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Swords into Plowshares is the blog of the Peacemaking Program and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations of the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

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May 27, 2015

Learn more about Western Sahara

by Nathan Jumper

Map of Africa, Western Sahara in GreenBasic Facts

Western Sahara is formally listed by the United Nations as a “Non-Self-Governing Territory.” This means that it possess neither independence nor formal incorporation in another country. Located on the Northwestern coast of African, South of Morocco and North of Mauritania, the Western Sahara is comprised of a population estimated at 550,000, most of whom are Sunni Muslim. From the late 1800s through 1976, Western Sahara was a colony of Spain and, as is often the case of former colonies, Western Saharan boundaries still reflect the interests of its colonizing power. There is currently an intense dispute regarding matters of its political self-determination. Each point below contains embedded links to relevant resources.

Introductory Material
Stephen Zunes is a political scientist at the University of San Francisco and focuses his studies on nonviolent social change, including faith-inspired strategies of resistance.  Zunes has recently co-authored a book with Jacob Mundy entitled, Western Sahara: War, Nationalism and Conflict Irresolution (Syracuse University Press, 2010).

Here is a response to Zunes’s pro-independence position by Mohammed Daadaoui, who reiterates the traditional claims of the Moroccan government.

Here is a key legal opinion on Western Sahara’s status and use of its resources by Hans Corell, the United Nation’s (UN) Undersecretary for Legal Affairs. Cornell returns to the case in this 2008 discussion.

The 1975 ruling of the Internal Court of Justice in favor of the right of self-determination for the Sahrawi people can be found here. And here is information on the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was established by the Security Council resolution 690.

Ceasefire Information

As an attempt to mediate the issue of West Sahara’s desire for political self-determination with the current Moroccan rule, The Baker Plan called for five years of local rule under Moroccan sovereignty, followed by a referendum on independence. This plan was disregarded by the Moroccan government.

Situation on the Ground

Here is a description of the police and security forces currently in West Sahara. There are records available which document human rights violations occurring under Moroccan rule. This includes the Moroccan government preventing groups advocating for human rights from registering as non-governmental organization and consequently being denied access to the legal system. Condemnation of these human rights violations by the UN Security Council can be found here.

Economics and Demographics

Here is a US State Department cable which doubts that Western Sahara could be economically viable as an independent country. Professor Zunes critiques this cable for its pro-Moroccan bias.

Here is a report by the Boston Globe that concludes that an independent state is not viable in Sahara.

Here is a record of Moroccan government involvement in fishing, Western Sahara’s largest industry, and here is an embassy cable that reveals corruption on behalf of the Moroccan government in respect to their control of the fishing industry.

International Involvement; US support for Morocco

Records of US economic support of Morocco can be found here, as well as a report on Moroccan exports.

Legal Questions and The UN Declaration of Status

UN security council documents on the referendum.

Here is Stephen Zunes's published article “On ideology in State Department.”
The New York City Bar’s Committee on the UN uses the word “occupation” to describe the situation in West Sahara and makes a case that self-determination must be allowed. See the report entitled “The Legal Issues Involved in the Western Sahara Dispute.

Professor Richard Falk, a distinguished human rights scholar, has published The Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967, which serves as a summary background resource of the study by the New York Bar Association. This document can be downloaded in multiple languages at this site.

The 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) called the church to learn more about the situation in Western Sahara and to call upon the community of nations to support self-determination for the people of the region known as Western Sahara.

Categories: Human Rights, Justice, Peace, United Nations

Tags: intern, minurso, mohammed daadaoui, nathan jumper, non-self-governing territories, stephen zunes, western sahara


May 26, 2015

International Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories

From the United Nations:

The UN General Assembly, by its resolution 60/119 of 8 December 2005, requested the annual observance of the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

In the UN Charter, a Non-Self-Governing Territory is defined as a Territory “whose people have not yet attained a full measure of self-government”.

In 1946, several UN Member States identified a number of Territories under their administration that were not self-governing and placed them on a UN list. Countries administering Non-Self-Governing Territories are called administering Powers.  As a result of the decolonization process over the years, most of ...

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May 26, 2015

Tell Congress to Advocate for Palestinian Children

From our colleagues in the Office for Public Witness:

The detention of Palestinian minors by Israel raises serious concerns about lack of due process and ill-treatment.  These concerns serve as a call to action for those who feel a responsibility to care for the most weak and vulnerable members of society.

According to the Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, as of the end of March 2015, 184 Palestinian minors were held in Israeli custody.   Furthermore, as B’Tselem notes, “the military law applied in the West Bank…denies them the protections accorded to minors under both international and Israeli ...

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May 22, 2015

Prayer service for people affected by violence or natural disaster

During an interfaith prayer service at the Tillman Chapel at the Church Center for the United Nations, participants prayed and lit candles for our sisters and brothers affected by violence and natural disasters. 

For whom do you pray?

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May 22, 2015

Gender Inequality, Non-communicable Diseases, and the SDGs

by Nathan Jumper and Amelie Clemot

The NGO Committee on the Status of Women/New York and the NGO Committee on Mental Health recently held a panel session in the UN community on the relation between gender equality and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). NCDs are currently divided into four categories: cancers, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes. (Interestingly, a recent Harvard study has listed Mental Health as a fifth category of NCD. However, this is not yet recognized in other official venues.) One of the central discussions at the panel was the economic impact of NCDs. Simply put, they are ...

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