July 2006 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 June 2006
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Overview

France will have the Presidency of the Council in July and will be leading on four important issues.

  • The framework for the Council process regarding the selection of the Secretary General. (Probably discussion will also commence on the candidates nominated to date.)
  • An open thematic debate on Children in Armed Conflict—France has the Chair of the Council Working Group on this subject and its foreign minister will chair the debate. (There will also be an Arria style meeting with NGOs on this issue.)
  • Côte d’Ivoire (a report from the Secretary-General is expected); and
  • DRC—where the Council will be watching very closely the evolution of the situation in the lead up to the historic election on 30 July.

A public meeting of the Council is expected on Kosovo. Special Envoy Martti Ahtissari will brief on the political status talks. (He will no doubt also brief the Council members in Informal Consultations). This is an interim update. Nothing has yet reached the stage where a Council decision is required.

The regular monthly open briefing from the Secretariat on the Middle East is also expected. Also the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is scheduled for consideration. This is expected to be a routine mandate rollover. (No other mandate renewals are on the agenda.)

The three large issues looming over the Council in July will be Darfur, Somalia and Iran.

Darfur/Sudan
All eyes will be on the African Union Summit in Banjul on 1-2 July. The hope will be that African leaders can persuade Sudan to accept the transition from the AU force AMIS to a new UN mission in Darfur. The UN Secretary-General, who has shown leadership on this issue since the outset, will be present to explain to the President of Sudan that in this context Chapter VII powers for a UN mission are needed to defend the mission and defend civilians against the irregular forces which Sudan itself says it has no control over.

If these efforts are flatly rejected the Council seems likely to consider options including sanctions. But a more likely scenario is ongoing delay and further contradictory signals from Khartoum—seeking to spin out the situation as long as possible. In those circumstances, a firm Council response, reaffirming its support for a robust Chapter VII mandate and beginning work on a draft mandate resolution is likely. This line of action might also include some careful balancing of incentives and disincentives. The former might involve assurances to dispel suspicions and perhaps some foreshadowing of measures against those who have not signed the Darfur Peace Agreement. Disunity in the Council is possible, but should not be assumed. There was remarkable unity during the visit to Khartoum, including for the invocation of Chapter VII. And all members are aware that if the current standoff is not resolved there are inevitable risks to the Darfur Peace Agreement.

Somalia has undergone a quite significant change in the past month, with the military success of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) against the Mogadishu warlords. The risk of wider conflict involving Ethiopia, which the ICU accuses of supporting various warlords, loomed over the region. At press time, Ethiopia was claiming that the ICU is a threat to its security.

The Transitional Federal Institutions (TFI) seem ever more precarious. Previously the TFI was the only game in town, as far as becoming a potential source of legitimate authority. But now there is the question of the status of the ICU. The ICU and TFI, meeting in Khartoum, have reached a provisional understanding involving mutual recognition that both sides have to be accommodated. But the understanding seems very fragile. And the ICU remains adamantly opposed to the TFI proposal for foreign peacekeepers. A risk has clearly emerged for the Council that supporting the TFI—whether in general political terms, or specifically by considering a variation of the arms embargo—could add to instability and give the ICU grounds for challenging the Council’s neutrality. The ICU’s alleged links to international terrorism add a further layer of complexity to the situation.

A careful reassessment by the Council of its traditional posture on Somalia is possible following the AU Summit in Banjul—at which Somalia will be a major issue.

Iran may not respond to the P5 plus Germany package in July. Delay in itself may lead to pressure to bring the issue back to the Council. On substance, Iran seems more likely to respond ambiguously than with a clear cut acceptance or rejection. This will raise a range of options for the Council to consider, depending on whether the ambiguity is assessed by members as reasonable in the circumstances or as an attempt at obfuscation and delay. The question of at least one further step of incremental pressure before reaching the application of sanctions may then come to the fore again.

Other Issues
Relatively brief discussion is expected in Informal Consultations on three further issues where reports from the Secretary General are expected.

  • Georgia: unless there are major developments in the region, this is likely to be a straightforward discussion.
  • Guinea-Bissau: the major dynamic on this issue is the readiness on the part of most Council members to discontinue active involvement with this country, contrasted with the desire of Guinea-Bissau itself that the UN not disengage too soon. It enjoys support from a small number of countries, including Argentina. But since no decision is required at this point, controversy will probably be avoided.
  • Central African Republic: in addition to the report on progress by the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA) an important focus is likely to be the links between the situation in CAR and the situations in neighbouring Darfur and Chad.

North Korea is an issue being watched closely as this issue goes to press. If Pyongyang decides to launch a multi-stage ballistic missile a request for Council consideration is entirely possible.

Uganda will be discussed when the Secretary-General’s recommendations under resolutions 1653 and 1663 emerge. In addition to the issue of whether the UN missions in DRC and Sudan can play a forceful role in combating the Lord’s Resistance Army, the question of appointment of a special envoy is likely to be considered. In response to Ugandan views, the envoy is likely to have a regional mandate. But in return it seems likely that there will be an expectation that the mandate should directly, or indirectly, include, in practice, a focus also on the underlying reasons for the instability in northern Uganda and some interface with the existing Joint Monitoring Committee. On the military aspects, because of the difficult issues which the Council has on its plate with Sudan right now over Darfur, the recent reports that Sudan may have withdrawn consent for Ugandan forces to operate in Sudan against the LRA add a new dimension to the discussion and may reinforce the case for an envoy specifically focussed on the full range of LRA related issues in the region.

Sanctions Committees: we have included in this issue a revised Chart of the Sanctions Committees setting out their respective mandates, the status of their expert panels and the stage their decisions have reached on various issues. This chart was first published in our March Forecast Report.

Council Working Groups will continue operating in July, in particular the Group Co-Chaired by Ambassadors Bolton and Burian working on the review of mandates. Ambassador Oshima’s Working Group, which had been working on a review of Council working methods, made considerable progress in June and it is expected that the Council will approve a note from the President recording its new decisions on working methods in early July. In a related move the Council decided to extend Ambassador Oshima’s mandate as Chair of the Group until the end of 2006.
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