September 2006 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 August 2006
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Greece will have the Presidency of the Council in a month when the Council will have to manage not only a large number of mandate renewals (ten), but also high profile and politically charged issues such as the selection of the next Secretary-General, the Secretary-General’s proposals on Lebanon, the Iranian nuclear programme and Darfur.  In addition Greece proposes to take up, in an open Council debate on 20 September chaired by its Foreign Minister, the subject of cooperation between the UN and regional organisations.

Meanwhile, deterioration of three situations in Africa means that the Council will need to devote time to:

  • Burundi (where tension is growing as a result of concerns that the recent coup allegations, human rights violations and arrests indicate a wider breakdown of the democratic process);
  • DRC (where post election violence and a further round of presidential campaigning for the run-off election threaten to destabilise the peace process); and
  • Côte d’Ivoire (where failure to meet the Council road map benchmarks makes a further postponement of elections inevitable. It also opens the possibility-and the Special Adviser on Genocide, Juan Méndez, has issued clear warnings-of resort to large scale violence).

High level visitors attending the General Debate of the UN General Assembly usually overshadow other issues in the UN in September. This September, however, the Security Council will be very much on the minds of many of those high level visitors. The reason for this is that:

  • There are two hotly contested elections for seats in the Council. There will be a huge amount of high level lobbying by Guatemala and Venezuela (competing for the Latin American seat) and Indonesia, Nepal and Republic of Korea (competing for the Asian seat). (See our Special Research Report of 14 August 2006.)
  • The Security Council will move into the next phase of its selection process for the next Secretary-General. With four candidates still in the race, and wide expectations that additional candidates will yet emerge, this will also be a major focus of attention and lobbying. (A number of Council members are disappointed at the first round of straw balloting in July and feel that it would have been more effective in achieving the goal of encouraging withdrawal of the less favoured candidates if the process had been more open.) It now seems that withdrawals will be unlikely until there is a clear trend established from a number of straw polls that a candidate cannot succeed. The other thing that might precipitate a reduction in the field is for the position of the permanent members to become transparent. There is increasing talk amongst Council members that the process should now be adjusted to permit that. For their part, it seems that none of the four declared candidates see any reason to withdraw. To the contrary, it is possible that, for reasons of equity, all of them will insist on staying in the race until all potential candidates are declared. As for the timing, the Council is so far being cautious. But most observers seem to be expecting a number of straw polls to be conducted over a period of days in late September. Also there seems to be much less confidence that the process will be concluded in early October.

The Secretary-General’s current visit to the Middle East is in response to the Council’s request in resolution 1701 that he consult with “relevant international actors and the concerned parties” and come up with “proposals” to:

  • implement resolutions 1559 and 1680 (which call for the disbanding and disarmament of militias in Lebanon) and the Taif Accords reached by the Lebanese parties; and
  • delineate the Lebanese border, especially in the Sheb’a farms area.

The Council will have these proposals on the table. In addition it expressed in 1701 its “intention to be actively involved” in the search for a “long term solution” and asked the Secretary-General to support that as well. No doubt he will also have observations on this.

Resolution 1701 in addition reminded everyone that the long term perspective also requires “a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East based on all its relevant resolutions.”

There was much criticism of the Council for its relative inaction as the recent crises, first in Gaza and then in Lebanon, unfolded. Historically, and certainly for the past two decades, this has largely been the default position, with the Council taking a back seat on Middle East issues to other processes and groups. In recent years (2004-05) Lebanon was an exception. In resolutions 1559 and 1595 and subsequent resolutions the Council demonstrated it could act effectively and decisively. In the post 1701 environment, where it seems that all parties have a vested interest in being able to show that 1701 was the right path, the opportunity may exist for the Council to take up a wider active role as it suggested in paragraph 9 of the resolution.

Our brief on Lebanon canvasses the range of very difficult substantive issues that this will involve and discusses some of the implications.

It seems, as this Forecast goes to print, that the Council will adopt before the end of August a resolution on Darfur. It is important in two respects.

  • It establishes clearly the mandate for the desired UN presence in Darfur, which may remove some of the uncertainty and anxiety that the authorities in Khartoum seemed to harbour about the exact mission the UN would have. It should now be possible to discuss consent concretely, rather than on the basis of abstract ideas.
  • It provides an innovative and generous approach to cooperation with the African Union in support of their mission in Darfur, AMIS. This is particularly important because AMIS is vulnerable, not only to an upsurge of violence directed against it, but also to increased disenchantment by the civilian population in Darfur and also because of serious funding problems. The resolution is a clear signal of international support for AMIS at this time. It serves as a trigger not only for UN assistance, but also as a rationale for donors to continue support for it so that there is a proper foundation on which transition to a UN operation can be based.

But the resolution does not of itself solve the underlying issue of securing consent from Khartoum. The brief on Darfur/Sudan outlines issues and problems associated with this. One new factor, which carried weight with many of Sudan’s friends and neighbours in recent weeks, is the strong support for the UN playing the lead role in peacekeeping in Lebanon. The reason for supporting the UN was that it would be impartial, fair and objective. The same logic could now be applied to the situation in Darfur.

But while there remains optimism that consent arrangements will be negotiated, the reality on the ground for civilians remains bleak and is deteriorating.  Many observers sense a disaster looming and are looking for a Council “Plan B” if the resolution and follow-up diplomacy do not produce a result within a few weeks.

There is no doubt that the month of September will see a major focus on Iran and its response to the package of incentives regarding negotiations on its nuclear programme. Much of the action may play out in New York, especially at the high level in the margins of the General Assembly. But, as has been the case for most of this year, it seems that very little of the discussion will take place in the Council. Indeed, it is entirely possible that the only involvement of the ten elected Council members will be occasional informal briefings.

Against this background our Iran brief examines the options that the P5 plus Germany might bring back to the Council. It also discusses the conditions under which a basis might exist for proceeding to the negotiating stage, as well as a possible compromise “last chance” resolution.

Given the stakes involved, and the history of very lengthy negotiations on this issue to date, it seems unlikely that a Council decision will be made in September.

Other Issues
The Council will also have on its plate a range of other big issues:

  • Kosovo: an important briefing by Special Envoy Ahtisaari
  • UNIIIC: a briefing from Commissioner Brammertz
  • Somalia:  important Contact Group and sanctions developments
  • Iraq: briefings on MNF, UNMOVIC and possibly UNAMI
  • Ethiopia/Eritrea: mandate renewal
  • Liberia: mandate renewal and sanctions issues
  • Review of Mandates: report of Working Group and possible phase out of certain mandates
  • Counter-terrorism: report on resolution 1624

Full forecast


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