Non – Aligned Movement and the Support to Saharawi Cause of Self – Determination

Upon its creation in the 1950s, the Non-Aligned Movement has been committed to the defense of peoples’ aspirations for freedom and self-determination, and has deployed support actions to the national liberation movements struggling against foreign occupation and against racial segregation. While Western Sahara hardly finds a mention in US and European foreign policy discourse, the Non-Aligned Nations’ principled support for peoples still under domination is also expressed in their concern to achieve a just and lasting solution to Western Sahara issue, and supporting the Saharawis in exercising their right to self-determination.
Self-determination has been a point of contention for the Sahrawi people since the UN encouraged Spain to decolonize the territory in the 1970s.  In 1966, the U.N. General Assembly reaffirmed the right to self-determination of the peoples of the Spanish Sahara and requested Spain, in consultation with other interested parties including the governments of Morocco and Mauritania, to establish procedures for the 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. Lieu of a referendum on self-determination, Spain inceded administrative control of the territory to Morocco and Mauritania, two nations that asserted claims over regions in the occupied territory. This did not change the status of Western Sahara as a non-self-governing territory, and prolonged the referendum. After a war in which the Frente POLISARIO was victorious, Mauritania and the Frente POLISARIO entered into an agreement in which Mauritania renounced all claims over Western Sahara. This gave the Frente POLISARIO control over approximately one-third of the territory, leaving Morocco with the other two-thirds. Morocco maintains the position that it has the legal right to control Western Sahara, and currently controls not only the government, but the natural resources as well.
The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) was proclaimed by the Polisario Front on 27 February 1976, in Bir Lehlu, Western Sahara. SADR claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony; however, at present the SADR government controls only about 20-25% of the territory it claims. It calls the territories under its control the Liberated Territories. As of 2014, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic has been recognized by 84 UN member states. Of these, 39 have since “frozen” or “withdrawn” recognition. SADR has, at some point in time, been recognised by 43.5% of United Nations (UN) member states, 38 out of 53 (72%) African Union (AU) member states, 18 out of 57 (32%) Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states, and 5 out of 22 (23%) Arab League (AL) member states have recognized.  The Non-Aligned Countries’ support to the Saharawi cause has been repeatedly reiterated in the many meetings held both in the General Assembly and the Security Council of the UN.
At the meeting of the NAM Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Sharm Al Sheikh in Egypt in 2009, NAM Member States renewed their commitment to a mutually acceptable political solution which will provide self-determination for the people of Western Sahara consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations and General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960 and other relevant resolutions pertaining to decolonization. At the 16th Ministerial Meeting of NAM held at Bali in 2011, NAM members reaffirmed their strong support to a mutually acceptable political solution ensuring the right of Saharawi people in self-determination. The Ministers recognized, for this purpose, that all options for self-determination were valid, as long as they complied with the freely expressed wishes of the concerned people and principles clearly enshrined in the resolutions of UN General Assembly.
In the joint statement, NAM stressed the need for the Saharawi people to exercise their right to self-determination within the framework of resolution 1514 of the UN General Assembly recognizing the right of peoples to self-determination. In the final document submitted by the Foreign Ministers of the Movement to the Summit at end of a meeting in Tehran, NAM devoted several important paragraphs to the just cause of the Saharawi people, confirming its previous positions and support to resolutions of the United Nations regarding the Western Sahara conflict.  At the recently concluded 17th Ministerial Conference of NAM in Algiers in 2014, NAM ministers too expressed their full support to the exercise of the right to self determination by the Saharwi people.
To conclude it be said NAM’s position on the right to self determination of the Saharawi people is based upon the movement’s cherished principles of defence and consolidation of democracy, and further reaffirming NAM belief that that democracy is a universal value based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social, and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their life. At the same time, NAM must also take steps to monitor the situation in Saharawi and curb the repression of human rights in the region.

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