The UN High Commissioner for Refugees announced today that its annual Nansen
Refugee Award will be awarded to the late Senator Edward Kennedy for his
achievements as an unparalleled champion of refugee protection and assistance.
For years Kennedy fought for the rights of the Saharawi people and refugees
around the world. Press release, 15 Sept 2009. Published: 15.09 - 2009
13:32Printer version Press release, Norwegian Support Committee for
Western Sahara15 September 2009
"Ted Kennedy was a steadfast defender of the Saharawi people’s right to
determine its own future, in line with UN resolutions and international law. We
are very pleased that the UN High Commissioner honors Kennedy’s effort for
refugees around the world", said Ronny Hansen in The Norwegian Support Committee
for Western Sahara.
Some of Kennedy's Western Sahara statements
"Due to serious violations of the peace plan by the Government of Morocco, the
[MINURSO] observers have been prevented from fostering an atmosphere of
confidence and stability conducive to holding a free and fair
referendum"Statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Africa Subcommittee, 1
"The ongoing crisis in the Western Sahara raises serious questions regarding the
Government of Morocco's willingness to honor its international commitment to a
free and fair referendum in the Western Sahara."Statement, January 1994
"The International Court of Justice, the Organization of African Unity, the
United States, and many nations throughout the world have not recognized
Morocco's claim to the Western Sahara, but the Moroccan occupation
continues."Statement, June 1999
"Morocco gained the respect of the international community when it agreed in
1991 and again in 1997 to allow a referendum on the future of the Western
Sahara. These actions demonstrated an impressive commitment to the right of
self-determination for the people of the Western Sahara. The referendum is an
important part of the peace process, and I hope that it will take place as soon
as possible."Press release after meeting between Kennedy and King Mohammed VI,
22 June 2002.
See also statement from 2000, in which Kennedy demands that US Secretary of
State submits report to the Senate on progress of referendum.Time and again over
several decades, Edward Kennedy championed the Western Sahara cause in the US
Senate and the White House. He repeatedly criticized the US for not doing enough
to pressure Morocco and strengthen the UN effort.
In 2000 he debated the issue directly with the Moroccan King, Mohammed VI. “The
referendum is an important part of the peace process, and I hope that it will
take place as soon as possible”, Kennedy said in a statement after the meeting.
In announcing the 2009 Nansen award, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António
Guterres said: "Senator Kennedy stood out as a forceful advocate for those who
suddenly found themselves with no voice and no rights. Year after year, conflict
after conflict, he put the plight of refugees on the agenda and drove through
policies that saved and shaped countless lives."
The Nansen Refugee Award is given annually to an individual or organization for
outstanding work on behalf of refugees. Funded by Norway and Switzerland it was
created in 1954 in honor of Fridtjof Nansen, the legendary Norwegian polar
explorer and scientist, and the first High Commissioner for Refugees. In this
role, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922.
Kennedy made an enormous effort to put the Western Sahara issue on the political
agenda. In 2008 he helped award the Saharawi human rights activist Aminatou
Haidar the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.
"We have lost a loud and clear voice for the Saharawi people, but rejoice today
in celebration of his life and service", said Hansen.
See UNHCR statement here: http://www.unhcr.org/4aaf5d4b6.html Contact: Ronny
Hansen President, The Norwegian Support Committee for Western
Sahararonnyha@gmail.com Phone: +47 94 25 02 70
The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara is a membership based NGO
that works to promote the Sahrawi population’s right of self-determination and a
free Western Sahara. For more information, visit: www.vest-sahara.no
“As US. citizens, we are fortunate to live in a country founded on human rights
principles and the right to a government of our own choosing. Our democratic
ideals have inspired peoples in all hemispheres around the world. Elections
during the past twelve months in Russia, Burundi, Cambodia, Paraguay, and Yemen
are examples of the world-wide trend away from authoritarianism and toward
representative government. Sadly, this trend has not yet reached all regions of
the world. The indigenous Saharawi people in the Western Sahara have waited more
than 18 years to regain their right to self-determination. Hopefully, that right
will soon be restored to them. Since Morocco's invasion of the Western Sahara in
1975, King Hassan II has staged a long and costly war against the Saharawi
people to obtain permanent access to that territory's valuable natural
resources.” Ted Kennedy in the US Senate, January 1994.