Sunday, March 08, 2015

The Crans Montana Forum in Dakhla, Western Sahara, Must Be Canceled

To: Jean-Paul Carteron, Crans Montana Forum
Fr: United States Citizens for Western Sahara

Re: Crans Montana Forum in Dakhla, Western Sahara, March 12-14

The United States Citizens for Western Sahara, a New York City-based umbrella organization supporting Western Saharan self-determination, calls on the Crans Montana Forum to cancel its March 12-14, 2015, meetings in Dakhla, Western Sahara, and calls on all individuals, countries, and organizations invited to participate in the Forum to boycott this event. Your Forum should be cancelled because:
1. The Crans Montana Forum decision to hold its meetings in Dakhla, Western Sahara, under the patronage of Morocco’s King Mohammed VI is contrary to international law. The United Nations and International Court of Justice reject Moroccan claims to sovereignty over the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara, and no country recognizes Moroccan sovereignty. Western Sahara is an illegally occupied territory. King Mohammed VI of Morocco under international law does not have the right to place these meetings under his High Patronage, and the supporters of these events (ISESCO, BMCE Bank, OCP, Groupe Credit Agricole du Maroc, Fondation Phosboucraa, Unimer Group, and Royal Air Maroc) do not have the right to extend their support.  Finally, Crans Montana has neither consulted with nor been granted the consent of the “people of the territory.”
2. The topics of the various programs, panels, and sessions to be held in Dakhla are insulting and incendiary for the indigenous Sahrawis of Western Sahara. 
Crans Montana Forum on Africa & South-South Cooperation. For several reasons, Crans Montana’s holding meetings on the subject of Africa and south-south cooperation is insulting and incendiary. Morocco is the only African country that is not a member of the African Union; is the only African country that is illegally occupying an ex-colony; is the world’s largest drug trafficker into Europe; continues to have a serious corruption problem; has a mediocre record of resource governance; is among the world’s largest incubators of terrorism; has long been looting the phosphate and fish wealth of the territory; has been rated by a respected NGO as the Worst of the Worst in its totalitarian occupation of Western Sahara;  and is responsible, because of  its illegal occupation, of ensuring that the Maghreb has among the lowest rates of intra-regional merchandise trade of any region in the world.
Food Industry & Managing Fishery Resources. The nerve of the Forum to assemble a high-level panel to talk about managing fishing resources is astounding. The Moroccan government has issued some 65 licenses to EU vessels to fish in Moroccan and Western Saharan waters. The United Nations and international law are clear that the Morocco’s issuing licenses to anyone to fish off of the illegally occupied non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara is in itself illegal if it is “in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara." There is no evidence that the people of Western Sahara have ever been consulted. Crans Montana is clearly colluding with Morocco’s looting of the fish of the territory. Holding a panel on “managing fishery resources” in Dakhla is insulting and incendiary.
Energy Access through Renewables the Wind Farms in Atlantic Sahara. Any discussion of wind farms at one of the Crans Montana high-level panels is insulting and incendiary, given Morocco’s plans to build two wind farms in Tiskrad and Boujdour, Western Sahara, by 2020. Morocco has pre-qualified 16 firms to bid on a package of 5 wind farms, the 2 mentioned above in Western Sahara and 3 in Morocco. Western Sahara Resource Watch in their letter to the pre-qualified firms makes clear that, as is the case with fishing, “the Saharawi people must be consulted, consent to, and subsequently benefit from, any commercial and export activity in respect of Western Sahara’s abundant natural resources.” There has been a total absence of consultation, consent, and benefit. With all due disrespect and with pun totally intended, any talks coming out of any Crans Montana panel in Dakhla on wind farms are sure to be hot air.
Club of Atlantic Africa: Founding Session. Crans Montana enlightens us with the following: “The Club of Atlantic Africa’s Members, aware of the importance of the global integration of their Continent, are directly involved in the social and economic development of their countries and in the regional cooperation of the Atlantic side of Africa.” It is crazy that Crans Montana wants to discuss Atlantic Africa integration in the last colony in Africa, a territory occupied by the only country in Africa not in the African Union, and by the country that is responsible for the low levels of integration and trade of Mediterranean African countries.
Women in Business & Politics: African Women’s Forum – Special Program. How can one have anything bad to say about a discussion with the title, “The Social Responsibilities of Women are Growing Every Day: Implementing Gender Equality, Improving Education Systems for Girls, The Role of Early Education, Women in the Public Life and the Private Sector”? Unfortunately, holding such a noble-sounding program is insulting and incendiary in an occupied territory where women have long been in the forefront of the Sahrawis’ non-violent resistance to Morocco. See Aminatou Haidar. Crans Montana clearly knows nothing about the strength of Sahrawi women.
Maritime Industry & African Hinterland; Stability & Development in Africa: the Time of Youth has Come; Tourism Industry & Development. Maritime Industry. So the Forum’s Club of Ports is going to talk about International Maritime Transport in Africa in an illegally occupied territory whose ports are used by Morocco as hubs for their looting of fish and phosphates. The Time of the Youth has Come? So the Forum of New Leaders for Tomorrow is going to address the crucial youth challenges of entrepreneurship, CSR, and education in Western Sahara whose indigenous youth have been marginalized by Morocco’s illegal settling of Moroccans in an occupied territory. This is hardly a recipe for stability and development. Tourism? So Crans Montana wants to talk about tourism and development in the beautiful seaside city of Dakhla where thousands of illegal Moroccans have been settled to make the city a center of kitesurfing, windsurfing and surf casting – again at the expense of the indigenous Sahrawis?
3. Crans Montana holding their meetings in Dakhla could result in a bloodbath. Sahrawis have for years been holding regular demonstrations in the occupied territory against Morocco’s illegal and totalitarian occupation. These demonstrations have been met with harassment, arrests, violence, murder, and torture by Morocco’s police and military. Already Dakhla is seeing a heavy Moroccan security deployment in the weeks before the scheduled beginning of the Crans Montana Forum. A large turnout by Sahrawi demonstrators would undoubtedly be met by a heavy-handed Moroccan response. The situation could very easily spiral out of control, and Crans Montana would have lots of mud and blood on their hands.
4. With every passing day, more and more opposition to Crans Montana’s meetings in Dakhla is being voiced. The growing list of nations, non-governmental organizations, and regional organizations includes Algeria, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), the African Union (AU), Afrika Kontakt (Denmark), the Ghana Forum on Western Sahara, Adala UK, Saharawi Women Union (UNMS), the Australian Western Sahara Association (AWSA), the Saharawi Collective of human rights defenders (CODESA), the Sahrawi Association for the Protection and Promotion of the Saharan heritage (ASPDCPS), and the Swiss Committee of Support to the Saharawi People. Furthermore, Switzerland, the UK, and the European Union (EU) have announced that they would not attend.
In summary, the United States Citizens for Western Sahara urges the Crans Montana Forum to cancel its events in Dakhla because they violate international law, because the topics of the scheduled panels and discussions are incendiary, because the predictable Sahrawi resistance to this affront to their self-determination will be met by Moroccan violence, and because the international community is increasingly condemning Crans Montana’s decision to settle on Dakhla for their annual meeting.

United States Citizens for Western Sahara

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