March 2006 Monthly Forecast


In March the Council is likely to have three open debates which will focus on:

The main focus will be on Darfur, although the mandate for the existing UN mission in southern Sudan, UNMIS, must also be renewed.

With respect to Darfur, all eyes will be on the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), which is meeting in Addis Ababa at ministerial level on 3 March. Endorsement by the PSC of a transition from AMIS to the UN would open the way to the next phase of Security Council consideration. In this regard the early commitment by the UK to provide ongoing funding for AMIS during the transition will be an important factor.

It is unclear exactly how much weight the AU will give to the need for the operation to be in “partnership” as opposed to the kind of UN takeover or “rehatting” that occurred in Burundi. There is AU concern that the outcome should not be one in which the AU role becomes negligible while NATO is given a leading position.

It seems likely that Council decision-making will be sequenced. Indeed an initial Council resolution or statement following up the 3 February presidential statement is a possibility-even before the end of February.

After the PSC meeting the Council will focus on getting substantive agreement on the operational concept for the mission, building on the planning by the UN and AU Secretariats.

A major issue will be to establish whether the operation can proceed in the absence of a peace agreement in Abuja. This is likely to determine whether or not Sudan will consent to the operation. A quite different set of factors comes into play if consent cannot be assumed. This is likely to lead to either a flexible mandate capable of responding to either alternative or further sequencing of the decisions.

The issue of the robustness of the operation will have to be addressed. The Secretary-General has been clear that robust capability will be needed, but the implications of this need to be agreed upon. Will it involve enforcement of the “no fly” zone for instance?

There is also the question of timing of the transition. This will take at least six months. But suggestions are emerging that a longer period, perhaps involving a phased transition with overlap between AMIS and the new force, may be part of the eventual political solution.

Finally, there are sanctions issues also on the agenda.

The IAEA report to be considered on 6 March will lead to the first round of Council discussion on the Iranian nuclear programme. Initially there is likely to be a period of discussion about the procedure to be used. A period of briefing and orientation about the issues is also a possibility. No major divisions are expected at the outset, but there will inevitably be a desire by the US, the UK and France to wind up the pressure. Part of this may involve a strategy of progressive airing of the problem in public meetings. But early resort to Chapter VII is not expected.

There are some positive signs from a recent meeting of the small group of “Friends” that the Russians may eventually compromise on the wording supporting Georgia’s territorial integrity in the resolution. But no deal has been reached and the issue could yet result in a major controversy in the Council. It is likely that negotiations will continue through the “Friends” rather than in the Council. A further “technical rollover” is not impossible.
The US diplomatic initiative is now focused on the core of the problem-the border delimitation. While there is a prospect of progress Council members will be willing to give more time. A “technical rollover” for UNMEE is therefore a possibility.

The new UNIIIC Commissioner Serge Brammertz has had initial meetings with the Syrians. If his March report indicates problems in cooperation there will be pressure for vigorous Council action. But at this stage a more administratively focused report seems likely.

Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire will also demand significant time during the month. And the situation is Iraq is also almost certain to appear. A report is due on Guinea Bissau.

Full forecast