October 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2013
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Western Sahara

Expected Council Action 

In October, the Council members expect a briefing in consultations on the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) by Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of MINURSO, and Christopher Ross, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara. 

MINURSO’s mandate expires on 30 April 2014. 

Key Recent Developments

Weisbrod-Weber and Ross last briefed the Council in consultations on 22 April. Ross confirmed the willingness of the parties to engage in a period of bilateral consultations and shuttle diplomacy. Weisbrod-Weber updated the Council on MINURSO’s activities.

On 25 April, the Council adopted resolution 2099, extending MINURSO’s mandate for another year. A draft resolution prepared by the US had been discussed earlier by the Group of Friends of Western Sahara (France, Russia, Spain, the UK and the US) and by the US and Morocco in bilateral consultations. The initial draft apparently included language giving MINURSO a mandate to monitor and gather information on human rights violations as well as a reference to human rights monitoring in the camps near Tindouf, but by the time the draft was distributed to all Council members this language had been withdrawn. 

The adoption of resolution 2099 without including a human rights monitoring mechanism was followed by a wave of pro-independence rallies from 26 April with Sahrawi demonstrators asking for self-determination and the respect of human rights. The demonstrations peaked on 4 May and took place mainly in Laâyoune, Smara and Boujdour. Security forces and protestors were reportedly wounded. 

On 10 June, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Mohammed Abdelaziz, the Secretary-General of the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguía el-Hamra y Río de Oro (Polisario Front), in New York and encouraged the Polisario to remain constructively engaged with Ross. Ban expressed concern over the increasing frustration and vulnerability among young people in the refugee camps near Tindouf caused by the absence of a settlement and the instability of the Sahel region. On 25 June, Ban received Taib Fassi Fihri, an advisor to King Mohammed VI of Morocco. While Ban commended Morocco for its efforts to promote human rights, he called on both parties to observe international human rights standards and stressed the need for sustained monitoring both in Western Sahara and in the refugee camps. He also called on Morocco to continue to engage in the confidence-building measures run by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and expressed his hope for an improvement in relations between Morocco and Algeria. 

The UNHCR, Morocco, the Polisario, Algeria and Mauritania attended a session in Geneva on 2 July to review the confidence-building measures. They agreed on 3 July to expand the UNHCR programme, which offers separated families in Western Sahara and refugee camps in Tindouf a range of services to help them reconnect. An agreement was reached on a new flight schedule for visits in 2014 and additional seminars, with the next to take place in October in Portugal. 

A new wave of pro-independence demonstrations started on 26 August, with approximately 100 participants gathering in close proximity to a Royal Moroccan Army strongpoint in the Mahbas Teamsite, in the north-eastern part of the territory controlled by the Polisario. The demonstrators dispersed peacefully on 30 August. 

Ross’s next trip to the region is scheduled in October. 

Key Issues

A key issue for the Council to consider is the nature of its role in encouraging progress in the negotiating process, particularly regarding Ross’s current approach of bilateral discussions with each party. 

A growing issue is to ensure that instability in the Sahel does not contribute to radicalising refugee camps in light of the fragile situation of young people in the camps. 

An ongoing issue for the Council is to ensure that all parties fully commit to, and observe, the human rights of all individuals caught in the conflict. 


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

Another, though unlikely, option is to adopt a press statement expressing support for the mediation efforts by Ross. 

Council and Wider Dynamics

Council members engaged on the issue remain supportive of the shuttle diplomacy undertaken by Ross. At press time, however, it was still too early to tell how the outcome of Ross’s next trip to the region might impact Council members’ positions. 

Bilateral discussions between the US and Morocco played a key role in the drafting of resolution 2099, while the role of Council members who are not part of the Group of Friends was limited. As a government reshuffle was carried out in Algeria on 11 September, with Ramtane Lamamra, the former AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, appointed foreign affairs minister, it remains to be seen if the appointment of Lamamra, an official deeply familiar with the Security Council and well respected by most of its members, will affect Council dynamics with regard to Western Sahara. Lamamra could also be of help arranging a visit by Ross to the AU. 

The US is the penholder on Western Sahara.

UN Documents on Western Sahara

Security Council Resolution
25 April 2013 S/RES/2099 This resolution extended the mandate of MINURSO until 30 April 2014.
Secretary-General’s Report
8 April 2013 S/2013/220 This was a report of the Secretary-General on MINURSO.
Security Council Letters
26 August 2013 S/2013/508 This was a letter from the President of the Security Council to the Secretary-General on the appointment of Major General Imam Edy Mulyono (Indonesia) as MINURSO force commander.
22 August 2013 S/2013/507 This was a letter from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council on the appointment of Major General Imam Edy Mulyono (Indonesia) as MINURSO force commander.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of MINURSO
Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber (Germany) 

Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara
Christopher Ross (US) 

MINURSO Size, Composition and Budget
Strength as of 31 August 2013: 27 troops; 199 military observers; 6 police; 94 international civilians; 167 local civilians; 12 UN volunteers
Budget (July 2013-June 2014): $60,475,700 

MINURSO Duration
April 1991 to present