A few of our users from Morocco have reported that a new border delimiting the Sahrawi area has appeared on openstreetmap.org.


My understanding is that this is not an internationally recognized country and this is very sensitive for most of the Moroccan people.

I would like to know why it was decided to show this border and what lead to this decision ? Is there a way to hide this border (at least for our Moroccan users) ?

asked 03 Jan '17, 08:53

jobou78's gravatar image

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closed 16 Jun, 07:55

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Richard ♦

The question has been closed for the following reason "This is not a forum for political debates" by Richard 16 Jun, 07:55

Hello, Andy from the Data Working Group here. Here's the story of our involvement:

Various people complained to the DWG from around March 2016 onwards about edits in the area. What seemed to be happening was that mappers from Morocco were making politically motivated edits and removing the SADR area, labelling it as a "buffer zone" within an expanded Morocco territory. Part of the story can be seen from the history of the 5441968 relation.

At the same time various areas under Spanish control to the north were also removed from Spain and added to Morocco, and we got complaints about that too.

The OSMF has a document that explains how OpenStreetMap borders work. It's designed to be read by officials who may not be familiar with OSM, but it's useful to refer to here as it explains the "on the ground rule". In order to try and obtain the views of the mappers in the area I contacted a large number of recent editors via changeset discussion comments, and also posted to the "International boundaries" forum here. That also links to wikipedia articles covering the history of the former Western Sahara territory. Some previous editors in the area did appear to be "sock-puppets" of others, but all were contacted to ensure that no "real editors" were missed.

I asked a number of key questions, about the status of the eastern part of former Western Sahara, the status of places such as Ceuta and Melilla in the north and, and if the area to the east was a territory distinct from Morocco, what admin_level should it have?

After a number of responses came in, as already mentioned I responded here. As noted there, there was a clear majority in favour of recognising something either as "Western Sahara" or as "Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic" as a country (admin_level=2). That's why, as part of these changes the SADR relation was changed to admin_level=2 in September last year. What happened next was that a number of users tried to undo the changes made as a result of this discussion, including some of the suspected "sock puppets" mentioned above, and those changes were reverted and users sent a message that they had to read before continuing mapping (in English and French).

That's the situation as it stands now. If anyone has any further questions, they can email the DWG via data@osmfoundation.org.

Best Regards,


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answered 03 Jan '17, 12:47

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SomeoneElse ♦
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edited 03 Jan '17, 12:54

I was talking with members from OSM Morocco. And they sent me these links :




So it seems that it is a community decision based on a survey. It makes sense to have the data of these borders in the OSM database (for people who needs this) but I still think that they should not be displayed as the standard ones on osm.org.

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answered 03 Jan '17, 10:07

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edited 03 Jan '17, 10:08

Yes, you're right.

There is no country existing with that name "Sahrawi arab democ ...". This area is a Moroccan territory and supervised by the UN.

This is a political conflict, and OSM is a non-profit organisation. So, you should not approve any counter-contribution to the actual situation.


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answered 03 Jan '17, 09:58

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When you say "You should not approve any counter-contribution" do you mean that it should stay this way ?

(03 Jan '17, 10:05) jobou78

Of course NO. I mean, any contribution promoting this fanciful area should not be added/approved.

(03 Jan '17, 10:28) offygis

I agree. See my own answer above. To have these data in the database is ok. But they should not be displayed as the standard borders until a consensus is reached between the international community and the affected countries.

(03 Jan '17, 10:44) jobou78

There is no concept of "approved" in OpenStreetMap.

(03 Jan '17, 15:31) Richard ♦

Okey. But you could RollBack, right ?

(03 Jan '17, 16:14) offygis

@offygis I often point out to people with such complaints as yours, that if you were driving in the area in question, you would clearly prefer to have a map that accurately delineates the boundaries of control, regardless of if your government approves of them or not.

Further, as already has been pointed out, OSM tends to contain borders of defacto control (with some hysteresis wrt changes) and I don't see any serious argument against our current data in that respect.

Outside of the official OSM doctrine, it is fairly clear that the SADR does past the duck test for countries, see for example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_states_with_limited_recognition

(04 Jan '17, 09:32) SimonPoole ♦

Okey I understand. So in this case please don't hide the information and make "UN non-member states recognized by at least one UN member" Visible clearly. That's it

(04 Jan '17, 10:13) offygis
showing 5 of 7 show 2 more comments

As this is a international conflict under supervision of the UN, it would be appropriated to use the official UN map, showing the border between Morocco and the Non self governing territory (= official and international recognized status) Western Sahara. http://www.un.org/Depts/Cartographic/map/profile/wsahara.pdf

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answered 12 Mar '17, 17:19

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OSM is providing probably all international recognized borders everywhere on the globe except the border between Morocco and Western Sahara. This is confusing if not misleading. The Moroccan occupation and annexation of a part of Western Sahara should be clear on the map. Tourists who want to go surfing have the right to know Dahkla is not in Morocco but in occupied Western Sahara. Travellers must be warned they can get into trouble if they show sympathy for Saharawi's speaking out for independence. Embassies in Morocco can not give the usual assistance in Western Sahara. The border at Guergarat can prove to be difficult. So the border between Morocco and Western Sahara is invisible but important to be aware of. The concealment of the border is misleading. OSM can not be in the business of concealing information. So the border between Western Sahara and Morocco must be provided.

(13 Mar '17, 22:57) SZWS

OSM can't possibly hope to provide all the nuances associated with all borders. As noted in my answer above "international recognized" isn't a binary value for a border, and the "how much the international community thinks something should be a border" and "how much it is actually like a border on the ground" are very much orthoganal.

Also for the avoidance of doubt, do please note that "Western Sahara" (i.e. the whole territory) is in OSM: http://www.openstreetmap.org/relation/2559126 - if you want to render that on a map you are entirely free to do so.

(13 Mar '17, 23:32) SomeoneElse ♦

There is a lot of confusion on two different things : Western Sahara on one hand and the Saharawi republic on the other.

First Western Sahara. This is defined as a "non self-governing territory awaiting the process for self-determination" by the United Nations. (See their list of non self-governing territories at the UN or check Wikipedia.) The boundaries of the territory are well known and are similar to the boundaries of former Spanish Sahara. It is an important topic in international law and politics. There are rulings of the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Justice confirming the status. The territory of Western Sahara is divided. Morocco occupies most of it in the west and the Saharawi republic controls the other part to the east. There is a wall of separation in between. The UN has a peace mission called MINURSO in the territory to monitor the ceasefire and to organize a referendum to provide self-determination.

The Saharwi republic, called RASD (or SADR) was proclaimed by the original population of the territory in 1976 after Spain withdrew. RASD is not recognized by Morocco and indeed by most nations. It is however a full member of the African Union. RASD is recognized by its other neighbours Algeria and Mauritania. (Frente Polisario, the liberation movement of western Sahara, is recognized by most other nations and courts as the representative of the Saharawi people.)

The border between Western Sahara and Morocco is an international recognized border but it is not functional as such. It should be shown on maps with borders of nation states. The wall of separation between RASD and Morocco in Western Sahara is a frontier and temporary in nature and should be shown as such.

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answered 10 Jun, 11:51

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I think everybody that has been following this is aware of the slightly complicated situation, but it is, as essentially always in such situations, not the official view of any of the parties directly involved. Such official views are typically completely undeterred by the facts (and that is why they in general are irrelevant for the default rendering on osm.org).

(10 Jun, 12:19) SimonPoole ♦

"Western sahara" is not a "self governing territory " Spain invaded Morocco and left peacefully after the green march in 1975. This "country " never existed and will never exist. Their will be no referendum the concept has been burried by the U.N.very long time ago. You are providing false information to the users and I invite you to check the last resolution from the U.N. were polisario has been ordered to leave Guerguerate and prevented from moving its administrative buildings to Bir Lahlou.
Their is no international recognition of that border and Algeria has created armed financed trained polisario to lead a war on Morocco s borders after their defeat in the sands war. It is true that some Africans countries recognise "sadr" and that it is still in the AU. This is a breach to the UA charter and Morocco is back to the union. "Sadr" will soon get kicked out of the UA. Algeria has been ordered to participate in the negotiations directly as the world knows that they are directly responsible for this situation. Please refer back to history and the U.N. security council resolutions to complete your understanding of this issue, I am ready to debate

(10 Jun, 14:38) Mehdi Rafi

“western sahara" doesn’t exist for Morocco, the UN, the EU, the UK, and the very large majority of countries in the world. Morocco is one undivided country having Algeria, Mauritania and Spain as neighbors. It has been answered in the forum that you received complains about this which led to the modification September 2016. If you make a worldwide survey, or refer to the UN, you will find out that “western sahara” or “sadr” is not a recognized country.

The UN recognition is a binary value for a country.

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answered 09 Jun, 04:07

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Mehdi Rafi
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edited 09 Jun, 04:13


General note: the above statement is not factual.

(09 Jun, 09:11) SimonPoole ♦

The territory you are showing in your map is a demilitarized zone east of the wall that Morocco placed on its territory after the the sands war. This Moroccan territory is monitored by Minurso. The country "western sahara " or "sadr" doesn't exist on the ground and will never exist. You will not find any such country in the U.N.. these are plain facts

(10 Jun, 01:03) Mehdi Rafi

On the ground "western sahara " or "sadr" doesn't exist. Minurso is monitoring this Moroccan territory east of the wall built after the sands war. You can very easily check these facts.

(10 Jun, 02:09) Mehdi Rafi

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question asked: 03 Jan '17, 08:53

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last updated: 16 Jun, 07:55

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