April 2011 Monthly Forecast



Expected Council Action
In April, Council members are expecting the focus on Libya to continue. The Secretary-General’s monthly briefing requested in resolution 1973 is due and a high level of activity in the Sanctions Committee is also expected.

The ICC prosecutor’s report, requested in resolution 1970, is due on 26 April. (It seems that the prosecutor may brief the Council in early May.)

At press time, no new decisions were anticipated. However, Council members will continue to closely follow events on the ground and the implementation of resolutions 1970 and 1973, as well as emerging developments from the relevant regional organisations.

Key Recent Developments
On 17 March the Council adopted resolution 1973, which authorised all necessary measures—excluding an occupation force—to protect civilians in Libya and enforce the arms embargo. The resolution also imposed a no-fly zone, strengthened the sanctions regime and established a panel of experts to support the 1970 Sanctions Committee on Libya. Ten Council members voted for the resolution (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, France, Gabon, Lebanon, Nigeria, Portugal, South Africa, the UK and the US) and five abstained (Brazil, China, Germany, India and Russia).

On 29 March, a conference in London agreed to form a contact group to support a Libyan transition to democracy and increase international pressure on Muammar al-Qaddafi to step down. France, the UK and the US as well as 34 other countries—nine of which are Arab and/or Muslim—as well as the Arab League, EU, NATO, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the UN participated. A NATO meeting on 27 March in Brussels agreed that NATO would take over from the US the command and control of all military operations to enforce resolution 1973.

Media reports indicate that on 28 March Qatar recognised the Benghazi Transitional Council and the move appears to have the backing of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Qatar was also reported to have agreed with the Transitional Council to market the oil from areas under its control. Given the uncertainties about legitimate authority in Libya, it is unclear how this agreement will progress. But what is clear is that under resolution 1973 Tripoli cannot get revenue from any oil sales since such assets must be frozen.

On 28 March Ambassador José Cabral of Portugal, the chair of the 1970 Sanctions Committee, briefed Council members on the Committee’s activities. It met formally for the first time on 25 March where working methods were discussed. (At press time, it was unclear when the Panel of Experts would be finalised.)

On 25 March, UN Special Envoy Abdel-Elah Al-Khatib attended consultations at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. Representatives of the AU Peace and Security Council, a majority of UN Security Council members (including the P5), the Arab League, the EU, the OIC, Libya’s neighbouring countries and other parties attended. Also in attendance was a delegation from Tripoli. Benghazi was invited but unable to attend. A communiqué stressed the urgency of a ceasefire, political dialogue between the Libyan parties, the need to establish transitional mechanisms, and continued international coordination on the Libyan crisis. (The 25 March consultations followed-up a meeting of the AU Ad-Hoc High Level Committee on Libya of 19 March in Mauritania after its intended mission to Libya was postponed.)

On 24 March, the Secretary-General briefed Council members on measures taken by member states under resolution 1973 and informal consultations followed.

On 21 March, Council members met in informal consultations. The regime in Tripoli wrote to the Security Council on 19 March requesting a meeting and claiming that the adoption of resolutions 1970 and 1973 had “paved the way for military aggression against Libyan territory” and that the enforcement action taken under the resolutions violated international norms. (No Libyan representative was invited to participate at either the 21 or 24 March meetings.)

On 19 March, France hosted a meeting in Paris on Libya, attended by western and Arab states, the UN Secretary-General, the EU and Arab League. The communiqué called for collective and resolute action to implement resolution 1973, including the use of air power. Also on 19 March, France, the UK and the US began to carry out strikes under resolution 1973. Qatar flew its first sortie as part of the operation on 25 March.

On 18 March the Libyan regime in Tripoli said it would comply with the ceasefire called for in resolution 1973. On 19 March the Secretary-General said this could not be verified. On 24 March the Secretary-General said there was no evidence that the Tripoli regime was taking steps to implement a ceasefire.

Human Rights-Related Developments
On 10 March, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said aerial bombardment and the use of military-grade weapons and tanks by Tripoli against civilians in Libya would be investigated as possible crimes against humanity. Pillay expressed concern over accounts of summary executions, torture, rapes and disappearances. Referring to the decision of the Human Rights Council to form an independent international commission of inquiry into events in Libya and the Security Council’s referral of the Libyan situation to the ICC, she cautioned that members of Libya’s security forces should not believe they can commit such acts with impunity. (The commission of inquiry was appointed in March and is expected to report back to the Human Rights Council in June.)

Key Issues
A key issue for the Council, if it becomes clear that the capacity of the Qaddafi regime to attack civilians is diminishing and the significance of the Chapter VII military operations recedes, is whether it should seek to play a role in promoting an “end-game” in Libya, in effect bringing its Chapter VI powers into play. A related issue is whether the Council will move into a less active mode, leaving the political resolution work to regional organisations and contact groups.

A second key issue for the Council, especially if the threat to civilians becomes protracted, is likely to be the relative weight between implementation of the enforcement measures and the sanctions regime on the one hand and political dialogue between Tripoli and Benghazi on the other, especially in light of the divergence of views among members on the best approach to ending the Libyan conflict.

A third key issue is the related divergence among members as to whether resolution 1973 authorises the recent air attacks against Qaddafi’s forces and the further complication as the Benghazi forces move to the offensive.

An immediate technical issue is ensuring that the Sanctions Committee and the forthcoming panel of experts are able to work efficiently. (The appointment of such panels in other sanctions regimes has had the tendency to be a very drawn-out process.)

Another issue is that it seems the arms embargo may be able to be legally interpreted as permitting supplies of arms to an alternative government if such weapons were to be used to protect civilians.

A potential issue for the Council, if the situation in Libya develops into a protracted conflict, is the humanitarian impact of the sanctions. (Libya is not prohibited from selling oil but cannot be paid). In this regard, there may be pressure for members to alleviate the impact on the population under Qaddafi’s control.

The issue of appropriate Libyan representation at formal Council meetings could become problematic. At least one permanent member now recognises the Benghazi authorities which will compel the Council to proceed in a balanced and even innovative way on procedural issues and in references to the Libyan parties.

An option for the Council is to develop a flexible and parallel focus on its conflict resolution and mediation role and on maintaining active lines of communication with relevant regional actors to open space for a political solution. In that regard, the Council could request a briefing by UN Special Envoy Khatib (who is expected to return shortly to Libya) on his talks with both sides of the Libyan conflict as well as his read outs from the 25 March meeting in Addis Ababa and the 29 March meeting in London on Libya. It could also seek regular interaction with the Arab League and with the AU’s Ad-Hoc High Level Committee.

Another option, especially if the Tripoli regime is resistant to dialogue with Benghazi about meaningful political transition, is to take further measures against individuals. In that regard, an efficient Sanctions Committee and supporting panel of experts will be crucial in establishing and maintaining a flow of credible information on the implementation of resolutions 1970 and 1973.

A third option is to simply maintain the status quo for a month or so allowing the measures in place, both sanctions and enforcement provisions, to continue to bite on the Qaddafi regime on the basis that it is premature to try to negotiate.

Council Dynamics
All Council members are very concerned about the situation in Libya and the impact on civilians. However, unlike the unanimous adoption of resolution 1970, they are divided on the best way to compel the Tripoli regime to cease all violence against civilians.

The five Council members who abstained on resolution 1973 seem to have had a range of reasons for their vote.

Of the ten members who voted for the resolution, some had reservations about the scope of military intervention that was being authorised. These concerns centred on a possible interpretation of resolution 1973 that might allow for the arming of the opposition and residual worries about the lack of a parallel strategy for a political solution. However, at the time of the vote there was a clear sense that decisive Council action could not be delayed. Nevertheless, it seems that the assessment among all these Council members is that the adoption of resolution 1973 successfully averted a large-scale humanitarian crisis.

Russia has been particularly concerned that the protection of civilians authorisation not creep into the use of military air power to support offensive action by the Benghazi forces. The sense of discomfort among Council members who abstained on resolution 1973 could affect the Council’s ability to take further measures in the absence of a clearer strategy leading to a political end game in Libya.

Many Council members seem broadly agreed that keeping eyes cast forward to a political solution is a desirable outcome. However, concrete measures toward a political outcome are unlikely to gain traction with key Council members until there is a verified withdrawal of Tripoli’s armed forces from positions threatening civilians and full humanitarian access.

US President Barack Obama on 28 March clarified that the goal of the military operation was to work with its allies to maintain the safety of civilians and that it was not to procure regime change by force. However, he also emphasised that the US would work to deny the Tripoli regime arms and cash, assist the opposition and pressure Qaddafi to leave power.

Most Council members have likewise stressed that resolution 1973 is designed to protect civilians and provide humanitarian access and that the political end game is for Libyans to choose their own future. However, few if any Council members seem to believe that it is a credible option to simply leave the Libyan parties to their own devices. Moreover, many members of the Security Council in their national capacities have clearly said that Qaddafi has lost his legitimacy to lead and cannot be a part of that equation.

France has already recognised the Benghazi authorities and others may have moved—de facto—to this position.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1973 (17 March 2011) authorised all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya and enforce the arms embargo, imposed a no-fly zone, strengthened the sanctions regime, and established a panel of experts.
  • S/RES/1970 (26 February 2011) referred the situation in Libya to the ICC, imposed an arms embargo and targeted sanctions, and established a sanctions committee.

Security Council Meeting Records

Security Council Letter

  • S/2011/161 (19 March 2011) was from the Libyan regime in Tripoli challenging the enforcement actions and requesting a meeting of the Council.

Other Relevant Facts

Chair of the UN Libya Sanctions Committee

Ambassador José Filipe Moraes Cabral (Portugal)

UN Special Envoy

Abdel-Elah Mohamed Al-Khatib (Jordan)

Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry

Cherif Bassiouni (Egypt); Asma Khader (Jordanian/Palestinian); Philippe Kirsch (Canada)

AU Ad-Hoc High Level Committee

Heads of state of Congo, Mali, Mauritania, South Africa, Uganda and the chair of the AU Commission

Commander for NATO Operations under Resolution 1973

Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard (Canada)

Full Forecast