Western Sahara, resources, and international accountability, by Dr. Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco:

Most of the papers that were presented at conference entitled: Natural Resources – the Key to Western Sahara’s Future held in March this year in Melbourne, Australia are being published by Global Change, Peace & Security which is a scholarly journal that addresses the difficult practical and theoretical questions posed by the sheer scale and complexity of contemporary change. More specifically, it analyses the sources and consequences of conflict, violence and insecurity, but also the conditions and prospects for conflict transformation, peace keeping and peace-building. The Journal focuses on the international dimension of political, economic and cultural life, its perspective cuts across traditional boundaries not just those between states, economies and societies, but also those between disciplines and ideologies. The journal is a published three times a year by Routledge, UK in association with La Trobe University in Australia.
These are the abstracts of the papers:
Western Sahara, resources, and international accountability, by Dr. Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco:
The illegality of facilitating the exploitation of natural resources by an occupying power in non-self-governing territories is well-established in international law, yet – as in such cases as Namibia and East Timor – the legal principles are often overlooked by foreign corporations and their governments. The resource-rich territory of Western Sahara, under Moroccan occupation since 1975, is no exception, as European, North American, and Australian companies have sought to take advantage of lucrative fishing grounds or mineral deposits. While some have tried to claim that such resource extraction is legal since Morocco reinvests the money it receives into the territory through ambitious development programs, the benefits of such ‘development' have largely gone to Moroccan settlers and occupation authorities, not the indigenous population. As with Namibia and East Timor, it may fall to global civil society to pressure such companies, through boycotts and divestment campaigns, to end their illegal exploitation of Western Sahara's natural resources.


The International Law of Occupation and Natural Resources in Western Sahara by Dr Ben Saul is Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney: 


Much of the international legal analysis of dealings in natural resources in Western Sahara has focused on its status as a Non-Self-Governing Territory, as well as the right of self-determination of the Sahrawi people. Surprisingly overlooked in the legal debates is a close examination of the application of the international law of occupation under international humanitarian law (IHL). This article considers whether and why Western Sahara is ‘occupied territory' under IHL, discussing some of the unique peculiarities that complicate the legal answer. It then considers issues of state responsibility and individual criminal liability under international law for unlawful dealings with natural resources in Western Sahara by Moroccan and foreign companies.


The taking of the Sahara: The role of natural resources in the continuing occupation of Western Sahara byJeffrey Smith, Canadian international lawyer and legal counsel to Western Sahara Resource Watch:


The role of natural resources in the continuing ‘question' of Western Sahara is not fully understood. In recent years, the development of the territory's resources has been at issue in efforts to arrive at self-determination for the Saharawi people. Misconceptions about the effect of such development persist, however, because of a lack of credible information and limited analysis of the connection of resources to the stalled process of self-determination and the territory's occupation. The present analysis surveys the history, problems resulting from and consequences of the exploitation of resources in a Western Sahara that has for 40 years been under armed occupation. It begins with Spain's colonizing of Western Sahara and involvement with its resources before turning to the territory's abandonment to Morocco and Mauritania following which Spain retained some resource rights. Revenue from extraction of the two primary resources since 1975 is then assessed and compared to the costs to occupy Western Sahara. The relevant international law is considered, including the right of non-self-governing peoples to sovereignty over natural resources, and the application of international humanitarian law. Rationales for Morocco's extraction of resources are examined, the evidence revealing that the activity is pursued as a basis for the settlement of Moroccan nationals in the territory to better serve an ostensible annexation project, and generate acceptance for territorial acquisition in the organized international community. The prospects for application of the law and the place of natural resources in the resolution of the question of Western Sahara are finally contemplated.

Western Sahara, international law and critical junctures by Dr. Kingsbury, Professor of International Politics at Deakin University:

This paper considers the circumstances in which peoples seeking independence are most likely to attain that goal, in particular focusing on ‘critical junctures’ as opportunities for radical change. This will then be considered in light of the standing of those aspirations in international law, and the implications for possible outcomes. The paper draws on the experiences of Timor-Leste, Aceh and Mindanao to illustrate the types of circumstances that can open dialogue towards resolution to claims for independence, and the extent to which they are then mediated by international law. The paper also examines extra-legal outcomes and the likelihood of that producing independence for Western Sahara.


SADR : the role of natural resources in nation building by Kamal Fadel, is a lawyer and Western Sahara representative to Australia:


The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) is a founding member of the African Union (AU) and is the sovereign governing authority in Western Sahara. The SADR government believes that the territory's significant natural resources will play an important part in the development of a viable, self-reliant and democratic nation which will contribute to peace, stability and progress of the Maghreb region. The paper examines the SADR's efforts to manage its natural resources through the establishment of the SADR Petroleum and Mines Authority, the launch of licensing rounds, its claim to an exclusive economic zone in the Atlantic Ocean and the recent enactment of a Mining Code. The paper discusses the SADR's efforts to protect its natural resources in a territory that is under occupation, and examines the SADR oil and gas licensing rounds as an example of SADR's assertion of sovereignty. The SADR natural resources strategy has two basic goals: to deter Morocco's efforts to exploit the country's natural resources and to prepare for the recovery of full sovereignty.


The question of Western Sahara: from impasse to independence by Pedro Pinto Leite , International lawyer and Secretary of the International Platform of Jurists for East Timor (IPJET),


Western Sahara and Timor-Leste (East Timor) are twin cases marking an incomplete end to the era of decolonization. The two are remarkably similar: they are former European colonies with peoples who had been promised self-determination only to be invaded within weeks of each other in late 1975 by neighboring states, themselves recently decolonized. Decades would pass while the international community stood by. The people of Timor-Leste eventually achieved freedom against the odds while most of Western Sahara and half the Saharawi people remain under foreign occupation, the scene of established human rights violations and the ongoing export of natural resources. For 25 years, Morocco has refused the Saharawi people a referendum, with the United Nations organization unable to respond as a result of a threatened veto by some permanent members of the Security Council. However, a Saharawi state arguably has come into being, enjoying popular legitimacy, governing institutions and accepted control over a part of Western Sahara. Moreover, regionally and within the African Union, the Saharawi Republic enjoys broad recognition and advocacy for its people. While drawing on lessons from the comparative experience of self-determination in Timor-Leste, this paper contends that the UN should follow the example of the African Union and welcome the Saharawi Republic as a member state. To achieve that result, a wider recognition among states is needed. The UN General Assembly, by employing its 1950 Uniting for Peace resolution, can decide to ‘consider the matter immediately' and compel a breakthrough which the Security Council has so far not been able to deliver.

Saharawi conflict phosphates and the Australian dinner table by Erik Hagen, chair of Western Sahara Resource Watch and director of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara:

Companies in Australia and New Zealand have been large importers of phosphate rock from Western Sahara for decades. A report launched by Western Sahara Resource Watch in March 2015 will reveal that companies in New Zealand and Australia accounted for a fifth of the purchases from Western Sahara for the year of 2014. WSRW estimates that the total exports from the occupied territory last year was around 2.1 million tonnes, at a value of 230 million USD, carried on board 44 bulk vessels. These exports takes place even though Saharawis object to it, and despite its clear violation of international law. Several international investors have deemed such trade highly unethical, while a handful of previously importing companies have ceased importing from the occupied territory due to legal and ethical concerns. Erik Hagen will elaborate on the global phosphate trade of the Saharawi phosphate rock, and the research and international campaigning done by Western Sahara Resource Watch in halting the controversial trade.

The true cost of phosphorus: uncovering the societal and environmental burden of phosphate fertilisers along the supply chain from extraction to the dinner table by Dr Dana Cordell is a Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Research Principal at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney:

Without phosphorus, we could not produce food. Farmers need access to phosphate fertilizers to achieve the high crop yields needed to feed the world. Yet growing global demand for phosphorus could surpass supply in the coming decades, and the world currently largely relies on non-renewable phosphate rock that is mined in only a few countries. Morocco alone controls 75% of the remaining reserves, including those in the conflict territory of Western Sahara. While some argue that the market will take care of any scarcity, the market price of phosphate fertilizers fails to account for far-ranging negative impacts. Drawing on multi-stakeholder supply chain risk frameworks, the article identifies a range of negative impacts, including the exploitation and displacement of the Saharawi people, the destruction of aquatic ecosystems by nutrient pollution, and jeopardizing future generations' ability to produce food. This paper fills a crucial gap in understanding phosphorus impacts by mapping and discussing the nature of phosphorus supply chain risks, and the transmission of such risks to different stakeholder groups. It also identifies a range of potential interventions to mitigate and manage those risks. In addition, the paper highlights that while risks are diverse, from geopolitical to ecological, those groups adversely affected are also diverse – including the Saharawi people, farmers, businesses, food consumers and the environment. Potential risk mitigation strategies range from resource sparing (using phosphorus more sparingly to extend the life of high quality rock for ourselves and future generations), to resource diversification (sourcing phosphorus from a range of ethical sources to reduce dependence on imported phosphate, as a buffer against supply disruptions, and preferencing those sources with lower societal costs), and sharing the responsibility for these costs and consequences.
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