Hearing of Petitioners on Western Sahara by the Special Political and Decolonization Committee, (Fourth Committee), United Nations, New York

October 9-10, 2007

Comments by Jacinta De Roeck,
President of the Belgian Interparliamantary Group for Peace in the Western Sahara

Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates,

First of all, I would like to thank you for letting me address you here today as the - almost - former President of the Belgian Interparliamentary Group for Peace in  Western Sahara. For this parliamentary body, the respect for international legality and Human Rights is fundamental for the successful resolution of any international conflict.

Since spring 2007, there has been a new dynamic in the solution of the conflict in the Western Sahara. The Moroccan proposal for limited  autonomy has been communicated to the Sahrawi-people and various international institutions and policy makers. The plan was the logical result of the work that was prepared by the Corcas, the think tank that was authorized to work out a proposal for the conflict.

Morocco sought international support for its plan, that was so-called negotiated with the Sahrawi-people. Various diplomats and councellors left on tour, to pay a visit to the European leaders, such as Angela Merkel, Jacques Chirac and the Spanish Prime Minister Luis Zapatero. The Belgian Parliament also received a Moroccan delegation, which was invited to speak in front of the Commission of Foreign Affairs. This meant, at least to me, a great occasion to get to know the exact Moroccan point of view on the method, timing and intentions to find a durable solution for this conflict. Unfortunately, there was no exchange of ideas, nor a clear and lucid explanation about the autonomy proposal. The delegates explained for 45 minutes the history of the conflict, and dedicated 4 minutes to the explanation of the plan. My questions were not answered, but swiftly countered with an exposÈ about the historical background. Yet it is in my belief that we should not look back, but aim our view at a future solution.

Another thing that struck me, and i think my collegues from other national parliaments will strongly agree, was the complete lack of interest from other politicians. The question of the Western Sahara lacks support within the political world. There is much ignorance about this issue, and politicians have no gain whatsoever investing time and effort in this issue, as they have to face the voters in their constituency. Their political attention span reaches no further than the own backyard. Especially in my country Belgium, where politicians nowadays have great difficulty the overcome their internal differences and clamp rigidly to their point of view in fear of an electoral bash-up, I encountered much reluctance to invest time in this forgotten African dispute.

Now my role as president is uncertain, since my party lost in the latest federal elections. As a president, i tried to communicate directly to the younger generation. They hardly know anything about this conflict. And if they don't know, why should they care?

It is our solemn duty to motivate, to make aware and to incite all - especially the youngest generation - people to support the Sahrawi people in their fight for self determination. There should be no doubt that most Sahrawis, both under occupation and in exile, are determined to continue struggling for this alienable right to self-determination. Morocco has to respect Human Rights, democracy and international legality, and it is international law that should be the foundation for any  plan in order to resolve the conflict over Western Sahara. Yet, until today, Morocco has obstinately followed the path of oppression and further continued violation of international law.
We must keep the attention for this conflict alive, in all the nations worldwide, and within all the generations, and increase the pressure on Morocco to act up to its social, political and legal duties. There lies a responsability in the actions of many politicians, NGO's and the civil society: to make the world remember what this issue is all about: the simple right of each people, to decide about their proper lives and future. I thank you.