The issue of Western Sahara was discussed during the UN Special Committee on Decolonization 2014 Pacific Regional Seminar which was held in Nadi, Fiji, from 21 to 23 May with a view to accelerating action in implementation of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2011-2020).
The Saharawi representative Fadel Kamal pointed out that “51 years had passed since the Territory had been placed on the Special Committee’s list as Africa’s last colony.” He underlined that the Saharawi people are frustrated that the United Nations has not done more to fulfil this responsibility and that heir legitimate aspirations remain unfulfilled, while Morocco continues to obstruct the UN’s political process, exploit Western Sahara’s natural resources, and violate the fundamental human rights of the Saharawi people.”
He said that “Morocco obstructed the referendum process because it feared the inevitable result and the international community has turned a blind eye to this miscarriage of justice, and allowed Morocco to get away with its violations of UN resolutions.”
He emphasised that MINURSO, the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, is the only UN Peacekeeping Mission established since 1978 that does not have a mandate to monitor and report on the human rights situation on the ground. This inexplicable exception to the rule allows Morocco to continue to oppress the population in the occupied Territory. The Saharawi representative highlighted in his statement before the Seminar Morocco’s systematic plunder of the natural resources of Western Sahara, particularly fisheries and phosphates, in violation of international law. He said “that economic exploitation is another form of colonialism and is incompatible with the UN Charter.”
He added in his statement that “we are now at a critical turning point, as certain oil companies such as Kosmos Energy and Cairn Energy are preparing to engage in drilling for oil and gas offshore Western Sahara for the first time. It would be extremely dangerous to allow this drilling to take place, and we have brought this squarely to the attention of the UN Secretary-General and the UN Security Council. Aside from its illegality, any drilling offshore Western Sahara could fundamentally derail the UN settlement process, and for this reason it must be stopped.”
He concluded his statement by saying that “that the international community has truly failed the Sahrawi people. MINURSO, has not organised the promised referendum, has failed to stop the systematic human rights abuses in the occupied Territory, and has similarly turned a blind eye to the illegal exploitation of our people’s natural resources.” He stressed that “the only peaceful way to resolve the question of Western Sahara is through the organisation of a free, fair and transparent referendum held under the auspices of the United Nations and the African Union. If Morocco does not wish to negotiate, and it appears not to, then it must be obligated to allow the self-determination referendum to take place. In the meantime, the UN must mandate its Mission in Western Sahara to monitor the human rights situation. The natural resources of this Non-Self-Governing Territory must be protected until the decolonisation process is completed. The responsibility of the UN towards the Saharawi people must be upheld. The Special Committee must therefore do much more to bring about the decolonisation of Western Sahara once and for all. We urge the Special Committee to send a delegation to Western Sahara and report publicly on its findings.”
It is worth noting that the representatives of Ecuador and Cuba reaffirmed their strong support to the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to self-determination. The representative of Chile said that he would welcome a referendum in Western Sahara, which had been denied for many years and the representative of Sierra Leon said that the African Union role in the issue of Western Sahara should be taken into consideration and that the AU wished to encourage greater synergy between itself and the Special Committee in order to find a solution.
The Seminar’s conclusions and recommendations will be considered by the Special Committee during its June substantive session in New York, and subsequently transmitted to the General Assembly.