Ambassador Bukun Onemola
Ambassador/Deputy Permanent Representative
Nigeria Mission to the UN
New York, NY
30th April, 2010
Last week, Mr. President, you presided over an open debate on the working methods of the Security Council (see S/PV.6300). Contributions to the debate by members and non-members of the Council were rich and substantive. Barely one week after that fruitful debate, we are constrained to express our views on issues of process and substance related to the draft resolution contained in document S/2010/216, on the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
With regard to process, we are dissatisfied that the draft resolution was negotiated by a handful — at best, a minority — rather than by the collective membership of the Council. That does not measure up to the expectation of and quest for inclusiveness and transparency in the work of the Council. Moreover, the difficulty of incorporating changes to the draft text of the Group of Friends has really damaged the spirit of accommodation, flexibility and openness that underpins such negotiations. We feel that this does not augur well for the reputation of the Council or, more important, for the preservation of its unity.
There is also a substantive issue at stake. At its 2984th meeting on 29 April 1991, the Security Council established through resolution 690 (1991) the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. Central to MINURSO’s mandate is the referendum in Western Sahara as part of a peaceful negotiated settlement of an intractable problem. In essence, MINURSO derives its legal basis and relevance from that resolution. We are deeply troubled by the lack of reference to resolution 690 (1991) in the current draft resolution.
All States Members of the United Nations have emphasized the need for coherence and consistency in the policies we promote. In 2005, human rights received a major boost with the establishment of the Human Rights Council. Collectively, Members reaffirmed their commitment and obligation to promote universal respect for and the observance and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, in accordance with the United Nations Charter. This is all the more true in cases in which parties to a conflict accuse each other of human rights violations.
Not long ago, we were reminded of the need for the Council to be told what needs to be said, and not what needs to be heard. In other words, hard and bitter truths should be told. In that spirit, we would like to say that it is a matter of regret that, with respect to Western Sahara, there is not only an apparent reluctance of the Council to be coherent, consistent and forthcoming on the important question of human rights, but also an attempt to downplay the seriousness of their abuse. The failure of the Council to address the human rights challenges in Western Sahara is doing serious harm to its credibility and commitment to the protection and defense of human rights.
Only two days ago, more than 30 Nigerian non-governmental organizations and well-meaning individuals in Abuja called on the United Nations to protect human rights in Western Sahara and to enable the Saharan people to exercise their right to self determination and independence. Indeed, in his latest report to the Council (S/2010/175), the Secretary- General has expressed concern over the human rights challenges in Western Sahara. The minimum this Council can do is to be seen to promote and vigorously defend human rights as a universal principle in all circumstances.
The Council should not portray itself as sacrificing fundamental principles on the alluring altar of expedience. There is neither a logical explanation for nor a justification of the fact that all United Nations peacekeeping missions, except that in Western Sahara, have human rights components in their mandates. The Council bears a moral burden and duty to explain the non-inclusion of a provision in the current draft resolution calling on the parties to engage in dialogue with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. We are convinced of the necessity of such a call to encourage respect for and the promotion and defense of human rights by all parties as a universal principle.
Nigeria appreciates the efforts made by all concerned in preparing and presenting the draft resolution before us. We take note of the work of the Group of Friends seized with the matter, and encourage it to redouble its efforts in that regard. However, it is Nigeria’s abiding hope that, at the end of the day, the long-suffering people of Western Sahara will come to know peace and that the logic of peace and respect for the fundamental freedoms of all the people of the territory will prevail.
Finally, we strongly suggest that future negotiations on MINURSO be broadened from the onset in order to avoid the cumbersome process of renegotiating the agreements and delicate balances achieved by the Group of Friends. Perhaps the Council needs to revisit the role of the Group of Friends, given the experience of 2009 and the negotiations that led to the draft resolution before us. Nigeria will support the draft resolution before us.