The Qatar presidency in December will be a challenging one. December is a short month because Council members usually strive to finish their work by Christmas. However, there are a near record-high number of issues on the December calendar. These include formally scheduled “housekeeping items” such as:
renewal of four sanctions regimes and/or sanctions monitoring bodies.
In addition, the Council has on its plate four very large political issues:
Darfur, where an unprecedented proposal for a hybrid AU-UN operation is being explored-with significant implications for management and accountability as well as the use of UN funding, which will need input from other UN organs, not least the powerful budgetary body, the ACABQ;
Somalia, where as this Forecast goes to print, Council members were divided on the merits of a proposed regional military intervention; and
Iran, whose nuclear programme and the nature of any Chapter VII response to it continues to divide the P5 and loom over the Council.
In addition, the monthly Council focus on the Middle East is likely to take on enhanced importance, not only because of recent developments in the region, but also because Qatar has been a leading player on the issue during its term on the Council.
The Darfur crisis worsens and the 31 December expiry date for the current AU mission AMIS is looming. Most Council members are uncomfortable with anything short of a UN mission to replace AMIS. They are likely, however, at the end of the day to acquiesce in a compromise “hybrid operation” along the lines of the proposal that came out of the Secretary-General’s high level meeting in Addis Ababa on 18 November. But the details will be critically important-including on the amount of UN “spine”. It is not only Council members that will have to be persuaded. Commitment authority for UN expenditure from the ACABQ will not be easily obtained unless there is clarity on how UN management, accountability and standards can be complied with. If, in the end, Khartoum causes this proposal to fail as well, it seems the question of sanctions will be back on the agenda.
On Somalia, many observers and some Council members worry about the implications of the Council perhaps authorising a military operation in Baidoa, to protect one of the parties, in the absence of consent of the other party, when in the case of Darfur, it had allowed the need for consent from Khartoum to dictate the fate of thousands of civilians. At press time, the conditions under which any IGASOM force would be deployed continued to divide Council members. This issue is, however, only one of many which are being addressed against the backdrop of a possible wider conflict involving regional neighbours such as Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Iran and the nuclear proliferation issue will continue to be on members’ minds. A draft resolution, prepared by the UK, France and Germany, that would impose sanctions on Iran for its non-compliance with resolution 1696, which demands that the country suspend all nuclear enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, was presented to the P5. Subsequently the ten elected members were briefed and given copies. However, as previously, the draft is not being negotiated in the Council. Lack of agreement on the text between the P5 means that the issue is back again in the P5 capitals. It is hard to predict whether the issue will be formally on the Council table before the end of the year.
The situation in Fiji deteriorated following increased tensions between the military and the prime minister, including the possibility of a coup. This led to a Council press statement calling upon the military to exercise restraint and encouraging a solution based on the constitution. The Council is likely to closely monitor the situation in December.
It is unlikely that there will be much public focus on the Council regarding the adoption of the Council’s annual report to the General Assembly. (The report has been much delayed in 2006.) Qatar, as president, will present the report to the Assembly. As in the past, a series of critical statements from the wider UN membership about the Council, its working methods and its relationship to other UN organs are likely in the General Assembly debate.
At the time of going to press only one thematic open debate in the Council was envisioned during December. This is likely to be on 4 December and will focus on civilians in armed conflict. The Council will be briefed by Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, who is shortly to leave the UN. This will probably be his last report to the Council and it will perhaps reflect on the breadth of the tragic humanitarian crises he has had to deal with and give his reflections on the overall response of the international community. In a departure from recent practice, the adoption of a presidential or press statement seems unlikely.
The Council will conduct a review of the functioning of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) in December and is likely to renew the mandate of the Monitoring Team established under resolution 1267 (the Al-Qaida/Taliban sanctions).
The Council is expected to renew two of its longest-standing operations.
It will renew, most likely for six months, the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), in place since 1964.
It is also expected to follow its practice of over thirty years and extend for six months the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights, originally created in 1974.
Also up for renewal is the mandate of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire, which expires on 15 December. Renewal is expected, but the consideration of Côte d’Ivoire will certainly be far from routine. It involves several complex issues and a peace process which is in a very fragile state. In October, the country missed, for the second time, the deadline set by the Council for holding the elections and ending the transitional process. The length of the renewal period, the strength of the UN forces, whether or not to conduct mid-term review of the operation in six months, will be among the issues likely to be discussed. In addition, the Council will have before it the question of extension of sanctions and of the mandate of the sanctions monitoring body.
The mandates of two UN political offices also require renewal in December.
On Sierra Leone, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) for 12 months from 1 January 2007.
The mandate of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea Bissau (UNOGBIS) also expires at the end of December. The Council is most likely to note, perhaps in a letter, the Secretary-General’s intention to renew UNOGBIS for 12 months, possibly with some adjustments to the mandate.
The Council will consider the future of Liberia diamond sanctions in December. The arms embargo, the travel ban and the mandate of the Panel of Experts are expected to be renewed.
On Burundi, the Council will mark the end of the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB) and the start of the UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB). Burundi was also one of the first two countries taken up by the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). During December, the government is expected to present peacebuilding strategies and plans to the PBC, which may visit Burundi that month.
The Council will be paying close attention to the post-election climate and developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo.