Taking Up Question of Western Sahara, Some Speakers in Special Decolonization Committee Call for Urgent Self-Determination Referendum, Voice Concern over Human Rights Abuses
The Special Committee on Decolonization continued the substantive part of its 2023 session today, examining in depth the question of the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Western Sahara.
During the session, the 29-member Special Committee — formally known as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples — heard from a wide swathe of petitioners and United Nations Member States, who took the floor to air their views on the more than 50-year-long territorial dispute between Morocco and the Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro (Frente POLISARIO), which administers part of the Territory.
Many speakers characterized Western Sahara as the last colony in Africa, emphasizing the need for its anachronistic situation to be addressed through an urgent self-determination referendum. Others voiced deep concern over the human rights violations perpetrated by Frente POLISARIO, particularly in the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, endorsing an autonomy initiative put forth by Morocco as the most realistic and practical way forward. Representatives of several United Nations Member States noted they had established consulate generals in Lauyoune, the Territory’s largest city.
Sidi Mohamed Omar, speaking for Frente POLISARIO, recalled General Assembly and Security Council resolutions related to the issue and condemned the illegal Moroccan occupation. Describing Frente POLISARIO as the sole and legitimate political movement in the Territory, he said that the right of the people of the Western Sahara to self-determination is not affected by the passage of time or the fait accompli by Morocco. The Territory is committed to an early and peaceful solution to the situation but will continue to defend its right to self-determination by all legitimate means, he added.
Ghalla Bahiya, a petitioner speaking for the Conseil Régional de Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab, rejected Frente POLISARIO’s assertion that the Moroccan Sahara is under military occupation. She drew attention instead to the “remarkable progress” made in the Moroccan Sahara, pointing out that it was the least developed region in her country when it was recovered in 1975, while today the southern provinces have very high development indicators. Spotlighting the regional and local elections in 2021, she said they demonstrate Morocco’s commitment to democracy. Moreover, the new development model launched by Mohammed VI in 2015 is an ambitious initiative that is boosting the economy and developing infrastructure, renewable energy and tourism, she added.
Boullah Taleb Aomar was among a smattering of petitioners who spotlighted the plight of the more than 170,000 Sahrawi refugees in the Tindouf camps who continue to wait for a settlement to the dispute. As the demographics of the territory are changed and its resources plundered, Sahrawis continue to face economic hardships and political oppression, he said, stressing: “We have no hope for a clear future.”
Echoing such concerns, Touria Hymene, speaking on behalf of the “Association pour la liberté des femmes sequestrées dans les camps de Tindouf”, deplored the human rights violations suffered by those residing in the “lawless zone” of the camp at the hands of Frente POLISARIO, who was violating their freedom of expression and association, as well as carrying out forced disappearances. Also voicing alarm over the degrading treatment meted out to the camp’s women, including forced slavery and forced marriage, she called for a United Nations investigation to be conducted into such abuses.
Meanwhile, petitioner Jaclyn Cerisano drew attention to the Moroccan “wall of shame”, adding that this military barrier has had destructive consequences for the people of Western Sahara. Recalling that it was built in the early 1980s, she said that according to international mine action organizations, there are about 7 million landmines throughout Western Sahara, which makes it one of the most heavily mined areas in the world. Civilians on both sides of the wall frequently suffer injuries, amputations and death from accidents related to landmines, she said, adding that the wall also separates the occupied Territory of Western Sahara from the Sahrawi liberated areas.
The representative of Ethiopia was among several speakers lauding the work of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Staffan de Mistura, while also highlighting the efforts of the African Union, as testament to the organization’s commitment to finding peaceful solution within the framework of African solutions to African problems. She called for a lasting and mutually acceptable solution to the situation in accordance with Security Council resolutions.
Echoing such points, Dominica’s delegate voiced support for the Secretary-General’s role in advancing efforts towards a pragmatic solution in line with Security Council resolution 2602 (2021), as well as for the Morocco Autonomy Plan as a basis for a realistic solution. Underscoring the importance of compromise, he called for the resumption of round-table dialogue among Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and Frente POLISARIO.
For his part, Cuba’s representative underscored the need to implement relevant United Nations resolutions on Western Sahara and for a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution to be reached in keeping with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV). However, Cuba does not support any unilateral decision on autonomy without sovereignty, which violates international law and Assembly resolutions 1514 (XV) and 2625 (XXV), he added, while also highlighting his country’s steadfast support to the Sahrawi people since 1976, including through its continuing contributions in the realms of education and health.
Rounding out the discussion, the representative of Algeria, noting that Western Sahara is the last colony in Africa, “keeping a whole people hostage”, questioned why no progress has been made on a free and fair referendum. Turning to the legal nature of the question of Western Sahara as a decolonization matter, he noted that the International Court of Justice concluded that there is no legal tie of any nature between Western Sahara and Morocco which could affect the implementation of Assembly resolution 1514 [which provides for the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples]. He went on to request the Special Committee to visit Al Laayoune and Tindouf in order to get a first-hand perspective.
Meanwhile, Morocco’s delegate countered that the issue of referendums, raised by some, was “effectively buried” by the Council two decades ago. The issue of the decolonization of the Moroccan Sahara was “definitively and irrevocably sealed”, having been considered under Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter, he said, adding: “Only the Security Council is in a position to make recommendations, which it does every year.” On the political process, he noted that the success of the Moroccan autonomy initiative hinges on the participation in round-table talks of Mauritania, Algeria and Frente POLISARIO. In that context, he voiced regret that Algeria did not wish to participate, despite the Council’s successive calls for all parties to come to the table.
The Special Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 20 June, to continue its work.
Question of Western Sahara
SIDI MOHAMED OMAR, speaking for the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguía el-Hamra y de Río de Oro [Western Sahara] (Frente POLISARIO), recalling General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, condemned the illegal Moroccan occupation. Emphasizing that the Frente POLISARIO is the sole and legitimate political movement in the Territory which was proved to enjoy massive support by the first and last visiting mission to the Territory, he said that the last colony in Africa is still denied the right to self-determination amid the relentless continuing illegal occupation by Morocco. The right of the people of the Western Sahara to self-determination is not affected by the passage of time or the fait accompli by Morocco, he said, adding that the Territory is committed to an early and peaceful solution to the situation, but will continue to defend its right to self-determination by all legitimate means.
GHALLA BAHIYA, speaking for the Conseil Régional de Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab, commended the remarkable progress made in the Moroccan Sahara. When recovered in 1975, it was the least developed region in her country, she said, adding that today the southern provinces have very high development indicators. Drawing attention to the regional and local elections in 2021, she said they demonstrate Morocco’s commitment to democracy. The new development model launched by Mohammed VI in 2015 is an ambitious initiative that is boosting the economy and developing infrastructure, renewable energy and tourism. Rejecting Frente POLISARIO’s assertion that the Moroccan Sahara is under military occupation, she highlighted the human rights violations in the Tindouf camps.
M’HAMED ABBA, speaking for the Conseil Régional de Laâyoune-Sakia Al Hamra, noted Morocco’s great efforts in creating new opportunities for the development of southern provinces. The new development model for that region launched in 2015 has mobilized all resources to stimulate the socioeconomic development process and priority sectors with the aim of ensuring the well-being of Moroccan Sahara’s citizens. Voicing concern about the situation in the Tindouf camps, he said Morocco’s autonomy initiative has the support of a growing number of countries and is the basis for negotiations to find a solution to that dispute.
DAHI AHL EL KHATTAT, speaking for the Rotary Club de Dakhla, speaking as an advocate for Western Sahara, noted that its population elects its local and national representatives, and that those elections enjoy high levels of participation. The southern district of Morocco is part and parcel of the country’s legal processes, and civil society associations are free to participate in legislative processes and electoral events. However, he deplored the conditions suffered by the inhabitants of Tindouf due to Frente POLISARIO, “an armed group which has committed the worst possible crimes, in collusion with the host country, which gives them support and asylum”. The situation has been mentioned in United Nations reports to the Security Council, he added.
MOULAY BRAHIM CHRIF, speaking for the Association « Laâyoune Initiatives », praising the autonomy initiative, said it provides for legislative and administrative institutions to run the affairs of the Western Sahara locally and democratically. The inhabitants of the region elect their representatives, including to the parliament, he said, pointing also to the new development initiative launched by Morocco in 2015. Whereas in Tindouf, the inhabitants have been suffering for five decades, he said.
BOULLAH TALEB AOMAR said conflict continues with no hope for a solution that guarantees the rights of Western Sahara’s inhabitants. The referendum was never completed, and a peaceful settlement was never reached, he said, drawing attention to the more than 170,000 Saharan refugees in the Tindouf camps who continue to wait for settlement. They continue to face economic hardships and political oppression, he added, stressing: “We have no hope for a clear future.” Changing the demographics of the territory of Western Sahara and plundering its resources is illegal, he said, pointing out that many parties in the international community have taken part in this crime.
MOHAMED ALI ARKOUKOU, speaking for the Sahrawi Association in USA, deplored the human rights violations suffered on a daily basis by the people of Western Sahara, including the beatings dealt out to peaceful demonstrators. He also deplored the unlawful detention of two dozen Sahrawi prisoners. The recent display by the occupying Power of a picture of children in a camp in military uniform to back baseless accusations echoed the “stupid moment” that Colin Powell held up a photo for similar effect, he stressed. He also deplored the “double standards and hypocrisy” of the United Nations, which supports Ukrainian refugees and does not extend such support to the plight suffered by Sahrawis for the past four years.
WYND KAUFMAN, speaking for Karama Sahara, said that she had been detained last summer during an attempt to visit Western Sahara, during which she was escorted into a small room, detained for several hours and violently forced on a plane back to Casablanca. During this time, she suffered bruises and was subjected to emotional distress when an agent lifted her shirt and exposed her breasts to the entire plane, she added. Such brutality by occupying agents nonetheless pales in comparison to the conditions suffered by Sahrawis for the past half century, she said, also citing cancelled and aborted visits by various politicians, diplomats, researchers and journalists. Such actions are an attempt to hide from the world the conditions endured by the people of the Territory, she stressed, calling on the situation of the people to be addressed before it deteriorates to the point of being dire.
TALEB ALI SALEM said that thousands of people are suffering because of the brutal occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco. Noting that refugees from that Territory have been waiting in the deserts for decolonization for 47 years, he asked how long the major Powers with vested interests in the Territory will cover up the truth. How long will Spain continue to evade its responsibility for decolonizing Western Sahara, he added, noting that the Sahrawi people have been counting resolutions on paper, as well as their own victims. Expressing concern about the “complicit silence” of the United Nations, he said the credibility of the Organization depends on decolonizing the last colony in Africa.
CHRIS SASSI, speaking for SKC, asked: “What are the prospects for the Sahrawi people?” Noting that Frente POLISARIO was established to liberate the Territory from the occupying Power, he said that many refugees have grown up entirely in the camps. The fight for independence continues because they would prefer to die with dignity. Citing the United States Constitution which begins with “We the People” and the French call for liberty, fraternity and equality, he noted that the United States is the top provider of energy to occupied Sahrawi territory, while France is also supporting Morocco. Yet both countries support Ukraine and are sending tanks and sharing intelligence with that country, he noted, condemning the double standards of these Security Council permanent members.
KATHLEEN THOMAS, speaking for Global Directives LLC, noting that she was the former official of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) in charge of legal affairs, voiced concern about the United Nations inability to ensure the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara and to end the situation in which their human rights are being consistently violated. “There is simply no reason for a colony to exist on the African continent in 2023,” she stressed, noting that the American Bar Association recently issued a resolution calling for the United States to take steps to enforce those rights. The Special Committee could do a lot more to alleviate the harm done to the people of Western Sahara by Morocco, she added.
CLAUDIA UREY, speaking for the American Association of Jurists, said it supports the self-determination of peoples and the sovereignty of States over their financial resources, defence of human rights and actions against colonialism. Noting that Spain continues de jure to be the administering Power today with a position incompatible with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), she called on States to rectify their policies on western Sahara and violations of their sovereignty over their natural resources. The plunder of the natural resources of the people of Western Sahara denies their right to development, she said, adding that this is supported by members of the European Union and other States through illegal agreements in agriculture and fisheries.
TOURIA HYMENE, speaking for the Association pour la liberté des femmes sequestrées dans les camps de Tindouf, deplored the human rights violations suffered by many in the “lawless zone” of the camp at the hands of the “armed criminal militia”, Frente POLISARIO, compounded by the lack of legal framework covering those in the Algerian territory. The freedom of expression and association of residents is being violated by Frente POLISARIO, which uses force to repress gatherings, resulting in arrests and detention in “sinister” prisons, she said, also voicing concern about the militia’s recourse to forced disappearances. Further, women were subjected to degrading treatment, including forced slavery and forced marriage, she said, also spotlighting a case of sexual assault involving a Frente POLISARIO leader. The international community must not ignore the situation, she stressed, calling for a United Nations investigation into ongoing human rights violations, affecting women and children.
AHMED FANAN, noting that Morocco has been occupying the Western Sahara for decades, using it for its natural resources and for tourism, underscored the need for international intervention to help its people achieve self-determination. He deplored the human rights violations perpetrated by Moroccan authorities, including kidnappings and torture in detention centres. Emphasizing the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination by referendum, although Morocco does not want this to take place, he voiced concern over the plight of citizens who cannot express their views on the occupation. “As a free citizen who believes in human rights and the just cause of Western Sahara”, he voiced support for the right of the Sahrawi people, including journalists and detained persons, to freedom.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) condemned the intervention of “the last mercenary” speaker, adding that he was not qualified to speak. His statement was full of lies and he has been blocked from the work of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), he said, adding that now he is trying to be a blot on the work of the Special Committee. He requested the Chair to ensure that petitioners respect Member States and their institutions.
The Chair reminded petitioners to stick to the agenda item.
ADRIENNE KINNE, speaking for Veterans for Peace, describing herself as a human being who cares about social justice, shared her experience of visiting Western Sahara. During her first visit, she saw for herself the strength of Sahrawis who have been waiting and advocating for a referendum promised decades ago, she said, also detailing incidents of harassment by occupation authorities, as well as reports of people being denied the freedom of travel and children being detained for visiting the home of a human rights defender. “I saw the bruises and injuries on the bodies of women who had been harassed, beaten and raped by occupation forces,” she said, adding that what is happening in Western Sahara is unjust and unacceptable in the twenty-first century. She also condemned the United States’ erasure of Western Sahara from official maps.
MOHAMMED ELAISSAOUI, speaking for L’organisation pour la fin des violations des droits de l’homme dans les camps de Tindouf, said Frente POLISARIO is an accomplice to the terrorism being waged in the region, adding that many of its members are linked to terrorist organizations in the Sahel. Many Government officials have flagged the dangers emanating from the Tindouf camps, which has become a fertile breeding ground for the indoctrination of Islamic State, as no proper social protection is offered to the people of the Territory. He condemned the corruption surrounding humanitarian assistance, pointing out that much of that aid does not reach intended participants.
SAAD BENNANI, voicing concern about the systematic diversion of humanitarian aid destined to the people in the Tindouf camps, said the testimonies of several former members of Frente POLISARIO who fled the camps confirmed that the humanitarian aid is embezzled. Citing various reports, including by the World Food Programme (WFP), he said this illegal diversion of humanitarian aid is possible because the host country still refuses to allow the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to conduct a census or registration to know the exact number of people living in those camps and to be able to assess their real humanitarian needs.
DAVID MLADJENOVIC called for constructive multilateralism to help the people of Western Sahara achieve self-determination, citing the need to adhere to relevant provisions of the United Nations Charter. Voicing regret that the core objective of MINURSO cannot be achieved, he called for the promotion of solutions to tackle the decolonization question, including through support by the Security Council, which must also ensure the documentation of human rights violations, as is done by other peacekeeping missions.
MICHAEL HOLEWKA, speaking for the Global Media Defence Fund, said the continuation of colonization in the Western Sahara, despite the adoption of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), obstructs the achievement of sustainable development and peace. The continued occupation of Morocco of the Western Sahara is impeding the achieving of the rights to self-determination and development, he said, adding that Morocco has no right to dispose of the region’s resources without the consent of its indigenous people. Highlighting the concerns raised by Sahrawi civil society organizations about the poverty and second-class treatment they suffer, amid settlers brought in by occupying Powers, he added: “It is odd and embarrassing to talk about colonialism in the twenty-first century.”
JACLYN CERISANO drew attention to the Moroccan “wall of shame”, adding that this military barrier has had destructive consequences for the people of Western Sahara. Recalling that it was built in the early 1980s, she said that according to international mine action organizations, there are about 7 million landmines throughout Western Sahara, which makes it one of the most heavily mined areas in the world. Civilians on both sides of the wall frequently suffer injuries, amputations and death from accidents related to landmines, she said, adding that the wall also separates the occupied Territory of Western Sahara from the Sahrawi liberated areas. This has greatly affected the traditional livelihood of many Sahrawis and their traditional desert lifestyle, she said, adding that the wall also enables Morocco to continue plundering the natural resources of the Territory.
NAAMA SGHAYER asked why the Security Council, as well as the United Nations, are ignoring “this state of war we’ve been living under”. Condemning the actions of the Moroccan occupying forces, he highlighted the suffering of thousands of refugees in the Tindouf camps. Calling for the implementation of United Nations resolutions, he expressed determination to continue fighting for the independence of the Territory. “There are Sahrawis who have sold their conscience and to them, I would like to say the following: betrayal will not achieve anything,” he said.
RESNYA HUGHES said Morocco has adopted a systematic policy to wipe out the Sahrawi identity and culture by preventing the indigenous Sahrawis from speaking their own dialect or displaying any feature of their own culture in public. Detailing other human rights violations, she said MINURSO’s continued operation without the capacity to monitor human rights in the Territory is unacceptable. The United Nations and the Special Committee cannot remain idle in the face of the gross human rights violations by the occupying Power, Morocco, against the people of Western Sahara and should take all necessary measures to monitor and protect their human rights and ensure the realization of their inalienable right to self-determination and independence.
CHEJUNA TAUALUMRU condemned the lack of follow-up and monitoring of the human rights situation in Western Sahara, noting that it has encouraged the occupying Power to continue human rights violations targeting the Sahrawis. Two years ago, Sahrawi human rights defenders spoke before the Special Committee and called for the establishment of an international mechanism to protect Sahrawi civilians in the occupied Territory and to put an end to the plundering of natural resources, he recalled, adding that such a mechanism would allow them to achieve self-determination and hold Moroccan leaders accountable. Noting that the Sahrawi people have placed its trust on the United Nations, he asked: “What have you done?”
JOAQUÍN ALBERTO PÉREZ AYESTARÁN (Venezuela), voicing his country’s strong and unswerving support for the brotherly Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination, in line with international law and various resolutions, voiced regret about the breach of the mandate granted to MINURSO 30 years ago. Further, he rejected any attempts to characterize the issue as anything other than a question of decolonization and underscored the need to reactivate a political process in Western Sahara through direct negotiation between the parties under the auspices of the United Nations. The ceasefire of 1991 must be preserved, and unilateral approaches must be avoided to stave off potential tensions, he added.
CARMEN ROSA RIOS (Bolivia), stressing the importance of a negotiated process towards finding a just and lasting political solution, stressed the importance of dialogue between the parties. Such dialogue must take place without preconditions, she said, adding that the Special Committee must not close its eyes to the reality of the Sahrawi people. They have made known their desire for independence, she pointed out, adding that the principle of leaving no one behind means the United Nations must assist this “brother people” to determine their own future and develop their own social, political and cultural trajectory.
KARLITO NUNES (Timor-Leste) said the international community has a responsibility to bring about a successful, speedy and sustainable solution for the total eradication of colonialism. The joint commitment of all parties involved, including the former colonial Powers, to engage in new dynamics will be crucial in guiding the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories towards their desired objectives, he added. The only viable, realistic and enduring solution to the decolonization of Western Sahara is the solution that fully respects its people’s sovereign will to determine their own future through a free and fair referendum on self-determination, he said, joining others in calling for the full implementation of MINURSO’s mandate.
KAREN JEAN BAIMARRO (Sierra Leone) called for a balanced and thorough assessment of the situation in each of the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories, noting their uniqueness and the need for each Territory to be handled on a case-by case-basis. On the question of Western Sahara, she commended the Secretary-General for his support to the ongoing political process, including through the visits by his Special Envoy to Rabat and Tindouf camp in 2022, as well as recent informal consultations in 2023. Voicing support for the Moroccan initiative for negotiating an autonomy statute for the Sahara region, she called on all stakeholders to provide it sustained impetus, noting that it is viewed as a compromise solution to the regional dispute in conformity with relevant international laws and resolutions, especially concerning the devolution of authority to the local population.
LEMLEM FISEHA MINALE (Ethiopia), noting that Western Sahara remains an outstanding issue on the agenda of the Special Committee, called for a lasting and mutually acceptable solution in accordance with Security Council resolutions. Commending the work of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Staffan de Mistura, and highlighting the efforts of the African Union, she said the latter is testament to the commitment of the organization to finding peaceful solution within the framework of African solutions to African problems. Calling on all concerned to work closely and constructively with the United Nations and international community to ensure a spirit of cooperation to address the humanitarian needs in Western Sahara, she said it is possible to attain a realistic and enduring political solution.
GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) said everyone needs to work in a spirit of compromise to ensure that further round tables are convened in keeping with Council resolution 2654 (2022) adopted last year. Morocco’s autonomy initiative would offer many opportunities to local populations and is the best compromise solution to the Moroccan Sahara issue. Voicing concern about the situation in the Tindouf camps, he called for the recommendations of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to be upheld. He expressed hope that Morocco will continue to uphold the ceasefire and cooperate with MINURSO and called on other parties to uphold existing military agreements and to cooperate with the Mission for peace and stability in the region.
KELVER DWIGHT DARROUX (Dominica) voiced support for the United Nations involvement in the political process aimed at reaching a mutually acceptable solution to the regional dispute and for the Secretary-General’s role in advancing efforts towards a pragmatic solution in line with Security Council resolution 2602 (2021). As well, he voiced support for the Morocco Autonomy Plan as a basic for a realistic solution. Such a political solution can only be based on compromise, he added, calling for round-table dialogue between Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and Frente POLISARIO. He went on to state Morocco’s commitment to respecting the ceasefire, and its efforts to develop the Sahara, which has resulted in improved living standards and broader opportunities for inhabitants of the southern provinces.
JASSER JIMÉNEZ (Nicaragua), noting that the fight for self-determination is part of the legacy of the United Nations, said that the Special Committee has a historic responsibility and must show solidarity with the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories. Since the triumph of the Sandinista movement in 1979, his country has stood with people around the world fighting colonial occupation, he said. Commending Frente POLISARIO’s resistance against foreign occupation, he reiterated Nicaragua’s commitment to recognize and defend the right to freedom and national sovereignty of the “brother people of the Sahrawi Arab people’s republic”. Noting the need for a political solution, he called for the resumption of a negotiation process, without any preconditions, and underscored the importance of holding a United Nations referendum to enable the Sahrawi people to exercise their right to self-determination.
WALTON ALFONSO WEBSON (Antigua and Barbuda) called on Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Frente POLISARIO to continue to actively participate in good faith in the round-table processes, noting that this is the only peaceful way to ensure a successful outcome. Voicing support for Morocco’s autonomy initiative, he said it is the compromise solution to the regional dispute and is in conformity with international law, the United Nations Charter and Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. Highlighting Morocco’s full respect for the ceasefire and its continued cooperation with MINURSO, he called on other parties to return to the ceasefire table, stressing that the entire region’s security is at stake.
YURI ARIEL GALA LÓPEZ (Cuba) called on the international community to lend support for the implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions and decisions on Western Sahara and for a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution to be reached in keeping with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV). However, Cuba does not support any unilateral decision on autonomy without sovereignty, which violates international law and Assembly resolutions 1514 (XV) and 2625 (XXV). He voiced Cuba’s steadfast support to the Sahrawi people since 1976, including through its contributions in the realms of education and health, citing its training to graduate students and the presence of a medical brigade and basic education teachers working in Tindouf camp.
CARLTON RONNIE HENRY (Saint Lucia), expressing appreciation for the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy’s efforts on this matter, highlighted the round tables in which Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Frente POLISARIO participated. Expressing support for dialogue towards a realistic and mutually acceptable solution, he said the Moroccan autonomy initiative is serious and credible. It is a compromise solution to this regional dispute and is in conformity with international law, he said, also welcoming the substantial achievements in the field of human rights. Dialogue and effectible multilateralism must continue to play an important role, he said.
VAHID GHELICH (Iran) underscored the United Nations responsibility to the people of Western Sahara and their right to self-determination. Voicing support for ongoing negotiations, he stressed the importance of achieving a just, lasting, inclusive and acceptable political solution that will provide for their self-determination. The international community must commit itself to the implementation of all United Nations resolutions and decisions on the remaining Territories under the Special Committee’s agenda. It is also highly recommended to request the relevant parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law while continuing negotiations in good faith, without preconditions, he added.
MAX HUFANEN RAI (Papua New Guinea) called for dialogue at all levels to bring about a lasting political settlement to the dispute in the spirit of negotiated compromise. To this end, he voiced support for the Moroccan autonomy initiative as the sound and solid basis to build on and progress towards a lasting solution, drawing on the United Nations Charter and relevant resolutions, noting the encouraging support of 100 countries to the proposal. He voiced support for the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the Western Sahara and called for a resumption of negotiations in the round-table format in accordance with Council resolution 2654 (2022). He called on Morocco to respect the ceasefire and cooperate with MINURSO, while also commending the improvement of human development indices in the region, following the expansion of investments in 2015.
NERYS NAKIA DOCKERY (Saint Kitts and Nevis) expressing support for the political process that is under way, voiced confidence in the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy and said they will lead to a realistic and practical solution, based on compromise as called for by Council resolutions. Encouraging the concerned countries and Frente POLISARIO to remain committed to the political dialogue, she expressed support for a resolution within the framework of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Morocco. Welcoming the autonomy plan put forward by that country, she said it is a realistic initiative and will facilitate the resolution of this prolonged dispute. The human rights of the populations concerned is crucial, she said, noting Morocco’s substantial achievements and MINURSO’s stabilizing role in this regard.
AHMED HAMOOD FAISAL AL BUSAIDI (Oman), speaking on behalf of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf to the United Nations, stressed the importance of the strategic partnership between the Council and Morocco, as well as the implementation of the Common Plan of Action. His country has supported all efforts, including those of Morocco and the international community, to reach a settlement to this regional dispute. Stressing the importance of all parties in exercising realism and compromise, he said settlement of this dispute will bolster security and stability in the region.
CARLA MARIA RODRÍGUEZ MANCIA (Guatemala) called for a just and lasting solution to the situation in Western Sahara, voicing support for the autonomy initiative put forward by Morocco in 2007 as a realistic and serious basis to arrive at a negotiated solution between the parties. Achieving a solution is necessary for the stability, security and integration of the Maghreb region, she said, voicing support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy in assisting parties to reach a mutually acceptable solution to the conflict.
MARISKA DWIANTI DHANUTIRTO (Indonesia), recalling the Pacific regional seminar held in her country in May, said that it is crucial to maintain a case-by-case approach to each of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. Calling on the Special Committee to be mindful of the complexity of the issues, she stressed the need for a joint spirit of cooperation. Expressing support for the Secretary-General’s efforts to advance the political process in Western Sahara, she welcomed his Personal Envoy’s efforts and called on him to build on the positive steps already initiated. She also pointed to the Security Council resolutions and said a practical and realistic solution is the best.
LUIS FELIPE UGARALLI (Peru) said it is fundamental for the question of Western Sahara to be resolved through the diplomatic settlement mechanism established by the United Nations, pursuant to the relevant Council resolutions. Calling for a thoughtful assessment of the various positions on this matter, he reiterated support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy, which aim to open dialogue between stakeholders. The fact that there is still no ceasefire jeopardizes the political process, he said, adding that the parties must continue to show political will and work constructively towards more intensive negotiations. The international community must support the work of MINURSO, he added.
MADELIN ESTHER LUNA (Dominican Republic) said the Moroccan autonomy initiative is a basis for the ongoing political process, with the collaboration of the United Nations, and voiced support for Morocco’s efforts to that end. She commended the Secretary-General’s dedication to seeking a just and peaceful solution for Western Sahara and the work of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara in facilitating the relaunch of the political process under the auspices of the Secretary-General. The international community must unite in support of these efforts and work together to achieve a peaceful and lasting solution in Western Sahara that respects the rights and aspirations of all those involved, she said.
ALYAA SALMAN (Bahrain), associating herself with the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf to the United Nations, commended Morocco’s efforts to solve the problem based on that country’s autonomy initiative and Council resolutions. Further voicing support for Morocco, she said her country in December 2020 opened a consulate general in Laayoune in the Moroccan Sahara. She commended the Secretary-General’s efforts to reach a practical and lasting political solution to settle the issue, as well as the efforts of his Personal Envoy.
AMINATA OUATTARA CISSE (Burkina Faso), underscoring that the United Nations must continue to play a key role in the resolution of the question of Western Sahara, expressed support for the political process initiated by the Secretary-General. Welcoming the round-table meetings held in Geneva with the four principal actors, she said that the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy’s efforts will breathe new life into the political process. Morocco’s autonomy initiative is a realistic and trustworthy alternative, she said, adding that it is in conformity with international law and Council resolutions. Noting that the Territory has the potential to be a hub for development for the Mediterranean, Atlantic and African regions, she said this will contribute to security in the Sahel.
DIAMANE DIOME (Senegal), welcoming the progress achieved by Morocco in Western Sahara in promoting human rights and democracy while preserving the autonomy of the region, said such efforts have convinced the international community. Commanding the autonomy initiative, he said it takes into account the situation of the refugees in the Tindouf camp. Noting that his country inaugurated a consulate in the Dakhla region, he said the parties must continue the constructive dynamic inspired by the two round tables and show a spirit of realism and compromise. Highlighting the impact of instability in the region, he pointed to MINURSO’s key role in upholding the ceasefire.
HASSAN ALAMRI (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf to the United Nations, voiced support for Morocco’s efforts to find a political and realistic outcome on the question of the Moroccan Sahara based on compromise and relevant Council resolutions under the auspices of the United Nations. He further voiced support for the Moroccan autonomy initiative, underscoring that this is the solution which respects international law, the United Nations Charter and its resolutions. He commended Personal Envoy de Mistura’s efforts to relaunch the political process and voiced hope that consultations among stakeholders will continue.
ZEPHYRIN MANIRATANGA (Burundi) welcomed the Secretary-General’s efforts and the work of his Personal Envoy. Bolstering cooperation between member States of the Arab Maghreb Union will contribute to the Sahel region’s stability and security, he stressed. Voicing support for the political process under way, he said the round tables should achieve an anchor whereby all protagonists could be winners in the dispute, which is exacerbating the humanitarian situation of innocent civilians.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), welcoming the progress made thus far in achieving a successful resolution, commended the work of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy in relaunching the political process. Highlighting his visits to Rabat and the Tindouf camp, he said that the Envoy’s efforts to resolve this regional conflict must lead to a lasting solution. The resumption of the round-table format with the same four participants is key, he added, praising Morocco’s commitment to regional cooperation and constructive dialogue. Morocco has shown genuine will to seek a peaceful solution, he said, also noting that country’s development programmes and efforts to improve the quality of life in the region.
ISSIMAIL CHANFI (Comoros), stressing the importance of taking into account all the complexities of the situation, said the principle of decolonization is linked to territorial integrity. Noting that some countries still refuse to carry out a definitive settlement of the issue, he expressed support to Morocco on the matter of the Moroccan Sahara. Describing Morocco’s efforts as credible, he expressed support for the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy’s efforts to engage with all the actors. Morocco is making constructive efforts for the socioeconomic development of the region and continues to promote the well-being of the local population. Local governance mechanisms have been put in place, encouraging the residents to participate in self-governance, he noted, adding that Comoros has joined other countries by opening a consulate in the Territory.
RITA KABANGOYE (Gabon) said the Moroccan autonomy initiative provides an acceptable and negotiated political solution and benefits from international support. Noting the positive developments on the ground, she noted that Moroccan Sahara now participates in the Special Committee’s regional seminars. More than 30 countries, including her own, have opened consulates general in Laayoune, she said. Voicing concern about the situation of people in the Tindouf camps, she stressed that respect for their fundamental rights is a sine qua non condition.
KOFFI AKAKPO (Togo), welcoming the Personal Envoy’s efforts to relaunch the political process, called on all parties to remain engaged with a view to reaching a political and compromise-based settlement of the dispute. Welcoming Morocco’s full observance of the ceasefire in Moroccan Sahara and its continued cooperation with MINURSO, he called on the other parties to also return to the ceasefire, which impacts security and stability in the entire region. He further welcomed socioeconomic developments in Western Sahara, as well as the opening of multiple consulates general in Laayoune and Dakhla.
FRANCISCO JOSE DA CRUZ (Angola), noting that every country has an inalienable right to self-determination, consistent with the principles of the Charter, said that after 47 years, Western Sahara remains the last Territory in Africa where that right is not exercised. Calling for urgent implementation of all Council resolutions and African Union decisions, she stressed the importance of holding a free and fair referendum in that Territory. Encouraging close cooperation between the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy and the African Union’s High Representative for Western Sahara, the former President of Mozambique, she said it is crucial to interact with all stakeholders.
SAMBA SANÉ (Guinea-Bissau), noting that “we do not intend to repeat previous speakers”, said that for achieving peace in the region, all concerned parties must remain engaged in the political dialogue under the auspices of the United Nations. Welcoming the appointment of Staffan de Mistura as the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, he highlighted the round tables he facilitated and called for their resumption in the same format with the same participants. Pointing to Morocco’s autonomy initiative as a viable plan, he noted that the Council considers it a serious and credible proposal. It offers great potential to enhance the region’s socioeconomic development, he said.
HELENA NDAPEWA KUZEE (Namibia) voiced concern about the lack of progress, particularly the lagging of the United Nations Settlement Plan with the aim of holding a free and fair referendum. Nearly 33 years after the adoption of Council resolution 690 (1991), the people of Western Sahara have yet to see the United Nations, through MINURSO, deliver on its mandate to, amongst others, organize and ensure a free and fair referendum, she said. Her delegation is encouraged by Personal Envoy de Mistura’s continued engagement with the parties, she said, calling on Morocco, Frente POLISARIO, Algeria and Mauritania to engage constructively with the United Nations and African Union mechanisms to facilitate dialogue.
PAUL GOA ZOUMANIGUI (Guinea), commending the Personal Envoy’s efforts, including informal bilateral consultations he held in March in New York with Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and Frente POLISARIO, encouraged this momentum to continue. The Moroccan autonomy initiative is one of the best compromise solutions and is in line with international law, the United Nations Charter and relevant United Nations resolutions, he said. His country has opened its consulate general in Dakhla, not only to strengthen its ties of friendship and cooperation with Morocco, but also to allow greater presence in the region, interact with the Guinean community, become more involved in the region’s development and better contribute to the peace process.
AHMAD HABASHNEH (Jordan), underscoring his country’s support for Arab-Arab relations and upholding the interests of the region, pointed to the establishment of a Jordanian consulate in the Moroccan Sahara as evidence of support for the unity of Morocco’s territories and the importance of reaching a solution to the matter of the Moroccan Sahara. Commending the autonomy plan, he highlighted the importance of respecting Morocco’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Praising the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy’s efforts to relaunch the political process, he said the cooperation and strong relationship between Jordan and Morocco will benefit the people of both countries as well as the common Arab cause.
ISHMAEL TSHOLOFELO DABUTHA (Botswana), stressing that the Fourth International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism should be marked by a collective process to speed up the decolonization of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, highlighted the obligations of administering Powers. Calling upon all such Powers to recommit to their responsibilities, he said that in Western Sahara, obstructive actions by some actors have made it difficult to conduct a free and fair referendum. Unfortunately, this has also led to the collapse of the ceasefire and the subsequent escalation of military tensions, he said, as he urged the parties to recommit to diplomacy and dialogue. A just solution should enable the people of Western Sahara to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination. While acknowledging the effort of the Secretary-General’s Envoy, he highlighted the primacy of the General Assembly on matters of decolonization. Encouraging the Special Committee to undertake a visiting mission to Western Sahara, he said this is long overdue.
FAISAL ALENEZI (Kuwait), voicing support for Council resolutions, stressed the importance of making progress to reach a realistic, pragmatic and durable solution to the question of Sahara. He commended Personal Envoy de Mistura’s efforts to relaunch the political process under the Secretary-General’s auspices. Further voicing support for the Moroccan autonomy initiative, he said it is a constructive option that will help reach a solution acceptable to all parties, while respecting the unity and sovereignty of Morocco.
BRUNO RÍOS SÁNCHEZ (Mexico) said the right to self-determination is a condition for peace in the region. It is a right, which is governed by international law, and never expires. The voices of the women and young people in Western Sahara must be central in the dialogue between the parties to the conflict to lay the foundation for peaceful coexistence. Voicing support for MINURSO, he stressed that its demining work is indispensable and must be unhindered. Underscoring the need to step up monitoring of the human rights situation in the territory, he urged the Special Committee to seek more effective avenues to continue gradually closing the files on the non-self-governing territories in line with the aspirations of the people and international law.
JASSIM SAYAR A.J. AL-MAAWDA (Qatar), associating himself with the Gulf Cooperation Council, underscored the need for a peaceful, sustainable and mutually agreeable settlement to the situation of Moroccan Sahara, with the aid of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy. Qatar considers the Moroccan Autonomy Initiative, tabled by Morocco, as a realistic solution to the problem. He commended efforts undertaken for the economic and social development of the Moroccan Sahara, noting that the successful settlement of the issue will enhance peace and stability in the region.
MATHU JOYINI (South Africa) reaffirmed her country’s support for the inalienable right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, in line with the United Nations Charter and Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), as well as the 1975 International Court of Justice advisory legal opinion and African Union decisions. Underscoring the need for the Special Committee to fully assume its responsibility towards the people of Western Sahara through the protection of the Sahrawi people’s rights, she encouraged them the Committee to pay a long overdue visit to the Territory to ascertain the situation on the ground. Voicing support for MINURSO’s mandate, as well as the work of the Personal Envoy, she called for a resumption of a political process between the parties to overcome the current impasse.
SARAH SAFYN FYNEAH (Liberia), welcoming the Special Envoy’s efforts to facilitate the relaunch of the political process concerning Western Sahara, said that the territorial integrity of all nations must be respected at all times. Highlighting the decision taken at the African Union’s July 2018 summit, she also called for the resumption of the round table with the four participants — Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Frente POLISARIO. Expressing support for Morocco’s autonomy initiative, she welcomed the establishment of consulates of various countries in the southern provinces of the Moroccan Sahara. She also commended Morocco’s efforts towards ongoing socioeconomic development and promotion of human rights. She also called for refugee registration in accordance with international law.
LAMIN FAATI (Gambia), underscoring respect for the principle of self-determination, commended recent efforts to strengthen dialogue among all actors. Welcoming the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy to relaunch the political process, he noted Mr. de Mistura’s visits and informal consultations. Calling on all stakeholders to remain committed to the round-table process, he said there are many positive developments in the region, including the participation of elected representatives from the Moroccan Sahara in the work of the Special Committee. Applauding Morocco’s constructive approach and its sustained engagement with dialogue, he said this is a clear manifestation of its cooperation. That country’s autonomy initiative is a crucial step forward at a time when the Sahel region is faced with unprecedented security challenges.
MARIUS ARISTIDE HOJA NZESSIOUE (Central African Republic), calling for the restart of the round table with Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and Frente POLISARIO, encouraged those parties to remain engaged and in good faith throughout the political process. The Moroccan autonomy initiative aims at compromise, is considered credible for the settlement of the regional dispute and enjoys international support, he said. He welcomed Morocco’s full observance of the ceasefire and called on other parties to come back to it. Urging all parties to continue to fully cooperate with MINURSO, he voiced concern about the situation in the Tindouf camps and stressed the importance of registering and conducting a census of this population.
JULIO MORAIS (Cabo Verde) voiced support for the renewal of MINURSO’s mandate. “There is no place for colonialism in the twenty-first century,” he stressed, urging all parties to resume the round-table process and to remain committed to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution based on compromise. The differences that still exist on this delicate issue must be overcome through negotiations under the aegis of the United Nations. He welcomed the Moroccan autonomy initiative, as well as all others to resolve the dispute, supported by the Council resolution 1754 (2007), noting that it is the only basis for a just and lasting political settlement of this regional long-standing four-decade dispute.
YOUSSOUF ADEN MOUSSA (Djibouti) reiterated his country’s commitment to supporting a political process under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary-General in order to bring about a pragmatic, compromise-based solution to the regional dispute in line with relevant Security Council resolutions. He commended the credible and serious efforts of the Kingdom of Morocco, through the Moroccan Autonomy Initiative, as a basis for a discussion to reach a negotiated solution. As well, he welcomed their adherence to the ceasefire and cooperation with MINURSO.
The representative of the (United Arab Emirates), associating himself with the Gulf Cooperation Council, reaffirmed his support for the United Nations role in forging a just and lasting solution to the crisis. He voiced support for measures undertaken by Morocco to defend its legitimate rights and just cause, including its sovereignty over the territory of the Moroccan Sahara. Further, he voiced support for the Moroccan autonomy initiative, which has been judged serious and credible by the Security Council. He underscored the importance of resuming round-table talks between the two parties, which took place in 2018 and 2019, and commended the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for his work. He also commended Morocco’s efforts to improve the living conditions of the inhabitants of the Moroccan Sahara, through the new development model it launched in 2015.
AMAR BENDJAMA (Algeria) noting that Western Sahara is the last colony in Africa, “keeping a whole people hostage”, said that all the resolutions adopted by the Assembly reaffirm the inalienable right of its people for self-determination. Highlighting the call for a free and fair referendum, he said that his country will steadfastly defend the rights of Western Sahara’s people. On the legal nature of the question of Western Sahara as a decolonization matter, he said the International Court of Justice concluded that there is no legal tie of any nature between Western Sahara and Morocco which could affect the implementation of Assembly resolution 1514 [which provides for the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples].
The same position was also affirmed by King Hassan II, in 1988, he said, adding that the King also expressed support for a self-determination referendum to be conducted in full sincerity without any constraints. The Security Council seized this opportunity to create MINURSO, he said, adding that its mandate is to conduct a referendum. Why has there been no progress, he asked, requesting the Special Committee to visit Al Laayoune and Tindouf in order to get a first-hand perspective. The Special Committee has a responsibility to advance the decolonization process for Western Sahara, he said, adding that the people of the Territory must decide their own future.
MAKARABO MOLOELI (Lesotho), noting that three decades have passed since the Security Council approved the Settlement Plan and subsequently established MINURSO, said it is deplorable that the self-determination referendum has not been held. She called once again on the Security Council to urgently facilitate a free and fair referendum on self-determination of the Sahrawi people in line with Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 1960. Voicing concern that its last visiting mission was in 1975, she urged the Special Committee to intensify efforts and ensure its presence on the ground. She also called on parties involved in the conflict on Western Sahara to refrain from all destructive attempts intended to divert even the little progress that has been achieved thus far.
TIRIVAVI MAWIRE (Zimbabwe) urged the Special Committee to uphold its long-standing and unequivocal position that Western Sahara remains a Non-Self-Governing Territory whose people have an inalienable right to self-determination and independence that must be exercised through a free and fair referendum. He urged the return to direct dialogue between Morocco and Frente POLISARIO without preconditions. The Council should shoulder its responsibility and finalize this outstanding matter in line with its own resolutions and Assembly resolutions and the decision and resolutions of the African Union, he said.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco), reiterating that the issue of the decolonization of the Moroccan Sahara was “definitively and irrevocably sealed”, having been considered under Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter, stressed that, therefore: “Only the Security Council is in a position to make recommendations, which it does every year.” The issue of referendums heard in the room was “effectively buried” by the Council two decades ago, he added. Turning to the Moroccan autonomy initiative launched by his country as part of its territorial integrity over the Moroccan Sahara, he said that the participation of Mauritania, Algeria and Frente POLISARIO are key to reaching a definitive solution. He voiced regret that Algeria does not wish to take part in the round-table talks, despite successive calls by the Council for all parties to come to the table, thereby blocking the political process.
Emphasizing the right to development, he said that his country has prioritized the economic, social and cultural rights of the population through its policy, launched in 2015, which funds structural development in urban infrastructure, health care and agriculture, among other areas. Elections are also carried out transparently and democratically. However, he deplored the human rights violations suffered on a daily basis in Tindouf camp by the Frente POLISARIO, aided and abetted by Algeria.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Algeria said that in 1975, upon the adoption of the Madrid Agreements, Western Sahara was split into two and shared between Morocco and Mauritania. Not just the Territory, but also the population was divided, he said, adding that after the withdrawal of Mauritania, Morocco occupied the whole Territory. No ambitious policy or economic development can replace freedom, he said, adding that the Special Committee on Decolonization cannot become “a committee on autonomy”.
The representative of Morocco said he was disappointed by the meaningless right of reply just heard, since it should be used to make arguments and speak truth. Algeria’s delegate talks of 1975, but his memory is a selective one, he said. Further, that representative is talking of economic development because of jealousy about the progress in Moroccan Sahara, he said, adding that the people there do not have to queue up to buy flour or bananas and can express their opinions freely. Where is this freedom he speaks of in Algeria, he asked.
The representative of Algeria said he will hand out to members of the Special Committee the agreement that divided Western Sahara between Mauritania and Morocco. He asked why the people of Western Sahara are being refused the right to self-determination. If they vote for integration with Morocco, then his country will say nothing, he said. However, while they remain under occupation, his country will continue to support the people’s right to self-determination.
The representative of Morocco said self-determination provided for in Council resolutions does not provide what Algeria wants — an independent State on Algerian territory for access to the Atlantic Ocean. Self-determination is risky if it is being demanded for some and refused for others, he pointed out. While his country has never claimed that the Sahara is a paradise, it is a Moroccan territory which respects human rights, he said.