Analysis of the Report of the Secretary-General on Western Sahara (October 2018)


The current report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2414 (2018), in which the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 October 2018 and requested the Secretary-General to report on the situation in Western Sahara before the end of the mandate period. The report covers developments since the previous report of 29 March 2018 (S/2018/277), and describes the situation on the ground, the status and progress of political negotiations, and the implementation of resolution 2414 (2018). Since the previous report there has been relative calm, although underlying tensions between parties remain.

The Secretary-General references issues of women, peace and security (WPS) a total of six times, this includes two references to girls. WPS references are in the context of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and World Food Program’s (WFP) efforts to address anaemia, stunting, and malnutrition amongst the refugee population, specifically pregnant and lactating women, as well as girls. [1]S/2018/889, para. 60   Additionally, there is a similar reference to WFP’s efforts to provide mid-morning snacks to more than 41,000 boys and girls in primary schools and kindergartens to encourage attendance and retention. [2]S/2018/889, para. 60 Data on the number of women in the military component of the mission is provided, and the Secretary-General calls on troop-contributing countries to support MINURSO in its efforts to achieve greater gender balance in the military component. [3]S/2018/889, paras. 29, 83

The current report is largely consistent with the previous report of S/2018/277 (2018), as all references across both reports are broad and descriptive, and contain no sex or age-disaggregated data in the context of mission activities. Negatively, the current report does not contain a reference to women’s participation in peace and conflict resolution processes, whereas the previous report contained one broad reference. [4]S/2018/277, para. 20 Similarly, the current report does not contain a reference to efforts to prevent sexual and gender-based violence, which was broadly referenced in the previous report as well. [5]S/2018/277, para. 62 Furthermore, in the previous report the percentage of women in international civilian and local staff was provided, however this data is missing from the current report.

The Secretary-General should at a minimum: Report on women’s participation in efforts to seek a political solution, as current references to consultations, meetings, and preparations related to future negotiations are gender-blind, and acknowledge and report on the gender dimensions of humanitarian assistance and human rights violations, including by providing sex and age-disaggregated data.

Analysis by issue area

Political Processes

The report provides no indication of women’s participation or efforts to foster women’s participation in the discussion of political processes. Specifically, the Secretary-General misses an opportunity to report on women’s and women’s civil society participation in the context of:  Consultations with “relevant interlocutors” to advance political negotiations, meetings of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy with civil society representatives, and preparations for a first round of negotiations and preliminary talks. [6]S/2018/889, paras. 3, 22, 25 Pursuant to resolution 2122 (2013), the Secretary-General should report on women’s participation or efforts to foster such participation, as timely information and analysis on the role of women in peacebuilding and the gender dimensions of conflict-resolution processes is essential for a comprehensive understanding of efforts towards a sustainable, inclusive political solution. [7]S/RES/2122 (2013), OP. 1 OP. 2(c)

Humanitarian Assistance and Displacement

The report broadly references women and girls in the context of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme’s (WFP) efforts to provide humanitarian assistance, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) efforts to provide international protection to Sahrawi refugees living in the five camps near Tindouf. [8]S/2018/889,  para. 59 In the future, the Secretary-General should acknowledge the gender dimensions of the humanitarian situation and provide context-specific information on women refugees, including sex and age-disaggregated data [9]S/RES/1325 (2000), OP. 12; S/PRST/2014/21, para. 11. To further enhance reporting, UNICEF, WFP, and UNHCR should share information with the Secretary-General on the impact of conflict on women and girl refugees, the particular needs of female refugees, and the obstacles to attaining those needs pursuant to resolution 1889 (2009). [10]S/RES/1889 (2009), OP. 5

Human Rights

The report references information on human rights abuses received by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), including violations against human rights defenders, a lack of accountability for violations. [11]S/2018/889, paras. 64, 65, 66 However, the report is silent on gender considerations in the context of human rights violations. Future reporting should include information on the gender-dimensions of human rights violations, including detentions, SGBV, targeted attacks, and utilize sex and age-disaggregated data. [12]S/PRST/2014/21, para. 11


The Secretary-General calls for a gender balance in the military component of the mission. Pursuant to resolution 1325 (2000), the Secretary-General should also include data on the composition of the civilian and local components of staff, which is missing from the current report. [13]S/RES/1325 (2000), OP. 4

Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA)

Finally, the mandate of the mission includes a provision on sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), however the Secretary-General provides no update in the current report. Future reports should include a section on conduct and discipline including, adherence to the zero tolerance policy on SEA, pursuant to resolution 2242 (2015). [14]S/RES/2242 (2015), OP. 10