Open Letter to the United Nations Secretary General on the situation in Western Sahara

In solidarity with Sahrawi human rights activist and 2019 Right Livelihood Laureate Aminatou Haidar, an open letter signed by twenty-two Right Livelihood Laureates was sent today to the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres ahead of his report to the Security Council.  

Read the full text in English belowClick to read it in French or Spanish. 




Mr. António Guterres
Secretary-General of the United Nations 


Geneva, 18 September 2020 


Your Excellency, 

We, the undersigned Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, would like to express our deep concern over the current situation in Western Sahara. In particular, we regret the prolonged interruption of the direct negotiation process between the Frente Polisario and the Kingdom of Morocco initiated in Geneva, Switzerland, under the auspices of Former German President Prof. Horst Köhler, the UNSG Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, in December 2018 and March 2019. We also view his premature resignation as a concerning development.   

We wish to draw your attention to the continuous suffering inflicted on the Sahrawi people during the now almost four-decade-long illegal military occupation of a large part of the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Western Sahara and its illegal annexation by the Kingdom of Morocco. Morocco has committed sustained violations of International Humanitarian Law and systematic and sustained human rights violations and abuses. Furthermore, the presence of hundreds of thousands of landmines along the 2700 kilometers of sand-wall dividing the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Western Sahara from North to South, remains a permanent impediment to the enjoyment of the economic, social and cultural rights of the Saharawi people and constitutes a threat to their identity and national life. 

We recall the numerous initiatives by the United Nations and the African Union to bring peace to the Non-Self-Governing Territory, aimed at ensuring that the Sahrawi people originating from the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Western Sahara are enabled and empowered to freely exercise their inalienable right to self-determination in a referendum, as per UNGA Resolution 1514 (XV) and numerous subsequent UN resolutions. We would also like to assert that the right to self-determination is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and it is the foundation on which MINURSO’s mission was built.  

Therefore, we, the undersigned, urge you to take immediate action, including:   

  • Calling for the expansion of the mandate of MINURSO to include human rights monitoring and reporting in Western Sahara. Failing that, the establishment of another mechanism by which the UN provides regular, on-the-ground human rights monitoring and reporting to ensure that the fundamental rights of the Sahrawi people are respected; 
  • Promptly appointing a new Personal Envoy without preconditions and to resume the negotiation process as a matter of urgency;  
  • Continuing to work to bring about a mutually-accepted agreement that enables the Sahrawi people to exercise freely their right to self-determination in a referendum on an agreed-upon future date, in conformity with the modalities to be agreed upon during the negotiations.

Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration. 


The Right Livelihood Award Laureates: 

Aminatou Haidar, Western Sahara, RLA Laureate 2019 

Sima Samar, Afghanistan, RLA Laureate 2012 

Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad, RLA Laureate 2011 

Yetnebersh NigussieEthiopia, RLA Laureate 2017 

Anwar Fazal, Malaysia, RLA Laureate 1982 

Angie Zelter / Trident Ploughshares, UK, RLA Laureate 2001 

Pat Mooney, Canada, RLA Laureate 1985 

Hunter Lovins, USA, RLA Laureate 1983 

Fernando Rendón / Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín, Colombia, RLA Laureate 2006 

Ruchama Marton / Physicians for Human Rights, Israel, RLA Laureate 2010 

Walden Bello, Philippines, RLA Laureate 2003 

Helen Mack Chang, Guatemala, RLA Laureate 1992 

Andras BiroHungary, RLA Laureate 1995 

Juan Pablo Orrego, Chile, RLA Laureate 1998 

Tony Rinaudo, Australia, RLA Laureate 2018 

Paul Walker, USA, RLA Laureate 2013 

Raul Montenegro, Argentina, RLA Laureate 2004 

GRAIN, RLA Laureate 2011 

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, Uganda, RLA Laureate 2015 

PK Ravindran / Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP), India, RLA Laureate 1996 

Alyn Ware, New Zealand, RLA Laureate 2009 

International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), RLA Laureate 1998