251,260 Pages

United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara
Western Sahara (orthographic projection).svg
Location of Western Sahara in North Africa
Established 24 April 1991
Type Peacekeeping Mission
Legal status Active
Headquarters Laayoune, Western Sahara

The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (Arabic language:بعثة الأمم المتحدة لتنظيم استفتاء في الصحراء الغربية‎; French language:Mission des Nations Unies pour l'Organisation d'un Référendum au Sahara Occidental; Spanish language:Misión de las Naciones Unidas para la Organización de un Referéndum en el Sáhara Occidental

MINURSO) is the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara, established in 1991 under United Nations Security Council Resolution 690[1] as part of the Settlement Plan, which had paved way for a cease-fire in the conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front (representing the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) over the contested territory of Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara).

MINURSO's mission was to monitor the cease-fire and to organize and conduct a referendum in accordance with the Settlement Plan, which would enable the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara to choose between integration with Morocco and independence. This was intended to constitute a Sahrawi exercise of self-determination, and thus complete Western Sahara's still-unfinished process of decolonization (Western Sahara is the last major territory remaining on the UN's list of non-decolonized territories.)

To this end, MINURSO has been given the following mandates:

  • Monitor the ceasefire
  • Verify the reduction of Moroccan troops in the territory
  • Monitor the confinement of Moroccan and Polisario troops to designated locations
  • Take steps with the parties to ensure the release of all Western Saharan political prisoners or detainees
  • Oversee the exchange of prisoners of war (through the International Committee of the Red Cross)
  • Implement the repatriation programme (through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)
  • Identify and register qualified voters
  • Organize and ensure a free and fair referendum and proclaim the results


The independence referendum was originally scheduled for 1992, but conflicts over voter eligibility prevented it from being held. Both sides blamed each other for stalling the process. In 1997, the Houston Agreement was supposed to restart the process, but again failed. In 2003, the Baker Plan was launched to replace the Settlement Plan, but while accepted by the Polisario and unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, it was rejected by Morocco. Morocco insisted that all inhabitants of the territory should be eligible to vote in the referendum. Following the 1975 Green March, the Moroccan state has sponsored settlement schemes enticing thousands of Moroccans to move into the Moroccan-occupied part of Western Sahara (80% of the territory). By 2015, it was estimated that Moroccan settlers made up at least two thirds of the 500,000 inhabitants.[2]

Presently, there is no plan for holding the referendum, and the viability of the cease-fire is coming into question.


The MINURSO mandate has been extended 41 times since 1991.[3] In October 2006 the Security Council passed a resolution extending the mandate of MINURSO to April 2007.[4] A provision decrying human rights abuses by Morocco in Western Sahara had the backing of 14 members of the Security Council, but was deleted due to French objections.[5]

In April 2007 the resolution extending the mandate to October took "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" and also took "note of the Polisario Front proposal presented on 10 April 2007 to the Secretary-General".[6] The representative of South Africa took exception to the way that one proposal was held more worthy than the other as well as the lack of participation outside the Group of Friends in the drafting of the resolution.[7]

The October 2007 resolution extending the mandate to April 2008 contained the same preferential wording in its description of the two proposals.[8] The representative of South Africa commented on this again, and regretted the fact that the resolution "considered" rather than "welcomed" the report on the situation by the Secretary-General—"presumably because [it] dared to raise the issue of the human rights violations against the Saharawi people", and quoted the warning in the report[9] about there being no mandate to address the issue of human rights.[10]

The April 2008 resolution extended the mandate for a full year to April 2009.[11] Before the vote, the representative of Costa Rica expressed his "concern at the manner in which the draft resolution on which we are about to vote was negotiated" and a "difficulty in understanding the absolute refusal to include" references to human rights.[12] MINURSO's budget is roughly 60 million dollars per year.[13]


There are two sets of teams, those in the Moroccan-controlled portion west of the berm and those in the Sahrawi-controlled region and refugee camps to the east and in Algeria. The camps west of the berm are located in Mahbes, Smara, Umm Dreiga and Auserd. The eastern camps include Bir Lehlou, Tifariti, Mehaires, Mijek, and Agwanit. There is also a liaison office in Tindouf which serves as a communication channel with POLISARIO leadership.

Current compositionEdit

As of 30 June 2018 (2018-06-30), MINURSO had a total of 220 uniformed personnel, including 19 contingent troops, 193 experts on mission, 7 staff officers, and 1 police officer,[14] supported by 227 civilian personnel, and 16 UN Volunteers. Major troop contributors are Bangladesh, Egypt, and Pakistan. Armed contingents patrol the no man's land that borders the Moroccan Wall, to safeguard the cease-fire.


MINURSO headquarters in El Aaiun, Western Sahara, June 2, 2012. Several Moroccan flags are displayed at the entrance of the compound, in contrast with MINURSO bases in the POLISARIO Liberated Territories, where only the UN flag is displayed.

Other personnel:

State Contingent TroopsExperts on MissionStaff OfficersPoliceTotal
Flag of Argentina.svg Argentina 0 3 0 0 3
Flag of Austria.svg Austria 0 5 0 0 5
Flag of Bangladesh.svg Bangladesh 19 8 0 0 27
Flag of Bhutan.svg Bhutan align="right" | 0 2 0 0 2
Flag of Brazil.svg Brazil 0 10 0 0 10
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg China 0 12 0 0 12
Flag of Croatia.svg Croatia 0 7 0 0 7
Flag of Djibouti.svg Djibouti 0 2 0 0 2
Flag of Ecuador.svg Ecuador 0 4 0 0 4
Flag of Egypt.svg Egypt 0 19 0 0 19
Flag of El Salvador.svg El Salvador 0 1 0 0 1
Flag of France.svg France 0 2 0 0 2
Flag of Germany.png Germany 0 2 0 0 2
Flag of Ghana.svg Ghana 0 8 7 0 15
Flag of Guinea.svg Guinea 0 4 0 0 4
Flag of Honduras.svg Honduras 0 12 0 0 12
Flag of Hungary.svg Hungary 0 6 0 0 6
Flag of India.svg India 0 3 0 0 3
Flag of Indonesia.svg Indonesia 0 3 0 0 3
Flag of Ireland.svg Ireland 0 3 0 0 3
Flag of Italy.svg Italy 0 2 0 0 2
Flag of Jordan.svg Jordan 0 2 0 0 2
Flag of Kazakhstan.svg Kazakhstan 0 5 0 0 5
Flag of Malawi.svg Malawi 0 3 0 0 3
Flag of Malaysia.svg Malaysia 0 5 0 0 5
Flag of Mexico.svg Mexico 0 4 0 0 4
Flag of Mongolia.svg Mongolia 0 1 0 0 1
Flag of Nepal.svg   Nepal 0 6 0 0 6
Flag of Nigeria.svg Nigeria 0 6 0 0 6
Flag of Pakistan.svg Pakistan 0 11 0 0 11
Flag of Poland.svg Poland 0 0 1 0 1
Flag of Portugal.svg Portugal 0 0 0 1 1
Flag of Russia.svg Russia 0 15 0 0 15
Flag of Sri Lanka.svg Sri Lanka 0 4 0 0 4
Flag of South Korea.svg South Korea 0 4 0 0 4
Flag of Sweden.svg Sweden 0 2 0 0 2
Flag of Switzerland.svg  Switzerland 0 2 0 0 2
Flag of Togo.svg Togo 0 2 0 0 2
Flag of the United Nations.svg United Nations align="right" | 19 193 7 1 220

There have been a total of 16 fatalities in MINURSO: six military personnel, a police officer, a military observer, three international civilian personnel, and five local civilian personnel.[15][Clarification needed]


MINURSO is the only UN peacekeeping mission established since 1978 to be operating without the capacity to monitor human rights.[16] Although Resolution 1979 of the UN Security Council recommends the establishment of one, this has not yet happened.[17] In 1995, MINURSO's inability or unwillingness to act against perceived Moroccan manipulation of the process, and abuse of Sahrawi civilians, caused its former deputy chairman Frank Ruddy to deliver a strong attack on the organization;[18] he has since kept up his critique of what he argues is an economically costly and politically corrupt process.[19] Growing criticism has been voiced against the UN Security Council for not establishing a program of human rights (as MINURSO is the only UN mission in the world who has no mandate on them) monitoring for Western Sahara and the Sahrawi population,[20] despite serious reports of numerous abuses. .[21] This possibility has been denied by France with its veto power on the Security Council.[22] In April 2016, Uruguay and Venezuela expressed their dissatisfaction with this state of affairs by taking the rare step of voting against a Security Council Resolution reauthorizing MINURSO, United Nations Security Council Resolution 2285, from which Russia and two other powers abstained.

Over a two-year period, mostly 2006–2007, MINURSO personnel vandalized archaeological sites by spraying graffiti over prehistoric rock paintings and engravings[23] in the Free Zone (POLISARIO-controlled parts of Western Sahara). There are also accusations of looting of prehistorical paintings by individuals from the UN on some of those sites.[24]

In May 2010, the Polisario Front suspended contacts with the MINURSO, because of the failure on implementing the self-determination referendum, and accused the force of "...turning into a protector shield of a colonial fact, the occupation of the Western Sahara by Morocco".[25]

In September 2010, former MINURSO Force Commander, General Esegbuyota Okita stated about the Independence Intifada events: reminded me of the forced removals of black people by the Apartheid Regime in the 1950s. The Saharawi people's protest was met by severe repression by the Moroccan forces, where they exposed to beaten and bulldozers for demolition their houses.
—Esegbuyota Okita.Algiers, 25-09-2010.[26]

He also expressed his regret on the inability of MINURSO members to intervene, because their mandate does not monitor the protection of human rights, stressing the need to include them within the MINURSO mandates.

See alsoEdit


  1. United Nations Security Council Resolution 690.- | / | S-RES-690(1991) }} {{#strreplace: - | / | S-RES-690(1991) }} 29 April 1991. Retrieved 2008-05-02.
  2. Shefte, Whitney (6 January 2015). "Western Sahara's stranded refugees consider renewal of Morocco conflict". Retrieved 2 April 2018. 
  3. "United Nations Documents on MINURSO". Resolutions of the Security Council. Retrieved 10 May 2011. 
  4. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1720.- | / | S-RES-1720(2006) }} {{#strreplace: - | / | S-RES-1720(2006) }} 31 October 2006. Retrieved 2008-05-02.
  5. Reuters. "UN shuns W. Sahara rights plea after France objects". Reuters Alertnet. Retrieved 2006-10-31. 
  6. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1754.- | / | S-RES-1754(2007) }} {{#strreplace: - | / | S-RES-1754(2007) }} 31 April 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-02.
  7. United Nations Security Council Verbotim Report 5669.- | / | S-PV-5669 }} {{#strreplace: - | / | S-PV-5669 }} page 2. Mr. Kumalo South Africa 30 April 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-02.
  8. United Nations Security Council Document 619.- | / | S-2007-619 }} {{#strreplace: - | / | S-2007-619 }} {{{date}}}. (2007) Retrieved 2008-05-02.
  9. United Nations Security Council Document 619.- | / | S-2007-619 }} Report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara {{#strreplace: - | / | S-2007-619 }} page 15. 19 October 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-02.
  10. United Nations Security Council Verbotim Report 5773.- | / | S-PV-5773 }} {{#strreplace: - | / | S-PV-5773 }} page 2. Mr. Kumalo South Africa 31 October 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-02.
  11. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1813.- | / | S-RES-1813(2008) }} {{#strreplace: - | / | S-RES-1813(2008) }} {{{date}}}. (2008) Retrieved 2008-05-02.
  12. United Nations Security Council Verbotim Report 5884.- | / | S-PV-5884 }} {{#strreplace: - | / | S-PV-5884 }} page 2. Mr. Urbina Costa Rica 30 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-02.
  13. "Financial aspects". MINURSO Facts and Figures. 
  14. "Troop and police contributors" (in en). United Nations Peacekeeping. 
  15. "Fatalities" (in en). United Nations Peacekeeping. 
  16. "Mission Mandate". 
  17. "United Nations Security Council Resolution 1979". 
  18. Ruddy, Frank (1995-01-25). "Review of United Nations Operations & Peacekeeping". Washington, DC: Congress of the United States. Retrieved 2009-02-26. 
  19. Catherine, Edwards (1999-10-04). "Saharawi Republic Waits to Be Born". B Net. Retrieved 2009-02-26. 
  20. Whitson, Sarah Leah (2009-04-17). "Letter to the UNSC urging for human rights monitoring in Western Sahara". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 2009-07-06. 
  21. Campaña internacional ampliación D.D.H.H. mandato MINURSO
  22. "Security Council under pressure over human rights in Western Sahara" Pravda, April 27, 2010
  23. "UN vandals spray graffiti on Sahara's prehistoric art". Archived from the original on 9 August 2011. Retrieved May 8, 2008. 
  24. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved April 7, 2010.  UN peacekeepers: cultural crime, too.
  25. "El Polisario rompe los contactos con la MINURSO" (in es). El País. 2010-05-28. Retrieved 4 June 2010. 
  26. "Saharawi resistance exposed to brutal repression by Moroccan authorities (former MINURSO official)". Sahara Press Service. 2010-09-25. Retrieved 2010-09-28. [dead link]

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.