Norwegan civil society asks Government to support Saharawis in UN Security Council

53 Norwegian civil society organisations today sent a joint letter to the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs asking the Norwegian government to support the rights of the Saharawi people as Norway is to take a seat in the UN Security Council from 1 January. 

Published 01 December 2020

In Norway, war again broke out in Western Sahara, a territory treated by the UN as the last remaining decolonistion question in Africa. The people of Western Sahara has been promised a referencum, which has not yet been implemented. On 1 January 2021, Norway is to ake one of the seats at the table of the UN Security Council, and a broad coalition in a letter today asked the Norwegian minister of foreign affairs, Ine Marie Eriksen Søriede, to use the coming two years to defend the Saharawi peope's rights. 

Amog the 53 signatories are the leaders of all nine political youth parties, as well as human rights groups, trade unions, church groups. 

The letter requests the government to actively defend the right to self determination and human rights of the Saharawi people. 

«There is a cross-party consensus in Norway that the Saharawi people’s undisputable right to self-determination must be respected and that Norway does not recognise Morocco’s annexation of the territory. Now as Norway returns to the UN Security Council, the undersigned organisations appeal to the Norwegian government to take an equally assertive, clear position based on international law, as was the case when Norway last time had a seat in the council», the organisations write. 

See the entire letter below. 

The organisations also ask for a halt of gas exports from Norway to the occupied territory, a practice that the Ministry itself urges against. Last week, another gas transportation vessel arrived occupied Western Sahara with gas from Kårstø, Norway. This is the third ime that a vessel has left Norway with gas to Moroccan interests in the terrtory. 

 

To Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Oslo, 1 December 2020

Open letter: Support the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination

The undersigned organisations are deeply concerned over the unresolved and aggravated situation in Western Sahara. In view of Norway’s entry to the United Nations Security Council, we wish with this letter to appeal to the Government to actively defend the Saharawi people’s right to the self-determination. 

The Saharawi people has a right to decide on their country’s future status. Western Sahara is considered by the UN as the last unresolved colonial question in Africa, and Morocco’s claims to the territory have been rejected by the International Court of Justice in The Hague. For three decades, the UN operation for a referendum has been stationed in the territory, without carrying out the promised referendum. 

Morocco has so far not contributed constructively to the UN peace process. There are today no peace talks, after the proposed special envoys have been rejected by Morocco. Rabat has over the last years refused to enter into bilateral talks with the other party to the conflict, deported UN staff and rejected the possibility of the UN peace-keeping mission to report on the human rights situation. At the same time, Morocco refuses any solution that is in line with the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination. 

Morocco’s closest ally in the UN Security Council, France, has in practice paralysed the UN Security Council on advancing peaceful conflict-resolution in Western Sahara. The Saharawi people are displaced or suppressed in their own country. 

The UN Secretary-General expressed already in 2001 his concern over Morocco, that was about to break the ceasefire by the construction of a southern border point from Western Sahara to Mauritania. Morocco’s export of natural resources via the southern border passage has been r a key-element of the growing tension between the parties, which in the end resulted in renewed armed conflict in November 2020. In parallel, an escalation of arrests and harassment is taking place against Saharawis in the occupied territory, without the UN operation being able to report, and without the UN special rapporteurs being granted access. Morocco continues to keep Saharawi political prisoners. 

Morocco is an important partner to Norway and Europe. However, this must not be at the expense of the people of Western Sahara and of important principles of international law. It is positive that Norway agrees with the Court of Justice of the EU that the Saharawi people’s expressed consent is a prerequisite for trade with the territory, and that the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global has excluded companies that carry out activities in the territory in violation of international law. In 2020, however, it has happened three times that gas from the North Sea has been exported from Kårstø for use in Western Sahara, contrary to the Ministry’s business advice. We recommend the Government to ensure that exports from Kårstø to Western Sahara do not take place. 

The last time Norway had a seat in the UN Security Council, the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, Jan Petersen, made sure that a letter was sent to Norwegian companies with interests in the territory. “Norway fully supports the ongoing negotiation process under the auspices of the UN Security Council in view to find a political solution to the sovereignty question, and will avoid acting publicly in a way that can be seen to prejudge a particular outcome of the UN negotiation process or a recognition of the occupation”, the Ministry underlined to the businesses at the time.

There is a cross-party consensus in Norway that the Saharawi people’s undisputable right to self-determination must be respected and that Norway does not recognise Morocco’s annexation of the territory. Now as Norway returns to the UN Security Council, the undersigned organisations appeal to the Norwegian government to take an equally assertive, clear position based on international law, as was the case when Norway last time had a seat in the council. 

Norway must defend a world order based on the rule of law. Even our own security depends on that. 

The undersigned organisations request the Government: 

- To assume a leading role in the defence of human rights in Western Sahara by requesting Morocco to release human rights imprisoners currently, wrongfully, imprisoned;
-To take initiatives in the UN Security Council for a permanent monitoring of human rights in Western Sahara and that the territory is opened up for UN special rapporteurs;

-To reject efforts by Morocco’s allies in the UN Security Council to enforce a solution to the conflict that is not based on the right to self-determination;
-To follow the good example of former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jan Petersen, by actively informing Norwegian companies with interests in Western Sahara regarding Norwegian business advice, and request all exporters of Norwegian gas to refrain from selling to Moroccan interests in the occupied territory; 
-To maintain the clear position that Norway does not recognise Morocco’s occupation of the territory. 

Our associations request the Government to explain which initiatives will be taken in defence of the Saharawi people’s human rights and right to self-determination. 

We will be happy to provide further information if required. A response can be forwarded to the undersigned 53 associations via the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, on info@vest-sahara.no.

A copy of this letter has been sent to the Norwegian Parliament’s Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs. 

Sincerely yours, 

 

Center Youth, Leader, Torleik Svelle
Christian Democrat Youth, leader, Edel-Marie Haukland
Norwegian Young Conservatives, leader, Ola Svenneby
Red Youth, leader, Alberte Tennøe Bekkhus
Socialist Youth, leader, Synnøve Kronen Snyen
The Progress Party’s Youth, president, Andreas Simon Brännström
The Workers' Youth League, leader, Astrid Willa Eide Hoem
Young Greens of Norway, spokesperson, Hulda Holtvedt
Young Liberals of Norway, leader, Sondre Hansmark

 

Changemaker, leader, Embla Regine Mathisen
Church of Norway Council of Ecumenical and International Relations, international director, Berit Hagen Agøy
Conservative Students, leader, Andreas Oftedal
European Youth, president, Knut André Sande
Forum for Environment and Development, director, Kathrine Sund-Henriksen
FO-studentene, leader, Iris Jansdottir Nordberg
Industri Energi Youth , leader, Charlotte Sæbjørnsen
Industri Energi, leader, Frode Alfheim
International Commission of Jurists - Norway, director, Juni Solbrække
Legal Advice For Women (JURK), director, Bjørk Gudmundsdottir Jonassen
Mental Health and Human Rights Info, executive director, Elisabeth Ng Langdal
National Union of Students in Norway, leader, Andreas Trohjell
Norway's Student Christian Federation, secretary general, Aurora Marie Nome
Norwegian Church Aid, secretary general, Dagfinn Høybråten
Norwegian Council for Africa, director, Aurora Nereid
Norwegian Humanist Association, secretary general, Trond Enger
Norwegian Humanist Youth, leader, Øistein Sommerfeldt Lysne
Norwegian Peace Association, chair, Irene Elise Hamborg
Norwegian People's Aid, secretary general, Henriette Killi Westhrin
Norwegian Rural Youth, leader, Inger Johanne Brandsrud
Norwegian Seafarers' Union, leader, Johnny Hansen
Norwegian Social Forum, chair, Oda Sofie Heien Larsen
Norwegian Students' and Academics' International Assistance Fund, Leader, Sunniva Folgen Høiskar
Norwegian Union of General Workers, leader, Anita Johansen
Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees - Youth, leader, Mats Monsen
Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees, president, Mette Nord
Norwegian Union of Social Educators and Social Workers (FO), leader, Mimmi Kvisvik
Operation Day's Work, leader, Sunniva Maria Roligheten
Press, leader, Lea Mariero
Re:Act, Leader, Sofie Patzke
Solidarity Youth of Norwegian People's Aid, leader, Thea Tveter Lysvik
Stefanus Alliance International, secretary-general, Edward Charles Brown
The Electrician and IT Workers Union, leader, Jan Olav Andersen
The Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted Youth, chair, Kristoffer Lium
The Norwegian Civil Service Union (NTL), president, Kjersti Barsok
The Norwegian Food and Allied Workers Union Youth, leader, Masja Krogh
The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, director, Erik Hagen
The Rafto Foundation, executive director, Jostein Hole Kobbeltvedt
The United Federation of Trade Unions, President, Jørn Eggum
The YWCA-YMCA, director, Fredrik Glad-Gjernes
Union of Employees in Commerce and Offices, leader, Christopher Beckham
United Nations Association of Norway, secretary general, Anne Cathrine da Silva
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, leader, Liss Schanke
Youth against the EU, Leader, Frankie Solberg Rød

 

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