ABSTRACT

The Western Sahara conflict has predominantly featured state actors, including the Polisario Front and its de facto Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) government-in-exile. Regionally, the main protagonists have been Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and Libya, while core international players have included Spain, France and the United States. As such, the role played in this conflict by civil society, if any, has had little visibility. This notwithstanding, the aim of this chapter is to investigate the role played by local CSOs in the transformation of the Western Sahara conflict. It will do so with the additional aim of identifying how the EU could be more effectively involved in the dispute, in particular through cooperation with relevant local CSOs. To this end, eight CSOs from each side of the conflict (Morocco and Western Sahara) are examined, with a view to analysing: (a) their activities; (b) their impact on conflict transformation; and (c) their effectiveness. Subsequently, the nature, extent and impact of existing EU involvement in the conflict, if any, is analysed, and the ways in which it could be optimized identified. The final section will dissect the dynamics underlying the EU’s role in the conflict, focusing, in particular, on the hypotheses put forward in Chapter 1.