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Careers, Jobs and Education Resources for: Western Sahara

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Morocco virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara) in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal. A guerrilla war with the Polisario Front contesting Rabat's sovereignty ended in a 1991 UN-brokered cease-fire; a UN-organized referendum on final status has been repeatedly postponed. In April 2007, Morocco presented an autonomy plan for the territory to the UN, which the U.S. considers serious and credible. The Polisario also presented a plan to the UN in 2007. Since June 2007, representatives from the Government of Morocco and the Polisario Front have met four times to negotiate the status of Western Sahara. (from the CIA)


Economic Overview

Western sahara depends on pastoral nomadism, fishing, and phosphate mining as the principal sources of income for the population. the territory lacks sufficient rainfall for sustainable agricultural production, and most of the food for the urban population must be imported. incomes in western sahara are substantially below the moroccan level. the moroccan government controls all trade and other economic activities in western sahara. morocco and the eu signed a four-year agreement in july 2006 allowing european vessels to fish off the coast of morocco, including the disputed waters off the coast of western sahara. moroccan energy interests in 2001 signed contracts to explore for oil off the coast of western sahara, which has angered the polisario. however, in 2006 the polisario awarded similar exploration licenses in the disputed territory, which would come into force if morocco and the polisario resolve their dispute over western sahara.

Environmental Issues

Sparse water and lack of arable land

Government Type

Legal status of territory and issue of sovereignty unresolved; territory contested by morocco and polisario front (popular front for the liberation of the saguia el hamra and rio de oro), which in february 1976 formally proclaimed a government-in-exile of the sahrawi arab democratic republic (sadr), led by president mohamed abdelaziz; territory partitioned between morocco and mauritania in april 1976, with morocco acquiring northern two-thirds; mauritania, under pressure from polisario guerrillas, abandoned all claims to its portion in august 1979; morocco moved to occupy that sector shortly thereafter and has since asserted administrative control; the polisario's government-in-exile was seated as an organization of african unity (oau) member in 1984; guerrilla activities continued sporadically until a un-monitored cease-fire was implemented on 6 september 1991 (security council resolution 690) by the united nations mission for the referendum in western sahara or minurso


393,831 note: estimate is based on projections by age, sex, fertility, mortality, and migration; fertility and mortality are based on data from neighboring countries (july 2008 est.)


Northern africa, bordering the north atlantic ocean, between mauritania and morocco


Total: 266,000 sq km land: 266,000 sq km water: 0 sq km

About the size of colorado

Country Aliases

Conventional long form: none conventional short form: western sahara former: spanish sahara


None time difference: utc 0 (5 hours ahead of washington, dc during standard time)

International Disputes

Morocco claims and administers western sahara, whose sovereignty remains unresolved; un-administered cease-fire has remained in effect since september 1991, administered by the un mission for the referendum in western sahara (minurso), but attempts to hold a referendum have failed and parties thus far have rejected all brokered proposals; several states have extended diplomatic relations to the "sahrawi arab democratic republic" represented by the polisario front in exile in algeria, while others recognize moroccan sovereignty over western sahara; most of the approximately 102,000 sahrawi refugees are sheltered in camps in tindouf, algeria

Sources: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

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