June 2006 Monthly Forecast

Posted 26 May 2006
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June promises to be an extraordinarily busy month for the Council. Denmark has the presidency. The programme of work (mission reviews, reports, briefings and mandate renewals) scheduled by previous decisions runs to at least twelve items. In addition the Council has:

  • its annual retreat with the Secretary-General on 2-3 June;
  • two difficult missions to undertake (to Sudan and DRC) from 4-13 June;
  • to address the mandate for the UN force for Darfur;
  • to continue its consideration of the increasingly serious situation with Iran; and
  • to decide a programme of open meetings and associated Arria formula meetings.

It seems that at least one open thematic debate—the standard six monthly Civilians in Armed Conflict Meeting—is expected and that at least one other thematic meeting is likely.

Nor does the schedule fully reveal the extent of important work planned for June by Council working groups.

  • Ambassador Oshima’s group on Council working methods is pushing to secure Council approval of an initial package of reforms by the end of June. These are likely to be recorded in a presidential note—and an option is to update and republish all of the key decisions on working methods. A decision also needs to be taken by the Council on extending Ambassador Oshima’s mandate for a further six months so that phase two of the project can be advanced.
  • The new mechanism chaired by Ambassadors Burian and Bolton to review Council mandates in parallel to the work underway in the General Assembly on mandate review will be in high gear in June.
  • The Children in Armed Conflict Working Group will be active, looking ahead to an open thematic meeting on that subject in July.

Meetings which Will Involve Non-Council Members
In addition to the likely thematic open debates there are a large number of meetings likely to be open, either as briefings, as public meetings, or private meetings open only to invited member states.

  • Sudan (open briefing on mission plus probable meeting to decide mandate of UN force)
  • Iran (probable meetings on draft resolution)
  • DRC (open briefing on mission and extension of 1 July deadline for repatriation of supplementary MONUC troops and police approved in 2005)
  • ICTY and ICTR (Tribunal judges and prosecutors likely to be present)
  • ICC (open briefing by prosecutor)
  • Iraq (open briefings on UNAMI, MNF and DFI/IAMB)
  • Iraq (private meeting rather than consultations-so Iraq can be present at Council discussion of the issues raised)
  • Kosovo (briefing on UNMIK)
  • Middle East (standard monthly briefing)
  • Golan Heights/UNDOF (mandate renewal)
  • Burundi (mandate renewal)
  • Timor-Leste (future UN presence)
  • Cyprus (mandate renewal)
  • Lebanon (UNIIIC mandate)
  • Liberia (sanctions and Panel of Experts)
  • Terrorism (open briefing by the Chairs of the CTC, 1267 and 1540 Committees is likely)

Appointment of the Secretary-General
Council members have agreed that the next major phase of Council consideration will take place in July.  France is preparing a working paper on past methodology, which is likely, after discussion, to evolve into guidelines for the decision making process later this year. The timeline still seems set for the real Council action to take place in September/October. It remains unclear to what extent the Council will respond to the Indian initiative in the General Assembly for a completely new approach whereby the Council recommendation would contain more than one name.

The Abuja peace agreement is a major breakthrough. In a sense its acceptance by Sudan is a form of consent for the transition to a UN force. The political logic is that, after the Council Mission meetings in Khartoum, the Council will then proceed to work on the mandate for the mission. Sudan, however, may have in mind a process whereby it can control the pace by spinning out the “detailed and wide ranging” political consultations which it envisages having with the joint UN/AU assessment mission. This may present difficult issues which the Council will have to confront in June. In any event, the Darfur issue seems likely to consume a lot of Council time and energy during the month.

It is unclear whether the Council will in practice have any input to the package of “incentives and disincentives” under negotiation between the P5 plus Germany. The differences within that group-and not only with Russia and China-seem to be sufficiently complex that most if not all of the elected Council members will be reluctant to challenge any elements of the deal that is finally done.

The bigger question will be the timing and nature of the Council response once Iranian reaction to the package is known. There are a range of possible sanctions options if the reaction is outright rejection. And other options may need to be explored if there is any hint of an opening for meaningful negotiations. June seems to be shaping up to be a critical month on this issue as well.

Winding Down Council Operations
In June the Council will confront, in six quite different contexts, the varied problems associated with winding down operations. There is no doubt that, with the ever increasing demands and stretched resources, the release of troops from old missions to permit deployments to new ones is becoming increasingly necessary. But politics and risks of premature exit tend to complicate decision making in practice.

The Ethiopia/Eritrea situation has been staggering on for over three months under threat of phase-down due to the failure of both parties to live up to their obligations. But each time a crunch point has come the Council has found it hard to agree on a formula.

In Burundi, the exit strategy seems clear, if only because the government is so keen for it to happen. But ironically it is a case in which several members have residual worries about premature exit. Recent events in Timor-Leste will only reinforce those worries. Here again the exit strategy had seemed clear and the only unresolved issue was the size of the follow on UN role. But, the return of violence and instability to that country seems likely to reopen that issue. Perhaps it will also accentuate concerns by some members about relying just on “reconciliation” and burying the “justice” aspects.

The persistence of the political deadlock in Cyprus seems more or less to guarantee that UNFICYP will come under pressure for another phase down sooner or later.

There is an equally interesting dynamic at work with respect to the ICTY. The Council has established the so called “completion strategies”, yet no one expects the Tribunal will be wound up before Mladic and Karadžic are brought to trial. On the other hand there remains a clear determination by the Council not to allow the Tribunal bureaucracy to shelter behind this political necessity.

And lastly, with respect to UNMOVIC, although the inspection role is long over, political positions have delayed decision making. In part this is because there are no UN financial pressures driving the issue. However Iraq, which is effectively paying the bill, is becoming increasingly concerned about the issue.

Full forecast


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