WSRW calls on Guterres to address the plunder

In a letter letter to the UN Secretary-General, WSRW calls for a more balanced and truthful reporting on Morocco's illegal plunder of occupied Western Sahara's resources.  

15 September 2022

Photo: United Nations/Martine Perret. Troops of the UN Mission for Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). 

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is expected to present his report on Western Sahara to the UN Security Council in early October. In view of that report, Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) last week sent a two-fold request and additional questions to Guterres’ office.

Download the letter here. 

WSRW calls on the UNSG to “give due consideration” to Morocco's plunder Western Sahara's resources in his upcoming report, rather than habitually summarizing the issue “as that Morocco continues to make considerable investments in infrastructure and economic development projects west of the berm, while the Frente Polisario continues to protest these activities”. 

“We consider that the scale of the exploitation and its legal, political and ethical consequences merit a fuller account”, the organisation wrote.

In addition, WSRW calls for the establishment of a mechanism to place the proceeds from the exploitation of the territory’s natural resources under international administration until the conflict has been resolved in line with international law. “Allowing Morocco to systematically profit from the territory’s wealth not only undermines the parties’ good faith needed for the negotiations, it also contributes to financing the ongoing illegal occupation while denying the resources to the Saharawi people for current and future usage”, WSRW wrote. 

The most recent call by UN humanitarian agencies to cover the most pressing needs of the Saharawi refugees in Tindouf included dramatic figures: only 12% of the refugees are food secure, while beneficiaries of the food support program received only 513 kcal per person per day, which is less than half of the required daily intake for adults. “We submit that these needs could be covered many times over through the revenues that Morocco obtains through its illegal exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources”, WSRW’s letter reads.

Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon reported on the important developments in EU courts related to illegal Moroccan trade agreements in the territory. 
But Guterres doesn't. Why?

WSRW also raised two issues which merit clarification from the UN Secretary General. Firstly, why does the current UNSG not refer in any of his reports to the Security Council to any of the EU Court rulings on Western Sahara, while his predecessor did

This is all the more remarkable, given that “the EU – not a direct party to the conflict in Western Sahara – is being increasingly confronted with the consequences of the UN’s inability to resolve the conflict, and has been caught up between a rock and a hard place in trying to reconcile the irreconcilable: the requirements set forth by international law and its own Court on the one hand, and on the other the aggressive demands placed on it by its neighbour to the south, Morocco, which will not shy away from using issues as migration and anti-terror to force its untenable position on Western Sahara onto the EU. This is not the type of relation that the UN would wish to foster among its Member States, and points to the need for the UN to engage more substantially on the issue of Western Sahara’s resources.”

WSRW would equally be grateful if the UN Secretary General could clarify why previous reports have insisted on the continuation of commercial traffic in the Guerguerat area, while this is such a major point of discord between the parties. When Morocco and Polisario entered into the ceasefire agreement in 1988, there was no trading point in Guerguerat. Through the years, in spite of UN condemnation, Morocco has developed this route through the UN buffer strip which it has since used to transport resources out of occupied Western Sahara. Saharawis regularly stage protests at the crossing - to them symbolic of the impunity in which Morocco can continue violating their rights. As remarked by the UN Secretary General himself in his 2019 report on Western Sahara, “the increasing commercial traffic across the buffer strip and the growing civilian activities to impede it are creating tensions in that sensitive area.” Nevertheless, “I call for regular civilian and commercial traffic not to be obstructed”, the report reads. One year on, in November 2020, it were precisely these tensions that would lie at the root of the collapse of the ceasefire and resumption of armed activities in Western Sahara. While the UN Secretary General has not repeated his call for the continuation of commercial traffic in the area in his single report on Western Sahara since armed conflict broke out, WSRW still deems it of interest to have his views on the matter clarified.

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