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Territory of Western Sahara



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


  • 24,634 kilometres of roads and 149.7 million square metres of land in the Territory of Western Sahara, east of the berm, were assessed as safe from explosive ordnance, ensuring the safe passage of United Nations personnel, materials and equipment.


  • 13,680 square kilometres were assessed through a vehicle-assisted survey (box method). Eight new hazardous areas were identified and added to the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA), while the rest of the area was recorded as having no visible explosive threats. Teams assessed 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 EO and 7,871 landmines removed and destroyed, east of the berm, enhancing the safety of MINURSO personnel, locals, and nomadic herdsmen.


  • 3,631 MINURSO personnel received explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) briefings and 76,179 men, women, boys, and girls, including people displaced by the renewed conflict, east of the berm received EORE, enhancing awareness of the dangers posed by EO.


  • 48 survivors of landmines and EO accidents and 400 of their dependents, east of the berm, benefited from victim assistance projects, allowing for socioeconomic reintegration into their communities.




The Territory of Western Sahara is impacted by the presence of landmines and explosive ordnance (EO), including cluster munitions, a result of the conflict that took place from 1975 and 1991 between the Royal Moroccan Army (RMA), Mauritanian armed forces, and the military forces of the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y Río de Oro (Frente POLISARIO). 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 divide the Territory into western and eastern parts. It is assessed that the berm and the immediate areas around it are heavily contaminated by landmines.


The resumption of hostilities in November 2020, the breakdown of the 1991 ceasefire and the ongoing low intensity conflict, have led to a renewed threat from explosive ordnance, including in areas previously deemed safe. This renewed threat endangers United Nations personnel, material and property working to implement the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).


The 1991 ceasefire led to the United Nations Security Council resolution that established MINURSO. The most recent extension of the mandate was authorized by the Security Council in its resolution 2654 (2022), extending the mandate to 31 October 2023. The resolution emphasizes the need to achieve a realistic, practicable, enduring and mutually acceptable political solution to the question of Western Sahara. It also reaffirms the need for full respect of the military agreements reached with MINURSO. Mine action falls under 1999 Military Agreements No. 2 and No. 3. which refer to mines and unexploded ordnance in the Territory. These were signed between MINURSO and Frente POLISARIO and the RMA.


United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) is a MINURSO component and in collaboration with UNMAS headquarters/Department of Peacekeeping Operations, designs, manages and oversees the implementation of the mine action programme to ensure that the mission safely implements its mandate by reducing the threat posed by landmines and explosive ordnance, improving security and accessibility within the Territory, providing technical advice during MINURSO investigations into explosive incidents/alleged drone strikes, and by supporting local capacities to lead and manage mine action.



Activities under the MINURSO Assessed Budget

UNMAS activities in the Territory of Western Sahara, east of the berm, ensure the safe passage of United Nations personnel. Through route verification and convoy escorts, UNMAS increases the safety and security of MINURSO personnel traveling on the logistics routes supplying MINURSO team sites and United Nations Military Observers conducting ground patrols. UNMAS also provides expert advice to MINURSO investigations on explosive incidents and accidents east of the berm. UNMAS delivers Explosive Ordnance Risk Awareness sessions to all MINURSO personnel, enhancing their knowledge of the danger posed by such explosive hazards.

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 the local body for mine action east of the berm, the Sahrawi Mine Action Coordination Office (SMACO), towards leading and managing mine action programmes and to professionalize local demining personnel and civil society bodies deeply involved in humanitarian mine action, such as the Sahrawi Mine Action Women Team (SMAWT). VTF funds have also previously supported victim assistance projects implemented through the Sahrawi Association of Victims of Landmines (ASAVIM).



UNMAS-MINURSO activities are funded from the MINURSO assessed budget (US$ 3 million per year). This allows for the deployment of two multi-task teams and one area reduction team. Given the current context of the ongoing hostilities, only one multi-task team is deployed. UNMAS is seeking funding for its local partners to implement coordination of mine action activities in the Territory, east of the berm.


Data as of November 2022