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The Special Political and Decolonization Committee of the UN reiterates its support for the option of self-determination of the people of Western Sahara
On 14th October 2013, the fourth Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations, responsible for Special Political and Decolonization issues, concluded the debate concerning questions of decolonization. During this sixty-eighth session, the Fourth Committee adopted 11 draft resolutions on this subject.
One of these draft resolutions addresses the issue of the Western Sahara. Approved without a vote, it recommends to the General Assembly support for the process of negotiations "with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara".
By means of this draft resolution, the General Assembly would support the negotiation process with a view to achieving a just and political solution which would permit the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, and would commend the efforts undertaken by the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy in this respect.
In the text, the Fourth Committee welcomes the commitment of the parties to continue to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue, in order to enter a more intensive phase of negotiations, in good faith and without preconditions, noting efforts and developments since 2006.
The General Assembly, by adopting this draft resolution, would also call upon the parties to co-operate with the International Committee of the Red Cross and to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law.
To conclude, the draft resolution approved by the Fourth Committee, requests the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples to continue to consider the situation in the Western Sahara and to report thereon to the General Assembly at its sixty-ninth session.
In the general debate on all the matters relating to decolonization, Mr. Mourad Benmehidi (Permanent Representative of Algeria to the United Nations) stressed the permanent responsibility of the United Nations as an impartial guarantor of the exercise of the peoples of non-self-governing territories to their right to free determination.
He reiterated the solidarity of Algeria with those peoples subject to colonial domination and his firm undertaking to work with the member States to provide the necessary impetus with a view to the complete and rapid elimination of colonialism in all non-self-governing territories.
With regard to the Western Sahara, Mr Benmehidi indicated that he still awaited the conscientious performance of the United Nations of its peace mission with a view to finally being able to offer "this brave people" the opportunity to exercise its right to free determination in conditions of internationally guaranteed normality, freedom and probity.
For Algeria this is without doubt a matter of decolonization and any attempt to frame it in another context it differently would only have the result of delaying its resolution "which has already taken too much time". Algeria repeated that it the responsibility of the United Nations to guarantee the resolution of this matter in the context of respect for the inalienable right of the Saharan people to free determination.
He recalled that in the Summit of the African Union which took place in January of 2013, the African Union Peace and Security Council had received a mandate to take whatever measures were necessary to organize a referendum on self-determination for the Saharan people, in accordance with the decisions of the Organization of African Unity and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.
He added that in the fiftieth anniversary of the Organization of African Unity/African Union, last May, the heads of State and Government of the African Union requested the cessation of the illegal occupation of the territories of the Western Sahara. Both messages served to dissipate any doubt as to the position of the African Union with respect to the just and definitive solution to this conflict and to reaffirm the agreement of the organization to work in favour of the process of decolonization in Africa.
Algeria is prepared to pursue its efforts to assist both parties to the conflict, the Polisario Front and Morocco, to overcome their differences of interpretation as to the purpose of the negotiation process commenced by Resolution nš 1754 (of 2007) of the Security Council and maintained in subsequent resolutions, as well as to work towards a just, political solution which is lasting and mutually acceptable and which leads to the free determination of the people of the Western Sahara.
Mr. Kingsley Mamabolo (Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa to the United Nations) expressed concern for the fact that there still remains a colony in Africa, the Western Sahara and recalled that this territory is a member with full rights of the African Union.
He added that it is the Saharan people who should determine their own political destiny through the electoral urns. Thus, the United Nations and the international community should perform their respective tasks and offer the people of the Western Sahara the necessary means to exercise their legitimate rights by means of a referendum.
The South African representative regretted that notwithstanding reports from civil society alleging the commission of numerous human rights violations in the Western Sahara, the Security Council had not been able to include a "human rights" element in its mandate to the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO).
Mr Mamabolo also stated that South Africa remains concerned by the illegal exploitation of the natural resources of the Western Sahara, which should be undertaken in consultation with and the consent of the people of the said territory, and he further stated that none of the reports of the Secretary-General mention this subject. He proposed that The Special Committee on Decolonization - the Committee of 24- should arrange a visit to these areas in order to clarify the matter of who is benefitting from the exploitation of the Saharan resources.
Mr Mohammed Loulichki (Permanent Representative for the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations) stated that in the process of considering the question of the Sahara, the Fourth Committee has progressively lost sight of the fundamentals of this debate and has become entrenched in a "routine fed by preconceived ideas and pre-established certainties".
Sadly for the region, he said, the spirit of hegemony inherited from the Cold War has transformed the decolonization of this part of Morocco into a regional conflict which impedes the region of the Maghreb from arising as a centre of stability, understanding and shared prosperity. Despite these vicissitudes, Morocco has always proffered its hand, not only to find a compromise solution to the regional conflict but also to promote better relations with its neighbours Algeria and Mauritania.
The representative for Morocco said that the initiative for autonomy submitted by his country in April 2007 complies with all the parameters established by the Security Council since 2000 in that it is halfway between the two extreme options - integration and independence - and stated that the initiative is still on the table.
Morocco, he said, will carry on trusting in the United Nations to continue its search for a political solution which respects territorial integrity and the national unity of the country. Morocco will also continue to work to improve its relations with its neighbouring countries, Algeria and Mauritania.
He added the Organization of the United Nations should be the only authority responsible for finding a definitive solution to this dispute which respects territorial integrity and the national unity of Morocco.
He recalled that the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General was at this very moment touring the region to re-launch the dynamics of the negotiation and to assist the parties and the neighbouring States to find a political solution by means of a new diplomatic focus based on the notion of compromise.
Morocco, said Loulichki, supports the efforts of the Personal Envoy and agrees with the new focus.
Following the approval of the text, the representative for the European Union, Mr Filip Vanden Bulcke, reiterated the full support of the European Union for the efforts of the Secretary-General to achieve a just, political solution which is lasting and mutually acceptable and which permits the people of the Western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination, in accordance with the principles of the United National Charter.
The European Union supports the "shuttle diplomacy" ("diplomatie de la navette"), proposed by the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General and adopted by the parties, he stated and also added that it also encourages the parties to continue co-operating with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the implementation of measures to create confidence. It also supports the call by the Security Council that the UNHCR registers the refugees in the camps at Tinduf.
The European Union expressed its concern, however, for the consequences of the conflict in the Western Sahara on security and co-operation in the region.
On the other hand, following the approval of the draft resolution on the matter of the Western Sahara by the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry of Algeria, Mr. Amar Belani, in a statement to the press made that same day, the 8th October , declared that "by reaffirming, again, the pre-eminence of the central parameter concerning self-determination, this draft resolution conforms to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and emphasises the responsibility of the United Nations when it comes to guaranteeing that this matter be resolved in the context of respect for the inalienable right of the people of the Western Sahara to self-determination" .
Mr. Belani also stated that "as it is a question of decolonization, we believe that any attempt to frame the question of the Western Sahara in another context or with another focus, can only delay its solution and undermine the efforts undertaken by the UN Secretary-General and his personal envoy".
He also said that "this year's debate in the Fourth Committee has been characterised by various interventions evidencing the illegal exploitation of the resources of the Western Sahara and denouncing the numerous violations of human rights committed in this last colony of Africa".
We should recall that the question of the Western Sahara was debated between the 7th and the 14th October 2013, during the sixty-eighth session of the Fourth Committee of the United Nations, responsible for Special Political and Decolonization issues.
The Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, was in Morocco on Monday 7th October in the context of a new tour of the region. He is also planning to travel to Algeria.
On the occasion of his last visit to Morocco in March of 2013, he stated following a meeting with the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Saad Dine El Otmani, that the situation in the region of Sahel and its surrounds made it more urgent than ever that a solution to the question of the Western Sahara be found.
He also said that his visit was "dedicated to the search for a solution to the question of the Western Sahara in accordance with the successive resolutions of the UN Security Council".
The current obstacle is that, to date, Morocco maintains its opposition to any solution to the conflict which is based on international law and the relevant resolutions of the Security Council.
With reference to the legal status of the Western Sahara, it is worth remembering that on 26 February 1976, Spain informed the Secretary-General that as of that date it had terminated its presence in the Territory of the Sahara and that it deemed it necessary to place on record that Spain considered itself thenceforth exempt from any responsibility of any international nature in connection with the administration of the Territory, in view of the cessation of its participation in the temporary administration established for the Territory. In 1990, the General Assembly reaffirmed that the question of the Western Sahara was a question of decolonization.
It is also worth remembering that the United Nations Department of Legal Affairs in a decision issued on 29th January 2002 concerning the reach and legal implications of agreements for exploration of mineral resources on the Saharan coasts entered into between Morocco and companies from that sector, reaffirmed that the issue at hand was one of decolonization.
In his report to the UN Secretary-General, the then Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel of the Organization, Hans Corell, provided historical clarification as to the nature of the conflict as well as to the nature of the Moroccan presence in the Western Sahara.
In the section entitled "The status of Western Sahara under Moroccan administration", he advised the following:
"5. A Spanish protectorate since 1884, Spanish Sahara was included in 1963 in the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories under Chapter XI of the Charter (A/5514, annex III). Beginning in 1962, Spain as administering Power transmitted technical and statistical information on the Territory under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations. This information was examined by the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples ("the Special Committee"). In a series of General Assembly resolutions on the question of Spanish/Western Sahara, the applicability to the Territory of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV)) was reaffirmed.
6. On 14 November 1975, a Declaration of Principles on Western Sahara was concluded in Madrid between Spain, Morocco and Mauritania ("the Madrid Agreement"), whereby the powers and responsibilities of Spain, as the administering Power of the Territory, were transferred to a temporary tripartite administration. The Madrid Agreement did not transfer sovereignty over the Territory, nor did it confer upon any of the signatories the status of an administering Power, a status which Spain alone could not have unilaterally transferred. The transfer of administrative authority over the Territory to Morocco and Mauritania in 1975 did not affect the international status of Western Sahara as a Non-Self-Governing Territory.
7. On 26 February 1976, Spain informed the Secretary-General that as of that date it had terminated its presence in Western Sahara and relinquished its responsibilities over the Territory, thus leaving it in fact under the administration of both Morocco and Mauritania in their respective controlled areas. Following the withdrawal of Mauritania from the Territory in 1979, upon the conclusion of the Mauritano-Sahraoui agreement of 19 August 1979 (S/13503, annex I), Morocco has administered the Territory of Western Sahara alone. Morocco, however, is not listed as the administering Power of the Territory in the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, and has, therefore, not transmitted information on the Territory in accordance with Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations".
Therefore, this is a question of decolonization which entails the exercise of the inalienable right to self-determination of the people concerned, the Saharan people.
Radio Nizkor with information provided by the Organization of the United Nations official website and by the Algerian newspaper El Watan.
Charleroi, 25 October 2013
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