29 April 2014

Morocco: Security Council Extends UN Western Sahara Mission Through April 2015

Photo: Alfredo Caliz/Panos
A Sahrawi refugee camp near Tindouf, Algeria

The Security Council today extended for another year the mandate of the United Nations mission tasked with monitoring the ceasefire in Western Sahara and organizing a referendum on self-determination for the people of the territory.

The UN has been involved in efforts to find a settlement in Western Sahara since 1976, when fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente Polisario after the Spanish colonial administration of the territory ended.

In today's resolution, the 15-member Council extended the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April 2015. MINURSO has been in effect since 1991.

Today's resolution urges Member States to provide voluntary contributions to fund "confidence-building measures agreed upon between the parties" including visits between separated family members.

Earlier this month, the United Nations refugee agency announced that, following months of suspension, family flights between Sahrawi refugees living in camps near Tindouf, Algeria, and their relatives in the territory of Western Sahara had resumed. Nearly 20,000 people have taken part in family visits since the programme began in 2004.

The renewed mandate also supports Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's request for an additional 15 UN military observers, within existing resources.

As in previous mandates, the Security Council encourages the parties to continue their efforts to enhance the promotion and protection of human rights in Western Sahara and the Tindouf camps refugee camps in Algeria. Members this year added additional language to these efforts to include "the freedoms of expression and association."

The Council also welcomed recent steps and initiatives taken by Morocco to strengthen the National Council on Human Rights Commissions, and the Government's continued interaction Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council.

Members also noted that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is planning a visit to Western Sahara this year.

The Council discussed the situation in Western Sahara on 17 April when the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MINURSO, Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber, as well as the Secretary General's Personal Envoy to Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, briefed members in closed-door consultations.

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