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Western Sahara: Security Council Extends Mandate of United Nations Mission for Referendum in Western Sahara by 13 Votes in Favour, 2 Abstentions (30.10.2020)

The Security Council decided to extend the mandate of the United Nations peace operation in Western Sahara for one year today, with the voting results announced by videoconference, in accordance with the temporary silence procedure* adopted for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adopting resolution 2548 (2020) by 13 votes in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (Russian Federation, South Africa), the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 October 2021.  It called upon the parties to the dispute over that territory to resume negotiations without preconditions and in good faith.

The Council also rejected a second draft resolution, on the agenda item “Women, peace and security”.

By the MINURSO text, the Council emphasized the need for a realistic, practicable and enduring solution to the Western Sahara question based on compromise, as well as the importance of aligning the Mission’s strategic focus and orienting United Nations resources to that end.

Expressing its full support for the ongoing efforts of the Secretary-General and his incoming Personal Envoy to sustain the renewed negotiations process, the Council noted the intention of the former Personal Envoy to invite Morocco, the Frente Polisario (Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro), Algeria and Mauritania to meet again in the same format.  It welcomed the commitment of those parties to remain engaged throughout the process in order to ensure a successful outcome.

In calling for the resumption of negotiations, the Council asked the parties to take into account the efforts made since 2006, as well as subsequent developments, with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that provides for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.  It invited Member States to lend appropriate assistance to such talks.

Reaffirming the need to fully respect military agreements previously reached with MINURSO regarding a ceasefire, the Council further called upon the parties to adhere to those agreements, implement their commitments to the former Personal Envoy and refrain from any actions that could undermine negotiations or further destabilize the situation in Western Sahara.

By other terms of the resolution, the Council requested that the Secretary-General provide regular briefings on the status of negotiations during the mandate period; apply his framework for comprehensive and integrated peacekeeping performance policies to MINURSO; and increase the number of women engaged in the Mission’s work, as well as their meaningful participation.

Vassily Nebenzia (Russian Federation), Council President for October, announced the silence-procedure voting results for the draft resolution on the agenda item “Women, peace and security”, noting that the text, having received 5 votes in favour (China, Indonesia, Russia, South Africa, Viet Nam) to none against, with 10 abstentions, failed to garner enough affirmative votes and was rejected.

That text would have had the Council note with deep concern persisting barriers to the full implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) and subsequent “women, peace and security” resolutions.  It would have urged Member States to ensure and promote “the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all stages of peace processes” and remain committed to “increasing the number of civilian and uniformed women in peacekeeping at all levels and in key positions”.

Further, the text it would have had the Council urge Member States to facilitate women’s full, equal and meaningful inclusion and participation both in negotiating delegations and in mechanisms established to implement and monitor agreements.

The text, which would also have had the Council recognize the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, was the outcome of the Council’s open debate on the “Women, peace and security” agenda, convened on Thursday by the Russian Federation to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the landmark resolution 1325 (2000).

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* Security Council resolutions are currently adopted through a written procedure vote under temporary, extraordinary and provisional measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as set out in a letter (document S/2020/253) by its President for March (China).

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