The UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Olivier De Schutter, announced Thursday the postponement of his visit to Morocco “at the request of the Moroccan government due to the disagreement on the course of the visit”.
De Schutter was scheduled to visit Morocco from 6 – 19 December, 2022 to review the government’s efforts to eliminate poverty.
He did not give more details, but the disagreement over the course referred to in his statement probably means the Western Sahara issue.
During his visit to Morocco in early July, the UN Envoy for Western Sahara, Staffan de Mistura, was forced to cancel his tour to the disputed region that he was supposed to visit for the first time.
According to informed sources, the Moroccan authorities expressed reservations about the visit, while the UN diplomat did not manage to meet all the actors he wanted to meet in Western Sahara.
For decades, a dispute over the fate of Western Sahara has been taking place between Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia El-Hamra and Río de Oro (Polisario), backed by Algeria. Polisario calls for a referendum on self-determination, while Rabat proposes granting the region autonomy under its sovereignty.
“Governments that invite Special Rapporteurs must guarantee and facilitate their freedom to meet the interlocutors of their choice, as well as to decide which places to visit,” said Olivier De Schutter, who is an independent expert commissioned by the United Nations, but does not speak on its behalf, in his statement.
“The Special Rapporteur is still in contact with the Moroccan authorities and he confirmed his readiness to cooperate to find an arrangement acceptable by both parties for making a visit at a later date,” the statement added.