The Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem described the Sahara International Film Festival, which will take place in the Sahrawi refugee camps in the Sahara desert next month, as "nothing short of a miracle."
In August of last year, I led an international delegation to evaluate the human rights situation of the Sahrawi people in Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara and in the Sahrawi refugee camps near Tindouf, Algeria.
Timbuktu conjures up images of remote parts of the earth and fabled ancient monuments. Now radical Islamic groups, with ties to al Qaeda, have taken over the north in Mali, destroying monuments and torturing civilians in a brutal interpretation of Sharia law.
As Algeria allows the detention of thousands of people on its soil and allows them to be abused by the Polisario, rather than allow them autonomy and the relative safety of their lands across the Western Sahara, there is no equality.
Algeria can no longer pretend that it has no vital interest in or responsibility for the outcome of the Western Sahara situation. Abductions of foreign nationals from their sovereign territory make Algeria a partner in the discussion, whether Algeria wishes it or not.
On Friday the General Assembly elected Morocco, Togo, Pakistan and Guatemala to serve two-year terms in the Security Council, starting in January 2012. But the Eastern European seat failed to get the two-thirds vote needed.
Morocco has been able to persist in flouting its international legal obligations toward Western Sahara largely because France and the United States have continued to arm Moroccan occupation forces and blocked enforcement of resolutions.
There are still sixteen territories around the world that have yet to achieve decolonization. Most notable is Western Sahara, known as Africa's last colony, which has fought for self-determination for more than 35 years against Morocco.
Most Americans are currently unaware of an ailing human rights campaigner from Western Sahara now in the third week of a risky hunger strike after being expelled from her occupied homeland by Moroccan authorities.
For all its well-intentioned rhetoric, President Obama's speech was, sadly, conceptually flawed, empirically challenged, and politically blind to the daily realities that drive hundreds of millions of Muslims to increasing despair.