Key Global Events to Watch in September

At the start of every month, the Global Observatory posts a list of key upcoming meetings and events that have implications for global affairs.



September 1: Mali, northern rebels resume peace talks after two-week delay, Algiers

Representatives from the Malian government and northern Tuareg tribes are due to meet in Algiers beginning September 1 to initiate a second round of peace talks that implement the roadmap agreed upon by the parties in July. The first round of talks took place from July 16-24, and in late August, Tuareg members and Arab militias met in Burkina Faso to agree on common principles prior to the meeting in Algiers. A third round of talks is slated for October.

September 1: Iranian foreign minister meets EU foreign policy chief, Brussels 

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will discuss a framework for renewed nuclear talks in Brussels on September 1. The meeting was announced late August, after the expiration of an August 25 deadline for Iran to abide by an International Atomic Energy Agency’s nuclear probe. A November 2013 interim nuclear agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany was set to expire on July 20, 2014, but the parties extended the talks until November 24 hoping to clinch a final, long-term deal. The P5+1 are seeking assurances that Iran’s nuclear program is not being used to develop nuclear warheads, a claim the Iranian government has denied, insisting that the program is for peaceful purposes. 

September 1: Newly elected Turkish President Erdoğan visits Northern Cyprus, North Nicosia

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will pay his first official visit as president of Turkey to the territories of Northern Cyprus on September 1, where he is expected to reiterate Turkey’s support for the Cyprus peace negotiations. The island has been partitioned since 1974, with Greece and Turkey controlling the south and north, respectively. In February this year, the leaders of the island’s two communities resumed peace negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations for the sixth time since the island’s division 40 years ago. 

Oil Rich but Lacking Institutions, Libya Struggles to Build a State: Q&A with Dr. Younes Abouyoub

A partial view of the terminals at the Zawiya Oil Refinery, some 40 km west of Tripoli, October 27, 2011.  (Alessio Romenzi/Corbis)

On Sunday, Islamist militants consolidated their hold on the capital city of Libya and its international airport after a week of intense fighting against rival militia groups. Clashes between the militants over control of Tripoli erupted in July and are the most serious episodes of violence in the city since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The clashes come in sharp contrast to the quick recovery of the country’s oil sector in the east, where on Wednesday last week, the state-owned oil company said that Libya’s largest terminal in Es Sider was resuming its exports. The announcement came after a year-long stoppage and stated that a tanker was ready to leave port with 600,000 barrels of oil on board. 

Yet Libya’s oil wealth has created obstacles on the country’s road to democracy and statehood, said Dr. Younes Abouyoub, a Political Adviser to the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

“Ironically, it’s a curse in a way, because Libya does not have an economy—it has wealth,” he said. “For 42 years under Gaddafi, it was used just to buy allegiance, not to build the state, the nation, the institutions, and the economy.”

Truce in Mozambique Offers Tentative Peace and a Return to Politics

Frelimo supporters dance and sing during a visit by Mozambique's President in Catandica, Barue district, October 29, 2013. (Jinty Jackson/AFP/Getty Images)

Following months of conciliatory talks, Mozambique’s Frelimo ruling party and the Renamo opposition party agreed to a ceasefire on Sunday, August 24. The deal between the government and the former rebel group formalized a peace agreement brokered between the two parties earlier in the month. It provides for the implementation of a number of measures aimed at finding a binding and peaceful solution to the recent political impasse, ahead of presidential elections due to take place in October.

Over the past 24 months, Mozambique witnessed the worst outbreak of political violence since the country’s 15-year-long civil war ended in 1992. Akin to that conflict, the recent hostilities again placed the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, known by its Portuguese acronym Frelimo, at loggerheads with the Mozambique National Resistance, or Renamo.

While disparities in ideology and policy between the two groups were settled at the ballot box rather than on the battlefield in the two decades following the war, the situation changed in October 2012 when long-serving Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama formally disengaged from electoral politics and returned to the movement’s wartime headquarters in Mozambique’s Gorongosa Mountain range. Dhlakama claimed that his decision was based on Frelimo recanting the core principles of the country’s post-war pluralist democracy.

Nigeria: Federalism Works

A woman casts her vote during the presidential elections in Lagos, April 16, 2011. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye/Nigeria)

One hundred years after British colonialists unified two protectorates to create Nigeria, the problems inherent in lumping together myriad different peoples and regions continue to provoke debate and controversy. This is often directed at Nigeria's federal system.

State authorities frequently clash with the federal government, political battle lines and alliances are often made with regional and ethnic divides in mind, and accusations of inequalities in the country's federal structure rarely die down. The issue can even get so controversial that in his opening speech at Nigeria's National Conference, convened to discuss the state of the nation, President Goodluck Jonathan explicitly barred any discussion about dissolving the federation.

Firing Blanks: The Growing Irrelevance of the UN Small Arms Process

A Mexican soldier destroys weapons seized from drug traffickers, August 18, 2010.  (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

While ferocious armed conflicts in Gaza, Ukraine, Libya, and Syria dominate news headlines, the foremost United Nations (UN) process to combat the illicit trade in small arms appears to have lost its way. In 2001, UN member states hammered out a compromise program of action to be the foremost global map to tackle illicit small arms, which are widely used to injure and kill people both in times of war and peace. 

Thirteen years later, as reflected in the diplomatic deliberations during the Fifth Biennial Meeting of States (BMS5) on the implementation of this program of action that took place in New York in June this year, it was evident that the UN process has become preoccupied with peripheral issues. These included small arms marking and tracing, and the management of government weapons stockpiles. If the small arms process was compared to that of food insecurity and malnutrition, it would be as if an initiative that once held the aspiration of eradicating world hunger had now become obsessed with food labeling and warehouse management.

The Search for Federal Solutions

Hafsat Abiola speaks at a rally encouraging Nigerian women to participate in the 2011 Nigerian elections, October 16, 2010. (African Renewal/Flickr)

As conflicts continue to spread across borders in the Middle East and Africa, the state system in the summer of 2014 finds itself under exceptional stress. The system of international relations as embodied in the United Nations, the World Bank, and a host of continental and regional organizations provides the fundamental underpinning for a rule-based world order centered on principles of human rights, freedom, and the advancement, in the words of the UN Charter, of “the common interest.” It has taken centuries, as the political scientist Joseph Nye and others have pointed out, to develop the current international system with its interlocking commitments to these values and commitments.

The challenges presented by proponents of extreme violence such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali (among others) are not only challenges to specific states; they are challenges to the entire state-based system on which the overwhelming majority of the world’s people depend. The inability of the centralized state to address basic requirements of peace, security, economic livelihood and development, together with ethnic and sectarian discord, underlies the challenge of maintaining viable states, most notably in the Middle East and Africa. These challenges have to be confronted not only militarily, but by finding political solutions which respond to the needs of common people for some measure of control over their lives and destiny.

In Gaza and Israel, a Need for a Signed, Ratified Truce Agreement

A Palestinian boy stands near a wreckage of a building destroyed by Israeli forces in Gaza City, Gaza,  August 19, 2014. (Mohammed Asad/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The Israeli and Palestinian delegations are still meeting in Cairo (with the assistance of the Egyptian intermediaries), though it looks unlikely that the negotiators will be able to get agreement on even a few minimal demands in the immediate term. This will probably mean another ceasefire, buying them time to look for the breakthrough that could launch a stable and sustainable truce.

According to the European Union, the current situation and the tentative truce agreement in Cairo might not be enough to ensure a long-term ceasefire. At an urgent meeting held in Brussels on August 15, the EU Foreign Affairs Council released a joint statement in which all 28 foreign ministers agreed that the status quo in the Gaza Strip was “not an option.” Accordingly, they proposed that the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Egypt restore the European supervisory force that was positioned at the Rafah crossing point for almost two years, 2005-07.

Child Migrants, Violence, and the Nicaraguan Exception

A family walks on Jiquilillo Beach at sunset, El Viejo, Nicaragua. Experts are asking why children from Nicaragua are not part of the recent surge in Central American children migrating to the United States. (ashabot/Flickr/2008)

The recent surge of children migrating from Central America to the United States has caused many to ask who or what is responsible. The vast majority of these children—78 percent, according to one figure from FY 2014—are from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, countries that make up what is sometimes called the Northern Triangle, and are places that are strikingly poor, unequal, and extremely violent. 

Their closest neighbor to the south—Nicaragua—is even poorer, and yet its children are not part of this migration. Nicaragua has an annual GDP per capita of less than US$2,000, making it the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, except for Haiti. Further, this Central American country shares a turbulent history of long political conflicts, bloody civil war, recurring foreign occupations, and enduring corruption.

Yet Nicaragua has significantly less crime and violence than any other country in this region that stretches from the Rio Grande to the Amazon. Only Costa Rica, the longest continuous democracy in Latin America and the most developed country in Central America, has slightly lower rates of crime and violence.

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What to Watch in 2014

Key Global Events in September
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