December 2005 Monthly Forecast

Posted 23 November 2005
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A short month beckons in December. Delegations will be looking forward to the end of 2005, after several months of particularly torrid Security Council activity.

As the Council faces up to its work programme for December, there are some very big issues in prospect, like the next report from UNIIIC Commissioner Detlev Mehlis on the Hariri assassination and the major issue of Syria’s cooperation under  resolution 1636.

But, what is noteworthy is the backlog of hard issues from November which are still on the agenda.

A resolution on Ethiopia/Eritrea was adopted on 23 November.  Under the terms of the resolution, the Council will review the parties’ compliance upon a report of the Secretary-General to be issued in December.  In the event of failure to fulfil those demands, the Council is expected to consider measures under article 41 of the Charter, which includes sanctions.

The resolution follows a period of real frustration amongst troop contributing countries (TCCs) about the Council’s failure to adopt a draft resolution earlier in November, in support of its beleaguered peacekeepers on the border of Ethiopia/Eritrea. The limitations imposed on UNMEE movements by Eritrea are proving not only to be serious operational restrictions on the mandate, but also, as predicted by the TCCs, to carry real risks to human life. Medical evacuations now have to be undertaken in very adverse circumstances. A resolution had been on the table for almost a month, but had been blocked by US policy considerations.

Similarly, the Council is still to respond to the findings of its Mission to central Africa. Many had considered that a resolution on DRC should be an essential outcome from the visit to the region. The Mission report has been issued and a draft resolution has been circulating, but it seems likely to rollover to December for adoption.

Another issue which had seemed well advanced for adoption in November was agreement on the application of sanctions measures on individuals blocking the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire. However, the sanctions committee has still not acted. Separately, there is growing anxiety about the situation in Côte d’Ivoire because the requirement in resolution 1633 for the appointment of a compromise Prime Minister by 31 October 2005 has not been met. It seems likely that these two aspects of the situation in Côte d’Ivoire could come together for action in December.

Fortunately there was some good news in November. In Haiti the much postponed electoral process was reenergised by the announcement of a date for first round elections on 27 December. The Council may wish to welcome and encourage this important step. Members will certainly be keeping a close eye on progress in the lead up to the poll.

Another positive point on the December agenda is the final expiry of the peacekeeping role in Sierra Leone and the official transition to a peacebuilding mission. It is possible that the Council will want to adopt a statement marking this important development.

December also brings with it the expiry of the mandates of two very long standing peacekeeping operations:

  • In Cyprus, the mandate for UNFICYP expires on 16 December
  • On the Golan Heights, the mandate of UNDOF expires on 31 December.

Both operations are characterised by the fact that the political processes are stalled. And there have been calls by Council members concerned about overall expenditure on peacekeeping for review of peacekeeping operations in such circumstances. But it is expected that resolutions renewing both operations will be adopted. In the case of UNDOF, however, renewal comes at a time of particular sensitivity due to the pressure which the Council is placing on Syria. And in the case of UNFICYP some discussion of further reductions or reconfiguration of the force cannot be ruled out.

The Council members have already begun work on a draft resolution on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. This is one of the major thematic issues which the Council has been pursuing. In this case the initiative goes back more than six years. The draft resolution should be largely uncontroversial. Even the references to “Responsibility to Protect” are essentially taken from language already approved by Heads of Government at the World Summit in September. What the draft does not do is grapple with the practical implementation of protection standards. There were some important recommendations by the Secretary-General in his 1999 report in this regard, which may merit revisiting.

Other issues which will be in the minds of Council Members during December include the situation in Darfur, which the Secretary-General says is becoming more serious and that the whole territory risks descending into lawlessness, and the situation in Guinea-Bissau, which Brazil is pressing for the Council to take up.

The Council will also have on its plate a range of problems in the Sanctions and Counter-Terrorism contexts. Sanctions issues are on the table in respect of Liberia. A review of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) is mandated before the end of the year-but due to delays in CTED becoming operational-it is unlikely to be the “comprehensive” review envisaged. In addition, the open debate in the Council in October demonstrated that countries from various regions (the South Pacific was a noticeable example) are frustrated with what they see as the CTC machinery putting undue burdens on them and not giving sufficient weight to their concerns.

Finally, there are issues on the horizon which may come up in December or may roll over to January-depending on pressure of other business and when reports become available. These include Timor-Leste and the United Nations Mission in Sudan.

Full forecast