The Security Council has, by recorded vote, adopted a resolution extending for one year the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), emphasising “the urgent need for the mission to return to full functionality.”
Calling on all parties to co-operate fully with MINURSO operations, the Council, by a vote of 10 in favour to two against (Venezuela and Uruguay), with three abstentions (Angola, New Zealand and Russia), extended the mission’s mandate until April 30, 2017.
The colonial administration of Western Sahara by Spain ended in 1976. Fighting later broke out between Morocco and the Polisario Front. A ceasefire was signed in September 1991. MINURSO was deployed that year to monitor a ceasefire between the Government of Morocco and the Polisario Front and organising, if the parties agree, a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara.
In the current text, the Council calls upon the parties to “continue negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General without pre-conditions and in good faith, taking into account the efforts made since 2006 and subsequent developments, with a view to achieving a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara,” in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles of the UN Charter.
The Council’s action follows its consideration of the Secretary-General’s latest report, which notes that without a suitable and fully staffed international civilian component, the mission cannot fulfil a core component of its functions and will thus fail to meet expectations. It warns the inability of the mission to execute its mandated tasks would entail, in the short- to middle-term, “significant implications for the stability of the region as well as for the credibility of the Council and peacekeeping operations and political missions globally.”
Regretting that MINURSO’s ability to fully carry out its mandate has been affected as the majority of its civilian component, including political personnel, cannot perform their duties, the Council, in its resolution, requested a briefing from the Secretary-General within 90 days on whether the mission has returned to full functionality and expressed “its intention, if MINURSO has not achieved full functionality, to consider how best to facilitate achievement of this goal.”
Further, Council members expressed their “firm support for the determined efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, for a solution to the question Western Sahara.”
The Council also urged Member States to make voluntary contributions to fund confidence-building measures agreed by the parties, including those allowing separated members of the same family to visit, and food programmes to ensure humanitarian needs of refugees are adequately addressed.