It’s 9:10. The roll call starts. And just like that, Day 2 of EuroMUN 2023 has begun. In the Special Committee on Decolonisation, the discussions on power struggles in the Sahara continue. Yesterday, the debate focused on the illegitimacy of the Moroccan occupation of the Western Sahara territory. One more region where decolonisation takes far too long. Today, the session started with a strong opening statement by Mali, proposing not one but several topics for further discussion, including the referendum on the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, the energy crisis and Spain’s position towards it, and finally, peace-building measures.
A lot is thus on the table for today. In a first Unmoderated Caucus, several delegations gathered around the observer state Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), discussing the energy crisis, the refugee flows, future negotiations with Morocco, and alternatives for the Sahrawi people besides independence from Morocco. In fact, in a bilateral discussion between the two observer states SADR and the kingdom of Morocco, where the SADR elaborated on the two options regarding the referendum – autonomy, or independence, from the Moroccan kingdom –, it became clear that Morocco considers autonomy as the only viable option.
In the Unmoderated Caucus, where Mali appeared to take on a leadership role, supported by Spain, resolving the current energy crisis crystalized itself as a key objective for the gathered nations. Indeed, after the Unmoderated Caucus, plenary discussions focused on energy management, gas supply and the power plays surrounding the topic. Mali made a key proposition of building a pipeline in Western Sahara which could provide gas for many surrounding countries. The Russian Federation cited Morocco's high amount of engineers, resources and investments, deemed beneficial regarding energy production and safety within the region. Both the Russian Federation and China agreed on achieving stability in Western Sahara to allow for further investments in the region on their part.
Yet, Mali redirected China to discuss the latter's interests in climate-related investments and policies in other UN committees, given China’s geographical and perhaps political distance from the region. In a closed interview of Al Jazeera with the Mali delegate, Mali’s interests in Western Sahara and its own position towards the issues at hand became clearer. With the close geographical location of the country and its recognition of both Morocco and the SADR, the delegation declared itself in a “neutral position”, as a mediator between the two sides. When asked for Mali’s motivation for their proposed pipeline project in the Western Sahara, the delegate said: “Gas is the biggest problem right now and that could be of interest also for the European countries in the committee”. However, the delegate is also open to projects regarding renewables, in light of the Sahara’s high potential for solar and wind energy for example.
However, while the delegate of SADR expressed their interest in the pipeline project during the Moderated Caucus on the energy crisis, they emphasized that the issue of self-determination has to be tackled first before talking about potential pipeline projects. The delegate of Mali showed understanding towards this and proposed a ceasefire between all parties to negotiate discussions on the referendum and at the same time tackle the humanitarian and energy crises. According to the Mali delegation, the “underdevelopment of the area is the underlying issue” and therefore a pipeline project, for instance, could provide the necessary stability in the region to then initiate further peace-building negotiations.
Whether this pipeline project will be included in the working paper with the support of the other nations present remains to be seen.
- Elisabeth L. Schreiber, Energy Specialist Correspondent for Al Jazeera