Saharawis not even stakeholder to EU-deal affecting their land

An impact assessment ordered by the EU Commission on the effects of the envisioned EU-Morocco DCFTA confirms that Western Sahara is part of the deal's scope. But the people with the sovereign rights to the land, the Saharawis, will not even be heard as a stakeholder to the process.

Published 17 October 2013

Yesterday, 16 October 2013, ECORYS - an independent consultancy firm hired by the EU Commission to study the impact of the planned Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with Morocco - published its final report. That report, entitled "Trade Sustainability Impact Assessment in support of negotiations of a DCFTA between the EU and Morocco" has been the process of months of research and consultation of stakeholders - who had already received the draft report on 23 September 2013. 

Remarkably, the report and the research leading up to it confirm that the EU-Morocco DCFTA will indeed be applied to the territory of Western Sahara, yet the people of Western Sahara have not been heard by the researchers. This in spite of repeated interventions by WSRW stressing the Saharawi people's right to self-determination, and the initial positive response by the researchers. 

An overview of WSRW's dialogue with ECORYS:

Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) reached out to ECORYS early in the process. In March 2013, WSRW wrote that given the EU's failure to exclude Western Sahara from the scope of its agreements with Morocco, the people of Western Sahara "must be consulted, consent to, and subsequently benefit from, any commercial and export activity in respect of Western Sahara’s abundant natural resources." The letter went on that "Accordingly, we respectfully request ECORYS to include the Saharawi people of Western Sahara as a stakeholder in its Sustainability Impact Assessment of the EU-Morocco DCFTA. We will be pleased to assist you with research in this regard and we note that the proper representative of the Saharawi people, as accepted by the United Nations, is the Frente Polisario governing organisation. " Read the full letter here

A few weeks later, in April 2013, WSRW sent in its three main recommendations to the "Draft Inception Report on the TSIA in support of the DCFTA between the EU and Morocco":
1. WSRW recommends ECORYS to include Saharawi organisations representative of the wishes of the Saharawi people - both those living in the territory occupied by Morocco, as well as those living in the refugee camps in Algeria - into the list of stakeholders.
2. WSRW recommends ECORYS to undertake an assessment of the DCFTA’s potential effects on the human rights situation in Western Sahara, and to specifically appraise whether negotiating a trade deal with Morocco that will apply to Western Sahara without seeking the consent of the Saharawi people is in itself in violation of their human rights.
3. WSRW recommends ECORYS to make the distinction between the territory of Morocco and the territory of Western Sahara in the assessment it has set out to do. 
Read WSRW's full submission here.

Six days later, ECORYS responded the following: 
"As you rightfully point out, Western Sahara is included in the scope of the DCFTA of the European Union. As a result, our study on the impact of the DCFTA also includes Western Sahara. In this respect, your comments and input to the process are very much appreciated since it helps us understanding the context. We will take these comments into account for the drafting of the Interim Technical Report. Regarding human rights, I would like to draw your attention to the inception report on the website that states that we are conducting a separate analysis on human rights issues as part of the additional social analysis. We will take your comment on the human rights analysis into account as well."

WSRW was retained as a stakeholder, and our recommendations were all included in the Draft Inception Report, published on 6 June 2013. In that report, ECORYS had responded to each recommendation. Specifically with regard to the importance of hearing the Saharawi people in this process, ECORYS has responded that a "Saharawi representative organisation" would be included in the consultation process. 

On that same day, 6 June, WSRW reached out to ECORYS on that particular point. "We note that ECORYS will also include a Saharawi representative organisation in the consultation process. If it would be considered helpful, we are more than happy to provide you with contact details of representative Saharawi organisations. It would perhaps be interesting if such an organisation could be invited to the planned workshop with civil society groups in Rabat on 27 June?", WSRW wrote. 

ECORYS did not respond. In fact, ECORYS never followed-up on its initial positive response to including a Saharawi group. 

On 4 July, WSRW sent in its views on the 'Draft Interim Technical Report on the TSIA in support of the DCFTA between the EU and Morocco', now including seven recommendations, including one on a more inclusive approach vis-à-vis the Saharawi people. "As stated on p.62, of the Draft Inception report, regarding the challenge of engaging civil society to take part in public affairs, “caution is needed here as especially the vulnerable groups (e.g. minorities, small-scale domestic producers, women, Western Sahara) may suffer if not properly represented and / or listened to”, WSRW quoted ECORYS' own words, adding that "Given the status of Western Sahara as a Non-Self Governing Territory without a de jure administering power, and given the inclusion of part of the territory in the envisioned EU-Morocco DCFTA, the Saharawi people should rightfully take part in the DCFTA negotiations. To be regarded as a stakeholder in the public consultation of civil society organisations on that agreement, is the bare minimum, but we sincerely hope ECORYS will make the effort. We repeat our willingness to share contact details of relevant Saharawi representatives, if that would helpful."
Read WSRW's full submission to the Draft Interim Technical Report here.

ECORYS responded on 16 July, this time using a jargon that is eerily familiar to the one deployed by the European Commission. The reference to United Nations claiming Morocco being 'de facto administering power' is factually incorrect. 

"Kindly note that Ecorys follows the United Nations position on Western Sahara, considered by the United Nations "non-self-governing territory" with Morocco as its de facto administering power. The DCFTA does not extend to the Western Sahara, but the existing Association Agreement, of which the DCFTA will be part, already includes the Western Sahara. 
In this context, we are not in a position to take into consideration most of the issues you raised in your letter as this is a matter of sovereignty which does not fall in our ambit. Indeed, we can not take sides on the issue of sovereignty on Western Sahara as this has been dealt with by the UN General Assembly which binds all its members, including Morocco. 
As duly mentioned in the Inception report, the ToRs covers Morocco and Western Sahara. With respect to the DCFTA, this agreement includes conditionality with reference to the upholding of Human Rights in all territories under de facto or de jure control of Morocco, whatever their status (ref. UN General Assembly Resolution) as mentioned in the technical report and will be mentioned in the final report."

ECORYS' final report, published yesterday, refers to Western Sahara in passing, estimating that the DCFTA will have a positive effect on the human rights situation - completely ignoring the fact that applying the DCFTA to Western Sahara without the consent of the people of the territory is a fundamental violation of their human rights, and of international law.

The ECORYS report concludes that the DCFTA would be beneficial to Morocco in terms of GDP growth and increased exports to the EU, particularly be important for sectors as agriculture, renewable energy, textiles and offshoring of business support services. WSRW has reported extensively on Morocco's agricultural business and renewable energy plans in occupied Western Sahara. The illegal exploitation of those resources could in the future take place within the framework of the DCFTA.

In June 2012, 31 Saharawi civil society organisations from the territory occupied by Morocco and from the Saharawi refugee camps in southwest Algeria requested the European Commission to exclude their country from the geographical scope of the DCFTA


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