Welcome to the United Nations

Territory of Western Sahara

IMPACT

 

Since 2008, UNMAS has achieved the following in the Territory of Western Sahara, east of the berm:

 

  • 12,436.5 kilometres of roads and 149.6 million square metres of land in the Territory of Western Sahara, east of the berm, assessed as safe from explosive ordnance, facilitating the monitoring of the ceasefire, and ensuring the safe passage of United Nations personnel.

 

  • 13,680 square kilometres assessed through vehicle assisted survey (box method). 8 new hazardous areas were identified and added to the IMSMA database, while the rest of the area was recorded as having no visible explosive threats. Teams assessed the 38 boxes by driving and recording 3,101 kilometres of track.

 

  • 37 of 61 known minefields and 485 of 527 known cluster strike areas released.

 

  • 24,685 sub-munitions, 8,849 items of explosive remnants of war and 7,871 landmines removed and destroyed, east of the berm, enhancing the safety of MINURSO peacekeepers, locals, and nomadic herdsmen.

 

  • 3,595 MINURSO personnel received explosive remnants of war awareness briefings and 80,850 men, women, boys, and girls, including nomadic herdsmen east of the berm, received explosive ordnance risk education, enhancing awareness on the dangers posed by explosive remnants of war.

 

  • 48 survivors of landmines and ERW accidents and 400 of their dependents, east of the berm, benefited from victim assistance projects, allowing for socio-economic reintegration into their communities.

 

ABOUT

 

The Territory of Western Sahara is heavily contaminated with landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). The contamination is a result of the conflict that took place from 1975 and 1991 between the Royal Moroccan Army, Mauritanian armed forces, and the military forces of the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y Río de Oro.

 

A 2,700-kilometre-long sand berm stretching from inside southern Morocco to the Atlantic Ocean at Guerguerat was built during the conflict, of which 1,465 kilometres divides the Territory into western and eastern parts and is still contaminated. In 1991, following the United Nations Security Council resolution that established the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), a ceasefire was announced. This ceasefire was broken in November 2020 and there is a latent risk of recontamination of previously cleared areas.

 

Mine action is part of the MINURSO mandate under Military Agreements No. 2 and No. 3, which are specific to mines and unexploded ordnance. UNMAS provides the MINURSO mine action component. The programme, at the request of MINURSO, in line with the mission mandate and mission plan, and in consultation and agreement with UNMAS HQ, decides on the plans for demining action. MINURSO has been focused on maintaining stability and decreasing hostilities and tensions in the Territory, to create a conducive environment for the eventual resumption of a political process and will remain focused on this for the foreseeable future.

 
 

ACTIVITIES


Activities under the MINURSO Assessed Budget

UNMAS activities in the Territory, east of the berm, facilitate the monitoring of the ceasefire and ensure the safe passage of United Nations personnel. By route verification and convoy escorts, UNMAS increases the safety and security of MINURSO personnel traveling on the logistics routes supplying MINURSO team sites. UNMAS delivers awareness briefings sections on ERW to all MINURSO personnel, enhancing their knowledge of the dangers posed by such explosive hazards.


Activities under the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action (VTF)

Un-earmarked funds from the Voluntary Trust Fund for Mine Action (VTF) have allowed UNMAS to support capacity development of the local body for mine action east of the berm, the Sahrawi Mine Action Coordination Office (SMACO), towards leading and managing mine action programmes and to professionalize local demining personnel and civil society bodies deeply involved in humanitarian mine action, such as the Sahrawi Mine Action Women Team (SMAWT). VTF funds have also previously supported victim assistance projects implemented through the Sahrawi Association of Victims of Landmines (ASAVIM).

 

With the kind support of the Government of Spain, the VTF contribution awarded in December 2020 allowed SMACO and SMAWT to deliver 45 sessions of explosive ordnance risk education and COVID-19 prevention messages to 617 people (187 men, 254 women, 100 boys and 76 girls) in all the five Sahrawi camps in Rabouni, Algeria, during July and August.

 

On 29 September 2021, UNMAS Acting Director Ms. Ilene Cohn concluded an evaluation visit to the UNMAS programme. During her mission, she met with MINURSO Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Alexander Ivanko, MINURSO Force Commander, Major-General Zia Ur-Rehman, Chief Mission Support, Ms. Veneranda Mukandoli-Jefferson, and other MINURSO substantive, military, and support leadership, during which UNMAS integration and good cooperation with the mission was recognized. Ms. Cohn also interacted with mine action stakeholders east of the berm through virtual meetings, where she learned of the efforts made by the all-female NGO in support of mine action in the Sahrawi camps as well as those of ASAVIM, one of the oldest NGOs in Algeria, on its support to landmine and explosives remnants of war victims in the Territory.

FUNDING 

 

UNMAS operations in the Territory of Western Sahara are primarily funded from the MINURSO budget (US $3.255 million per year). This allows for the deployment of two multi-task teams and one area reduction team. The Government of Switzerland provides in-kind specialist personnel for logistics. In addition, for 2020-2021, the Government of Spain supported UNMAS Western Sahara with $29,475. UNMAS is seeking more funding for its local partners to implement coordination of mine action activities in the Territory, east of the berm.

 

Data as of September 2021