Cenacolo's written Statements

The Right to Development in the Sahara Provinces ofMorocco

Written statement* submitted by Il Cenacolo, a non-
governmental organization in special consultative status

The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is
circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.

The Right to Development in the Sahara Provinces of

The UN Declaration on the Right to Development is a reference framework for State policy-
making processes that aim at reinforcing the institutional responses, and improving the

effective enjoyment of human rights, notably those provided for in the International Covenant
for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The right to development is both an individual and
a collective right, and all people, without discrimination, should be the central subject of
development, and the active participant and beneficiary of the right to development. This
means that all policies and plans must be centered on human beings, and for their benefit and
the constant improvement of their well-being.
Bearing in mind the foregoing, the right to development entitles all people to free, active and
meaningful participation in the development decisions that affect their living . It also requires
a fair distribution of the benefits of development, with the ultimate objective of fulfilling all
human rights for all, trying to mitigate the regional disparities and ensure an equitable
approach in policy making. On the other hand, the right to development imposes duties on
governments and on all those whose actions have an impact on human rights, including the
national institutions for human rights together with civil society organizations. However,
States hold the primary responsibility for respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights,
including for creating a national environment favorable to the realization of the right to
development. This means that they have the main responsibility for providing an enabling
atmosphere for equitable development for all citizens.
A New Development Model for the Sahara Provinces:
In October 2013, the Economic, Social and Environmental Council of Morocco has published
a report entitled “New Development Model for the Southern Provinces” , which presents a
new approach aimed at modernizing the region of the Sahara, and better integrating it into
the socio-economic environment of Morocco, and the broader plans to ensure
complementarity between regions nation-wide.
As part of this new development model for the Sahara provinces, Morocco decided in 2015
to invest nearly 7.7 billion USD, based on strong foundations intended to enhance access to
social, economic and cultural rights, and provide a friendly environment for local initiatives
to overcome challenges rising from climate change in this southern part of Morocco.
The development model on track is the outcome of prior consultations with the local actors
undertaken by the Moroccan government institutions, who sought to bring to the region plans
and policies that live up to the expectations of the local population. Elected representatives,
civil society organizations, including the pro-Polisario groups, trade union, tribal chiefs,
women leaders and intellectuals were all brought to the table in order to give their inputs and
highlight the development challenges that the region faces, and the potential solutions they
think would help resolve the pitfalls in the future.
This new vision was aligned with provisions of the Constitution of Morocco of 2011 that
celebrates in the Preamble the Saharo-Hassani component of national identity, and in Article
5 where a reference to the Hassani language is made, emphasizing that “the State works for
the preservation of Hassani, as an integral component of the Moroccan cultural identity “.
These legislative instruments have inspired the development Model for the Sahara, and
encouraged the creation of important cultural enterprises that preserve local cultural
practices, and the integration of Hassani language in media and school.
Since November 2015, this development model was launched parallel to an advanced
regionalization plan adopted by Morocco, upgrading the governance, ensuring transparency,
and initiating a new development compact between the State and the southern region. This
new momentum in the region was corroborated by the UN Secretary General’s latest report
on the Sahara that mentions how Morocco’s development plans in Laayoune and Dakhla
regions have been admiringly acknowledged by the local population who “expressed

gratitude for Morocco’s financial support which had improved infrastructure, education and
health services in the territory, and had increased awareness for human rights” (S/2018/889,
para. 21). In the same vein, the secretary general has hailed the role of the National Human
Rights Council through its regional commissions in Laayoune and Dakhla, pertaining to its
marked contribution to the protection of all human rights in the region.
Reinforcing Infrastructures and Providing Green Economic Solutions:
The Moroccan government is on the way to complete an expressway of more than 1,000 km
between Tiznit and Dakhla, passing through Laayoune. Another major project is the future
port of Dakhla Atlantique, for a global investment of 10 billion DH (about 1 billion euros),
with its industrial zone of 270 hectares. Installed on the Ntireft site, 40 km north of Dakhla,
this port provides maritime services to Casablanca, Tangier and Las Palmas (Gran Canaria),
but also Dakar and the ports of the Gulf of Guinea.
Around a hundred large-scale projects have been integrated into the 2021 Finance Law
project, accorded by the Moroccan government, such as the university hospital center (CHU)
of Laâyoune, the faculty of medicine or the Cité des métiers and skills (CMC) of the city.
The region’s economic development also involves tourism, with six seaside resorts
programmed in the Sahara, including that of Dakhla, a kitesurf spot, already in rapid
expansion. The development of the tourism in the Sahara also involves renewable energies
of wind, solar and even tidal power. Several seawater desalination plants are under
construction to give tourists and the local population sufficient access to drinking water.
Many other new renewable energy projects are having a positive impact on the Sahara
provinces. For instance, the new solar and wind power plants built in Foum El Oued supplies
95% of the energy needs of the companies working in this small city.
Within the framework of these efforts, PhosBoucraa, the biggest company in the region, has
announced an investment program in “innovation and the preservation of the environment
and natural resources” of southern Morocco. The company has launched programs that aim
for “the development and revitalization of the regional industrial and socio-economic
ecosystem”. These plans are materialized by the establishment of a Technopole in Foum El
Oued, which will further anchor Morocco’s approach based on green solutions in the Sahara.
EU-Morocco Partnership: A Standing Example for Regional cooperation serving the local
The Polisario Front, a proxy player driven by some geopolitical agendas in the region, seeks
to break the development momentum in the Sahara, by trying to impede this process through
allegations of exploitation of natural resources without a return received by the local
population. Against these claims, the EU decided in 2019 to renew both agriculture and
fisheries agreements with Morocco, including the southern Sahara provinces, as a real
consolidation to the endeavors undertaken to leverage the existing potentials for the well
being of the local population, and give a new breath to the socio-economic life in the region.
The EU officials, who met elected representatives of the local population, have visited the

southern provinces to bear witness of the unmistakable efforts to give impetus to socio-
economic development for Sahrawis. EU-Morocco renewed agreements stand as strong

evidence to the international recognition of the legitimate rights of the local population to
development, in compliance with the principles provided for in international conventions and
The internationally hailed role of Morocco to sustain peace and development in the Sahara
region seems to incessantly be under target of Polisario supporters who always seek to derail
this process. However, our partner local non-governmental organizations have frequently
confirmed that there is a deep conviction to go ahead with the development model of the
Sahara region, to wind down the tensions triggered by these wrongdoers pushed by the
Polisario to destabilize these provinces, by ensuring the rule of law and boosting the work

that satisfies the needs and meets the aspirations of the local community. The protection of
the right to development in the Sahara ensures openness to investment and instruments to
rationalize the exploitation of resources, and the creation of local governance mechanisms,
as well as continuous vigilance against any political instrumentalization of the question of
the exploitation of natural resources, which may for sure delay possibilities to guarantee an
effective protection of the right to development for the local population.

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