November 2005 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 October 2005
Download Complete Forecast: PDF


The following issues will be high in the minds of Council members, for November, although perhaps not all will be on the Council work programme at the outset: Lebanon/Syria, Darfur, Council mission to central Africa, and the DRC.

Other issues, certain to be on the work programme, include: Election of five judges to the International Court of Justice, Central African Republic, Burundi, Somalia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Possible additional issues for Council attention at short notice could include: Iraq, Liberia (following second round voting in the presidential election), Haiti, and Côte d’Ivoire.

Lebanon/Syria will be a very high profile-and potentially divisive-issue. It could easily dominate the Council agenda for some time. Prior to the release of the report by UNIIIC Commissioner Detlev Mehlis, all the interested parties were keeping their cards close to their chests-aware that, because a legal process is underway, it should be seen not to be predetermined. This explains the cautious approach to date. At press time the lead countries-France, the US and perhaps the UK-have indicated they will circulate a draft resolution.  It seems likely that it will be considered at a ministerial level meeting at the end of October.

Mehlis identifies threads of Syrian responsibility in the Hariri assassination, which he calls a “terrorist attack”.  It is entirely likely, therefore, that the issue will quickly take on overtones not dissimilar from the pressure that built up on Libya over an extended period following the Lockerbie bombing.

Finding a consensus route through such a complex and difficult issue will not be easy.  At the outset consensus on a firm resolution requiring Syrian cooperation with UNIIIC seems possible.  But no one should underestimate the pressure that will be exerted if Syria sets its course against the Mehlis conclusions or in practice fails to cooperate fully with the investigation.  Past experience in such cases suggests that there is unlikely to be much willingness to compromise from the likely initial position that full cooperation with the Inquiry is essential, that suspects should be extradited without delay and that justice should be seen to be done in the jurisdiction where the bombing took place.

Much of this will begin to play out during November as it becomes clear whether Syria will cooperate or not.

The eventual compromise reached in the Lockerbie matter, including a tribunal with some international dimensions, may of course be in the back of various minds. The nature of the Syrian response-and how quickly and constructively it comes-could determine just how difficult this issue turns out to be and whether this or other actions such as sanctions may be explored.

The second hard issue facing the Council will be how to handle the many strands relating to the DRC and the neighbouring region that will arise in November.  The DRC, and the regional political and military environment, is the focus of the Council mission to central Africa.

The mission will visit DRC and neighbouring countries. The Council has structured the mission’s brief so that the visit will have the maximum positive impact in the DRC in the lead up to elections.  In particular, encouraging public confidence and participation is seen as important, along with helping to contain the divisive tendencies of the various factions. An important goal will be to send signals about the Council’s determination to maintain security in the Kivus, and elsewhere, to manage regional matters so that interference by regional neighbours does not reoccur and to deter spoilers.

In this context, perhaps the most difficult discussions for the mission will be in Uganda. The regional picture became further complicated in recent weeks following the news that Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighters had moved into DRC. Robust responses by the DRC Government and MONUC led to their withdrawal-but not before the situation had already begun to poison the regional atmosphere again. The mission is therefore very timely.

Uganda has been reluctant in the past for the LRA problem to be discussed. However, President Yoweri Museveni clearly saw a UN role in dealing with LRA fighters in DRC. Given the regional implications, it is likely therefore that this will provide an opening for the Council mission to discuss with Uganda the wider issues involved. The Declaration adopted by the Council at its recent Summit Session on 14 September (resolution 1625), at the initiative of the African members, which spoke of the need for effective strategies of conflict prevention, is likely to provide a further basis for these discussions.

Darfur / Sudan
The serious deterioration of the situation in Darfur, with renewed fighting by both sides has drawn strong expressions of concern from Juan Méndez, the Secretary-General’s Adviser on Genocide, and António Guterres, the High Commissioner for Refugees. Confirmation by the AU representatives of military support for militia attacks on civilians is an important new element.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General Jan Pronk has urged that pressure be brought on the parties. He also pointed to the need for preparations for post-conflict measures, similar to the Council’s position vis-à-vis the North-South agreement.

Despite Darfur’s monthly appearance in the Council’s programme of work, there has been little activism on the issue since March. The monthly report has not been the object of open meetings. But the recent violations of the cease-fire, attacks on civilians and AMIS peacekeepers as well as aid workers, and the concerns raised by Méndez may lead to changes in Council dynamics.

Another key fact is that the 1591 Sanctions Committee is deadlocked over its internal operating procedures. As a result, the sanctions regime agreed in March is still not fully operative.
The Council will have a report of its Panel of Experts on Sanctions, which may offer options to increase pressure.

Some members will be looking for a more activist approach. Perhaps this will lead to hearing the report from Méndez and a preliminary discussion of the full range of options.

Mood in the Council as the UN Looks Ahead
For all UN delegations, the post-summit mood is sombre. The view from the top simply revealed that the difficult peaks still remain to be climbed in 2006. Council members will have to continue to devote significant energy to the ongoing reform agenda, making their hours spent in the Council all the more precious and their desire to move Council issues ahead smoothly and swiftly all the stronger. But this will not be easy. October was a very heavy month in the Council.  Looking ahead, it is clear that the Council has some very demanding tasks in front of it-and on so many of the dossiers there is no easy fix.

The focus on Lebanon/Syria is likely to be protracted and difficult.

Problems in the DRC, Côte d’Ivoire and Haiti remain deep-seated-and costly. No easy solutions are in sight and therefore no real exit strategy for the UN peacekeeping missions is apparent.

The situation between Ethiopia and Eritrea has deteriorated in an ominous way.

Terrorism will remain a constant issue, as the Bali bombings demonstrated.

Another challenging and unresolved issue relates to responsibility for crimes in East Timor.  A report from the Secretary-General is awaited.

And it remains to be seen whether the heightened focus on nuclear non-proliferation will lead to related issues coming before the Council. Both the Summit and the NPT Review Conference failed to grapple with this issue. But the Council-with its situation specific approach-is a very different environment. The possibility of a weighty issue, such as Iran’s nuclear programme, coming on the agenda creates a degree of edginess in the Council.

Finally the annual General Assembly session always brings with it change in the composition of the Council. The cycle of change begins to affect the way the Council operates from November onwards.  Algeria, Benin, Brazil, Philippines and Romania are approaching the end of their terms. The General Assembly has elected five new members: Congo and Ghana (Africa), Slovakia (Eastern Europe), Qatar (Asia) and Peru (Latin America) to replace them. The new members will meet with the full Council for the first time at an informal retreat scheduled for the end of November.

Full forecast


Sign up for SCR emails

Subscribe to receive SCR publications