November 2006 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 October 2006
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In November the Council will be under the presidency of Peru. The Council mission to Afghanistan, although comprising only a selection of Council members, will inevitably divert a lot of energy and focus away from the work programme in New York.

Fortunately, November is unusually light in terms of mandate expiry and review dates. Only one mandate renewal is expected, the EU Mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina (EUFOR) and only one review is scheduled – Ethiopia/Eritrea. But there are a full range of other pressing issues.

Public meetings are likely to include:

  • Afghanistan (discussion of the findings of the visiting mission)
  • Adoption of the Security Council Annual Report
  • The regular Middle East meeting
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina (extension of EUFOR mandate)

There will be an open debate on Children and Armed Conflict preceded by an Arria formula meeting.

The Council will be closely monitoring events in:

  • DRC (in the aftermath of the presidential election);
  • Somalia (given the extremely volatile situation involving increasing conflict between the transitional government and the Islamic courts, as well as the involvement of both Ethiopia and Eritrea); and
  • Côte d’Ivoire (following another postponement of the elections and the restructuring of the president’s role).

In all three situations the prospects for violent developments remain very real. Events could trigger Council action, including possibly formal meetings.

Pressure of events in September and October has created the impression-and perhaps the reality-that some key issues have faded off the Council radar screen. These include

  • Lebanon, where the Council undertook in resolution 1701 to remain “actively involved”; and
  • Northern Uganda, where the absence of Council signals about the current peace negotiations and the Lord’s Resistance Army have been noticed and the Secretary-General’s advice in June is yet to be taken up.

Iran and nuclear proliferation is likely to be the main focus of attention from the media and the general public during November. A Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran, following the failure of recent negotiations in search of a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear programme, seems likely. But, as has been the case on this issue throughout 2006, the real action is not taking place within the Council at all. Apart from rare informal briefings, the ten elected Council members have no role in negotiation of the draft resolution. That is being conducted between the five permanent members plus Germany.

The negotiations will be difficult and perhaps protracted. But eventual agreement between the P5 plus Germany on a sanctions resolution seems likely. The behaviour of North Korea, in exploding a nuclear weapon, has undermined the position of those like China and Russia who previously favoured a conciliatory approach. Accordingly, the debate is likely to focus more on the nature of the sanctions rather than the principle. Also the previous legal arguments over reference to Chapter VII of the UN Charter are likely to be less significant in November, since consensus language on that issue was agreed in the resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea.

Most observers seem to expect that a compromise will be struck on a package of sanctions resembling the measures imposed on North Korea, but with a more modest impact-reflecting the fact that Iran is still only a potential proliferator. In this regard the issues in dispute could include:

  • whether to include enforcement mechanisms such as a sanctions committee;
  • whether to provide exemptions for certain nuclear cooperation (such as Russia’s assistance with a nuclear power station) and if so under what conditions;
  • whether to include financial sanctions to prevent funds transferred to Iran from being used to support the nuclear programme (given the huge differences in scale between North Korean exports and Iran’s exports the potential impact of such a measure is much higher in the case of Iran- both on Iran and also on financial institutions and importers in many countries); and
  • whether it is possible to have a more graduated or stepped menu of sanctions within each of the various categories imposed on North Korea- thus introducing benchmarks or “carrots” as well as well as “sticks”.

These issues are complex not only politically, but also technically. The technical aspects and the need for the measures to be legally enforceable in many jurisdictions seem likely to mean that the solutions will take time.

The underlying issue, of whether sanctions will have enough impact sufficiently quickly to induce a readiness to negotiate, remains a widespread concern. Equally worrying for many Council members is what happens next if the sanctions do not produce results-or worse if Iran decides to up the ante.

North Korea will continue to be very much on the work programme in November, but the main focus is likely to be implementation of resolution 1718.  All UN member states must report by 13 November on the measures they have taken under their domestic law to impose sanctions on the DPRK.  (But there is a possibility that the Sanctions Committee will modify this deadline.)  The Committee (chaired by Slovakia) has to:

  • establish Committee guidelines and procedures;
  • review the lists of controlled items;
  • designate persons and entities in North Korea for targeted sanctions; and
  • designate persons and entities to whom the prohibitions on financial transfers will apply.

A report by the Chair of the Sanctions Committee to the Council is possible.

The violence in the Darfur region continues to rage on, suggesting that the government has suffered some severe setbacks. Public comment about the latter by UN Special Representative, Jan Pronk, led Khartoum to seek to expel him. (This issue has subsequently been deftly resolved by Kofi Annan in a compromise allowing Pronk to remain in office till the end of the year.)

The Council members have no mandate review relating to Sudan in November, but as usual consultations based on the Secretary-General’s monthly report on Darfur are likely. Public concern in many countries continues to grow and pressure for punitive sanctions will be in the background. However, in recent weeks there have been increasingly helpful interventions by African and Arab countries, trying to lead Sudan to a more realistic position. Council members recognise that the agreements reached with great difficulty in September to extend and refinance AMIS expire in December and that time is rapidly running out.

There are also signs of an important but less obvious development arising from Sudan’s inability to quickly force a successful military outcome in Darfur following its denial of consent for a UN peacekeeping operation in Darfur. There have been some recent hints of flexibility based on a two track approach:

  • pressure by the international community on the rebels to return to a renewed peace negotiating process; and
  • an international force in Darfur which would be styled as “AMIS plus” or “UN minus”-in any event a force with much of the features and mandate envisaged in resolution 1706 but with ambiguity about its title.

It remains to be seen whether these developments can evolve into a successful new approach. The Council may, for a range of reasons, prefer to allow this to develop without active or formal involvement, instead encouraging the Secretary-General behind the scenes and tolerating creative interpretation of resolution 1706. As we have pointed out in September and October, there is considerable scope in 1706 for a large UN presence under the AMIS umbrella. But in the long run the real test will be ensuring that the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions and the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly will support the outcome. Also ensuring that management and financial risk is minimised will be essential. Given the imminent transition in senior positions in the Secretariat, the latter is not a small issue.

Full forecast


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