Last weekend the President of the Government and Secretary General of the PSOE, Pedro Sanchezbecame the first Spaniard to lead the Socialist International (ES). Other management positions of this organization were also renewed, such as the general secretariat, which now falls to the Ghanaian policy Benedicta Lasi. Beyond that, the XXVI Congress of the platform approved a series of resolutions and thematic declarations with references to different situations, countries or conflicts. None of them mention the Occidental Sahara, that he had had references in other past meetings of the SI.
Political forces from both Morocco and Western Sahara participate in the SI, also in this Madrid Congress. Through the neighboring country, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP). For its part, the Polisario Front is a consultative organization of the SI and its members are regularly present at the platform’s meetings.
The Polisario acts as the legitimate representative of the Saharawi people before the UN and in recent months Relations with the PSOE and the Government have become tense after Sánchez’s decision to endorse the autonomy proposed by Morocco for the Sahara as a solution to the conflict.
According to some sources attending the Congress, the USFP delegation tried to convince the rest of the political forces to include a resolution or declaration of support for the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco. A lobbying role which ultimately did not translate into the expected results. In the list of resolutions and declarations approved last Sunday at the IFEMA Fairgrounds in the Madrid capital, therefore, no reference to Western Sahara appears. Not one way or the other.
Sources familiar with the operation of the SI point out that the sensitivity of the parties that make up this organization towards the Saharawi cause goes through cycles. And that currently the tendencies shown by some important social democratic parties, especially with the example of the PSOE, are more tending towards Moroccan positions. In any case, the Sahrawis have support in Latin America or the Nordic countries.
The XXVI Congress of the SI, therefore, does not mention the Sahara. But yes, the situation other latent conflicts. There are statements about Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, about the situation of the Kurdish people, about Lebanon, about the Middle East, about Puerto Rico, about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, about Venezuela, Pakistan or about Yemen, among others.
Within the document on the Middle East, express reference is made to the conflict between israel and palestine. And with a clear defense of the latter. The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination is reaffirmed and “the end of the Israeli occupation” is called for. The SI is part of the Meretz Party of Israel, a force at the moment extra-parliamentary. And also the Palestinians of Fatah as full members apart from the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF) as a consultative organization.
The XXVI Congress also approved a blanket resolution on Africa called the “Dakar Declaration” in which the Sahara is not alluded to either. Among other issues, it does focus on the commitment to democracy. “Peace finds it difficult to establish itself in a lasting way since, from North to South and from East to West, there are coups d’état, wars and terrorism (Egypt, Libya, Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Guinea, Ethiopia, DRC, Rwanda, Nigeria, Cameroon, etc.)”, the text highlights.
Support in other meetings
The lack of mention of Western Sahara, despite the current situation of the conflict in different spheres, including the military because there is still an open war currently, contrasts with the references that the SI has made at other times. For example, in the SI Council held in January 2019 in Santo Domingo. This body is the meeting of all member parties, fraternal and associated organizations. “The Council makes decisions on policy and principle between Congresses and establishes committees, commissions and working groups. The Council meets twice a year,” the SI highlights.
In that meeting one did come out specific resolution on Western Sahara. “The Council expresses its support for the call made by the UN to all parties to engage in good faith and positively in the United Nations process for the search for a peaceful, political, realistic and mutually accepted solution, in accordance with the Council Resolution Security No. 2440 of October 31, 2018”, the text highlights.
In June 2021, the Africa Committee also addressed the issue. “The recent end of the ceasefire in Western Sahara was also cause for concern among the meeting participants, who listened to the views of the
party representatives in Morocco and Western Sahara. The situation continues to require the full commitment and mobilization of the United Nations and the international community to ensure that a peaceful solution is reached,” the report presented by Secretary General Luis Ayala highlighted.
looking far back, in 2012, at the XXIV SI Congress held in Cape Town (South Africa) one can clearly see the change in the trend in the correlation of forces in the last decade. That year a resolution on the Saharawi conflict came out that was very clear and favorable to the interests of the latter. Then they considered it, as the UN points out, “as a case of decolonization” and showed their concern “at the continuous violations of human rights.”
“SI reiterates its full support for the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people and demands the urgent implementation of all UN resolutions and African Union resolutions that guarantee this right”, the text highlights. Apart from calling for direct negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front, the SI also expressed its concern “at the degrading situation of human rights” and demanded “once again the opening of the territory to independent observers, NGOs and the media”. 2018 and then decided to withdraw.
Other interesting issues that the SI has developed in recent years is an observation mission that traveled in 2015 both to Morocco and to the occupied territories and to the refugee population camps in Tindouf (Algeria). And in 2016, tribute was paid to the former president of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), Mohamed Abdelazziz, deceased that year. “An African leader who dedicated his life to achieving peace, justice, democracy, freedom and self-determination in Western Sahara and in the region. The same values defended by the Socialist International,” the text said.
In July 2022, at the last SI Council held in Geneva, references to the Sahara were already eliminated, just like last week in Madrid. In the previous Congress, the one held in 2017, specific references to the Sahara were no longer included, although at that meeting it was decided to transfer the Polisario Front to a consultative organization. That has not been enough for the last conclave to establish some kind of position of the SI on the conflict.