The question is, therefore, how the Council should now address the main issue, namely the question of providing for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. This process has now gone on for decades, and it is obvious that the current negotiation has become a charade that has come to an end. How this should be done is a political issue that the Council simply has to deal with. At the same time, any solution must be in conformity with international law. In this process the Council must now examine more radical options than applied in the past, among them the following three.
One option is to transform MINURSO into an operation similar to the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), which was endowed with overall responsibility for the administration of East Timor and empowered to exercise all legislative and executive authority, including the administration of justice.
Another option is to order Spain to resume her responsibility as administering Power in Western Sahara, a responsibility that Spain relinquished in February 1976. In Article 73 of the UN Charter this responsibility, which encompasses the development of self-government, is referred to as a “sacred trust”. Precisely because of the fact that Spain abandoned this “sacred trust” this option, although legal, may not be advisable. An additional dilemma in this context is that Spain is now a member of the Council.
The problem with both these options is that they require the organisation of a referendum in which the people of Western Sahara can exercise its right to self-determination. This means that the identification process which has been a constant problem over the years will still be a major complication.
In view of the fact that the issue of Western Sahara has been on the agenda of the United Nations for four decades, the solution may be a third and more radical option, namely that the Security Council recognises Western Sahara as a sovereign state. Also this option should be acceptable from a legal point of view. It would not deprive the people of Western Sahara from seeking a different solution to their self-determination in the future, if they so wish.
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