The international camel research network ISOCARD has instructed its Moroccan partners to move the location of its upcoming conference from Western Sahara to Morocco.
ISOCARD, the International Society of Camelid Research and Development, had earlier this year announced that it was hosting its triennial conference in El Aaiun, the capital city of occupied Western Sahara. The conference had invited its 260 members for a programme with renowned international camel experts as speakers.
WSRW on 27 March contacted the organisation, requesting the conference be moved to a city in Morocco proper. WSRW asked whether the organisation had been aware that its Moroccan partners was planning to host the conference outside of the international borders of Morocco.
ISOCARD has now replied that it has instructed its Moroccan partners to change the location of the conference, and that the matter ought to be settled within one month's time. Read their full response below.
Western Sahara Resource Watch welcomes the decision of ISOCARD.
"We express our full understanding of the difficult situation that ISOCARD faced following the decision of its Moroccan partners to locate the event in Western Sahara. We have today thanked ISOCARD for a quick and constructive solution to this issue", stated Sara Eyckmans of Western Sahara Resource Watch.
In recent years, following negotiations to seal a Geographical Indication Agreement with the European Union, Morocco has commenced according so-called ‘Geographical Indications’ to camel milk and camel cheese originating in Western Sahara. This is problematic, underlining that the government of Morocco is specifically using the camel sector in Western Sahara to gain political acceptance on its illegitimate claims to the territory.
ISOCARD's host organiser is the Moroccan "Institut Agronomique et Veterinaire Hassan II", based in Rabat and responsible for the conference's logistics. To date, the call for abstracts and presentation of the ISOCARD conference continue to refer to "Laayoune" (French spelling of El Aaiun) as the venue for the conference. The documentation also still locates Laayoune in Morocco, instead of in Western Sahara. WSRW believes this information will be altered soon.
The conference documentation has already been altered in other respects. Up until recently, it boasted the financial backing of the UN Food and Agriculture Origanisation (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). However both organisations have written to WSRW that they have nothing to do with the conference in Western Sahara. The names of FAO and OIE have now been dropped from the available conference material. See below screenshots of the conference documentation: the screenshot on the left was taken mid-April 2018, the screenshot to the right was taken 3 May 2018.
On behalf of the members of the Executive Council of the ISOCARD , I would like to express our sincere greetings. I forward this email to all the Executive Council of ISOCARD. Based on your letter dates March, 27, 2018, I would like to explain the following:
1: ISOCARD is non-political society (www.ISOCARD.Net, constitution of ISOCARD).
2: According to the ISOCARD Constitution, one of the main tasks of the Executive Council is to choose the host country for the conference rather than the city.
3: Your letter dated on March, 27 was forwarded on the same day to all members of the Executive Council for discussion.
4: The Executive Council discussed your distinguished message and voted yes to change the current city and choose another city (should be big and has international airport).
5: A letter has been sent to the host organizer to change the current city to another city within one month.
Despite promises of moving its triennial conference from El Aaiun, occupied Western Sahara, to a city in Morocco proper, ISOCARD now states it will not do so, because "it has no power to change the city" - indicating the organisation's lack of backbone to go against its Moroccan hosts.
Both the FAO and OIE have denied funding or even taking part in ISOCARD's 2018 conference, scheduled to take place in El Aaiun, occupied Western Sahara, in November this year.
Under a proposed agreement between EU and Morocco on so-called 'Geographical Indications', camel milk and camel cheese from occupied Western Sahara could receive protection as a Moroccan product.
WSRW’s repeated questions on the organisation’s structure or financial backers for the contested event on occupied land remain unanswered.