Political momentum must be maintained on Western Sahara despite resignation of UN envoy

Published: 28th May 2019

After nearly two years in the role, Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Western Sahara Horst Koehler announced his resignation due to health reasons on 22 May, 2019.

Oxfam Country Director in Algeria, Haissam Minkara, said: “The ongoing territorial conflict has had devastating humanitarian consequences, and the international community’s failure to facilitate a resolution has fostered a sense of abandonment among the Sahrawi refugee population.

However, the efforts of Former Personal Envoy Koehler throughout the past two years have led to renewed hope that a political solution to the conflict is achievable. To ensure the opportunity for progress created by Mr. Koehler and his team is not lost, Oxfam urges the UN Secretary-General António Guterres to swiftly appoint a successor to continue the efforts for a resolution of the conflict. 

Oxfam also encourages all parties to engage constructively with the new UN Personal Envoy once appointed in as transparent and inclusive a manner as possible and to uphold their responsibility to the Sahrawi people to secure a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution allowing Sahrawis  to live with dignity."
Since his appointment in June 2017, Mr. Koehler successfully convened the parties to the conflict and the neighboring states in negotiations for the first time in six years. The two rounds of talks, which took place in December 2018 and March 2019, have led to renewed momentum toward achieving a resolution to the four decade-long conflict.

The Western Sahara is considered by the United Nations as a non-self-governing territory in the process of decolonization. It stretches across an area of 266,000 km between the Atlantic Ocean, Morocco, and Mauritania. It is divided in two by the 2,700 km long ‘Border Wall,’ separating the Moroccan-administered portion (west) from the area controlled by the Frente POLISARIO (east). A proportion of the Sahrawi population also lives in refugee camps in southwestern Algeria, the majority of whom are dependent on humanitarian aid to sustain basic needs such as access to food, water, and shelter. Oxfam has been responding to the Sahrawi refugee crisis since 1975. 


Notes to editors

Anna Samulski | anna.samulski@oxfam.org | +213 (0) 660 73 55 01