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Territory of Western Sahara

IMPACT

 

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

 

  • 11,005 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. 

 

  • 38 boxes covering an area of 13,680 square kilometres assessed through vehicle assisted survey (box method). 6 hazardous areas 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.

 

  • 3,497 MINURSO personnel and 74,740 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.

 

  • 1,212 men, women, boys and girls, including nomadic herdsmen east of the berm, received warnings and leaflets on the dangers posed by explosive remnants of war.

 

  • 48 survivors of mine/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 and the work of UNMAS plays a critical role in facilitating MINURSO efforts to re-establish the ceasefire. 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.

 

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 mitigating the hazards posed by explosive remnants of war, landmines and cluster munitions and releasing suspected hazardous areas, UNMAS increases the safety and security of MINURSO military observers during ceasefire monitoring. UNMAS delivers explosive ordnance risk education to all MINURSO personnel, enhancing their awareness of the dangers posed by such explosive hazards.

 

As part of enhanced community liaison, UNMAS delivers warnings and leaflets to people encountered during operations, reminding them of the dangers posed by ERW.

 

In line with the United Nations and UNMAS gender strategies, besides the Sustainable Development Goals, UNMAS continues to encourage gender equality in mine action and peace operations.


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 local authorities, the Sahrawi Mine Action Coordination Office (SMACO), towards leading and managing mine action programmes in the Territory, east of the berm. In addition to supporting day-to-day operations, VTF funds have allowed SMACO to facilitate mine action activities east of the berm in accordance with international and local mine action standards, to advocate for support and resources, to maintain the Information Management System for Mine Action database and to professionalise local demining personnel. VTF funds had also previously supported victim assistance projects implemented through the Sahrawi Association of Victims of Landmines.

 

FUNDING 

 

UNMAS operations in the Territory of Western Sahara are primarily funded from the MINURSO budget (US$3.265 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 and explosive ordnance risk education. In addition, for 2020-2021, the Government of Spain supported UNMAS Western Sahara with $29,475.

 

Additional funds estimated to $2 million per year will also enable UNMAS Western Sahara to carry out land release of all known hazardous areas east of the berm earlier than 2027 and hand over responsibility for the remaining known contamination to the local mine action authority, SMACO.

 

 

Data updated: February 2021