Saharawis protest Morocco’s greenwashing

Saharawi civil society voices concern over Morocco's gigaplans for renewable energy in occupied Western Sahara during COP28 climate summit and to UN special rapporteur. 

12 December 2023

PHOTO: Ahmedna Abdi M'barek, the only Saharawi to have attended this year's climate summit.

For two weeks, the UN climate summit in Dubai has taken place without formal representation of the Saharawi people.

Morocco is actively using the UNFCCC and international climate mechanisms to legitimise and obtain support for its illegal occupation of the larger part of Western Sahara. While its invasion has pushed half of the Saharawi people into refugee camps located in a climate disaster-prone area, Morocco's reluctance to solve the conflict has furthermore left the Saharawis excluded from negotiations and mechanisms to cope with the risks they face. This was underlined by climate change specialist Nick Brooks to Western Sahara Resource Watch. 

Only one Saharawi was able to attend the climate summit this year, jurist Ahmedna Abdi M'barek, member of the civil society group Sahrawi Ecosocial Network. His accreditation to access the summit was facilitated by a European non-governmental organisation.

«Morocco’s energy projects in the occupied territory have not obtained the consent from the Saharawi people and are used to maintain and increase the theft of the natural resources of the territory», stated Ahmedna Abdi M'barek.

M'barek has attended a COP before, and has now on two occasions observed how Morocco shows bad faith in the climate talks by embellishing the illegal occupation. He was able to address this concern with a handful of representatives from various member states.

«The problem remains, that UNFCCC is practically legitimising the occupation by allowing Morocco to report on its projects in occupied territory», M'barek says.

M’barek is part of a campaign by a network of young Saharawis who have been engaged in raising awareness of the unjust situation that Western Sahara is facing when the UN's climate body allows for such practices.

«Our network reflects a growing interest among the Saharawi youth, committed to the cause and to highlight the dirty greenwashing practices of Morocco and its corporate partners», M’barek states.

His group also published a video by one the leading Saharawi human rights defenders from occupied territory, Ghalia Djimi. «This is an appeal to those attending and organizing COP28», Djimi stated. «I ask you to support the Saharawi people».

Coinciding with COP28's kick-off on 30 November 2023, Saharawi groups responded to an open invitation from the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, Mr Ian Fry, submitting a report about projects and companies present in the renewable sector with the Moroccan government on the occupied territory. 

The joint submission was sent in by 15 Saharawi organisations and some Spanish solidarity associations.

«The framework on Business and Human Rights is used to greenwash projects run on occupied land and the occupation itself, signed with the government of the Western Sahara’s neighbouring country, Morocco», the organisations wrote.

The report specifically names controversial projects in the occupied territory undertaken by companies such as Enel, Siemens Gamesa, General Electric, Voltalia and Engie.

The COP28 in Dubai is the fourth time Saharawis take part – or try to take part – in the COP. This year’s participant M’Barek also took part in COP27 in Cairo, together with a compatriot. COP26 in Glasgow 2021 was attended by activist Asria Taleb. In COP22 in 2016 in Marrakech, the vice-president of the Panafrican parliament, Saharawi representative Suelma Beirouk, was expelled from Morocco upon landing in the country, inspite of being properly accredited.


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