Western Sahara demands a seat at climate table
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Western Sahara republic expresses wish to be included in UN-led climate governance. 

05 September 2023

Picture: Western Sahara president Brahim Ghali on mid row, next to the European Commission's president Ursula von der Leyen.  

“The failure of the UN mandated decolonization process in the last Colony of Africa, Western Sahara, cannot be an excuse to exclude the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) from playing its part in the world’s struggle against climate change and devastating impacts",  Western Sahara President Brahim Ghali stated in his speech at the African Climate Summit in Nairobi today.

The Summit lasts from 4 to 6 September. The delegation of the Western Sahara republic is led by its president, who took the floor today to highlight the climate injustice that is being played out in occupied Western Sahara.

"It’s not acceptable that we are still excluded from financial systems that have been established to act on climate change, as well as unfair not to access Technical Support through UN climate finance mechanisms or multilateral development initiatives”, Mr. Ghali told.

The Western Sahara republic (SADR) is a member state of the African Union, but not of the United Nations, and as such, not a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Photo: Sahara Press Service

The UN's failure to solve the conflict in Western Sahara has thus resulted in the exclusion of the Western Sahara government from global climate governance and finance mechanisms. Meanwhile, the Saharawi people - many living as refugees in one of the most inhospitable parts of the Algerian desert as a consequence of Morocco's brutal occupation - are increasingly exposed and ever more vulnerable to worsening climate hazards to which they have hardly contributed themselves. On top of that, the UN accepts Morocco, which occupies Western Sahara, to include the territory in its national climate plans drafted under the Paris Agreement, allowing the country to artificially inflate its climate mitigation efforts and, as a result, benefit maximally from climate finance mechanism.

“It's absolutely necessary that the SADR be represented in the  UNFCCC and at the COPs and be a signatory to the Paris Agreement to participate in climate negotiations, and formally submit our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the UNFCCC Secretariat”, Ghali added, referring to the climate plan, or NDC, that the Saharawi government has developed at its own initiative to outline the actions it intends to undertake to contribute to global efforts to address the climate crisis.

The Moroccan delegation to the Summit was initially going to be headed by Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch, but in protest to the Saharawi participation, that delegation has been downscaled significantly. 

The three-day Summit brings together heads of state and investors from Africa, and beyond to share experiences and solutions for a sustainable, resilient Africa. They plan to issue a declaration outlining Africa's position ahead of a UN climate conference later this month and the COP28.

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Below is reportedly the full text speech of the SADR president, delivered on 5 September 2023. 

“Your Excellency Mr. William Ruto
President of the Republic of Kenya and President of the AU Committee of Heads of State and Government on Climate Change 
Your Excellency Mr. Azali Assoumani 
chair of the African Union 
Your Excellency Mr. Moussa Faki
Chairman of the AU Commission 
Excellencies 
Ladies and Gentlemen 
Distinguished Guests,

first of all, I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Government and the People of the Republic of Kenya, headed by His Excellency Mr. William Ruto, for the kind invitation, for the warm reception we received. 

We very much appreciate the conditions you provided to make this event a successful one: the African Climate Summit.

Like other nations represented here today, the SADR is on the frontline of the climate crisis. 

We are facing the challenges of climate change at the same time as we are engaged in the struggle for decolonization and against the occupation posed by the Moroccan state, and these challenges are linked. 

This situation has driven over 200,000 Sahrawis into the desert interior, where temperatures are higher, and where the projected impacts of climate change are more extreme than in the occupied homeland from which they have been displaced. 

In the Occupied Territories of the SADR, illegal systematic discrimination and exclusion make our people more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The development by the occupier of settlements, industry, commercial fisheries, coastal infrastructure, and export agriculture, place our environment and natural resources under greater stress.

The occupation military Berm that divides our country starves the eastern areas of water, driving ecological degradation and amplifying the effects of drought in the Liberated Territories of the SADR. The mine-contaminated areas along the Berm turned to be uninhabitable and with low economic productivity. 

These challenges made it both more difficult and more urgent for the SADR to take action on climate change. In recent years we have increased our focus on climate change. The SADR has developed its own Nationally Determined Contribution or NDC, setting out our situation and position, and identifying actions to adapt to climate change and to mitigate it through development based on renewable energy rather than fossil fuels. The NDC is supported by a National Adaptation plan or NAP. The NDC and NAP have been cross-ministerial initiatives.

In the Sahrawi refugee camps, the Sahrawi Government has developed water-efficient agricultural systems and new, low-cost methods of housing construction to confront increased flood risk. Small-scale solar power systems are widespread in the camps.

In the Liberated Territories of Western Sahara, We have piloted rural electrification projects based on solar and wind power, including solar water pumps to support livestock and horticulture, and photovoltaic systems to support medical facilities in remote locations. 

Mr. President, 

Although the SADR is a desert Country, we have much to offer Africa's Blue Economy. Our Atlantic coasts that long over 1110 km are home to abundant fisheries, and our coastline houses important wetlands, including four sites recognised under the international Ramsar convention: Oued Seguia, Boujador, Bay of Dajla and Sabjet Imlili.

Though all these resources are vulnerable to climate change and over exploitation by the occupying State, the SADR will take a different, more responsible, and sustainable approach to the management of our assets in accordance with the African initiative and its aims in preserving the coasts and wetlands in our Continent and worldwide.

We will ensure that sites of international ecological and scientific importance have proper climate-sensitive management plans. We will seek partnerships with other African countries and organisations to build our capacity and share knowledge relevant to the Blue Economy.

The failure of the UN mandated decolonization process in the last Colony of Africa, Western Sahara, cannot be an excuse to exclude the SADR from playing its part in the world’s struggle against climate change and devastating impacts. It’s not acceptable that we are still excluded from financial systems that have been established to act on climate change, as well as unfair not to access Technical Support through UN climate finance mechanisms or multilateral development initiatives.

Nothing can obstruct the SADR from its right and duty to contribute in Africa's, and the world’s existential battle against climate change.

No one can prevent us from sharing the skills and knowledge gained through decades of adapting to harsh climatic conditions with other peoples and nations.

It's absolutely necessary that the SADR be represented in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (the UNFCCC) and at the COPs and be a signatory to the Paris Agreement to participate in climate negotiations, and formally submit our NDC to the UNFCCC Secretariat.

A Sahrawi voice in the UNFCCC and at the COPs will be another African voice at the table and can only strengthen Africa’s position.

The sustainable development and management of Africa’s Blue Economy is closely linked to how we respond to the challenge of climate change. The SADR stands ready and willing to play its part in both with its sister African nationals and world nations.

Thank you very much and I wish you all the best"

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