From January 2008 to 28 February 2023:
28,052 kilometres of roads and 149.7 million square metres of land in the Territory of Western Sahara, east of the berm, was assessed as safe from explosive ordnance, ensuring the safe passage of United Nations personnel, materials and equipment.
13,680 square kilometres were assessed through a vehicle-assisted survey (box method). Eight new hazardous areas were identified and added to the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA), while the rest of the area was recorded as having no visible explosive threats. Teams assessed 38 boxes by driving and recording 3,101 kilometres of track.
37 of 61 known minefields and 485 of 527 known cluster strike areas were released.
24,685 sub-munitions, 8,849 items of Explosive Ordnance (EO) and 7,871 landmines were removed and destroyed, east of the berm, enhancing the safety of MINURSO personnel, local population, and nomadic herdsmen.
3,631 MINURSO personnel received explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) briefings and 80,530 men, women, boys, and girls, including people displaced by the renewed conflict, east of the berm received EORE, enhancing awareness of the dangers posed by EO.
48 survivors of landmines and EO accidents and 400 of their dependents, east of the berm, benefited from victim assistance projects, allowing for socioeconomic reintegration into their communities.
The Territory of Western Sahara is impacted by the presence of landmines and explosive ordnance (EO), including cluster munitions, a result of the conflict that took place from 1975 and 1991 between the Royal Moroccan Army (RMA), Mauritanian armed forces, and the military forces of the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y Río de Oro (Frente POLISARIO). 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 divide the Territory into western and eastern parts. It is assessed that the berm and the immediate areas around it are heavily contaminated by landmines.
The 1991 ceasefire led to the United Nations Security Council resolution that established MINURSO. The most recent extension of the mandate was authorized by the Security Council in its resolution 2654 (2022), extending the mandate to 31 October 2023. The resolution emphasizes the need to achieve a realistic, practicable, enduring and mutually acceptable political solution to the question of Western Sahara.
The resumption of hostilities in November 2020, the breakdown of the 1991 ceasefire and the ongoing low-intensity conflict have led to a renewed threat from explosive ordnance, including in areas previously deemed safe. This renewed threat endangers United Nations personnel, material and property working to implement the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) is a MINURSO component and in collaboration with UNMAS headquarters/Department of Peacekeeping Operations, designs, manages and oversees the implementation of the mine action programme to ensure that the mission safely implements its mandate by reducing the threat posed by landmines and explosive ordnance, improving security and accessibility within the Territory, providing technical advice during MINURSO investigations into explosive incidents/alleged drone strikes, and by supporting local capacities to lead and manage mine action.
UNMAS-MINURSO activities in the Territory, east of the berm, ensure the safe passage of United personnel, material and equipment implementing the MINURSO mandate. By conducting route verification and convoy escort, UNMAS-MINURSO increases the safety and security of MINURSO personnel traveling on logistics routes supplying MINURSO team sites. UNMASMINURSO also delivers explosive ordnance risk education for all MINURSO personnel, enhancing their knowledge of the dangers posed by such explosive hazards.
UNMAS-MINURSO provides an invaluable contribution by enabling MINURSO investigations into alleged unmanned aerial and other air-to-ground attacks east of the berm. The team also provides technical expertise thus contributing to the substance of the investigations.
Survey and clearance activities in Western Sahara were partially suspended due to the resumption of hostilities in November 2020. In September 2021, permission was given by both the Frente POLISARIO and the RMA to resume clearance activities in 13 hazardous areas east of the berm. This approval was regrettably withdrawn by the Frente POLISARIO the day before operations were due to start. Since then, MINURSO initiated numerous efforts to negotiate with the Frente POLISARIO to resume mine action operations. The latest effort, in February 2023, led to a positive response from the Frente POLISARIO. However, Sahrawi Mine Action Coordination Center (SMACO) did not grant permission to transfer the necessary equipment into east of the berm and the planned resumption of activities at the beginning of March was again delayed.
UNMAS-MINURSO successfully integrated the reporting systems of the military and mine action components by adopting a single online platform, Survey 123 and Web Map Application, replacing the previous use of Excel. This digitization allowed for precise geographic information to be utilized by MINURSO military component when reporting explosive ordnance incidents and identifying safe routes and hazardous areas. The adoption of digital tools is crucial in modern mine action work, enhancing accuracy and efficiency in reporting and ensuring the safety of personnel on the ground.
UNMAS-MINURSO activities are funded from the MINURSO-assessed budget. This allows for the deployment of two multi-task teams and one area reduction team. Given the current context of the ongoing hostilities, only one multi-task team is deployed. Un-earmarked funds from the Voluntary Trust Fund for Mine Action (VTF), administered by UNMAS HQ, complement MINURSO mine action resources. Such funds have allowed UNMAS-MINURSO to support the capacity development of the local body for mine action east of the berm.
Data as of February 2023