February 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 January 2008
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Conflict Prevention

Expected Council Action
The Security Council Working Group on Conflict Prevention has before it the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of resolution 1625. Recommendations from a 3 December seminar organised by the Working Group are also available. However, it is unclear whether proposals will come forward for Council action on this issue in February, or perhaps in April when South Africa has the Council presidency.

Key Recent Developments
On 14 January, Council members reportedly received advance copies of the Secretary-General’s report. Due since 27 October, the report is likely to be formally released in early February. (For detailed background on this issue see our November 2007 Forecast and 24 August 2007 Update.)

The 3 December seminar, organised by the Council’s Working Group, involved UN member states, the UN, regional organisations, think tanks, NGOs and the private sector.

Recommendations from the seminar included:

  • instituting better procedures to allow rapid reaction by the Council to crises;
  • giving a clearer preventive diplomacy mandate to the Secretary-General;
  • paying particular attention to disputes with the potential to become a threat to international peace and security; and
  • enhancing existing partnerships between the Council and regional organisations.

Recommendations from the seminar were expected to be used as a basis for drafting a decision for consideration by the Council.

Key Issues
A major issue is whether the Council will be ready in February to take up in a substantive way recommendations from the Secretary-General’s report and the December seminar. Another major issue involves the future role of the Working Group. (There was concern in the past that its working methods tended to lead in the direction of abstract discussion. South Africa (the new chair) seems determined to reenergise the Group and perhaps move it in the direction of contributing to country-specific problems.)

Options for the Council include:

  • a substantive discussion in February of the Secretary-General’s report and the recommendations from the seminar and adoption of a resolution or presidential statement;
  • undertaking an initial discussion in February but deferring action until the Working Group can produce some clearly defined measures for consideration by the Council; and
  • encouraging the Working Group to bridge the gap between conflict prevention at the conceptual level and its effective application in specific contexts. (The Secretary-General observed in his 2006 report to the General Assembly on the prevention of armed conflict (A/60/891) that while a culture of prevention had begun to take hold at the UN, an “unacceptable gap remains, however, between rhetoric and reality.”)

Council Dynamics
Council members generally seem to support a culture of prevention within the UN as an efficient alternative to expensive and complex peacekeeping missions and humanitarian operations. However, it seems that some of the permanent members may be less supportive of this. Overall, the Council appears to be favourably disposed towards the idea of using the Secretary-General’s report as well as viable proposals from the seminar to assist in further streamlining the Council’s complementary role with the Secretariat in elaborating global conflict-prevention strategies, and possibly the adoption of a resolution or presidential statement.

The UK and France were instrumental in helping to develop resolution 1625 and seem keen to see conflict prevention become a natural extension and integral part of the UN’s work. They welcome the recent developments in refocusing attention on this issue.

South Africa is expected to spearhead related Council action following its assumption of the Chair of the Working Group in January.

Underlying Problems
Differing views exist among the wider UN membership. Some are concerned that a prevention culture could lead to international intervention or might infringe on sovereignty. These kinds of concerns have contributed to the limited progress in the area of conflict prevention in recent years in the intergovernmental machinery. However, it seems that some important developments are underway in regard to capacity-building in the Secretariat, in particular with respect to the Secretary-General’s good offices and mediation capacity (including activities such as mediation training for UN staff, the development of an on-line database with mediation-related materials and the creation of a standby cadre of specialists to support mediation efforts), as well as the Council’s cooperation with the AU (especially efforts towards fulfilling some of the demands of the Council’s 16 June 2007 joint communiqué with the AU Peace and Security Council, such as information sharing on situations of conflict on their respective agendas). Challenges still remain with regard to developing an enhanced and structured relationship with the AU, particularly in the area of developing sustainable mechanisms for extending assistance to the AU’s capacity and resource base.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1653 (27 January 2006) addressed conflict prevention and resolution in the Great Lakes region.
  • S/RES/1625 (14 September 2005) was a declaration on the Council’s role in conflict prevention, particularly in Africa, and was adopted during the World Summit.
  • S/RES/1318 (7 September 2000) was the adoption of the Millennium Summit declaration on maintaining peace and security, especially in Africa.
  • S/RES/1170 (28 May 1998) established the Working Group.

Reports of the Working Group

  • S/2005/833 (30 December 2005), S/2004/989 (21 December 2004), S/2003/1188 (18 December 2003), S/2002/1352 (12 December 2002), and S/2002/607 (22 May 2002) were reports summarising the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa.
  • S/2005/828 (22 December 2005) was the report on a seminar held by the Working Group on cooperation between the UN and African regional organisations in the field of peace and security.

Selected Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2007/31 (28 August 2007) requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on the options for further implementation of resolution 1625.
  • S/PRST/2007/1 (8 January 2007) requested the Secretary-General to provide the Council with more regular analytical reporting on regions of potential armed conflict and stressed the importance of establishing comprehensive strategies on conflict prevention.
  • S/PRST/2002/2 (31 January 2002) made recommendations for achieving conflict prevention and resolution in Africa.
  • S/PRST/2000/25 (20 July 2000) invited the Secretary-General to submit a report on the prevention of armed conflict.
  • S/PRST/1999/34 (30 November 1999) recognised the importance of building a culture of armed conflict prevention.
  • S/PRST/1997/46 (25 September 1997) noted that addressing the challenges of conflict in Africa required a comprehensive approach and called on the Secretary-General to produce a report to address the issue.

Selected Security Council Debates

  • S/PV.5735 and resumption 1 resumption 1 (28 August 2007) was the discussion on the role of the Security Council in conflict prevention and resolution, in particular in Africa.
  • S/PV.5705 and resumption 1 resumption 1 (25 June 2007) focused on the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • S/PV.5649 and resumption 1 resumption 1 (28 March 2007) discussed the relationship between the UN and regional organisations.
  • S/PV.3819 (25 September 1997) was the first ministerial-level debate on the situation in Africa.

Selected Reports of the Secretary-General

  • A/60/891 (18 July 2006) was a progress report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly on the prevention of armed conflict.
  • S/2001/574 (7 June 2001) was the Secretary-General’s first comprehensive report on conflict prevention.
  • S/2000/809 (21 August 2000) was the Brahimi report on peacekeeping.
  • S/1998/318 (13 April 1998) was the Secretary-General’s report on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa.


  • S/2007/771 (31 December 2007) was a note by the president of the Council indicating the Council’s extension of the mandate of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa until 31 December 2008.
  • S/2007/496 (14 August 2007) was the letter from the Republic of the Congo containing the terms of reference for the open debate on 28 August on conflict prevention and resolution, especially in Africa.
  • S/2002/207 (1 March 2002) outlined the terms of reference and mandate for the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa.

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