ACTU motion supports Western Sahara

The June 2-4 Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) congress passed a motion in support of the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination.

In 1975, Morocco and Mauritania invaded the then Spanish colony of Western Sahara. Mauritania withdrew in 1979, but Morocco continued the war.

A UN-brokered ceasefire was agreed to in 1991 based on the promise of a vote of self-determination. Morocco has since refused the people of Western Sahara this vote.

Australia does not recognise the Western Saharan state. In practice, this makes Australia a supporter of the Moroccan dictatorship's military occupation.

The ACTU motion was put by the Australian Services Union's Greg McLean and seconded by Brian Oates from the Australian Workers Union (AWU).

The motion read:

"The ACTU Congress urges the Australian government to support the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination, in accordance with UN resolutions and relevant UN decolonisation process and the extension of the UN mandate in Western Sahara to monitor human rights.

"The ACTU Congress notes that:

(i) Morocco has occupied Western Sahara since 1975;

(ii) The United Nations' efforts to accomplish the decolonisation process in Western Sahara has not yet been successful;

(iii) Over 165,000 Saharawis have been living in refugee camps in the South West of Algeria for the past 33 years, waiting to return to their homeland."

The Australian government's position contrasts with the many nations that give diplomatic recognition to Western Sahara.

Australia needs to change its position and support the right of the Saharawi people to freedom and self-determination.

[Ron Guy is an activist in the AWU. He represented the ACTU and AWU at the 6th Congress of the General Union of the Workers of Saguia el Hamara and Rio de Oro in 2008. The congress was held in a Saharawi refugee camp.]