Trade unions supporting Western Sahara
Trade unions from 16 countries attended the 4th congress of the Sahrawi trade union UGTSARIO in the refugee camps in Algeria, 19th to 21st of October 2008. Read the statement from the unions here, supporting the Sahrawi peoples\' right to self-determination over their country and natural resources.
Published 25 October 2008

Trade unions from 16 countries attended the 4th congress of the Sahrawi trade union UGTSARIO in the refugee camps in Algeria, 19th to 21st of October 2008. Read the statement from the unions here, supporting the Sahrawi peoples' right to self-determination over their country and natural resources.
The text below is from the homepages of Sahrawi Journalists and Writers' Union, UPES, published 23rd of October 2008.

International Trade Unions support Western Sahara self-determination
16 international trade unions expressed support to the Saharawi people right to self-determination and independence in a final declaration they adopted last Monday, after an international conference they organised in El Aaiun camp in the Saharawi refugee camps. The resolution signed by trade unions from Spain, Italy, Australia, Greece, South Africa, Nigeria, Portugal, and others also denounced the Moroccan human rights violations in the occupied zones and condemned Moroccan plundering of the natural resources of the Non-Self-Governing territory.

Here is the complete text of the declaration, of which UPES received a copy:

Declaration of the 4th International Trade Union Conference in solidarity with the Western Saharan workers.
The trade unions that participated in the 4th International Trade Union Conference in solidarity with the Western Saharan workers on October 20, 2008 in El Aaiun (which was part of the 6th congress of UGTSARIO) declare their concerns again about the situation of Western Sahara:

- The lack of results from the direct negotiations between Morocco and the Frente Polisario under the auspices of the UN; after 4 meetings the Moroccan government’s refusal to find a solution in accordance with UN resolutions has been re-confirmed.

- In this regard, we reiterate our support for the UN resolutions that demand the withdrawal of Morocco from Western Sahara, the ability to exercise the right to self determination and the holding of a referendum where the Saharawi people can determine their future.

- In this year that celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Moroccan government continues to violate the basic human rights of Saharawis in the occupied territories with impunity. The arrests, tortures, trials and arbitrary detentions, the disappearances, the intimidations are normal practices that the Saharawi population has to endure. In order to hide its repressive actions and deny international condemnation thereof, the Moroccan government denies international observers the right to enter Western Sahara.

- The deterioration of basic living standards, working conditions, education, sanitation and right to work is constant. To be Saharawi becomes an obstacle to access employment, which converts itself into discriminatory practice in contravention of the ILO and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

- We reaffirm our position, which is outlined in previous Trade Union conferences, and demand from countries, the European and African Unions not to engage in agreements that affect the sovereignty of Western Sahara and the exploitation of its natural resources.

- We reject the recent preferential trading status between Morocco and the EU. We also reject the exploitation of Saharawi natural resources, in accordance with the international law enshrined in the UN resolution 1514. This resolution, prohibits occupying or colonial powers to engage in commercial activities in the occupied territories, during the process of decolonisation.

- The UN resolution 1514 is violated by the presence of Australian, Norwegian, South African and Spanish multinational companies, amongst others, in the occupied territories, who have signed agreements with, and have been given concessions by Moroccan government and companies to exploit the natural resources.

- The trade unions present at the conference affirm that within the current international trade union movement they have to contribute to the presence of UGTSARIO within international trade unions confederations.

- The observer status of the UGTSARIO at the founding congress of the International Trade Union Confederation and in the EU-African trade union summit that took place in Lisbon, helped bring UGTSARIO further into the International Trade Union movement. We consider that the participation of UGTSARIO in future trade union meetings is necessary for its future affiliation to international trade union bodies.

- It is also necessary to include UGTSARIO in the trade unions’ policies of cooperation as a partner and develop projects that include the trade union and professional training in important sectors such as health, education, construction and industries related to the environment, in the refugee camps and liberated territories.

- At the same time we call on the international trade unions to continue to provide food aid to the Saharawi refugees.

- With regards to human, labour and trade union rights we demand of the Moroccan government to comply with ILO conventions and end its discriminatory policies towards the Saharawi people in the occupied territories. We also demand the freeing of political prisoners and that Morocco takes responsibility for the Saharawi “Disappeared”.

- We agree to inform the ILO about Moroccan violation of Saharawi labour and trade union rights.

- We agree to pressure our respective governments, the EU and the African Union, as well as multinational companies and other institutions to denounce :

- a) the human rights violations of Saharawis by Morocco

- b) the illegality of the agreements between Morocco, government administrations and any companies that allow the exploitation of Saharawi natural resources.

- We demand from the EU to be coherent in the defence of human rights and democracy in its commercial agreements with countries outside the EU.

- To reinforce actions of solidarity and protest, we agree to work towards an International Day of Action in 2009 that focuses on the grave situation of Saharawis and the exploitation of their natural resources.

- We oppose Morocco’s denial of access to the occupied territories by international observers to witness the reality on the ground.

We believe that not solving the Western Saharan conflict puts the development of a Euro-Mediterranean dialogue -in which important countries are either actively or passively involved- at risk. It is impossible to construct peace, stability and development in the Mediterranean region without taking into account the rights of the Saharawi people, the occupation of its territories and the violation of human rights, which are fundamental to any democratic society.

Finally, we congratulate the members and delegates of the UGTSARIO, for the outcomes of their 6th congress.

Signatories: OUSA [Union Africana]; UGTA [Algeria]; UGT [España]; CC.OO. [España]; USO [España]; CIGA [España]; ELÄ [España]; CGIL [Italy]; CGTP [Portugal]; COSATU [South Africa]; CTN [Nigeria]; WSRW [International-Norway]; Confederación Obreros de Campesinos [Mexico]; ACTU [Australia]; AWU-Victoria Branch [Australia]; AWSA [Australia]; Socialist Alliance [Australia]; Medias Entertainment and Arts Alliance [Australia]; FSM [Grecia]; UGT-Aragon [España]; UGT-Pais Basco [España]; CGIL-Reggio Emilia [Italy]; CGIL-Ravenna [Italy].

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