The Present and the Future

 As far as Anguilla is concerned, British and Caribbean diplomacy stand discredited in the eyes of the world. Anguilla is not under St. Kills’ domination. A Caribbean Commission has been appointed to try to resolve the crisis, And British soldiers are still in Anguilla. More over, the principle of self-determination still remains with us, however ambiguously enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and various other international documents of the post World War II period. Indeed Woodrow Wilson had declared toward the close of World War I that “Peoples and provinces are not to be bartered about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were mere chattels and pawns in a game … “ The American President had also warned that self-determination was “an imperative principle of action which statesmen will henceforth ignore at their peril.” Today with the near-completion of the decolonisation process and the birth of mini-states, leaders are caught between principle and pragmatism. Sometimes it seems that the worst fears of Wilson’s Secretary of State, Robert Lansing. who was hostile to such an extension of the democratic principle. have been realised Holding that the idea of self-determination was “loaded with dynamite” he had remarked that:

 “It will raise hopes which can never be realized It will, I fear, cost thousands of lives. In the end it is bound to be discredited, to be called the dream of an idealist who failed to realise the danger until too late to check those who attempt to put the principle in force What a calamity that the phrase was ever uttered! What misery it will cause![6]

The people of Anguilla are certain that It will not cause any more miser than they saw under Bradshaw and St Kitts. Since the ill-fated invasions several individuals have suggested a re-examination in depth of the whole system of associate statehood. These suggestions were not followed with any specific recommendations. When Ronald Webster unveiled a proposed constitution he had in mind for Anguilla, an editorial in the Trinidad Guardian of May 10, wondered “whether the Anguillans, Mr. Webster, or his advisers are sure what they really want … “ The main reason no specifics had been advanced for the modifications m associate status or the Guardian could find the Anguillans, Mr. Webster or his advisers confused, is simply because everyone is really confused. The whole situation is a confusing one. Had it not been so, the Anguilla sore would not have festered for over two years.

At one time, Mr. Webster was desirous of placing the tiny island under Britain. On another occasion in some sort of Association with the Caribbean States. Britain, eager to place Anguilla under St. Kitts, has been forced to publicly announce to the world that she would not force Anguilla into any association with St Kitts. The Caribbean States, without military power, stand sullenly at their diplomatic blunder. The only clarity that emerges in the whole puzzle is that Anguilla. wants no part of Bradshaw’s rule. This then is the crux of the problem. What is to be done with Anguilla? It must be an arrangement that would be acceptable to the Anguillans, first and foremost; the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth Caribbean States. and St. Kitts. Then whatever is done must be sanctioned by the United Nations. This does not mean legal approval, but it does mean at least tacit approval by the watchdog Special Committee on Colonialism for as Colin Legum has correctly pointed out the Anguilla affair is the symptom of a larger problem Namely: “how to arrange for the future of relatively small groups of people in our post-colonial world, so as to make a reality of the right to self-determination, and to assist in promoting world order.[7]

A study on the mini-state dilemma has indicated that there are over sixty such entities spread over the globe[8]. In this study the population of 300.000 has been taken as the mark of a mini-territory. Whatever differences these mini-territories may have, a common denominator is that the majority of them are tiny and poor. There are exceptions like Monaco, or Qatar in the Persian Gulf. A fundamental difference is that they do not have the same political status. Some are quasi-independent protectorates, others associated states, while yet others are still non-governing territories. At the United Nations, there has already been grumbling on the one-state-one-vote issue with special reference to the mini-states. Recently, the United States asked the Security Council for early consideration of the subject of admission in an attempt to halt the entrance of mini-states to U.N. membership. This is an evident effort to prevent the domination of the world organization by mini-states. Although General Assembly Resolution 1514 (xv) might still offer some guidelines – valid association or amalgamation of small states with others – the core of the Resolution still declares “the right of all states to full and complete independence.” Economically, it is impractical for these tiny territories to be “independent” and if such “independence” is granted, it is certain that some sort of arrangement will be devised where-by they may not be admitted to membership or if admitted, not on the basis of one-state-one-vote.

The Anguilla situation has magnified the problem of very tiny territories. In point of fact, it was while addressing the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly in 1967 on Anguilla’s behalf, that Roger Fisher, Professor of International Law at Havard University, unveiled his model for mini-states. The Fisher model envisages a sort of modified sovereignty or inter-mediate status for these territories, something between dependency and independence. This status would carry with it no regular member-ship in the United Nations, but would be assured of U.N. support – administrative and financial. This assistance from the world organisation would not preclude economic assistance from the former metropolitan power.

Professor Fisher’s-model has merits, but is not perfect. It would be an ideal situation for a mini-state to receive aid from the United Nations and the former metropole power while having the status of modified sovereignty. As a matter of fact, it is on account of this over-attractiveness that this part of the model may run into a snag. Namely, that the prospects of aid from two sources may attract too many applicants and then and there the difficulty of distinguishing between valid from facetious petitioners would intervene.

A merit of the model is that it would permit sensible decolonisation by no longer forcing mini-territories into an imprudent rush towards independence. In short, the obsession with in-dependence would be eliminated. On the debit side, while the model may permit sensible decolonisation, it would sow seeds of fragmentation in the developing world. Adjacent nation states, especially those the size of the Caribbean Commonwealth states, are not going to be happy with islets walking off into this ‘limbo’ independence.

I see no serious problem with the legal status – modified sovereignty or intermediate status – that Professor Fisher advocates. Long before the lunar age had been visited upon us, technology and decolonisation had altered the reality of sovereignty. Whatever demerits may exist in the Fisher model, it is clear that Professor Fisher has been successful in making the point that mini-states are special features of the international system. As such they deserve better treatment than meted out to them under the “obsolete notions of static international law.[9]

During a recent visit to the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister of Trinidad andTobago indicated a willingness to have St. Vincent and Grenada join his nation in associate statehood provided that capital aid now being paid to the islands would be continued. That the British were ‘delighted’ with this idea augurs well for an Anguillan solution in the future. If the St. Kitts government could be persuaded that Anguilla’s departure is irreversible, then the Caribbean states could offer Anguilla a sort of condominium status, with the United Kingdom still assisting Anguilla financially. Of course, if Britain promised unprecedented financial assistance as an inducement for Anguillan reunification with St. Kitts, and Anguilla had a change of heart, all would be solved. Any change of heart on Anguilla’s part, however, would not rely solely on unprecedented financial assistance, but also liberalised constitutional arrangements to ensure that such money found its way into Anguilla.

The task of the Anguilla Commission is a challenging one. If the Commission made a recommendation that involved reunification with St. Kitts, and the Caribbean States were able to convince both Anguilla and St. Kitts to accept this finding, it would indeed be a victory for Caribbean diplomacy. If on the other hand, the Commission successfully recommends an arrangement not involving reunification, this would be more than a diplomatic victory for the Caribbean States. It might well be a Caribbean contribution in the field of international organisation since many mini-states may follow the successful formula as a precedent.


[1] The peace-keeping proposals of the Barbados Agreement can be found in the Conference Report entitled: Anguilla: The Anatomy of Decolonisation – New World Quarterly (Vol. IV, No. 1) Dead Season 1967, pp. 23- 24.

[2] Trinidad Guardian, March 19, 1969

[3] For an interesting discussion of this topic see Chun Suk Bak, An Evaluation of the ‘Decisions’ of the General Assembly of the United Nations as contributory factors to the growth of International law, (Unpublished doctoral dissertation New York Law School, 196 7).

[4] Hans J. Morgenthau. Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (3rd. ed.) (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1961) Chapter 9.


[5] Lucian Pye and Sidney Verba (ed.) Political Culture and Political Development, (Princeton, New Jersey. Princeton University Press, 1965), pp. 7-8.


[6] Wilson’s and Lansing’s view are quoted and discussed in Alfred Cobban, National Self-Determination. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1944) pp. 19-22.

[7] Trinidad Guardian, March 28, 1969.

[8] Patricia Wohlgemuth Blair. The Mini-State Dilemma, Occasional Paper No. 6 (New York: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October, 1967), p. 4.

[9] William J. Brisk, Anguilla and the Mini-State Dilemma. Prepared under the auspices of the renter for International Studies, New York University, 1969, p. 31