Security Council Extends Mandate of United Nations Mission for Referendum in Western Sahara by 10 Votes in Favour, 2 against, with 2 Abstentions
Opposing Members Voice Concerns about Wording, Transparency in Consultations
The Security Council today extended until 30 April 2017 the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), reaffirming its commitment to help the parties achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for self-determination.
Adopting resolution 2285 (2016) by 10 votes in favour to 2 against (Uruguay, Venezuela), with 3 abstentions (Angola, New Zealand, Russian Federation), the Council emphasized the urgent need to return the Mission to full functionality.
Reaffirming the need for full respect for the military agreements reached with MINURSO regarding the ceasefire, the Council called upon all parties to cooperate fully with the Mission’s operations and to ensure the security of United Nations and associated personnel.
Affirming its full support for the commitment of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to a resolution of the Western Sahara question, the Council called upon the parties to show political will in order to enter into a more intensive and substantive phase of negotiations.
Further by the text, the Council requested that the Secretary-General brief its members regularly on the status and progress of those negotiations, challenges to MINURSO’s operations and steps taken to address them.
The Council urged Member States to provide voluntary contributions to fund confidence-building measures agreed between the parties. It also requested that the Secretary-General take necessary measures to ensure full compliance in MINURSO with the United Nations zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.
Speaking after the vote, the representative of the United States said it would be an understatement to say the renewal had been challenging and contentious. Emphasizing the importance of a constructive relationship between Morocco and the United Nations, she stressed that the Council must respond proactively when a Government required the departure of peacekeeping staff. In that regard, the resolution would serve as a signal of the Mission’s return to full functionality, she said.
Echoing that sentiment, Senegal’s representative said dialogue between the parties had never broken down, thanks to discreet diplomacy and bilateral talks. Describing the resolution as balanced, he expressed hope that it would support the peace process.
Ukraine’s representative noted that the resolution was important for the creation of an environment conducive to relaunching the political process. Commending the efforts of the Group of Friends of Western Sahara, he called on all parties to work in good faith.
Spain’s representative said the text struck a balance between institutional stability and an appropriate follow-up by the Council regarding MINURSO’s full functionality. Encouraging Morocco and the Secretariat to step up their contacts and efforts, he stressed the need for the international community to help the parties reach a solution leading to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.
Venezuela’s representative declared: “We lost an opportunity to send a strong message to the parties,” voicing concern about the transparency of consultations. The text ignored the legitimate concerns of Member States, he said, pointing out that they had different opinions on the solution to the Western Sahara question.
Concurring, Uruguay’s representative said that Morocco’s sovereign but unilateral decision had radically changed MINURSO’s operations, and it was surprising that the resolution contained no reference to that decision. Among other things, the three-month timeline for the Mission’s return to full functionality was a long one, and the resolution did not give it the instruments or guarantees it required to fulfil its mandate.
Explaining his abstention, Angola’s representative expressed regret that an amendment presented by a number of Member States, including his own, had met with outright refusal, and there had been no meaningful negotiations. “This resolution failed to address the situation with the seriousness and engagement it deserved,” he emphasized.
New Zealand’s representative said the text did not reflect the span of perspectives on the Western Sahara. It should have stated that the expulsion of MINURSO’s civilian component had compromised its ability to discharge its mandate, he said, calling for the Mission’s restoration to full functionality.
The Russian Federation’s representative said the resolution’s wording left it open to interpretation. Acknowledging that concrete steps had been taken to defuse tensions, he pointed out that no positive results had been achieved yet.
Also speaking today were representatives of France, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Japan, Egypt and China.
The meeting began at 11:09 a.m. and ended at 12:23 p.m.
The full text of resolution 2285 (2016) reads as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Recalling and reaffirming all its previous resolutions on Western Sahara,
“Reaffirming its strong support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to implement resolutions 1754 (2007), 1783 (2007), 1813 (2008), 1871 (2009), 1920 (2010), 1979 (2011), 2044 (2012), 2099 (2013), 2152 (2014), and 2218 (2015),
“Reaffirming its commitment to assist the parties to achieve 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 and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and noting the role and responsibilities of the parties in this respect,
“Reiterating its call upon the parties and the neighbouring states to cooperate more fully with the United Nations and with each other and to strengthen their involvement to end the current impasse and to achieve progress towards a political solution,
“Recognizing that achieving a political solution to this long-standing dispute and enhanced cooperation between the Member States of the Maghreb Arab Union would contribute to stability and security in the Sahel region,
“Welcoming the efforts of the Secretary-General to keep all peacekeeping operations, including the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), under close review and reiterating the need for the Council to pursue a rigorous, strategic approach to peacekeeping deployments, and effective management of resources,
“Recognizing the important role played by MINURSO on the ground and the need for it to fully implement its mandate,
“Expressing concern about the violations of existing agreements, and calling on the parties to respect their relevant obligations,
“Taking note of the Moroccan proposal presented on 11 April 2007 to the Secretary-General and the serious and credible Moroccan efforts to move the process forward towards resolution; also taking note of the Polisario Front proposal presented 10 April 2007 to the Secretary-General,
“Encouraging in this context, the parties to demonstrate further political will towards a solution including by expanding upon their discussion of each other’s proposals,
“Taking note of the four rounds of negotiations held under the auspices of the Secretary-General and recognizing the importance of the parties committing to continue the negotiations process,
“Encouraging the parties to resume cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in implementing the January 2012 updated Plan of Action on Confidence-Building Measures, including programmes focused on linking people who have been divided for more than 40 years due to the conflict,
“Stressing the importance of improving the human rights situation in Western Sahara and the Tindouf camps, and encouraging the parties to work with the international community to develop and implement independent and credible measures to ensure full respect for human rights, bearing in mind their relevant obligations under international law,
“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, including the freedoms of expression and association,
“Welcoming in this regard, the recent steps and initiatives taken by Morocco, and the role played by the National Council on Human Rights Commissions operating in Dakhla and Laayoune, and Morocco’s interaction with Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council,
“Commending the technical visit of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to Western Sahara in April 2015, and to the Tindouf refugee camps in July-August 2015, and strongly encouraging full continuing cooperation with OHCHR, including through facilitating further visits to the region,
“Recognizing the impact of torrential rains in October 2015 on the Tindouf refugee camps and welcoming the plan of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to convene a donor briefing,
“Reiterating its request for consideration of a refugee registration in the Tindouf refugee camps and inviting efforts in this regard,
“Stressing the importance of a commitment by the parties to continue the process of negotiations through the United Nations-sponsored talks,
“Recognizing that the consolidation of the status quo is not acceptable, and noting further that progress in the negotiations is essential in order to improve the quality of life of the people of Western Sahara in all its aspects,
“Affirming full support for the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara Ambassador Christopher Ross and his work in facilitating negotiations between the parties, and, welcoming to that effect his recent initiatives and ongoing consultations with the parties and neighbouring states,
“Affirming full support for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara and Head of MINURSO Kim Bolduc,
“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 within MINURSO’s area of operations,
“Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 19 April 2016 (S/2016/355),
“1. Decides to extend the mandate of MINURSO until 30 April 2017;
“2. Emphasizes the urgent need for MINURSO to return to full functionality;
“3. Requests the Secretary-General to brief the Council within 90 days on whether MINURSO has returned to full functionality and expresses its intention, if MINURSO has not achieved full functionality, to consider how best to facilitate achievement of this goal;
“4. Reaffirms the need for full respect of the military agreements reached with MINURSO with regard to the ceasefire and calls on the parties to adhere fully to those agreements;
“5. Calls upon all parties to cooperate fully with the operations of MINURSO, including its free interaction with all interlocutors, and to take the necessary steps to ensure the security of as well as unhindered movement and immediate access for the United Nations and associated personnel in carrying out their mandate, in conformity with existing agreements;
“6. Emphasizes the importance of the parties’ commitment to continue the process of preparation for a fifth round of negotiations, and recalls its endorsement of the recommendation in the report of 14 April 2008 (S/2008/251) that realism and a spirit of compromise by the parties are essential to achieve progress in negotiations;
“7. Calls upon the parties to continue to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to enter into a more intensive and substantive phase of negotiations, thus ensuring implementation of resolutions 1754 (2007), 1783 (2007), 1813 (2008), 1871 (2009), 1920 (2010), 1979 (2011), 2044 (2012), 2099 (2013), 2152 (2014), and 2218 (2015) and the success of negotiations;
“8. Affirms its full support for the commitment of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy towards a solution to the question of Western Sahara in this context and calls for renewed meetings and strengthening of contacts;
“9. Calls upon the parties to continue negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General without preconditions 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 and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and noting the role and responsibilities of the parties in this respect;
“10. Invites Member States to lend appropriate assistance to these talks;
“11. Requests the Secretary-General to brief the Security Council on a regular basis, and at least twice a year, on the status and progress of these negotiations under his auspices, on the implementation of this resolution, challenges to MINURSO’s operations and steps taken to address them, expresses its intention to meet to receive and discuss his briefings and in this regard, and further requests the Secretary-General to provide a report on the situation in Western Sahara well before the end of the mandate period;
“12. Welcomes the commitment of the parties and the neighbouring states to hold periodic meetings with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to review and, where possible, expand confidence-building measures;
“13. Urges Member States to provide voluntary contributions to fund confidence-building measures agreed upon between the parties, including those that allow for visits between separated family members, as well as food programmes to ensure that the humanitarian needs of refugees are adequately addressed;
“14. Requests the Secretary-General to continue to take the necessary measures to ensure full compliance in MINURSO with the United Nations zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and to keep the Council informed, and urges troop-contributing countries to take appropriate preventive action including predeployment awareness training, and other action to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel;
“15. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”
SAMANTHA POWER (United States) said it was an understatement to say that renewing the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was challenging and contentious. It was important for Morocco and the United Nations to have a constructive relationship, she said, adding that her Government’s policy regarding Western Sahara had not changed. The Council must respond swiftly and proactively when a Government required staff of a peacekeeping mission to depart, and the resolution would serve as a signal from the Council for the Mission’s return to full functionality.
GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) said the text did not reflect the span of perspectives on the Western Sahara. It should have stated that the expulsion of the civilian component of MINURSO had compromised its ability to discharge its mandate and called for the immediate restoration of the Mission’s full functionality. Further, it should have taken up the Secretary-General’s advice that the time had come for serious negotiations towards a political solution that would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said his country had voted against the resolution as the process lacked transparency and the text ignored the legitimate concerns of States. The result had sent a clear message that Member States had different opinions on the solution. Drawing attention to the changing facts on the ground, he stressed that without its civilian component, MINURSO could not take the necessary steps to hold a referendum. Recognizing the important role played by MINURSO on the ground, including confidence building and the maintenance of security, he reaffirmed his country’s commitment to assist the parties to achieve a lasting, just and mutually acceptable political solution. “We lost an opportunity to send a strong message to the parties,” he said.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) noted that the MINURSO mandate had been renewed for a year given its essential work on the ground. His country had supported all initiatives undertaken towards a just and mutually acceptable political solution in Western Sahara. The Council must continue its efforts to establish a climate of trust and positive momentum conducive to a sustainable solution to the long-standing dispute.
Román Oyarzun Marchesi (Spain) said that as a sign of unity his country would have preferred adoption by consensus. The role of MINURSO was crucial for maintaining peace and security in a strategic region. The text had struck a balance between institutional stability and an appropriate follow-up by the Council regarding the Mission’s full functionality. He encouraged Morocco and the Secretariat to step up their contacts and efforts, adding that efforts on the part of the international community needed to focus on helping the parties to reach a solution leading to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom), welcoming adoption, said that the resolution marked a turning point for bringing the Mission back to full functionality. The Council had the responsibility to uphold the integrity of its peacekeeping missions and MINURSO was no different. Noting that the resolution included a review mechanism, he urged a resumption of talks between Morocco and the United Nations, and for a collective focus to be put on a lasting political solution for Western Sahara.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said the Council had to ensure that MINURSO continued its operations. The resolution was important not only for the work of the Mission, but also for creating an environment that would help to relaunch the political process. Commending the efforts of the Group of Friends on Western Sahara, he called on all parties to work in good faith and supported United Nations efforts to find a solution to the Western Sahara issue.
RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) said his delegation had voted in favour of the resolution, which emphasized the urgency for MINURSO to return to its full functionality. Reiterating his country’s full commitment to the principle of conflict resolution by peaceful means, he expressed support to the Secretary-General and the United Nations personnel in their efforts to make progress. Concluding, he noted that the consultations should have been broader, taking into account the legitimate concerns of all countries.
MOTOHIDE YOSHIKAWA (Japan) underscored the crucial role played by the Secretary-General and MINURSO in addressing the situation in Western Sahara. Commending the dedicated efforts of MINURSO personnel, he noted that extending the Mission’s mandate had been a priority for the Council. Concluding, he underscored the urgency of returning the Mission to its full functionality.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said that his country had called for a calm and balanced approach, as that was the only way that would make it possible for the Council to address the situation. The resolution had been well drafted, in a careful and precise manner. The main lesson to be drawn from the events of the past two months was for a political settlement to be reached with the agreement of all parties regarding Western Sahara.
ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) regretted that an amendment presented by a number of Member States, including his, had met with outright refusal without any meaningful negotiations. While welcoming the resolution’s request for briefings by the Secretary-General at least twice a year, he said it was imperative to reduce the reporting period and for the Council to be constantly updated on developments. Decisions taken by one of the parties to the situation had created a dangerous precedent for peacekeeping missions around the world and for the reputation of the Security Council, he said, adding: “This resolution failed to address the situation with the seriousness and engagement which it deserved.” Noting that radical elements were very much present in the region, he said the resolution should have requested the Mission’s immediate return to full functionality, with the Council imposing appropriate measures.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said that the political solution must be mutually acceptable and self-determination must be guaranteed to the people of Western Sahara. Acknowledging the key role played by the United Nations, he stressed that without the assistance of MINURSO, it would be impossible to achieve a just and lasting solution. While concrete steps had been taken to defuse tension, no positive results had been achieved yet. Concluding, he noted that the Russian Federation had abstained from voting as the wording could be misinterpreted.
FODÉ SECK (Senegal), noting the resolution was balanced, expressed his support to the United States for holding consultations. The dialogue between the parties had never broken thanks to the discrete diplomacy and bilateral talks, he said, expressing hope that the text would support the peace process.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said the text was almost identical to those adopted in previous years, suggesting that it was “business as usual” when that was not the case. Morocco’s sovereign but unilateral decision had radically changed MINURSO’s operations, so it was surprising that the resolution contained no reference to that decision. Nor was the meaning of “full functionality” known, since that was a comparative term that depended upon the parameter against which it was measured. Additionally, the three-month timeline for MINURSO’s return to full functionality was a long one, he pointed out, adding that the resolution did not give the Mission the instruments or guarantees it required to fulfil its mandate.
LIU JIEYI (China), Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity, saying that his delegation supported extending the mandate. It also supported the United Nations in seeking a fair and lasting solution for Western Sahara, through consultations that would be acceptable to both sides.