posted on Tue 26 Apr 2011 10:45 AM
Insights on Western Sahara

The Council is likely to adopt a resolution tomorrow (Wednesday, 27 April) renewing the mandate of the UN Mission in Western Sahara. Council members are still negotiating a draft resolution. A text was circulated to the wider Council membership on Monday, 18 April. The draft had earlier been discussed by the Group of Friends of Western Sahara (France, Russia, the US, UK and Spain).

Council consultations on the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) were postponed twice earlier this month because the Secretary-General’s report (due on 6 April) was not circulated until 15 April. The Council finally met on Western Sahara on 19 April where it was briefed by the Secretary-General’s Envoy, Christopher Ross, and Special Representative and head of MINURSO, Hany Abdel-Aziz.

The resolution may eventually contain some language on improving the human rights situation in Western Sahara and the camps and allowing access to all Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. But as yet there is no agreement on establishing a human rights mechanism within MINURSO. Some Council members, like South Africa, are in favour of a human rights mechanism but there had been strong opposition from others like France.

One of the the issues raised during the negotiations on the draft resolution was the language on the National Council of Human Rights in Morocco. Some members feel that the language in the draft currently welcoming the establishment of the National Council and its proposed component in Western Sahara could be interpreted as prejudging whether Morocco has authority over Western Sahara.

Also under discussion is language requesting the Secretary-General to keep the Council informed at least twice a year on the status and progress of the Western Sahara negotiations. This could change the reporting cycle on Western Sahara from yearly to 6-monthly. The Secretary-General is likely to be asked to examine the challenges to MINURSO’s operations in his next report.