February 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 February 2007
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Slovakia will have the presidency of the Council in February.

Traditionally, the February agenda has relatively few scheduled “country specific” matters.  Accordingly, Slovakia has taken the opportunity this month to initiate a major new thematic area of Council work. They have proposed that the Council take up the difficult crosscutting issue of “Security Sector Reform” – a matter which is at the heart of restoring peace and security in war shattered countries. Several preparatory meetings have been organised and opportunities have been taken to involve countries outside the Council with significant experience, as well as practitioners, academics and NGOs. A concept paper is expected and an “Arria formula” meeting on 20 February will also help prepare the ground for an open debate on 21 February. (Security Council Report will also issue an in-depth Update Report on Security Sector Reform, after the concept paper is circulated.)

Other open meetings in February will include:

  • the traditional monthly meeting on the Middle East;
  • adoption of a resolution on Timor-Leste, renewing the UNMIT mandate; (There is also a possibility of an open meeting at which Timor-Leste would participate.)
  • a resolution on the DRC to approve a short interim rollover of the MONUC mandate at the request of the new DRC government. (The DRC would prefer a little more time to prepare for a full discussion of the situation in DRC and the future of MONUC.) An “Arria formula” meeting on the DRC is also being considered;
  • adoption of a resolution on Haiti renewing the mandate of MINUSTAH (assuming agreement can be reached between China and Haiti on some unrelated matters);
  • an open session on the work of the counter-terrorism committees (with briefings from the CTC, 1267 and 1540 committees).

There has also been some discussion in the margins of the Council about holding a second substantial thematic debate in February to address “Non-Proliferation” – in particular the issues arising in connection with implementation of resolutions 1540 and  1673 and the role of the wider UN system which deals with weapons of mass destruction.

The Council is also expected to hold consultations on the Peacebuilding Commission to follow up the open debate on 31 January. This may also result in formal action by the Council in an open meeting, although a letter or note from the President is also possible.

Darfur will be an early and intense focus for the month.  There are hopes that high-level diplomacy by China will make a positive contribution. The Council expects a briefing from the Secretary-General on his return from Africa on developments at and following the AU Summit. The main concern will be whether Sudan is genuinely committed to a good faith implementation of the earlier AU decision that there should be a phased transition from a purely AU operation to a hybrid AU-UN operation with a robust protection mandate.

In public the new Secretary-General has continued the role that his predecessor, Kofi Annan, began of championing the need for a UN intervention to protect civilians in Darfur. Ban Ki-moon has been blunt – further delay is “unacceptable.”

The situation on the ground continues to worsen and there seems to be little tolerance for further prevarication by Khartoum. The failure of Sudan to secure election to the AU presidency (the second time that it has been rejected because of its role in Darfur) indicates the level of frustration in the region.

If good progress is made with Khartoum, Council action in February may include a resolution endorsing the details of the hybrid operation. A second major feature for the Council will be how to reinforce the Darfur peace process. It will be interesting to see if the Council is ready to be more actively engaged in this than previously.

The situations in Chad and the Central African Republic will also be a major preoccupation. While there are similarities and many common factors with the conflict in Darfur, the Council is conducting its decision making on these situations separately.

The UN system is again torn in two directions. On the one hand there is, like in Darfur, an imperative to protect civilians (both refugees from Darfur and locally displaced victims of the war). On the other hand the Secretariat feels that it must point out to the Council – as enjoined in the 2000 Brahimi report – that in the absence of a peace process and without consent of all the parties, the UN would be perceived not as an impartial body, but as taking sides in the conflict. That of course is not a reason to fail to act, but it establishes certain clear requirements about the robustness of the forces that would be required and an acceptance of the fact that this would not be peacekeeping, but in all probability peace enforcement.

Since UNPROFOR’s failure in Srebrenica, in similar circumstances, the Council has preferred that such operations be conducted by coalitions of the willing (although there have been some exceptions such as the UN operation in eastern DRC). There seem to be no leaders for such a coalition in Chad. However, the risks in Chad are not as high as Darfur (where intervention without consent would have involved the risk of confrontation with the Sudanese army) or for that matter Bosnia. A robust protection operation in Chad under UN command and control may be possible and the risks reduced to manageable levels if the Council can:

  • reach agreement on a sufficiently large and well equipped force (avoiding the mistakes in 1993/94/95 over the Bosnia “safe areas”);
  • play a leading role in helping the Secretariat with force generation (and in particular securing the robust assets required); and
  • overcome the resistance (including among some of its members) to the UN putting in place in parallel a peace process to lower the level of violence and begin to address some of the grievances fuelling the conflict.

Somalia  will be the other major conflict situation looming over the Council in February.  Council members are expecting a briefing from Under Secretary-General Ibrahim Gambari on 2 February and are likely to begin working on a statement or resolution very soon.

Most Council members see the military success of the Transitional Federal Government, on the back of the Ethiopian intervention in December, as offering a new window of opportunity to restore peace and security in Somalia.

The AU decision on 19 January to establish an interim regional security force (AMISOM) to support the TFG is another important development. Not only does it offer some prospect of replacing the security capacity that will disappear with the departing Ethiopian forces, but it is an important political gesture of regional support and recognition for the TFG. However, it seems the AU decision was a conditional one. The AMISOM force will be raised on the understanding that there is a transition to UN command and control by mid year.

But the situation remains perilous. The legitimacy of the TFG remains an issue for some in Somalia – not least because of the Ethiopian role in securing their current position. The clans, and the warlords associated with some of them, remain fiercely independent and, over the past 20 years, have learned a culture of almost permanent war. Finally the question is whether the Islamic fighters associated with the UIC were actually defeated or whether they have mostly just faded into the backstreets of Mogadishu, waiting to raise up an Iraq style insurgency as urged by Al-Qaida.

Perhaps one positive lesson from the period of UIC control is that a large number of ordinary Somalis are tired of constant war and really appreciate the calm and safety that effective governance can bring.

For the Council, these developments raise a number of major issues:

  • First, it will want to consider further reinforcing the security position of the TFG and this may lead it to consider a complete exemption for the TFG from the arms embargo.
  • For the same reason it may want to encourage states to assist the AMISOM deployment, including providing support with logistics and funding.
  • In order to expand the legitimacy of the Federal Institutions, it may look at formally endorsing the need for a broad based government and a reconciliation process – and perhaps encourage a higher level of UN involvement in order to strengthen the comfort levels of those currently excluded.
  • Various options for recalibrating the sanctions in order to better synchronise with the current situation may also be considered.
  • Funding for humanitarian assistance as well as development will be an immediate priority.
  • The question of a new UN operation to replace AMISOM will be the most difficult. It is sure to be discussed, but the Council is unlikely to take any decision in February. A request to the Secretary-General to send a scoping mission to assess the feasibility is a likely step. But some members may also want the Secretary-General to look at early transition options involving interim UN assistance to AMISOM (as is currently under way with respect to UN assistance to AMIS in Darfur).
  • Finally, the evolving security situation will play an important role in Council consideration. If an insurgency type situation emerges, it may prove too dangerous not only for a UN military operation, but also for civilian and humanitarian components.

Full forecast