WSRW names and shames Total and major phosphate purchasers in UN
In its statement to the United Nations’ Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee), Western Sahara Resource Watch drew attention to companies trading in phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara and Groupe Total's unethical seabed oil exploration in the adjacent waters.
Published: 11.10 - 2013 10:08Printer version    
Submission to the United Nations General Assembly
Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee)
New York, October 2013

The Question of Western Sahara and its Natural Resources

Charles Liebling
Western Sahara Resource Watch

YOUR EXCELLENCIES, I have the privilege to appear before you today.  Western Sahara Resource Watch is grateful for the opportunity to appear and we thank you for again considering the question of Western Sahara.

I wish to address the matter of natural resources.  Other than the Frente POLISARIO and the government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, it is Western Sahara Resource Watch that most studies the problem of the taking of natural resources from occupied Western Sahara.  In the next few minutes, I will offer some recommendations to help in your assessment of how the Saharawi people can realize their right to self-determination.

We all know the consequences of taking natural resources from occupied Western Sahara.  These consequences include the direct financial gain by the occupying power together with the perpetuation of an occupation which includes the ongoing settlement of the occupier’s nationals into the territory.

The taking of natural resources from the occupied part of Western Sahara continues.  Those resources are of four kinds.  First, and most valuable, is phosphate mineral rock from the Bou Craa mine.  Second is the fishery of the Atlantic Ocean just offshore the territory.  Third, there are modest agricultural exports.  And, fourth, there is some mineral production, mainly sand exported to the Canary Islands.

Fortunately, no significant petroleum development is taking place.  Of course, we express concern about the exploration for seabed petroleum off the territory, with the company Groupe Total SA present for several months earlier this year carrying out surveys that the Saharawi people themselves requested be stopped.  

The most serious taking of natural resources is phosphate.  To date this year, 44 ships have carried away this resource with a value of almost $300 million.  

Phosphate is non-renewable.  It will form the basis of a viable economy for a fully independent Saharawi people.  We again note the Saharawi people do not consent to the development and export of this resource, and that they receive little benefit from it.  The removal of phosphate rock from a territory under military occupation violates international law, as we know from cases such as Namibia and East Timor.  It is also, in the present circumstances, a war crime.    

We particularly denounce those corporations which trade in phosphate from Western Sahara.  Let us name them here.  They include Canada’s Potash Corporation, Canada’s Agrium Incorporated, Lithuania’s Lifosa, and the United States based Innophos.  Each knows its trade in Saharawi phosphate to be unethical and wrong.  Yet each persists in it.    

Let me conclude by offering some recommendations.  Western Sahara Resource Watch recalls the work done for the people of Namibia, in which the United Nations acted to protect the natural resources of that territory while its people awaited self-determination:

(1) We recommend that the Fourth Committee particularly address the matter of Western Sahara’s natural resources in its recommendations proposed for adoption this year by the General Assembly;

(2) We suggest the Fourth Committee recommend that the General Assembly refer the question of the legality of the development and export of Western Sahara’s natural resources for a definitive legal ruling to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion pursuant to Article 65 of the Statute of the Court; and

(3) We recommend that the Fourth Committee call for the appointment of a United Nations rapporteur for natural resources in Western Sahara, to work in conjunction with the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, His Excellency Ambassador Christopher Ross, and to consider United Nations administration of natural resources and revenues from such resources until the Saharawi people achieve their self-determination.      

I will be pleased to answer your questions.



17.06 - 2019 / 27.08 - 2010Support Western Sahara Resource Watch
21.05 - 2019 / 16.04 - 2019Atlas Copco claims Morocco's phosphate plunder is legal
17.05 - 2019 / 06.05 - 2019EU elections: how have candidates voted on occupied Western Sahara?
10.05 - 2019 / 10.05 - 2019'We deserve an answer' from HeidelbergCement
02.05 - 2019 / 30.04 - 2019Has another cargo of fishmeal from Western Sahara arrived in Germany?
01.05 - 2019 / 30.04 - 2019Continental dodges question on Western Sahara
01.05 - 2019 / 17.04 - 2019Greek-Dutch construction group sets up shop in El Aaiun
30.04 - 2019 / 30.04 - 2019Polisario tries EU Council over new EU-Morocco agricultural deal
08.04 - 2019 / 04.04 - 2019New report on Western Sahara phosphate industry out now
21.03 - 2019 / 15.03 - 2019Continental controversial contract in Western Sahara expires next year
28.02 - 2019 / 25.02 - 2019These are the MEPs who voted for the Western Sahara fish deal
25.02 - 2019 / 24.02 - 2019Bremen sheds light on massive controversial fishmeal import
12.02 - 2019 / 12.02 - 2019European Parliament disregards Court and adopts Morocco fish deal
11.02 - 2019 / 11.02 - 2019Human Rights Watch calls for Court referral of EU-Morocco fish deal
07.02 - 2019 / 07.02 - 2019110 MEPs want EU-Morocco fish deal referred to Court
06.02 - 2019 / 06.02 - 2019Will European Parliament back deal with world's most unfree territory?
06.02 - 2019 / 06.02 - 201998 Saharawi groups call on European Parliament to reject fish deal
04.02 - 2019 / 04.02 - 2019The runaway Green Reefers ship arrived Abidjan
31.01 - 2019 / 22.01 - 2019Spanish farmers concerned about EU deal for occupied Western Sahara
30.01 - 2019 / 24.01 - 2019EU Council refuses transparency on legal opinion on fish deal


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.
EU Court cases on Western Sahara for dummies


It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Stand up for the Gdeim Izik 25!


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.
Support Western Sahara Resource Watch


Help us to protect the natural resources of Western Sahara for the Saharawi people. Support our work by making a donation.
Report: Moroccan green energy used for plunder


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. News Archive 2019 News Archive 2018 News Archive 2017 News Archive 2016 News Archive 2015 News Archive 2014 News Archive 2013 News Archive 2012 News Archive 2011 News Archive 2010 News Archive 2009 News Archive 2008 News Archive 2007 News Archive 2004-2006

Register for our English newsletter:

These web pages have been built with the financial support of the trade union Industry Energy