The 2015 Appropriations Bill passed by Congress and signed Tuesday night by President Obama includes a strengthened mandate requiring that US assistance designated for Morocco be used in the Western Sahara. Congress has expressed strong bipartisan support for such a measure in the past—in letters, reports, and most recently the 2014 Appropriations Bill. This year’s spending bill frames the mandate even more unequivocally, stating that “Funds appropriated under Title 3 of the Act shall be made available for assistance for the Western Sahara” (emphasis added). The language of the bill not only mandates spending of US aid in the Sahara, but goes further to ensure this intent is fulfilled by Congress through a consultative mechanism between both branches of government.
The bill puts into action the “shared commitment to the improvement of the lives of the people of the Western Sahara” made in the Joint Statement that followed President Barack Obama’s and King Mohammed VI’s November 2013 White House meeting. In a Joint Statement following the second US-Morocco Strategic Dialogue in April 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry and Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Salaheddine Mezouar again “affirmed their shared commitment to the improvement of the lives of the people of the Western Sahara.”
Appropriations Bill Further Reinforces US Policy Supporting Moroccan Autonomy Plan
“Morocco has invested billions of dollars in economic and social development in Western Sahara, preparing its Saharan provinces for future autonomy by building roads, schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure, and by encouraging robust political and social activism,” said Robert M. Holley, Senior Policy Advisor at the Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP). “US financial support will ensure that this progress continues and even accelerates.”
The bill’s language further strengthens US policy supporting a solution to the Western Sahara conflict based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty and recognizing the Moroccan autonomy initiative as “serious, realistic, and credible.”
“Beginning with President Clinton, three administrations and strong bipartisan majorities of both houses of Congress have backed a solution to the Western Sahara conflict based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty,” said Jordan Paul, Executive Director of MACP. “This requirement, providing concrete support for Morocco’s Herculean efforts over decades to improve the lives of citizens in its southern provinces, demonstrates once again, and even more clearly, the strength of the US commitment to such a compromise solution.”