The Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs this week discussed the mandate of the UN mission in Western Sahara with the French Minister of Foreign Affairs. It is France which every year prevents the UN force in the territory to monitor human rights.
On 18 March 2015, the Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Børge Brende, answered a question from MP Åsmund Aukrust regarding the human rights in Western Sahara.
The MP had asked what the minister had done over the last 12 months in discussing the the MINURSO mandate with the French goverment. In March 2014, the same minister had promised to do so.
The answer shows that the Norwegian government has addressed the topic with the French counterparts on numerous occasions and on several levels.
The unofficial translation to English below is made by the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara. Find the original on the Norwegian Parliaments webpage.
Question [from MP Aukrust]:
What has the Government done vis-à vis French authorities since April 2014 for France not to block a permanent UN monitoring of human rights in occupied Western Sahara?
Every year in April, as the UN Security Council is to discuss the Western Sahara issue, France is preventing a permanent human rights monitoring in Western Sahara. The need for such a monitoring of the human rights in Western Sahara is acute, and is repeated annually in the reports from the UN Secretary-General.
It is worth praising the Minister for Foreign Affairs for his written answer given to [MP] Mani Hussaini in March 2014, when it was expressed that the Government will raise the regarding the French position on human rights in Western Sahara with French authorities in Paris, New York and Geneva. It is France, Moroccos nearest ally, which prevents the UN operation MINURSO from carrying out that task. The Security Council is to debate the question of MINURSO operation in April 2015, and it will be useful to know what the Government has communicated vis-à vis French authorities in this regard, as the Minister said he would do.
It is furthermore good that the Minister for Foreign Affairs notes that the UN Secretary-General's report stresses the need for an independent and impartial monitoring.
It can be claimed, however, that the most important part of the Secretary-General's references to the human rights reporting, is that the monitoring also need to be of a sustained nature - not only consisting of short day-visits from special rapporteurs and diplomatic delegations.
Answer [from the Minister]:
Norway supports the UN's work for a political solution of the conflict in Western Sahara. It is important to facilitate the UNs and MINURSO's (United Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) continues its work in relation to the conflict in Western Sahara. There is a consensus on that point in the UN Security Council.
Norway's principled position is that all UN operations should have a human rights mandate. We therefore support an extension of the MINURSO mandate to include human rights monitoring and reporting. However, there is not an agreement over that in the UN Security Council. Through our UN delegation in New York, we have ongoing, informal consultations with our close allies on a strenghtening of the MINURSO mandate. If an opportunity opens for a strengthening the mandate, Norway will proceed with more formal consultations. This year's draft resolution for a prolongation of the MINURSO mandate has not yet been presented for the Security Council.
Norway has on numerous occasions raised the issue of an expansion of the MINURSO mandate with France. I raised this question most recently in the conversation I had with the French minister for foreign affairs Laurent Fabius on Tuesday 17 March. The question was also discussed with French authorities in a staff level meeting May last year, and in a meeting between the embassy and French MFA March this year. In addition, the question has been raised with the French UN delegation in both New York and Geneva earlier this month.
The situation in Western Sahara is still cause for worry. There are constant reports on human rights violations. The human rights situation is therefore a central element in the talks between Norway and Morocco. When I was in Morocco on 15 March, I underlined vis-à-vis Moroccan authorities that the human rights for the Saharawi population in Western Sahara needs to be guaranteed.
As a consequence of the increased global food prices, a nutrition crisis is already developing among Saharawi children in Algeria.
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The Saharawi student activist Mohammed Layichi has been on hunger strike for almost a month.
A group of friends for Western Sahara consisting of representatives from all nine political parties was established today in the Norwegian parliament