October 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2011
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Western Sahara

Expected Council Action
In October, the Council is expecting to be briefed in consultations by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross. The Council is also likely to discuss the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) mandate. At press time, Ross was expected to undertake a visit to the region to meet all parties concerned before the consultations.

MINURSO’s mandate expires on 30 April 2012.


Key Recent Developments
On 19 April, the Council was last briefed by Ross on the negotiating process. It also considered the Secretary-General’s most recent report on MINURSO and was briefed by his Special Representative for Western Sahara, Hany Abdel-Aziz.

On 27 April, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1979, extending MINURSO’s mandate until 30 April 2012. The resolution stressed the importance of improving the human rights situation in Western Sahara and in the Tindouf refugee camps in southwestern Algeria. It also encouraged the parties to work with the international community to develop and implement independent and credible measures to ensure full respect for human rights.

The resolution also welcomed the establishment of the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH) in Morocco on 3 March and its proposed component regarding Western Sahara and the commitment of Morocco to ensure unqualified and unimpeded access to all special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council.

The resolution also asked the Secretary-General to keep it regularly informed on progress in the negotiations.

Parties to the Western Sahara conflict—Morocco and the Sahrawi national liberation movement, the Polisario Front—met for the seventh round of informal talks between 5 and 7 June in Greentree, New York. Algeria and Mauritania sent delegations to attend the opening and closing sessions and the discussion on confidence-building measures. After the meeting, Ross issued a communiqué stating that “the discussions took place in an atmosphere of serious engagement, frankness, and mutual respect”. Furthermore, the communiqué reiterated that the same issues and commitments were discussed in previous talks in Malta on 8 and 9 March.

The eighth round of talks took place in Greentree between 19 and 21 July. As before, Algeria and Mauritania attended the opening and closing sessions, as well as the discussions on confidence-building measures. Following the meeting, Ross stated that “the parties continued to deepen their discussions on the two proposals, including the issue of the electoral corps, mechanisms for self-determination, and the forms of guarantees”. The statement added that, “each party continued to reject the proposal of the other as the sole basis for future negotiations, while reiterating their willingness to work together to reach a political solution in conformity with the pertinent resolutions of the United Nations Security Council”.

The meeting also took note of the report by the UN Mine Action Service based on its latest technical mission and preliminarily discussed the theme of natural resources within a UN-proposed framework. Moreover, on confidence-building measures, all parties involved reiterated their support for the appropriate implementation of the 2004 plan of action.

The Secretary-General appointed Maj. Gen. Abdul Hafiz of Bangladesh as the new force commander of MINURSO. Hafiz succeeds Maj. Gen. Jingmin Zhao of China, whose tour of duty ended on 10 April. Ban informed the Council of his intention to appoint Hafiz in a letter dated 22 July.


Human Rights-Related Issues
In a statement issued in Rabat on 16 September, the UN human rights expert on cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, urged Morocco to further promote cultural rights and diversity in the country. Shaheed had just completed a 12-day tour of Morocco and had also visited Dakhla in Western Sahara. Noting a degree of suppression of cultural references in proposed performances at festivals promoting the heritage of Western Sahara, Shaheed asserted that “measures that limit the cultural rights of the population of Western Sahara should be immediately revoked.” 


Key Issues
A key issue for the Council to consider is the nature of its own role to ease the four-year deadlock in the negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front. This deadlock has been caused mainly by the refusal of both parties to accept the proposal of the other as the sole basis of negotiation.


One option for the Council is to simply receive the briefing and take no action.

Another option, to highlight its concern with the lack of movement on the negotiations, would be to adopt a presidential or press statement supporting all or some of the three approaches recommended by the Secretary-General’s report:

  • emphasise the inclusion of a wide cross-section of the population of Western Sahara in the discussion of issues related to final status and the exercise of self-determination;
  • highlight the need to obtain the approval of the population for any agreement; and
  • encourage both parties to focus on common ground to resume formal discussions instead of devoting energy to points of contention.


Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members remain divided on the best way to resolve the conflict in Western Sahara. Countries such as South Africa acknowledge that MINURSO has been successful in preserving the ceasefire since its inception. However, they also feel that the objective of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara has yet to be met. The duration of this mission, 20 years and running, has been a considerable concern to several members. At the time of MINURSO’s mandate renewal, a concern was voiced that there were no African members within the Group of Friends of Western Sahara, which is comprised of France, Russia, the US, the UK and Spain. The UK has been supportive of Ross’s efforts, but is acknowledging that no progress has been made and that the current impasse is not sustainable long-term.


UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1979 (27 April 2011) renewed MINURSO’s mandate until 30 April 2012.
  • S/RES/1871 (30 April 2009) renewed MINURSO’s mandate and welcomed the parties’ agreement to hold small, informal talks.
  • S/RES/690 (29 April 1991) established MINURSO.

Latest Secretary-General’s Report


  • S/2011/460 (26 July 2011) was the President of the Council’s letter to the Secretary-General acknowledging the receipt of his earlier letter to the Council.
  • S/2011/459 (22 July 2011) was the Secretary-General’s letter to the President of the Council informing the Council of his intention to appoint Maj. Gen. Abdul Hafiz (Bangladesh) as force commander of MINURSO.
  • SC/10234 (27 April 2011) was a press release reporting the extension of MINURSO’s mandate.
  • S/PV.6516 (18 April 2011) was the official communiqué of the closed meeting between the Council and the troop- and police-contributing countries to MINURSO.


Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Hany Abdel-Aziz (Egypt)

Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy

Christopher Ross (United States)

MINURSO Force Commander

Maj. Gen. Abdul Hafiz (Bangladesh)

Size and Composition of MINURSO as of 31 July 2011

Authorised: 231 troops; 6 police officers
Current: 228 total uniformed personnel (i.e. 27 troops; 4 police officers; 197 military observers); 98 international civilian personnel; 162 local civilian staff; 18 United Nations Volunteers
Military Contributors: Argentina, Austria, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Croatia, Djibouti, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Uruguay and Yemen.
Police Contributors: Egypt, El Salvador and Jordan.


1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012: $63.22 million (A/C.5/65/19)

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