The EU, Civil Society and Conflict Transformation in Western Sahara: The Failure of Disengagement
The protracted Western Sahara dispute, which has for over three decades pitted Morocco against the Sahrawi independentistas of the Polisario Front, epitomises the impotence of state-led conflict resolution efforts. The European Union (EU) has voluntarily remained withdrawn from the processes of transformation of this southern neighbourhood conflict, unable to surpass the politics of its inherent inter-governmentalism. This paper examines the alternative role played by local civil society organisations (CSO) in the transformation of the Western Sahara conflict. It analyses the input of a methodologically-informed selection of Moroccan and Sahrawi CSOs with a view to identifying the potential of more effectual EU involvement in the dispute, notably through cooperation with the relevant CSOs. The findings of this study point to the overwhelmingly fuelling role played by local CSOs in this particular conflict, but identify ways in which more peace-building civil actors could be empowered by the EU. These CSOs are often of grass-root origins with little or no links to the establishments on both sides of the conflict.
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