Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Happy United Nations Day

It's already over, but I'd feel remiss if I didn't celebrate United Nations Day. Anyone who hasn't already become fluent in Esperanto can see that the United Nations is a flawed institution, but that doesn't keep it from doing good work.

It's one of the most reliable sources of information about the world, and the fact that the United Nations considers Western Sahara the last remaining colony is the coup de grace at the end of my one-minute Western Sahara explanation. But what's up with MINURSO?

MINURSO is an acronym in French that means United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. It was organized in 1991, the same year as the Polisario-Morocco cease fire. It's been renewed every time its charter has come up since then. Since the referendum was originally scheduled for 1992, there've been a lot of problems.

Since there's no referendum in the foreseeable future, MINURSO forces like to monitor the cease fire, try and repatriate Sahrawis, and make sure Morocco's not up to any mischief. Many UN countries are represented in MINURSO, but mainly as military observers. MINURSO only provides 28 soldiers and 6 police, and twenty of those soldiers will leave when South Korea completes its withdrawal from MINURSO.

MINURSO right now is an unnecessary organization that was created to organize an election that, for a variety of reasons, still hasn't happened 14 years later. Some Western Saharan commentators, especially Sahara-Watch, hope MINURSO won't be renewed by the United Nations and will be replaced by an organization with more teeth. While I agree that MINURSO should have more powers, especially in curbing Moroccan abuses, I think it should remain in the territory as a visible symbol of the world's commitment to a free referendum.

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