Western Sahara Mission Mandate Renewal
Tomorrow morning (25 April), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for twelve months. (The current mandate expires on 30 April 2013.) The draft resolution was put in blue this morning (24 April). It seems that the resolution which will be adopted tomorrow does not differ fundamentally from the previous MINURSO resolution (S/RES/2044).
Two weeks ago, the first draft of this resolution prepared by the US, the penholder on Western Sahara, was discussed by the Group of Friends of Western Sahara (France, Russia, US, UK and Spain). The most significant new element it seems was language which would have given MINURSO a mandate to monitor and gather information on human rights violations. It apparently also included reference to human rights monitoring in the Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro (Polisario)-run refugee camps near Tindouf, Algeria by UN agencies.
This is not the first time a Council member has tried to propose new language on the human rights situation in Western Sahara. South Africa made an attempt in 2011, as did Costa Rica in 2009. However both those attempts came to naught in the face of strong opposition from other members, particularly France.
It seems the Group of Friends decided that this was an issue that needed to be worked out between the US and Morocco, which led to the US having bilateral consultations with Morocco in order to find a compromise. Apparently the US presented a new version of the draft resolution to the Group of Friends earlier in the week which excluded language on human rights monitoring as well as a number of other new elements. Following feedback from the Group of Friends the draft text was amended and circulated yesterday afternoon to all Council members. Following one round of negotiations it was put under silence yesterday evening.
The draft resolution in blue includes language encouraging the parties to continue in their respective efforts to enhance the promotion and protection of human rights in Western Sahara and the Tindouf refugee camps, and on the steps taken by Morocco to strengthen the National Council on Human Rights as well as the country’s ongoing interaction with the Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures. It also appears that in addition to reiterating consideration of refugee registration in the Tindouf refugee camps, the draft encourages efforts in this regard.
The draft resolution reflects recent developments as well as some of the recommendations made by the Secretary-General in his latest report. Besides encouraging the parties to continue cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in implementing the action plan on confidence-building measures, it specifically supports the Secretary-General’s request for six additional UN police officers to implement the expanded UNHCR family visit program. (The draft resolution does not refer to the 15 additional military observers asked for in the Secretary-General’s report.)
The draft also recognises how achieving a political solution to the conflict and enhanced regional cooperation would contribute to the stability and security in the Sahel region, a view also expressed in the Secretary-General’s report.
Council members had the opportunity to discuss the situation in Western Sahara earlier this week when the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MINURSO, Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber (Germany), and the Secretary General’s Personal Envoy to Western Sahara, Christopher Ross (US), briefed the Council in consultations on 22 April. In his briefing Ross covered his visits to North Africa from March 18 to April 3 and from April 8-11, where he travelled to Rabat and Fez in Morocco, Laayoune and Dakhla in Western Sahara, the refugee camps near Tindouf in Algeria, Nouakchott in Mauritania, and Algiers in Algeria. Ross informed the Council that he will begin confidential bilateral discussions with the parties and neighbouring states in late May. Weisbrod-Weber updated the Council on MINURSO’s activities and recent developments since the Secretary-General’s report, and reiterated the Secretary-General’s request for an increase of 15 additional military observers and six additional UN police.