Remarks at the Adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2351 on the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO)

Ambassador Michele J. Sison
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
April 28, 2017

AS DELIVERED

Ambassador Haley would have liked to have been here for this important adoption, an adoption during our presidency where we emphasized one of our key peacekeeping principles: that peacekeeping missions should support political solutions. Our postponement of the adoption was key to allowing the UN and MINURSO to close out the past year’s chapter in the Western Sahara, illustrating in real time the value of the United Nations and of the mission.

I’d like to take a moment now to recognize Personal Envoy to the Secretary-General Chris Ross for his eight years of service. The United States is grateful for his tireless efforts to support a political process for Western Sahara. We look forward to the appointment of a new envoy and his travel to the region as quickly as possible. We also thank Special Representative Kim Bolduc for all her work managing this peacekeeping mission.

The United States is pleased with the adoption of today’s mandate renewal for two reasons. First, this resolution helps put this Council’s attention back where it belongs: supporting a political process to resolve the conflict in Western Sahara. For years, the UN and this Council have been bogged down. On the ground, peacekeepers have faced an almost endless series of frustrating obstructions – which often require months or even years of high-level engagement to sort out.

Here in the Council, we often end up in debates about hyper-specific operational problems. This situation needs to change. Of course, the parties need to let the mission do its job without interference, and they need to respect all existing agreements. That is the bare minimum of what we must expect. But this Council also has to look at the big picture on Western Sahara. The big picture is that we have not seen significant political progress for years. That is the fundamental problem we need to address in the months to come.

So the United States fully supports the Secretary-General’s call to relaunch negotiations with a new dynamic and a new spirit. This resolution reinforces that the Security Council shares the Secretary-General’s goals. It shows that we expect the parties to work with the UN to come back to the table. And as this resolution demands, the Secretary-General will now be reporting on whether we have seen progress. This Council will be watching what the parties do closely.

Second, this resolution sets a new standard for the performance of this mission. We are asking the UN to set clear and measurable benchmarks for what the mission and its staff will achieve. The mission needs to be able to hire staff with the right skills to be as effective as possible, and to adjust components that are not working as well as they could be. That may sound like common sense, but we don’t always see this happening on the ground. We look forward to the UN reporting back to this Council on how the mission does.

Making sure that peacekeeping missions have an impact is a top priority for the United States. With today’s resolution, we take another step toward that goal. The United States will be watching closely to see what progress is being made on the ground. This peacekeeping mission must be part of a broader effort to achieve a mutually acceptable resolution of the conflict in Western Sahara. Returning to negotiations will, of course, be a difficult task. But the United States is committed to doing what we can to facilitate the UN’s work. Let us not be distracted from our goal: finding a mutually acceptable political solution to the conflict which will provide for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

We continue to view Morocco's autonomy plan as serious, credible, and realistic, and it represents one potential approach to satisfy the aspirations of the people in Western Sahara to run their own affairs in peace and dignity. Again, we expect the parties to work with the UN to come back to the table and we call on all members of this Council to focus on finding an enduring peace for a conflict that has continued for far too long.

Thank you.

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