SUBMISSION TO THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY SPECIAL POLITICAL AND DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE (FOURTH COMMITTEE) NEW YORK, OCTOBER 2014
THE QUESTION OF WESTERN SAHARA AND ITS NATURAL RESOURCES
Western Sahara Resource Watch Brussels
I thank you for the privilege to appear today. Western Sahara Resource Watch is grateful for this opportunity and we thank you for considering the question of Western Sahara again this year.
In past years, Western Sahara Resource Watch has made submissions to this Committee about natural resources in Western Sahara. We have called attention to problems of the taking of the fishery and of the phosphate mineral rock reserves in occupied Western Sahara. We have also suggested from time to time that the United Nations assume the administration and oversight of resource development in Western Sahara, as it did during the time of the apartheid occupation of Namibia. Western Sahara Resource Watch has also endeavoured to present credible information about the effects of the taking of resources from occupied Western Sahara upon the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination.
Everyone present today can understand what those effects are. The occupying state, Morocco, is enriched by the development and export of resources from the territory. As you may know from our reports about the fishery and phosphate exports, Morocco enjoyed annual revenues of nearly $400 million from the two during the past year. The other serious effect of the export of resources in that is serves as a pretext for Morocco’s continuing annexation of Western Sahara. So-called economic development is suggested as being necessary for the territory, and that activity allows Morocco to settle its own population into the territory, which is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
Two undeniable facts should be recalled at this point. The first is that International Court of Justice definitively pronounced on whether Morocco had any territorial claim to Western Sahara, in its October 1975 advisory opinion to the General Assembly. Morocco – and also then Mauritania – did not. Mauritania, as we know, would give up its claims to the territory and admit the wrongfulness of its 1975 invasion in a later peace agreement with representatives of the Saharawi people.
Second, the Saharawi people of Western Sahara were the only original inhabitants of the territory when Spain agreed that they would be able to realize their self-determination. So when we speak of the “people of Western Sahara” and their natural resources, what must be meant is the Saharawi people, and not a mixed population of illegally introduced settlers.
This year, Western Sahara Resource Watch wishes to bring to your attention the very serious problem of petroleum exploration and development in the coastal waters of occupied Western Sahara. As we meet here today, a recently constructed large drill ship, the motor vessel Atwood Achiever, is making its way to Western Sahara. That ship, chartered by the United States petroleum exploration company Kosmos Energy Limited, will begin test well drilling on the mid-coast of the territory in several weeks’ time.
As with oil in the seabed of occupied East Timor, the search for petroleum in Western Sahara presents significant problems. The Saharawi people are on record as noting that they will not tangibly benefit from oil production and have been emphatic – through their government, civil society organizations and individuals – that they oppose it. Their concern is environmental, that the petroleum may not be available to them in the future, and that the industrial and economic activity to result from oil production will only entrench an illegal and violent occupation.
Western Sahara Resource Watch respectfully requests that the Committee, in its pending report to the General Assembly, make note of the problem of petroleum exploration and production in Western Sahara, and firmly condemn such activity.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
At COP22, beware of what you read about Morocco’s renewable energy efforts. An increasing part of the projects take place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and is used for mineral plunder, new WSRW report documents.
Big oil’s interest in occupied Western Sahara has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. Some companies are now drilling, in complete disregard of international law and the Saharawi people’s rights. Here’s what you need to know.