Newly-appointed Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown makes his debut as the U.N.'s second highest-ranking official this week. Formerly Secretary General Kofi Annan's chief of staff and head of the U.N. Development Program, Malloch Brown, from Great Britain, is expected to hit the ground running. A top priority is expected to be pushing forward U.N. reform efforts.
This month the U.N. Security Council is headed by China and diplomats do not expect Beijing to play an activist role in launching new thematic initiatives, as some governments have done while serving in the very visible post.
Issues to watch on the council's agenda this week include:
Charles Taylor: possible Security Council authorization for a change of venue for the war crimes trial of the former Liberian president. Britain has circulated a draft resolution (with U.S. backing) that would move his trial from Sierra Leone to the Netherlands for security reasons. Officials from the Special Court in Sierra Leone, where the former warlord faces charges related to atrocities committed during Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war, requested the move.
Darfur: Last month, the council committed itself to transitioning an African Union force in Darfur into a U.N.-run peacekeeping mission next fall (subject to Sudan's approval). Now, it awaits a plan of possible options from Secretary General Annan (who has played a leading role in moving efforts forward) due later in the month. Meanwhile, the U.N.'s top emergency relief chief, Jan Egeland, has so far been denied authorization by Sudan to visit the country to assess humanitarian needs and meet with officials.
Iran: Likely remains in the background this week after the council's decision last week to demand that Tehran suspend its uranium enrichment efforts and comply fully with International Atomic Energy Agency demands to clarify questions regarding its nuclear activities. A report by IAEA chief Mohamed Elbaradei is not due until the end of April (although at this point Western diplomats and others are not anticipating full Iranian compliance).
Annan is expected to travel abroad later this week to Spain to meet with the top executives of U.N. agencies and then to the Hague in the Netherlands, home to the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court and the war-crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.