Briefing 2017: Natural Resources

Moroccan attempts to profit from the natural resources of Western Sahara received a major setback in the Court of Justice of the European Union in December 2016. The ruling recognises that Western Sahara has a “separate and distinct status” from Morocco;
and therefore that the EU-Morocco trade liberalisation agreement is not applicable to trade involving Western Sahara.
It also recognises that the consent of the people of Western Sahara would be needed for any trade agreements covering the territory –
and that neither EU nor Morocco had sought their consent. This ruling will affect not only current Moroccan-controlled trade from Western Sahara to the EU – which is largely in fish, horticulture and phosphates – but also future diversification. Of particular note are the territory’s energy resources. In a subsequent statement, the European Commission has clarified that the “separate and distinct status of the territory of Western Sahara under international law”
would also affect future exports of energy, e.g. from Morocco’s proposed solar power plants in the territory.
In short, the EU has sent a clear signal that a resolution of the conflict is necessary before the potential of the rich resources of the territory can be fully realised.
Economic development, particularly in the fields of clean and renewable energy, is in itself positive: but not at the expense of the
rights of the Saharawi people. An economy led by and profiting a military occupation – and, it is believed, the King of Morocco personally – will not lead to long term prosperity and wellbeing. Instead it will deepen inequalities in Western Sahara, and make the
conflict yet harder to resolve.
Read more in the 2017 MINURSO Briefing.Join us in taking action. You can write to members of the UN Security Council ahead of the annual MINURSO vote at the end of April. Find out how you can get involved here.