Understanding Self-determination, Devolution and Independence in the 21st Century


16th – 17th October 2014


The aim of this symposium is to explore questions of self-determination, devolution and independence, not necessarily as a continuum but to interrogate these definitions as they find expression in this 21st century. Despite it being a core legal principle of the international order, the actual politics of self-determination can nonetheless be a matter which provokes serious debate. Gibraltar for example, has, as is well documented, pursued the right to self-determination within a limited framework that defines both territory and people. The same could be said of the Falkland Islands with which Gibraltar shares a colonial heritage as a British Overseas Territory, whilst both are self-governing in different ways, they remain on the United Nations list of Non-Self Governing Territories.

At the same time, recent moves towards separation in the United Kingdom and Spain add to the debate surrounding individual self-determination. The recent referendum in Scotland and the forthcoming Catalan bid for independence (without forgetting Basque separatism) are realities that present dilemmas with no easy solutions as these moves challenge the traditional yet relatively modern concept of the nation state.

These issues will be discussed across a number of examples – British Overseas Territories to include Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands, Turks and Caicos; Scottish devolution, Catalan independence, the Basque Country and the UN principles of decolonisation.

Programme of Events

Thursday 16th October 2014

Morning Session

9.30am  Opening by the Deputy Chief Minister of Gibraltar the Hon. Dr Joseph Garcia

10.00 – 10.30am  Keynote Speaker, Sir Graham Watson MP

‘The Development of the Idea of Self-determination of Peoples as Expressed by US President, Woodrow Wilson’.


10.45 – 11.10am  COFFEE BREAK

11.10 – 11.45am  Robert Woodthorpe Browne MBE, sits on the Council of the Royal Institute for Foreign Affairs Chatham House, member of the Bureau of Liberal International, Chairman of the International Relations Committee of the Liberal Democrats

‘Self-determination: An International Liberal Perspective’

11.45 – 12.15pm  Dr. Tom Grant, University of Cambridge, Lauterpacht Centre for International Law

‘Self-determination in International Law: Past and Future(s)’



Afternoon Session

Devolution and Independence

2.30 – 3.00pm  Joaquim Torra, Director of the Born Cultural Centre and Vice President of Omnium

‘Catalonia, on the Road to Independence’

3.00 – 3.30pm  Jon Iñarritu García, Diputado por Bizkaia in El Congreso de los Diputados, Madrid

‘Basque Country from Devolution to Self-determination’

3.30 – 4.00pm  Professor Jesús Verdú Baeza, Director, Faculty of Law, Algeciras Campus, University of Cádiz

‘Integridad Territorial Frente al Principio de Autodeterminación en el Caso de Gibraltar. Una Perspectiva Española’ Q&A

4.20 – 4.40pm  COFFEE BREAK

4.40– 5.20pm  Keynote Speaker, Professor Alan Boyle, Professor of Public International Law, University of Edinburgh

‘Devolution, Independence and Referenda: The Scottish Experience’.


6.00pm  Welcome Reception at the Gibraltar Garrison Library

Friday 17th October 2014

Morning Session

Turks and Caicos – Direct Rule

9.30 – 10.00am  Keynote Speaker, Professor Sir Robin Auld Lamb Chambers, Temple, London King’s College London, LLB; Ph.D; Fellow, Visiting Professor in Law; Yale, Cambridge, Arthur Goodhart Professor of Legal Science, 2009 – 2010; Fellow of Selwyn and Wolfson Colleges, 2009 – 2010; Member of Oxford University Appeal Court, was appointed the sole commissioner of the Turks and Caicos Islands Commission of Inquiry.

‘Turks and Caicos Commission of Enquiry into Governmental Corruption 2008-2009: Help or Hindrance to Self-determination’

10.00 – 10.30am  Courtney Griffith QC, Bedford Row Chambers, noted for his ongoing defence of the former president of the Turks and Caicos.

‘Is the idea of British Overseas Territories a Post Colonial Relic which has no Place in the 21st Century: The Turks and Caicos Experience of Direct Rule’


10.50 – 11.10am  COFFEE BREAK

British Overseas Territories, Gibraltar

11.10 – 11.40am  Jamie Trinidad, Fellow and Tutor of Wolfson College, University of Cambridge

‘Self-determination in the Shadow of a Sovereignty Claim: The Case of Gibraltar’

11.40 – 12.10pm  Dr. Jennifer Ballantine Perera, Director, Gibraltar Garrison Library

‘Self-determination as Spectacle: The Press and Gibraltar’s First Visit to the UN Committee of 24 in September 1963’



Afternoon Session

The Falkland Islands/Las Malvinas

2.30 – 3.00pm  Professor Heriberto Cairo Carou, Dean of the Departamento de Ciencia Política y de la Administración III (Teorías y Formas Políticas y Geografía Humana), Universidad Complutense, Madrid.

‘The Kelpers and the Relations Between Argentina and the United Kingdom’

3.00 – 3.30pm  Professor Marcelo Kohen, The Graduate Institute, Geneva

‘The Falklands/Malvinas and the Right of Peoples to Self-determination’

3.30 – 4.00pm  Luke Coffey, Margaret Thatcher Fellow, Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, the Heritage Foundation. ‘Why the US Should Back the Inalienable Right to Self-determination of the Falkland Islanders’


4.20 – 4.40pm  COFFEE BREAK

4.40pm  Keynote Speaker, Christopher Gardner QC, Chief Justice of Falklands, S Sandwich and S Georgia, Br Antarctic Territory and Br Indian Ocean Territory, will sum up the proceedings.