The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 7th Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the parties (CMP7) to the Kyoto Protocol was held in the sunny city of Durban, South Africa.


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Statement by Mr. Mahlatse Mminele, Charge D’Affaires of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of South Africa, on the Occasion of the Arria Formula Meeting on the Situation in Western Sahara

26 April 2016

Mr Chairperson,

At the outset, South Africa wishes to express its appreciation to the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Angola, Ambassador Gaspar Martins for convening this timely and important Arria formula meeting on the situation in Western Sahara.

My delegation is particularly pleased with the participation of H.E. Joaquim Chissano, the former President of the Republic of Mozambique and the Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission to Western Sahara in this meeting. We hope, as alluded to in the concept note, that his participation will promote dialogue and cooperation between the United Nations Security Council and the African Union on this matter that both organisations have been grappling with for decades.

However, South Africa would like to lament the lack of formal audience provided to President Chisano, and wishes to call on the UN Security Council to strongly consider the recent decision of the African Union Peace and Security Council, which “requests the UN Security Council and all its members to facilitate the AU Special Envoy for Western Sahara’s mission to New York, including granting to him audience to address the UN Security Council during its forthcoming meeting on Western Sahara.” It is therefore regrettable that the Council has ignored the AU’s offer of partnership in seeking to resolve this conflict.

In the context of the UNSC’s commitments in Resolution 2033, and given the fact that UNSC Resolution 690 (1991) was based on the cooperation with the then OAU, South Africa believes that it is imperative for the Council to factor in the role and the concerns of the African Union on this matter.

The reluctance of the UNSC to formally engage with the AU on this matter, demonstrates that its commitment to forming a strategic partnership with the AUPSC is long on rhetoric and short on substance. The African Union, as a Guarantor of the OAU Peace Plan of June 1983, that serves as a basis of the Settlement Proposals, which set in motion the peace process in Western Sahara, has a vital role to play in ensuring that the people of Western Sahara exercise their legitimate right to self-determination.

Mr Chairperson,

My delegation wishes to reiterate the fact that Western Sahara remains the last colony on the African continent, listed as a non-self-governing territory by the United Nations. The General Assembly has consistently recognized the inalienable right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination and independence, and called for the exercise of that right in accordance with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) containing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

More than fifty-five years ago, the UNGA in its Resolution 1514 (XV) issued a promissory note that “Immediate steps shall be taken, in ….territories which have not yet attained independence, to transfer all powers to the peoples of those territories, without any conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire, without any distinction as to race, creed or colour, in order to enable them to enjoy complete independence and freedom.”

The fact that Morocco is an occupying power is not debatable and has been settled both by the UN General Assembly and the International Court of Justice in its 1975 Advisory Opinion. In this regard, the General Assembly has been on record for deeply deploring, “the aggravation of the situation resulting from the continued occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco” The GA has also urged “Morocco to join in the peace process and to terminate the occupation of the Territory of Western Sahara”.

Furthermore, Resolution 1514 is unequivocal that “the continued existence of colonialism prevents the development of international economic co-operation, impedes the social, cultural and economic development of dependent peoples and militates against the United Nations ideal of universal peace”

Mr Chairperson,

Turning to recent developments, South Africa would like to commend the United Nations Secretary-General, H.E. Ban Ki-moon for undertaking a visit to the region on 3 to 7 March 2016. We regret that the Secretary-General was not able to visit Rabat and was prevented in visiting the MINURSO Headquarters in Laayoune. South Africa condemns the decision by the Government of Morocco to expel 84 international civil servants, including African Union personnel, from MINURSO.

In this regard, South Africa is disappointed at the manifest failure of the Security Council to respond firmly and decisively against the Government of Morocco’s decision, which put one of the UN missions in jeopardy.

Regrettably the Security Council has failed utterly and dismally in executing its Charter responsibility to uphold International legality pertaining to self-determination, which has consistently been applied by the General Assembly. The Council has failed morally in protecting the weak against the strong. Instead some members have unashamedly placed narrow geo-strategic interests ahead of protecting the fundamental freedoms of the people of Western Sahara. Ironically and sadly it is the very same members who proclaimed to fight for the fundamental freedoms of oppressed people in Libya and now Syria but who are deafening in their silence to demand protection for the rights of the Saharawi people. To this end, it is deplorable that MINURSO remains one of the only UN Peacekeeping Mission which does not have a human rights mandate. Unless, we are saying that the human rights of the Saharawi people are less important, then it is imperative that the Council include such a mandate when it renews MINRSO’s mandate this week. Lest we sacrifice legitimacy on the altar of political expedience and convenience, history will judge this Council and judge it harshly. 

South Africa expresses deep concern about the worsening humanitarian situation, which is driven in part by the decrease in funding to support the refugees in the harsh conditions of the camps.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the repeated flouting of international law by the Kingdom of Morocco by hosting international conferences in the occupied territories of Western Sahara, most notably the Crans Montana Forum. This notwithstanding the fact that since 1963, Western Sahara was placed on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories under Chapter XI of the UN Charter. We wish to reiterate that the Kingdom of Morocco does not enjoy sovereignty or administrative power over Western Sahara. Therefore any illegal exploitation of mineral resources in the Western Sahara occupied territories has to be condemned.

As the African Continent is the host of the largest number of peacekeeping missions, we are concerned at the possible implications and precedent setting nature of such inaction for these missions. In moving forward, it is crucial that the UNSC adopts a objective, unbiased and balanced approach to ensure that the ongoing efforts of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Ambassador Christopher Ross, towards finding a solution to the conflict in accordance with international legality is achieved. In doing so, he will find within the AU, a willing partner with a commitment to collaborate in finding a just and sustainable solution to this impasse.

I thank you.