New York Hosts Seminar on Territorial Autonomy, Devolution of Legislative Powers – The North Africa Post
New York hosted an international seminar on territorial autonomy, devolution of legislative power and other topics.
The seminar, organized by Morocco’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, was attended by leading experts, researchers and academics from Switzerland, France, Spain, the United States and Mauritius as well as by about fifty diplomats, senior UN officials and media accredited to the United Nations.
This meeting provided an opportunity to compare Morocco’s autonomy initiative for the Sahara region with other autonomy experiences around the world, particularly in terms devolution of legislative power in autonomous regions.
Marc Finaud (Senior Advisor at the Geneva Center for Security Policy) moderated the seminar. He allowed people to share their experiences from the Rodrigues Island and New Caledonia.
In his opening speech, Marc Finaud recalled the provisions of the Moroccan Initiative for the autonomy of the Sahara region, that “has been described,” he said, “as serious and credible in more than a dozen resolutions of the UN Security Council, and approved by a growing number of countries.”
He stated that the Moroccan Initiative contains many provisions that guarantee the exercise and control of legislative power in Sahara, after reviewing Articles 5, 12, 19-20, 22 and 24. “The Moroccan proposal for the Sahara region is generous. It is, moreover, open to negotiation and can be developed and completed.”
In his presentation, Dr. Joan-Josep Vallbé, professor of political science at the University of Barcelona, presented the development of the legislative system in the Canary Islands since they were granted autonomy in 1982, and surveyed the major reforms introduced in 1996 and 2018.
He stressed that the region’s legislative power belongs to the regional legislature, which exercises the legislative function in total autonomy, free from interference from the central government.
Referring to the Moroccan Autonomy Initiative, he described Article 12 as “too open”, proposing to establish a list of areas of exclusive competence of both the central government and the region. He welcomed Article 19, in particular in terms active participation of local population and adequate representation of women.
Carine David, a professor of law at the University of the West Indies, France, made a comparison between the New Caledonian legislative powers and those provided for by the Moroccan autonomy initiative. She noted that the primary function of the Congress of New Caledonia was the exercise of legislative authority, which is materialized through the power granted to the local Assembly in order to adopt laws.
Carine David stated that the State has been irreversibly stripped of its competences and cannot intervene in these matters. She also pointed out that the New Caledonian context respects the equality between men and women. She suggested in this connection that the Moroccan Initiative gives more details on the “appropriate female representation” it refers to.
For his part, Dr. Jorge Farinacci Fernos from the University of Puerto Rico spoke in detail about the various aspects of the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States of America. He also discussed the exercise of its legislative power on local matters.
He also did a comparative exercise between Puerto Rico’s constitutional status and the various states that make up the United States. He focused on Articles 5, 6, 12, 14 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, and 24 in relation to the Moroccan Autonomy Initiative. These articles are, he said, the most relevant for the exercise legislative power in the Sahara region.
He described the definition of the “Statute of Autonomy of the Region”, highlighted in Article 24, as “the very foundation of the Initiative”. He noted that Puerto Rico has several structural limitations that prevent the exercise of legislative power. The U.S. Congress has the power to unilaterally amend or abolish its agreement with Puerto Rico.
Marie Valerie Uppiah (head of the law department of the University of Mauritius) presented one of the African examples of devolution of legislative powers. She discussed the case of Rodrigues Island which was an autonomous territory that was granted its autonomy from Mauritius by 2002.
She explained that Rodrigues Island’s autonomy allows it to establish its own system for governance. Rodrigues Island, along with the three branches that govern Mauritius, has its own institutions that govern and control its administration. These include a regional assembly with legislative powers, commissions that manage executive power, and courts that are part the judiciary.
At the same time, she stressed that “the Moroccan autonomy initiative is an appropriate solution for the Sahara region”, as “it has various advantages for both Morocco and the constituents of the Sahara region”.
She explained that autonomy would give the Sahara region greater powers and capabilities to run its own internal affairs. This includes, among others the legislative, executive, judicial powers. These are the three fundamental powers required for good governance of any state.
Source: north africa post