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Special Political and Decolonization Western Sahara - IDIA

Special Political and Decolonization Western Sahara - IDIA

Rutgers Model United

Rutgers Model United Nations 1 Policy Dilemma Western Sahara, Africa’s last colony, is the site of a decades long conflict. The termination of Spanish rule over what was then called Spanish Sahara ignited a long dispute between the countries of Morocco and Mauritania, and the Sahrawi people of what is now known as Western Sahara. Since the origins of the conflict, the role of Mauritania has significantly decreased. However, the dispute between Moroccan government and the Polisario Front, the UN sanctioned voice of the Sahrawi People, wages on. The Western Saharan conflict plays out on multiple axes. Its first major component pits Sahrawi nationalism against Moroccan nationalism. For the Polisario Front and Sahrawi nationalists the conflict is one of identity and a democratic claim to their exclusive right to the territory. 1 The Sahrawi nationalists assert that they are not and will never be Moroccans. Thus, they view Moroccan occupation of the territory through the lens of being subject to a foreign power. 2 Ideologically opposed to the Sahrawi nationalist claims is Moroccan irredentism. Much like the claims of POLISARIO, the claims made by the Moroccan government are rooted in nationalism. The Greater Morocco thesis seeks to reincorporate territories taken from Morocco by “European territorial manipulations.” 3 The claims of the Greater Morocco thesis, in the wake of internal political instability, are the justification for Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. Western Sahara’s resources, notably its rich phosphate reserves and fisheries, have kept Morocco invested in Western Sahara. At the international level, the Western Saharan conflict is viewed as one of decolonization. Throughout the course of the conflict, POLISARIO has insisted on the right to self-determination, a right afforded to other former European colonies. 4 The Moroccan government, operating under the Greater Morocco thesis and with strong 1 Zunes and Mundy 2 Ibid., xxii 3 Ibid., xxiii 4 Ibid.,, xxiv

Rutgers Model United Nations 2 incentive to maintain control over Western Sahara, has consistently stalled the referendum process, which would allow the Sahrawi people to exercise their right to selfdetermination, fearing the independence of Western Sahara. Hence, the conflict regarding the territory of Western Sahara is one that exists along the lines of nationalism and self-determination. Articulated by Woodrow Wilson in the aftermath of World War I, selfdetermination emerged as a right for nations and as a major tenet of international law. At its most basic level, self-determination is the idea that nations have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status. Furthermore, the right to selfdetermination is enshrined in the United Nations charter, which notes the protection of self-determination as contributing to the peaceful and friendly relations among nations. The importance of self-determination in relation to decolonized countries was highlighted in Resolution 1514 of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and People which stated that “all people have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development.” Acting along these lines, the UN General Assembly issued Resolution 2229, which affirmed the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara and requested that Spain, with the governments of Morocco and Mauritania, establish procedures “for holding of a referendum under United Nations auspices with a view to enabling the indigenous population of the Territory to exercise freely its right to self-determination.” 5 Two sides with exclusive aims structure the conflict. The Polisario Front desires the right to self-determination through a referendum. Morocco, on the other hand, for economic and political reasons seeks to maintain control over the Western Saharan territory. Therefore, there is a need to address the denial of the right to self-determination to the Sahrawi people by the Moroccan government. Contributing to the irresolution of the conflict have been the United States and France who have, due to the geostrategic 5 Spector, Samuel J. “Negotiating Free Association between Western Sahara and Morocco: A Comparative legal Analysis of Formulas for Self-Determination, International Negotiation, no.16 (2011): 127

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