Spotlight On Western Sahara In UN Fourth Committee As Petitioners Express Mounting Frustration


Despite the dire need for humanitarian assistance in the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, much of that aid was misappropriated and wound up in the markets of Algiers and Timbuktu, one of 33 petitioners on the question of Western Sahara told the Fourth Committee today as it continued its debate on decolonization.

Humanitarian aid rarely reached the camps, as most of it was sold in North African markets to buy weapons, stressed one petitioner who spoke today. When it did reach Tindouf, it was often used as a means of coercion.

That and other problems facing the Sahel made the region very attractive to terrorist groups and organized crime, turning the traditional caravan routes into transit corridors for terrorism and trafficking, according to another speaker. The host of aggravating factors at play could turn the Sahel into a new Afghanistan-type tribal region, affecting the peace and security of Southern Europe, the Middle East, and the rest of the world, the speaker said.

Populations in the camps were frustrated, another petitioner said, and were thus subjected to recruitment by radical movements. Every year, many people disappeared into the desert, going off to Morocco, or joining groups like Al‑Qaida. That speaker argued that the actions of Morocco against terrorism had been decisive on such matters, and that the country had served as a pillar for peace and security in the region.

Several speakers praised Morocco’s new Constitution, saying that it showed great foresight from King Mohammed VI and his people that they had not waited for the Arab Spring before beginning their own reforms. Rather, popular demand for more participative democracy had led to a referendum and had provided for increased accountability, comprehensive human rights protections, and the introduction of full parliamentary democracy. That lent credibility to Morocco’s proposed Plan for Western Sahara, speakers said.

Others argued that it was Morocco that was contributing to the perpetuation of the impasse, as current Moroccan policies had led to a media blackout, the absence of freedom of movement to enter or leave the camps, arrests and reprisals for escaping, and the separation of families.

Still, while tumultuous transformation had swept through the Middle East and North Africa, embodying the kind of change that the peoples of Western Sahara craved, such change remained elusive, said a speaker.

One petitioner stressed that the United Nations was at a crossroads, as it could either adopt the necessary political and economic measures to persuade the Moroccan Government to comply with the peace plan as set forth by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, or it could “accept its failure in this process and withdraw”. If the Security Council was unable to offer any other alternatives, he suggested the Council move on from Chapter VI to Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. Thursday, 6 October, to continue its debate on decolonization.


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met today to continue its consideration of all decolonization issues. It was expected to hear the remaining petitioners on the question of Western Sahara, as well as additional petitioners on other questions taken up yesterday in Committee. For background on those topics, please see Press Release GA/SPD/478 of 3 October.


Source: UN General Assembly

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