.7%, other 3.3% (2006 est.)

Religions

Christian 57.1%, other 1.6%, none 35.4%, unspecified 6% (2016 est.)

Birth rate

10.9 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)

country comparison to the world: 179

Death rate

4.9 deaths/1,000 population (2012 est.)

country comparison to the world: 199

Population distribution

a very small population, with most residents living in and around Stanley

Urbanization

urban population: 78.9% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 0.53% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

2,000 STANLEY (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

total population: 1.12 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

note: sex ratio is somewhat skewed by the high proportion of males at the Royal Air Force station, Mount Pleasant Airport (MPA); excluding MPA, the sex ratio of the total population would be 1.04

Infant mortality rate

total: NA (2018)

male: NA

female: NA

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 77.9

male: 75.6

female: 79.6 (2017 est.)

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 78.2% of population

total: 92% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 21.8% of population

total: 5% of population (2017 est.)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 95% of population

rural: 78% of population

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: 5% of population

rural: 22% of population

total: 0% of population (2017)

Environment

Environment - current issues

overfishing by unlicensed vessels is a problem; reindeer - introduced to the islands in 2001 from South Georgia - are part of a farming effort to produce specialty meat and diversify the islands' economy; this is the only commercial reindeer herd in the world unaffected by the 1986 Chornobyl disaster; grazing threatens important habitats including tussac grass and its ecosystem with penguins and sea lions; soil erosion from fires

Climate

cold marine; strong westerly winds, cloudy, humid; rain occurs on more than half of days in year; average annual rainfall is 60 cm in Stanley; occasional snow all year, except in January and February, but typically does not accumulate

Land use

agricultural land: 92.4% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 92.4% (2018 est.)

forest: 0% (2018 est.)

other: 7.6% (2018 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 78.9% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 0.53% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)

etymology: the archipelago takes its name from the Falkland Sound, the strait separating the two main islands; the channel itself was named after the Viscount of Falkland, who sponsored an expedition to the islands in 1690; the Spanish name for the archipelago derives from the French "Iles Malouines," the name applied to the islands by French explorer Louis-Antoine de BOUGAINVILLE in 1764

Dependency status

overseas territory of the UK; also claimed by Argentina

Government type

parliamentary democracy (Legislative Assembly); self-governing overseas territory of the UK

Capital

name: Stanley

geographic coordinates: 51 42 S, 57 51 W

time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: named after Edward SMITH-STANLEY (1799-1869), the 14th Earl of Derby, a British statesman and three-time prime minister of the UK who never visited the islands

Administrative divisions

none (overseas territory of the UK; also claimed by Argentina)

Independence

none (overseas territory of the UK; also claimed by Argentina)

National holiday

Liberation Day, 14 June (1982)

Constitution

history: previous 1985; latest entered into force 1 January 2009 (The Falkland Islands Constitution Order 2008)

Legal system

English common law and local statutes

Citizenship

see United Kingdom

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor Nigel PHILLIPS (since 12 September 2017)

head of government: Chief Executive Barry ROWLAND (since 3 October 2016)

cabinet: Executive Council elected by the Legislative Council

elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor appointed by the monarch; chief executive appointed by the governor

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Legislative Assembly, formerly the Legislative Council (10 seats; 8 members directly elected by majority vote and 2 appointed ex-officio members - the chief executive, appointed by the governor, and the financial secretary; members serve 4-year terms)

elections: last held on 9 November 2017 (next to be held in November 2021)

election results: percent of vote - NA; seats - independent 8; composition -men 8, women 2, percent of women 20%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Court of Appeal (consists of the court president, the chief justice as an ex officio, non-resident member, and 2 justices of appeal); Supreme Court (consists of the chief justice); note - appeals beyond the Court of Appeal are referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (in London)

judge selection and term of office: all justices appointed by the governor; tenure specified in each justice's instrument of appointment

subordinate courts: Magistrate's Court (senior magistrate presides over civil and criminal divisions); Court of Summary Jurisdiction

Political parties and leaders

none; all independents

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (overseas territory of the UK)

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none (overseas territory of the UK; also claimed by Argentina)

Flag description

blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and the Falkland Island coat of arms centered on the outer half of the flag; the coat of arms contains a white ram (sheep raising was once the major economic activity) above the sailing ship Desire (whose crew discovered the islands) with a scroll at the bottom bearing the motto DESIRE THE RIGHT

National anthem

name: Song of the Falklands"

lyrics/music: Christopher LANHAM

note: adopted 1930s; the song is the local unofficial anthem; as a territory of the United Kingdom, "God Save the Queen" is official (see United Kingdom)

Economy

Economic overview

The economy was formerly based on agriculture, mainly sheep farming, but fishing and tourism currently comprise the bulk of economic activity. In 1987, the government began selling fishing licenses to foreign trawlers operating within the Falkland Islands' exclusive fishing zone. These license fees net more than $40 million per year, which help support the island's health, education, and welfare system. The waters around the Falkland Islands are known for their squid, which account for around 75% of the annual 200,000-ton catch.

Dairy farming supports domestic consumption; crops furnish winter fodder. Foreign exchange earnings come from shipments of high-grade wool to the UK and from the sale of postage stamps and coins.

Tourism, especially ecotourism, is increasing rapidly, with about 69,000 visitors in 2009 and adds approximately $5.5 million to the Falkland’s annual GDP. The British military presence also provides a sizable economic boost. The islands are now self-financing except for defense.

In 1993, the British Geological Survey announced a 200-mile oil exploration zone around the islands, and early seismic surveys suggest substantial reserves capable of producing 500,000 barrels per day. Political tensions between the UK and Argentina remain high following the start of oil drilling activities in the waters. In May 2010 the first commercial oil discovery was made, signaling the potential for the development of a long term hydrocarbon industry in the Falkland Islands.

Real GDP growth rate

25.5% (2015 est.)

-1.8% (2014 est.)

-20.4% (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 3

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$206.4 million (2015 est.)

$164.5 million (2014 est.)

$167.5 million (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 221

GDP (official exchange rate)

$206.4 million (2015 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$70,800 (2015 est.)

$63,000 (2014 est.)

country comparison to the world: 11

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 41% (2015 est.)

industry: 20.6% NA (2015 est.)

services: 38.4% NA (2015 est.)

Agricultural products

fodder and vegetable crops; venison, sheep, dairy products; fish, squid

Industries

fish and wool processing; tourism

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 41%

industry: 24.5%

services: 34.5% (2015 est.)

Budget

revenues: 67.1 million (FY09/10)

expenditures: 75.3 million (FY09/10)

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Exports

$257.3 million (2015 est.)

$125 million (2004 est.)

country comparison to the world: 187

Exports - partners

Spain 78%, United States 6% (2019)

Exports - commodities

mollusks, fish, wool, sheep/goat meats, engine parts (2019)

Imports - partners

United Kingdom 79%, Netherlands 16% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, spark-ignition engines, stone processing machinery, construction vehicles, cars (2019)

Exchange rates

Falkland pounds (FKP) per US dollar -

0.7836 (2017 est.)

0.6542 (2016 est.)

0.6542 (2015)

0.6542 (2014 est.)

0.6391 (2013 est.)

Energy

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 2,255

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 77 (July 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 216

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 4,674

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 146 (July 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 219

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: government-operated radiotelephone and private VHF/CB radiotelephone networks provide effective service to almost all points on both islands

domestic: fixed-line subscriptions 77 per 100, 146 per 100 for mobile-cellular (2019)

international: country code - 500; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) with links through London to other countries (2015)

Broadcast media

TV service provided by a multi-channel service provider; radio services provided by the public broadcaster, Falkland Islands Radio Service, broadcasting on both AM and FM frequencies, and by the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) (2007)

Internet users

total: 3,000

percent of population: 98.3% (July 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 221

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 1,610

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 50 (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 190

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 5

Airports - with paved runways

total: 2 (2019)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 1

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 5 (2013)

under 914 m: 5 (2013)

Roadways

total: 440 km (2008)

paved: 50 km (2008)

unpaved: 390 km (2008)

country comparison to the world: 198

Merchant marine

total: 2

by type: general cargo 1, other 1 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 176

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Stanley

Military and Security

Military and security forces

no regular military forces

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of the UK

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Argentina, which claims the islands in its constitution and briefly occupied them by force in 1982, agreed in 1995 to no longer seek settlement by force; UK continues to reject Argentine requests for sovereignty talks