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Luther student addresses United Nations

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Nazario Jap Dos Santos (‘19) speaks at the United Nations in New York City.

Nazario Jap Dos Santos (‘19) speaks at the United Nations in New York City.

Photo courtesy of UnitedNations.org

Photo courtesy of UnitedNations.org

Nazario Jap Dos Santos (‘19) speaks at the United Nations in New York City.

Emma Busch, Staff Writer

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Luther student Nazario Jap Dos Santos (‘19) spoke at the United Nations (UN) in New York City on Oct. 4. Dos Santos spoke in favor of a referendum in Western Sahara before the Special Political and Decolonization Committee, also known as the UN’s Fourth Committee.

The Fourth Committee meets annually in October to discuss decolonization and non-self-governing territories such as Western Sahara, a disputed territory in Northern Africa on the border of the North Atlantic Ocean that is currently occupied by Morocco. Individuals and organizations are welcome to apply to address the committee as petitioners.

During the four minutes of speaking time allotted to individual petitioners, Dos Santos asked the UN to consider a referendum for Western Sahara, and he condemned the multinational companies that he believes are exploiting the territory’s resources. Dos Santos called on Spain, as the territory’s former colonizer, to support Western Sahara’s efforts towards self-determination. Dos Santos also argued for an increase in the budget for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which would aid the health of those in refugee camps.

Dos Santos credits the Center for Ethics and Public Engagement (CEPE) and the Dean’s Office for providing him with the funds necessary to travel to New York and for supporting his interest in petitioning. Dos Santos said that he was encouraged to speak in front of the committee by Fatimetu Jatri Emhamed (‘17), who addressed the committee last year, because of the similarities between their countries East Timor and Western Sahara. Emhamed responded to this, saying that Dos Santos’ interest in politics and Western Sahara led her to recommend that he speak to the Fourth Committee.

“I [encouraged] Nazario to go because we are good friends who [happen] to always talk about politics, not only on my country, but in other parts of the world,” Emhamed said. “Moreover, this summer Nazario has volunteered in an organization in his country, East Timor, that supports my peoples’ right to self-determination. He knows a lot about my country, which happens to have a quite similar history to his own.”

Western Sahara, a former colony of Spain, was claimed by Morocco in 1957 and Mauritania in 1960. Mauritania left the territory in 1979, but Morocco still maintains its power over the territory. Many Sahrawis have fled the area and according to the UN Refugee Agency, an estimated 165,000 of them live in refugee camps in their neighboring country, Algeria. 90,000 of these refugees are classified as “vulnerable” and lack “income-generating activities.”

During the four minutes of speaking time allotted to individual petitioners, Dos Santos asked the UN to consider a referendum for Western Sahara, and he condemned the multinational companies that he believes are exploiting the territory’s resources. Dos Santos also called on Spain, as the territory’s former colonizer, to support Western Sahara’s efforts towards self-determination. Dos Santos also argued for an increase in the budget for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which would aid the health of those in refugee camps. During his time at the UN, Dos Santos had the opportunity to meet students, lawyers, and ambassadors who are also interested in Western Sahara’s case for referendum, including the ambassador of Venezuela.

“We got invited by the Venezuelan ambassador to have breakfast with them,” Dos Santos said. “We talked about his support of Western Sahara’s cause. He also recognized that Venezuela is in a dangerous position right now because of the situation in their country, and he gave us books about Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and Evo Morales.”

Student Salamu Ali Brahim (‘19), a displaced Sahrawi raised in an Algerian refugee camp, says he is proud of Dos Santos and was pleased to hear his friend speak on his country’s behalf when he could not.

“I was also going to go as well, but I couldn’t because I was so busy,” Brahim said. “I am proud of him and I liked the points he made in his speech. When I was watching the video of his speech, it made me happy that he spoke on my country’s behalf.”

According to Dos Santos the experience was valuable for a number of reasons, and he was most grateful for having the opportunity to speak about the case and reflect on East Timor’s history.

“I got to know more about the UN, and I might go back to do some internship over there in the future,” Dos Santos said. “I met a lot of people that I don’t think I would have ever met, but the main thing for me was getting to speak about the case. It’s a self-reflection for me about what people in my country did during the Indonesian occupation.”

Dos Santos will speak of his experience during an information evening sponsored by The Center for Ethics and Public Engagement (CEPE) on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 4 p.m. in Valders 367.

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