In September France will have the presidency of the Council.
For most UN members the main focus in September is the General Debate which marks the opening of the General Assembly. As always, a very large cast of high-level delegations is expected to be in town for that purpose. This inevitably has impacts on the Security Council as well. This year France is taking the opportunity presented by having a number of heads of state in town at the same time to convene a Security Council meeting at the summit level. It is likely to be held on 25 September and President Sarkozy will preside. The subject will be Africa and the focus will be on the challenges and opportunities currently being faced in the region. The President of Ghana, current Chair of the African Union is also expected to participate. High-level participation by a number of other Council members is likely.
But the impact of the General Debate season also means that the Council tries to fit as much as possible of its September agenda in the first three weeks of the month. As a result, the programme of work may appear relatively light.
In addition to the Africa summit meeting, there will also be formal open meetings of the Council on:
The Middle East (the regular monthly briefing);
Sudan (renewal of the mandate for the Panel of Experts);
Liberia (renewal of the mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL));
International Tribunals (the terms of office of the prosecutors of the tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia expire in September. Resolutions renewing the incumbents are likely-although at press time it was uncertain whether this would be in late August or early September.)
Chad is also likely to be on the formal agenda once the Council has a clear and detailed proposal from EU and UN planners regarding the proposed UN mission in Chad which is to be backed by an EU military operation. However, at this stage it is not clear whether this will be ready in September or will have to wait until October.
With respect to Afghanistan there is also some uncertainty whether the Council will take up the renewal of the authorisation of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in September or October. Technically, the current authorisation expires on 13 October. But it seems that a number of troop-contributing countries are pressing for the authorisation resolution to be brought forward, on the basis that earlier adoption would facilitate their domestic approval processes.
The Council will be following a number of potentially volatile situations which could lead to formal meetings to adopt statements. These include:
Sierra Leone (where tensions are high in the context of the presidential run-off election);
Sudan (the North /South issues);
Sudan (Darfur and implementation issues regarding the hybrid peacekeeping mission);
Lebanon (developments regarding the establishment of the Hariri assassination tribunal and possibly the upcoming presidential election);
Haiti ( a major report by the Secretary-general is now on the table);
Iran may also be taken up in consultations. A briefing in informal consultations from the Chair of the Sanctions Committee is likely. It remains unclear whether discussions between the EU3+3 (Germany, France and the UK plus China, Russia and the US) will make sufficient progress for new proposals on additional sanctions to be put before the Council in September. Discussions on this are almost certain to take place during bilaterals and in small group meetings on the margins of the General Debate.
Many Council members will be following closely developments regarding Iran at the IAEA in Vienna, where Executive Director Mohammed ElBaradei will be presenting an important report on recent progress between the organisation and Iran in clarifying uncertainties regarding the Iranian nuclear programme.
On Darfur, the Council is likely to receive a briefing from the Secretary-General, following his trip to the region at the beginning of the month.
As has been customary in September, several high-level meetings will be happening on the margins of the General Debate, some of them with high relevance to the Council agenda (but possibly meaning that the Council will be holding back on them to wait for the results of those meetings). They include Afghanistan (co-chaired by the Secretary-General and President Karzai), the Middle East (a meeting of the Quartet), Iraq and the 21 September meeting of the Enlarged Contact Group meeting on Darfur, co-chaired by the Secretary-General and AU Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare.