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Western Sahara is located on the northwest coast of West Africa and on the cusp of North Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean to the northwest, Morocco proper to the north-northeast, Algeria to the east-northeast, and Mauritania to the east and south.

Western Sahara is a sparsely-populated area of mostly desert situated on the northwest coast of Africa. A former Spanish colony, it was annexed by Morocco in 1975. Since then it has been the subject of a long-running territorial dispute between Morocco and its indigenous Saharawi people, led by the Polisario Front.

Occupied by Spain from 1884 until 1975, Western Sahara has been on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories since 1963 after a Moroccan demand. It is the most populous territory on that list and by far the largest in the area. In 1965, the United Nations General Assembly adopted its first resolution on Western Sahara, asking Spain to decolonize the territory.

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The Kingdom of Morocco claims the territory of Western Sahara and administers the territory that it controls. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO), an organization that seeks its independence, disputes Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over the territory. Moroccan and POLISARIO forces fought intermittently from 1975, when Spain relinquished colonial authority over the territory, until a 1991 cease-fire and the establishment of a UN peacekeeping mission. Then United Nations personal envoy of the secretary-general Horst Koehler convened a roundtable meeting on March 21-22. At the conclusion of that meeting, Koehler commended all delegations for their engagement and for demonstrating an awareness of the many individuals placing their hopes in the renewed political process. The delegations agreed to continue the discussion under a similar format to identify elements of convergence, although Koehler resigned from his position in May and by year’s end was not replaced by the UN secretary-general. Read more, U.S Department of StateLibrary of Congress

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October 2020

On 14 October, Council members met in a closed VTC session to hear briefings from Special Representative and head of MINURSO Colin Stewart and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita.

After that, members entered into negotiations to renew the mandate of MINURSO. On 30 October, the Council adopted resolution 2548 through a written voting procedure to renew MINURSO for an additional year. Thirteen voted in favor, and there were two abstentions.

April 2020

On 9 April, Council members held a closed VTC meeting on Western Sahara and MINURSO. Special Representative Colin Stewart and Assistant Secretary-General for Africa Bintou Keita briefed. Member states were apparently told that the Secretary-General is working hard to find a new Personal Envoy (the post has been vacant for 11 months). After the meeting South Africa appeared to suggest adopting press elements, however one permanent member was unable to agree, and no press elements were issued.

October 2019

On 16 October, Council members met in consultations to discuss MINURSO before its mandate’s expiry on 31 October. Special Representative Colin Stewart discussed the fragile peace and ongoing humanitarian challenges in the region. The Council adopted a resolution on 30 October renewing MINURSO’s mandate for 12 months.

April 2019

On 10 April, Council members met in consultations to discuss MINURSO and the second roundtable of the parties in Geneva that occurred in March. Council members were briefed by Special Representative of the Secretary-General Colin Stewart and Personal Envoy Horst Köhler. On 24 April, Council members began negotiations to renew MINURSO’s mandate. The Council voted on the renewal of MINURSO’s mandate on 30 April. 

August 2018

On 8 August, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy to Western Sahara, Horst Köhler, briefed Council members in consultations. Köhler updated members on his 23 June to 1 July visit to the region to push for the resumption of negotiations, and on his vision for how to move forward the political process.

April 2018

On 17 April, Council members met in consultations to be briefed by Special Representative for the Secretary-General and head of MINURSO Colin Stewart on the situation in Western Sahara. During

consultations, members considered the Secretary-General’s latest report on Western Sahara. On 27 April, the Council adopted resolution 2414 renewing the mandate of MINURSO for six months.