Conflict and Peace in Western Sahara
The Role of the UN’s Peacekeeping Mission (MINURSO)

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Book Description

This book offers the first comprehensive analysis of MINURSO (the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara), focused on its activities, composition, purpose, and operational future in Western Sahara, the world’s last colony.

The book’s focus is broad, examining MINURSO from key historical, legal, military and political angles whilst assessing the future of UN peacekeeping missions in the Western Sahara. Supported by a diverse, international mix of perspectives and professions—including academics, lawyers, soldiers, and humanitarian aid workers—an in-depth view of MINURSO is provided, rooted in practical Western Saharan field experience. The authors reveal the complexities of the region and of the mission locally, but also analyze MINURSO through a global lens, focusing on relations with the United States, China, Russia, France, and African states. This approach emphasizes the importance of the region as a site of international struggle while remaining conscious of local contexts.

A landmark contribution to peacekeeping studies, the book is vital reading for practitioners and academics focused on the Western Saharan conflict and the MENA region, but will also be of interest to those engaged in international relations, international law, and security studies.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction: Peacekeeping Operations in Situations of Conflict: The Case of MINURSO
  2. An Overview of MINURSO – History, Legal framework, Missions, Structure: A Balance
  3. Relevant Events in the MINURSO History
  4. The End of the Western Sahara Peace Process and the Collapse of the UN Ceasefire
  5. The Legal Aspects of the Functioning of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara
  6. Human Rights – MINURSO Between a Rock and a Hard Place
  7. Participation of Women in the MINURSO: Scope, Evolution and Factors for the Contribution to the Mission
  8. MINURSO and the Sahrawi Archaeological Heritage
  9. Building Sandcastles in the Desert? MINURSO Military Component: Tasks, Duties, and their Fulfilment
  10. The MINURSO Police Contingent
  11. Integrated Logistic Support and Financial Issues of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO)
  12. Military and Police Experiences from Western Sahara: The Case of Hungary
  13. The United States and MINURSO: 31 Years
  14. China and the MINUSRO – Eyes on Peak Phosphorus?
  15. Russia and MINURSO: This is Not Our Conflict
  16. France and MINURSO
  17. The Approach of the African States towards MINURSO
  18. MINURSO: A Mission for Maintaining the Status Quo?

Yahia Zoubir and Souadou Lagdaf


János Besenyo is a Professor at the Doctoral School on Safety and Security Sciences and Director of the Africa Research Institute at Oìbuda University, Hungary. Between 1987 and 2018, he served as a professional soldier and served in several peace operations in Africa and Afghanistan. He received a PhD in military science from Zriìnyi Miklós National Defense University (Hungary) and a Habilitation doctorate at Eo¨tvo¨s Loránd University (Hungary). In 2014, he established the Scientific Research Centre of the Hungarian Defence Forces General Staff, and he was its first leader from 2014 to 2018. His most recent publication is Darfur Peacekeepers: The African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur (AMIS) from the Perspective of a Hungarian Military Advisor.

Joseph Huddleston is an Assistant Professor in the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University. He studies diplomacy by self-determination and secessionist groups, international responses to intrastate conflict, and war economies in protracted social conflicts.

Yahia H. Zoubir is a Professor of International Studies and Director of Research in Geopolitics at KEDGE Business School, France. He has published works on the Western Sahara conflict for nearly 35 years, including articles in the Middle East Journal, Middle East Policy, Journal of Modern African Studies, and California Western International Law Journal.


‘This gap-filling book provides comprehensive insight into the MINURSO peacekeeping operation. The authors include well-known figures in the scientific community, international lawyers, archaeologists, human rights activists, and even a peacekeeper who served in the mission. It is useful to all those involved in studying Western Sahara and the Maghreb region.’

Major General György SzárazForce Commander of the MINURSO from 2002 to 2005

This is an important and timely study, not just for those interested in Western Sahara, but for anyone concerned about the future of UN peacekeeping operations and the challenging role of the United Nations in maintaining international peace and security and in upholding international law.’

Stephen ZunesProfessor of Politics, University of San Francisco, USA

‘Conflict and Peace in Western Sahara is a deeply researched, comprehensive account of the half-century struggle for the future of Western Sahara, and of the United Nations’ nearly thirty-year peacekeeping mission there. Equally well-grounded in the surrounding region’s social and political history and in global politics, it is a sobering assessment of how distant interests can warp the search for local peace and self-determination.’

William J. DurchDistinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center, Washington, DC, USA

‘This comprehensive edited volume offers thorough and diverse analysis that seeks to make sense of how we’ve arrived at the present political impasse in Western Sahara. The volume is a rarity in scholarship on the territory, offering depth and breadth from researchers and past-MINURSO peacekeepers around the world. It is both instructive and insightful in its attention to issues of human rights in the context of the MINURSO mandate, offering an analysis of the Mission’s history, the lessons learned, and what we may expect in the future.’

Randi IrwinLecturer in the School of Humanities, University of Newcastle, Australia

This pioneering and comprehensive work helps illuminate the dilemma of successive Personal Envoys of the UN Secretary-General for Western Sahara as they try to facilitate negotiations for an agreement on the future of this territory that honors the principle of self-determination when one of the parties – Morocco – has abandoned its commitment to the referendum for which MINURSO was created and has instead sought to impose a regime of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty and when, at the same time, the members of the Security Council remain divided on how to break the resulting stalemate.’

Christopher RossPersonal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General from 2009 to 2017

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The Role of the UN’s Peacekeeping Mission (MINURSO)

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