NGO joint statement calling for inclusive peace from the Sahrawi refugee campsIn response to the MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) mandate renewal by the UN Security Council and in commemoration of this year’s Women, Peace, and Security week at the UN, DRC joins three organizations to urge the UN Security Council to support the development of an inclusive peace process.
For more than four decades Sahrawi refugees have remained displaced in southwestern Algeria, enduring life in a hostile desert environment as they await a resolution to the conflict that forced them to flee from their homes in 1975. The ongoing crisis in the Western Sahara has had devastating humanitarian consequences for the refugees and has continued to deprive the Sahrawi population of the opportunity to achieve self-determination and assert control over their lives and future. As the years continue to pass with little progress toward a solution, the Western Sahara conflict has become a forgotten crisis, and the perceived indifference of the international community has left many Sahrawi refugees feeling frustrated, abandoned and distrustful of the unsuccessful peace process.
Nevertheless, refugees continue to work toward peace locally and internationally. Women and youth in particular are mobilizing to actively and creatively engage with their communities and spread a culture of peace. Since the start of the conflict, Sahrawi women have borne the responsibility of establishing and developing the Sahrawi refugee camps and continue to lead the local administration and distribution of humanitarian aid in each neighborhood across the five camps. Youth, who have been especially impacted by the profoundly limited opportunity for social or economic integration, are also increasingly taking part in active citizenship initiatives and working to build bridges within the camps, regionally and internationally through advocacy and the promotion of non-violence.
In response to the MINURSO mandate renewal by the UN Security Council and in commemoration of this year’s Women, Peace, and Security week at the UN, we highlight the positive role that women and youth can play in building peace and urge the UN Security Council to support the development of an inclusive peace process through the following:
- Provide a platform for local voices. Sahrawi refugees have a long history of non-violent activism and community organizing in the refugee camps, and yet there is a sense among women and youth that their efforts to build and promote peace are often overlooked or altogether forgotten by the international community. We call for increased opportunities for Sahrawi women and youth to share their experiences of the conflict and their efforts toward peace building. In this regard, women and youth representatives should be supported to formally participate in the biannual UN Security Council briefing on Western Sahara, which should be held publicly rather than in closed consultations.
- Appoint a new Personal Envoy for Western Sahara. The failure by the international community to achieve substantive change since the 1991 establishment of a ceasefire and the UN Peacekeeping Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) has engendered a lack of confidence within the existing process among Sahrawi refugees. This failure is further exemplified by the fact that in over four months since the resignation of former UN Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Horst Koehler, no new Envoy has been appointed by the UN Secretary General. This represents a substantial obstacle toward political progress, as well as the apparent disinterest of the international community – and the UN Security Council specifically – in seriously pursuing a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which ensures the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
- Support a more inclusive peace process. The establishment of an inclusive peace process is crucial for building trust between the parties and achieving a peaceful and inclusive solution that is just, mutually-acceptable and durable. As a matter of urgency, the new UN Personal Envoy for Western Sahara – with the support of the Security Council – should facilitate the participation of Sahrawi youth and women representatives in future political negotiations through the creation of a multi-track peace process.
Signatories to the statement:
Comitato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo dei Popoli CISP
Danish Refugee Council
NOVA Sahara Occidental