Western Sahara

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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Western Sahara

A territory lying in North-Western Africa, Western Sahara borders Morocco in the north, Algeria in the north-east, Mauritania in the east and in the south, and its north-western coast borders the Atlantic Ocean. After World War 2, it was a Spanish province and when it won independence in 1956, Morocco demanded that Western Sahara should be “liberated”. In 1963, following the passing of the information by Spain, on the basis of Article 73 of the Charter of the United Nations, the UN entered Western Sahara in the list of areas which were not governed independently.

Western Sahara has remained entered on the UN list of dependent (non-self governing) territories since 1963, that is in the understanding of Article 73 of the Charter of the United Nations, according to which:

“Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories”.

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) was proclaimed on 27 February 1976 to fill the legal vacuum in the context of Spain’s unfulfilled obligation to lead the territory of Western Sahara to its decolonisation, and the withdrawal of the Spanish administration from the territory. Following Spain’s withdrawal, Western Sahara was invaded militarily by Morocco and Mauritania.

Featured Legislation

To date, large parts of Western Sahara are controlled by the Moroccan Governmentand known as the Southern Provinces, whereas some 20% of the Western Sahara territory remains controlled by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). Note, the following legislation is from Morocco

1988: The Order of the Minister of Maritime Fisheries and the Merchant Navy No 1154-88 was instituted.This decree sets the minimum market size of the species fished in Moroccan waters.

1993: Decree No. 2-89-597 was signed. This decree fixes the veterinary health police measures for the importation of animals, animal foodstuffs, products of animal origin, animal multiplication products and sea and freshwater products.

1995: Decree Noº 1-95-154 was brought into force. This law regulates the waters. It is made up of 123 articles divided into 13 chapters, namely: Hydraulic public domain (I); Acquired rights on the hydraulic public domain (II); Conservation and protection of the hydraulic public domain (III); Planning of the development of hydraulic basins and the use of water resources (IV); General conditions of water use (V); Pollution control (VI); Water for food (VII); and Natural waters and waters of interest.

2000: The Order of the Minister of Equipment No. 1647-00 (relating to the setting of the water withdrawal threshold in groundwater) was established. According to the legislation, the threshold for water withdrawal from the groundwater within the action area of ​​the Oum Er-Rbia Hydraulic Basin Agency is set at 10 cubic meters for domestic uses.

2006: Order of the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Maritime Fisheries No 1275-06 was enacted. According to the legislation, fishing and collecting seaweed are prohibited off the Atlantic coast between the parallels 33 ° 11.4 ‘North (Souk Moulay Abdellah) and 33 ° 10’ North (Port of El Jorf Lasfar).

2010: The Order of the Minister of Energy, Mines, Water and the Environment No. 617-10 was passed. This legislation ensures that petroleum products conform to the characteristics corresponding to their name. The characteristics of unleaded super fuel are modified by this decree.

2011: Decree No. 2-10-164 was created. The purpose of this decree is to set the conditions and methods of fishing for fish species requiring specific regulations due to local uses or special circumstances.

2013: Decree No 2-13-323 was introduced to regulate state incentives for the acquisition of agricultural equipment.

2014:Decree No ° 2-13-359 was approved, overseeing the organic production of agricultural and aquatic products.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • The Western Sahara faces new hostilities, and the conflict is turning to a resource-based one. Climate change is exacerbating grievances and increasing the conflict’s intensity, perpetuating struggles of resource distribution. While questions of sovereignty still have not been resolved, issues of human security and environmental security have come to the fore. Whilst most conflict over resources in North Africa are emerging over the scarcity of resources such as water, the Western Sahara conflict has the potential to be revived over the presence of valuable resources such as fisheries and phosphate. Because of general scarcity and a skyrocketing demand for both resources, these reserves have become a significant disincentive for Morocco to quit Western Sahara. There are also possible prospects of oil, creating a further disincentive on the Moroccan side to grant Saharawi autonomy over the territory. Saharawi protests denounce a process of environmental marginalization, lamenting exclusion from both the exploitation and the revenues from the resources on their territories. By reducing global access to resources that are available in the Western Sahara, climate change will exacerbate poverty and social conflict. Morocco’s plan for adaptation to climate change, the Plan Maroc Vert, rests on two pillars of sustainable use of existing resources and increasing use of renewable energies. As part of the first strategy, the Halieutis Plan was launched. The plan relies on the development of the fisheries sector and of exploitation of this resource in Dakhla, which violates UN’s recognition of the Western Sahara as a “non-self governing territory”. The Plan Maroc Vert also entails the Foum El Oued Wind Farm Project, which was under revision for UNFCCC funding, which follows a similar dynamic. These processes, which are part of Morocco’s adaptation plan to climate change, need to be taken into consideration for any possible solution to the conflict to happen. Ultimately, climate change and adaptations to it reinforce and create new grievances for the Saharawi people in their claim for sovereignty.

References and Further Reading