All about the money: Morocco’s plundering of Western Sahara

Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara is all about the money. Morocco benefits economically from its occupation of Western Sahara by plundering the natural resources of the territory; resources that could enable the rightful owners of the land, the Saharawi, to support all of their people. The natural resources Morocco is plundering from Western Sahara include:

  • phosphate rock used in fertilisers. Western Sahara has some of the best phosphate rock in the world;
  • fish and fish products. The waters off Western Sahara are incredibly rich with fish;
  • melons and tomatoes grown in Western Sahara for export. Growing tomatoes in the Desert uses ten times as much water as growing tomatoes in Spain, depleting important water reserves in Western Sahara;
  • building solar and wind farms in Western Sahara to power the phosphate plunder and provide energy supplies for Morocco;

Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) have been doing great work on this area for over a decade and have brought about some significant victories for the Saharawi in terms of forcing international companies to quit their activities in Western Sahara, working alongside the Moroccan King and the Moroccan government.

The Polisario brought a case to the European Court of Justice regarding the Association Agreement that exists between Morocco and the EU, calling into question agricultural products that Morocco sells into the European market which are actually grown in Western Sahara. The ECJ final ruling on the case, which came in December 2016, clearly states that Morocco cannot sell any products coming from Western Sahara as this falls outside of its internationally recognised borders.

Western Sahara Campaign UK also brought a case to the European Court of Justice regarding the Fisheries Partnership Agreement that exists between Morroco and the EU, calling into question all the fish and fish products that Morocco exports into the European market that come from the waters of Western Sahara and the fishing licenses granted to European trawlers to fish in the waters of Western Sahara. A quote from the ruling on this case, which was given on 27 February 2018 (the date the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic celebrated the 42nd anniversary of its declaration of independence) states:

‘Taking account of the fact that the territory of Western Sahara does not form part of the territory of the Kingdom of Morocco, the waters adjacent to the territory of Western Sahara are not part of the Moroccan fishing zone referred to in the Fisheries Agreement’.

International law is clear: any natural resources coming from Western Sahara cannot be sold by Morocco, because Western Sahara is a separate, non-self-governing territory. But Morocco has been getting round these facts of international law since it began its occupation of Western Sahara and will continue to try to do so for the foreseeable future.

The question: How does Morocco get away with the plunder?


The answer: There’s no independent human rights monitoring


The solution: A human rights monitoring mandate for MINURSO


And here’s what you can do: write to members of the Security Council to urge them to include a human rights monitoring mandate in the renewal of MINURSO in April 2018.

Read our 2018 briefing to find out more. Find out how to take action. Use our list of UN Contacts.