posted on Fri 15 Apr 2011 3:03 PM
Insights on Western Sahara

Security Council consultations on Western Sahara were originally scheduled for today (Friday, 15 April) but have been postponed to Tuesday,19 April. (This is the second postponement. Yesterday it was postponed from Friday, 15 April to Monday, 18 April.) The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross, and the head of MINURSO, Hany Abdel-Aziz, are still expected to brief. The TCC meeting on MINURSO scheduled for Tuesday, 12 April has also been postponed twice, first to Wednesday, 13 April and now to Monday, 18 April. It appears that both meetings were postponed because of the delay in the circulation of the Secretary-General’s report on Western Sahara.

The annual report on Western Sahara was due on 6 April but by early April there were indications that it would be delayed. Council members expected to receive a copy early this week given that consultations were scheduled for Friday, 15 April. The report has just been circulated.

An early draft of the report was leaked to the press in early April. Media reports seem to indicate that a sensitive area for the UN has been whether or not it should recommend setting up a human rights monitoring mechanism within MINURSO.

Both Morocco and Polisario Front have been presenting their cases to the UN. The Polisario in early April sent a memorandum to Colombia, the Council President for April. The memorandum stressed that recent events in the region show that any political solution to the Western Sahara conflict needed to reflect the will of the people, otherwise its legitimacy would be challenged. The Polisoro authorities also urged the Council to address the right to self-determination as a central objective in the UN political process, underlined that unilaterally-imposed solutions are incompatible with the Council’s formula for a mutually acceptable political solution and asked for the protection and promotion of universal human rights in Western Sahara to be reflected in the resolution renewing MINURSO’s mandate.

Morocco sent a letter on 30 March to the Secretary-General outlining the measures it has taken to reinforce its national institutional and legal human rights framework, including the establishment of the National Human Rights Council and strengthening of the Ombudsman institution as well as the setting up of an inter-ministerial department for human rights. It strongly argues that the human rights dimension of the Western Sahara conflict can be covered by these new mechanisms and asked that these developments be taken into consideration as the Secretary-General prepares his report on Western Sahara.

The Group of Friends of Western Sahara (France, Russia, the US, UK and Spain) have had discussions on a possible draft resolution for the renewal of MINURSO’s mandate which expires on 30 April. It is unclear when Council members as a whole will be dealt in on the discussions. Negotiations are expected to be difficult. Some members of the Group of Friends believe that focusing on human rights issues may impede the goal of achieving a political solution. However, both South Africa and Nigeria, which have recognised the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), are likely to strongly support a human rights mechanism for MINURSO.