The Western Sahara Dispute : A Cautionary Tale for Peacebuilders
This paper analyses the consequences of the United Nations’ failure to resolve the Western Sahara dispute.1 The UN Secretariat’s lack of transparency in its early effort to get the conflicting parties to agree to hold a referendum to decide the territory’s future strengthened the persistent distrust of the UN. Also, the comparatively low human cost of the conflict has made it easier for the Security Council to allow a self-perpetuating peace process to continue rather than to force the parties to make the hard choices needed to resolve the dispute. Moreover, despite its large investments in Western Sahara, the Moroccan government’s oppressive occupation policies and its exploitation of the territory’s phosphates and fisheries for the primary benefit of non-Sahrawi Morocco mean that Western Sahara’s political and economic development has been stunted by the ongoing stalemate. As a response to the stymied development engendered by the long deadlock, the international community could foster educational and perhaps employment opportunities for the Sahrawi refugees in Algeria as long-term alternatives to their unproductive lives in their desert camps. To aid development further, the Moroccan government could be urged to provide more job opportunities in Morocco for Sahrawis seeking to return there.