The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 October 2018, calling for a “realistic, practicable and enduring” political solution to end the decades‑old conflict.
By a vote of 12 in favour to 0 against, with 3 abstentions (China, Ethiopia, Russian Federation), the Council adopted resolution 2414 (2018), calling on parties to resume negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary‑General without preconditions and in good faith, and on neighbouring States to “increase their engagement in the negotiating process”. Emphasizing the importance of a “renewed commitment” by the parties to advance the political process in preparation for a fifth round of negotiations, the Council called on parties to work in an atmosphere “propitious for dialogue”.
In that context, the Council affirmed its full support for the Secretary‑General and Personal Envoy to relaunch negotiations with “a new dynamic and a new spirit” with the aim of reaching a mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for the self‑determination of the people of Western Sahara.
The Council requested the Secretary‑General to brief on a regular basis — and at any time during the mandate period — on the status and progress of the negotiations, as well as on challenges to MINURSO’s operations and steps taken to address them.
The Council also called for the Polisario Front’s immediate withdrawal from the buffer strip in Guerguerat, expressing concern over its planned relocation of administrative functions to Bir Lahlou, and calling on it to refrain from any such destabilizing actions.
After the vote, the representatives of China, Ethiopia and the Russian Federation said various suggestions to make the resolution more balanced had not been taken into consideration by the penholder. “We were ready to engage in real negotiation to reach the desired consensus on the draft, but were not given the chance to do so,” Ethiopia’s delegate stressed.
Echoing that point, Sweden’s representative said that if some suggestions had been considered, the Council might have reached consensus. He also pointed out that new elements added to the text lacked sufficient balance and failed to fully reflect the situation on the ground.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, France, United Kingdom, Kuwait, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Bolivia, Côte d’Ivoire, Netherlands, Poland and Peru.
The meeting began at 3:06 p.m. and ended at 3:48 p.m.
AMY NOEL TACHCO (United States), pointing out that the Mission had not yet achieved its purpose after 27 years, said the Council had allowed Western Sahara to lapse into a textbook example of frozen conflict. “There can be no more business as usual,” she said, adding that the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) no longer had a political purpose. The Council must now lend full support to the Personal Envoy to facilitate negotiations with the parties. The Mission’s mandate had been renewed for six months, during which time parties must return to the negotiating table. Neighbouring States could play a special role, she said, emphasizing a need for a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, with one potential approach being Morocco’s autonomy plan. She called on parties show commitment to a realistic solution based on compromise by resuming negotiations in good faith. The United States expected parties to respect their ceasefire obligations, she said, noting that unilateral changes to the status quo would not foster a solution.
MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) noted the undeniable progress made following the Personal Envoy’s appointment. However, Ethiopia had abstained from the vote because her delegation’s suggestions to make the draft text more balanced and neutral had not been considered, she said, adding that “we were ready to engage in real negotiation to reach consensus, but were not given the chance to do so”. She reiterated MINURSO’s important role in supporting the Personal Envoy and urged the two parties to continue closely cooperating with the Mission. Voicing hope that tensions in Guerguerat would not interfere with the process, she called on parties to honour their commitments to the agreement and expressed hope that the fifth round of talks would be launched soon. Progress hinged on the full cooperation of the two parties with the Personal Envoy. For its part, the Council must refrain from pronouncements that could undermine the commitment of those parties to the peace process, she said, reiterating Ethiopia’s long‑standing position in support of a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said his delegation was not in a position to support the draft resolution, noting that the process of preparing and agreeing to the text had not been inclusive. None of his delegation’s comments had been considered, nor were the comments of several other Member States. As a result, the text was unbalanced, he said, noting that his delegation had not blocked the resolution because it valued MINURSO. The Russian Federation would continue being an impartial player and maintain contacts with all parties. However, the draft could have negative effects on the Personal Envoy’s efforts. Indeed, attempts to speed up the process could end up having the opposite effect. The Russian Federation did not support efforts to allow MINURSO to monitor the human rights situation, he said, adding that the draft text also contained a number of provisions that damaged the impartial approach of the Security Council on Western Sahara. Arriving at a just and lasting solution was only possible through a political process based on relevant Council resolutions.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) commended the resolution’s adoption and thanked the United States for its efforts in that regard. The text set a horizon that would enable the international community to prevent any risk of escalation and encouraged constructive dynamics with respect to the political process and the return of a normal situation on the ground. Indeed, MINURSO was doing remarkable work in guaranteeing stability in the region. Yet, the Mission’s renewal for only six months should be an exception. Looking ahead, Council members must be able to come together to support a new momentum in the political process. The extension of the mandate for six months provided it with that opportunity, he said, welcoming recent dialogue on the matter.
CARL ORRENIUS SKAU (Sweden) said his delegation supported the Secretary‑General’s ambition to relaunch the political process, with the aim of reaching a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution. The resolution sought to break the political deadlock. For many years, the Council had recognized that the status quo was not acceptable, but there had been a lack of will to move the political process forward. The resolution expressed full support for MINURSO and the Personal Envoy. “He has impressed all of us with his dedication, knowledge and experience,” he said, emphasizing that women and youth must be fully included in the political process. The resolution called on neighbouring States to increase their engagement and encouraged parties to cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and enhanced cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). However, new elements had lacked sufficient balance and failed to fully reflect the situation on the ground. Thus, the mandate must be evaluated after six months, he said, noting that if some delegations’ suggestions had been considered, the Council might have reached consensus. He urged the parties to de‑escalate tensions.
SHEN BO (China) supported MINURSO in playing a constructive role in seeking a solution to the situation in Western Sahara, which remained complex. The priority was to maintain regional stability. Noting that the Council should speak with one voice, he said that during negotiations on the resolution, amendments had been proposed and more time should have been allotted to seek consensus. Taking hasty action when differences persisted only affected the Council’s unity, he said, voicing regret that the text had failed to fully accommodate the concerns of some parties. Having abstained for that reason, he said China’s position was unchanged and it would continue to proceed from a just and objective stance in promoting a political solution to the question of Western Sahara. He encouraged the parties to base their efforts on relevant Council resolutions and seek a solution through negotiations.
STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom) said the resolution had sent a strong signal in three key areas: support for de‑escalation; support for MINURSO; and an overall goal of a lasting solution that provided for the self‑determination of the people of Western Sahara. The six‑month window was an opportunity and an indication of the importance the international community attached to achieving progress. The United Kingdom strongly supported the efforts of the new Personal Envoy and MINURSO, he said, calling on all parties to engage positively in spirit with the resolution.
BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) said his country supported the draft because it believed the presence of MINURSO was of utmost importance to help enhance and consolidate stability in the region. He fully supported the Personal Envoy’s efforts to relaunch negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations without any preconditions and in good faith to achieve a political solution.
AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea) said her delegation had always advocated for the peaceful resolution of disputes, and thus, had voted in favour of the resolution as it committed all parties to continue to make progress on the political process. She pressed the international community to support those efforts and commended those who had made sacrifices in the conflict, encouraging them to find a definitive solution. Initiatives under way could lead to a solution to the conflict.
KANAT TUMYSH (Kazakhstan), noting the conflict was among the most long‑standing in Africa, expressed support for the Personal Envoy in seeking to find a compromise and way forward, with, among other things, high‑level meetings in the region. He encouraged such engagement with a wide range of actors to relaunch the political process in spirit of a new dynamic. Kazakhstan had voted to extend the mandate, he said, voicing hope that efforts for rapprochement would be redoubled. Mandate renewals adopted by consensus always sent a stronger message to all parties concerned. It was important for the Council to maintain unity and send a clear signal to the parties, including that they should refrain from actions that would escalate tensions.
PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia), noting his delegation’s support for the resolution, emphasized a need to relaunch the political process and support the Personal Envoy and MINURSO. Bolivia commended the Secretary‑General’s proposal to renew negotiations with a new spirit to achieve a fair, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution. Yet, none of the suggestions to make the text more balanced had been considered, he said, expressing concern at changes in the length of the mandate, an issue not raised during negotiations on the text. The arbitrary nature of the penholder set a bad precedent for the Council’s work practices.
THÉODORE DAH (Côte d’Ivoire) welcomed the resolution’s adoption, Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative as well as the efforts of the Personal Envoy. Expressing hope that negotiations would start in a frank way so both parties could settle their differences, he said women must be included in future talks.
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said his delegation had voted in favour of the draft and emphasized the importance of relaunching the political process. A just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution must be arrived at that provided for the self‑determination of the people of Western Sahara in line with the principles of the Charter. He called on both parties to engage in good faith with the Personal Envoy and resume negotiations without preconditions.
MARIUSZ LEWICKI (Poland) encouraged both parties to cooperate closely with the Personal Envoy and MINURSO to avoid tensions from escalating. His delegation supported an inclusive, durable and acceptable solution to the conflict, in line with the United Nations Charter. Poland fully supported the Personal Envoy, whose efforts with all parties, neighbouring States and others offered a chance to achieve a long‑lasting solution.
PAUL DUCLOS (Peru), Council President for April, said it was necessary to renew the mandate for MINURSO, expressing support for the political process in Western Sahara and meeting the humanitarian needs. He voiced support for a renewed political process, with a view to achieving a fair, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution based in international law, which would lead to the self‑determination of the people of Western Sahara. He also raised a concern about refugees’ dependence on assistance, advocating efforts to improve their quality of life.
The full text of resolution 2414 (2018) 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), 2218 (2015), 2285 (2016) and 2351 (2017),
“Expressing full support for the Secretary‑General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, former President Horst Köhler of Germany, and welcoming the engagement of the parties and neighbouring States with him in his efforts to facilitate negotiations,
“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 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 turn leading to jobs, growth and opportunities for all the peoples 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,
“Recalling its request of the Secretary‑General to ensure that data related to the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations, including peacekeeping performance data, is used to improve analytics and the evaluation of mission operations, based on clear and well identified benchmarks, emphasizing the need to regularly evaluate MINURSO’s performance such that the Mission retains the skills and flexibility needed to effectively carry out its mandate, and noting, in this regard, plans for an independent review of the Mission later in the year,
“Recalling resolution 2242 (2015) and its aspiration to increase the number of women in military and police contingents of United Nations peacekeeping operations,
“Recognizing the important role played by MINURSO on the ground and the need for it to fully implement its mandate, including its role in supporting the Personal Envoy to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution,
“Expressing concern about the violations of existing agreements, and calling on the parties to respect their relevant obligations, and refrain from any actions that could destabilize the situation or threaten the United Nations process, and recognizing the measured response of Morocco to most recent concerns regarding the buffer strip,
“Taking note of the Moroccan proposal presented on 11 April 2007 to the Secretary‑General and welcoming 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 and recommitting to United Nations efforts in a spirit of realism and compromise, and further encouraging the neighbouring countries to make contributions to the political process,
“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 advance the negotiations process without preconditions and in good faith,
“Encouraging the parties to cooperate further with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in identifying and implementing confidence‑building measures that can serve to foster the trust necessary for a successful political process,
“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, 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,
“Strongly encouraging enhancing cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), including through facilitating visits to the region,
“Noting with deep concern the continued hardships faced by Sahrawi refugees and their dependency on external humanitarian assistance, and further noting insufficient funding for those living in Tindouf refugee camps and the risks associated with the reduction of food assistance,
“Reiterating its request for consideration of a refugee registration in the Tindouf refugee camps and emphasizing efforts be made in this regard,
“Recalling United Nations Security Council resolutions 1325 (200) and 2250 (2015) and related resolutions; stressing the importance of a commitment by the parties to continue the process of negotiations through the United Nations‑sponsored talks and encouraging the full, effective and meaningful participation of women and active and meaningful participation of youth in these talks,
“Recognizing that the status quo is not acceptable, and noting further that progress in negotiations is essential in order to improve the quality of life of the people of Western Sahara in all its aspects,
“Welcoming the appointment of Colin Stewart as the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Western Sahara and Head of MINURSO and affirming its full support for him in this capacity,
“Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 29 March 2018 (document S/2018/277),
“1. Decides to extend the mandate of MINURSO until 31 October 2018;
“2. Emphasizes the need to make progress toward a realistic, practicable and enduring political solution to the question of Western Sahara based on compromise and the importance of aligning the strategic focus of MINURSO and orienting resources of the United Nations to this end;
“3. Calls upon the parties to resume 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;
“4. Further calls upon the neighbouring States to make important contributions to the political process and to increase their engagement in the negotiating process;
“5. Invites Member States to lend appropriate assistance to these talks;
“6. 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;
“7. Expresses concern with the presence of the Polisario Front in the buffer strip in Guerguerat and calls for its immediate withdrawal;
“8. Expresses concern regarding the Polisario Front’s announcement of the planned relocation of administrative functions to Bir Lahlou, and calls for the Polisario Front to refrain from any such destabilizing actions;
“9. Recognizes that fundamental questions related to the ceasefire and related agreements remain and calls upon the Secretary‑General to interview the parties in an effort to better understand these issues;
“10. 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;
“11. Emphasizes the importance of a renewed commitment by the parties to advancing the political process in preparation for a fifth round of negotiations, recalls its endorsement of the recommendation in the report of 14 April 2008 (document S/2008/251) that realism and a spirit of compromise by the parties are essential to achieve progress in negotiations, and encourages the neighbouring countries to make important contributions to this process;
“12. Calls upon the parties to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to resume negotiations, thus ensuring implementation of resolutions 1754 (2007), 1783 (2007), 1813 (2008), 1871 (2009), 1920 (2010), 1979 (2011), 2044 (2012), 2099 (2013), 2152 (2014), 2218 (2015), 2285 (2016) and 2351 (2017) and the success of negotiations;
“13. Affirms its full support for the intention of the Secretary‑General and his Personal Envoy in this context to relaunch the negotiations with a new dynamic and a new spirit with the aim of reaching a 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;
“14. Requests the Secretary‑General to brief the Security Council on a regular basis, and at any time he deems appropriate during the mandate period, 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, further requests the Secretary‑General to provide a report on the situation in Western Sahara well before the end of the mandate period;
“15. Welcomes the initiatives undertaken by the Secretary‑General to standardize a culture of performance in United Nations peacekeeping, and calls on him to continue his efforts to develop an integrated performance policy framework and apply it to MINURSO, requests the Secretary‑General to seek to increase the number of women in MINURSO, as well as to ensure the meaningful participation of women in all aspects of operations;
“16. Urges MINURSO to continue to consider how new technologies can be used to reduce risk, improve force protection and better implement its mandate;
“17. Encourages the parties to cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to identify and implement confidence‑building measures, including to engage women and youth, and encourages neighbouring States to support these efforts;
“18. Urges Member States to provide new and additional voluntary contributions to fund food programmes to ensure that the humanitarian needs of refugees are adequately addressed and avoid reductions in food rations;
“19. 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;
“20. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”