The United Nations has long been engaged in the search for a peaceful solution to the conflict over Western Sahara.
The Department of Political Affairs currently provides staff assistance and guidance to the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, who was appointed in January 2009 to continue the search for a negotiated settlement under UN auspices. Talks were resumed in the latter half of 2009 following four rounds of inconclusive discussions during 2007-2008 involving the parties to the conflict, Morocco and the POLISARIO Front, and the neighbouring countries of Algeria and Mauritania.
Amid continued diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict, a UN peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), has remained on the ground, providing a stabilizing presence and assisting affected populations.
MINURSO was deployed in 1991 to oversee a cease-fire and a UN settlement plan; however disagreements between the two parties prevented the holding of the anticipated referendum on the territory’s future. A revised settlement plan proposed by the United Nations after seven years of diplomatic consultations was rejected by one of the parties in 2004.
In approving the current phase of direct negotiations in 2007, the United Nations Security Council called for “a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political settlement which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.”