At the start of every month, the Global Observatory posts a list of key upcoming meetings and events that have implications for global affairs.
- October 1: FOSS Conference on Small States, New York
Representatives of more than 100 small states will gather in New York for the Forum on Small States (FOSS) Conference. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the forum, which was established by the government of Singapore to provide small states with a platform to discuss issues of common concern in the context of the United Nations.
This year’s gathering on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly will feature a distinguished list of speakers including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, newly-elected President of the General Assembly Vuk Jeremic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Singapore K Shanmugam, and several others. A keynote address will be delivered by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The conference will address the contribution and the role of small states in three core areas: international relations, mediation, and development.
- October 15 (postponed from October 5): FARC Peace Talks, Oslo, Norway
The FARC guerillas (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the rebel group which has fought successive governments in Colombia since the 1960s, postponed their scheduled peace talks with the Colombian government in Oslo, Norway to October 15. The Oslo talks will be followed by successive rounds of negotiations in Havana, Cuba, before (supposedly) wrapping up in Colombia next year.
The key issues on the agenda for the talks include: rural development, political participation, the end of armed conflict, drug trafficking, victims of violence, and implementation and verification. Both sides had signaled their openness to peace talks during recent months. President Juan Manuel Santos’ decision to enter into talks with the FARC represents a departure from his predecessor’s policy on the FARC, which more narrowly emphasized military means.
A previous attempt at coming to a negotiated solution in the late 1990s resulted in FARC regrouping and rearming as a result of the reprieve it was afforded by the talks. This is a mistake the Santos government is eager to avoid, emphasizing that there will be no cease fire and that a comprehensive military presence will remain in all parts of Colombia as peace talks are taking place. Indeed, it was President Santos in his former role as defense minister under President Uribe who led a tough, successful military campaign against the rebels, which was instrumental in weakening the FARC.
At this stage it is hard to predict the outcome of the peace talks. The FARC suffered the death of its leader Alfonso Cano late last year; government forces have gained the upper hand in the conflict (short of decisively defeating the FARC); and with Venezuela no longer acting as a spoiler, there may be an opening for an agreement. However, vested interests resulting from the FARC’s significant involvement in drug trafficking as well as the many wounds from almost 50 years of conflict will render negotiating peace a treacherous affair.
- October 18: Election of non-permanent members of the UN Security Council
The UN General Assembly elects five new non-permanent members of the Security Council for the years 2013 and 2014. The seats are distributed regionally: two for the Western European and Others Group (Australia, Finland and Luxembourg are candidates), one respectively for Africa (Rwanda seems the uncontested candidate), Asia-Pacific (Bhutan, Cambodia, Republic of Korea are candidates), and Latin American and Caribbean (Argentina seems the uncontested candidate). For an analysis on these elections see the Security Council Report.
- October 31: Mandate of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) expires, Somalia
The UN Security Council is expected to renew the mission ahead of its expiration on October 31. The new mandate will take into consideration the expansion of AMISOM’s military strength by the Council in February 2012 and the subsequent military pressure and security gains imposed on al-Shabaab. The February 22 decision of the Council (resolution 2036) allowed the increase of AMISOM troop ceiling from 12,000 to 17,731 uniformed personnel and an extension of its presence to three sectors outside Mogadishu as requested by the African Union, bringing on board the Kenyans, among others.
AMISOM experienced a serious setback in mid-August after the crash of three Ugandan attack helicopters in Kenya on their way to AMISOM. They were to be the first and only air capacity of the AU mission there, and critical to the operation on Kismayo (though their absence did not prevent the Kenyan navy with government troops from taking Kismayo recently). Air power remains urgently needed for AMISOM.
A major development since AMISOM’s mandate was last extended in September 2011 has also been the official end of the political transition in Somalia, with the adoption of a provisional constitution, the establishment of a new federal Parliament, and the selection of a new president. If available, the new mandate will also take into account elements of the review—proposed by the Secretary-General—of the UN presence in Somalia, scheduled to be presented to the Security Council by the end of 2012. There is also a need to reassess AMISOM’s military objectives as part of a larger political strategy, possibly building on the London Conference.
- Also of Interest:
• October 1: High-level meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), New York, USA
• October 17: Open debate of the UN Security Council on “Peace and Justice, with a Special Focus on the Role of the International Criminal Court.”
• October 22-24: 39th Session Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization
• October 24-25: Enhancing European Contributions to UN Peacekeeping Regional Roundtable, Berlin, Germany
- October 1: Parliamentary Election, Georgia
A total of 14 parties and two blocs have registered to compete for 150 parliamentary seats. The two main contenders are the United National Movement (ENM) of President Mikheil Saakashvili’s, whose second and final term expires in January 2013, and the opposition coalition Georgian Dream, headed by billionaire philanthropist Bidzina Ivanishvili. Three opposition parties—United Georgia, Georgia’s Path, and the Greens—opted not to run against Georgian Dream. Observers seem to agree that, apart from the ENM and Georgian Dream, only the Christian Democrats bloc and possibly the New Rightists and the populist Labor Party will win parliamentary representation.
The campaign has seen a growing number of desperate moves by both main parties. The latest is last week’s revelations, apparently orchestrated by Georgian Dream, of widespread abuse and torture in Georgian prisons. The authorities have hit back, implicating former Minister for Conflict Resolution Goga Khaindrava in having ties to Georgian criminal groups operating in France and airing video clips showing prominent members of Georgian Dream apparently discussing how to buy votes. A poll conducted in August by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) gave 37 percent of votes to the ENM, against 12 percent for Georgian Dream. However, 21 percent of respondents did not reveal their preference, and 22 were undecided.
- October 7: Presidential Election, Venezuela
President Hugo Chavez is attempting to win an unprecedented fourth term as president of Venezuela. This was made possible by a 2009 public referendum, which resulted in the removal of term limits for public offices including the presidency. Chavez, who represents the United Socialist Party of Venezuela/Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV), will face off against the main contender Henrique Capriles of Justice First/Primero Justicia (PJ) who currently serves as governor of the state of Miranda.
Recent polls have shown that the race appears to be relatively tight, with opposition candidate Capriles trailing a mere 3 percent behind Chavez. Aside from questions about the ill health of the president, there are growing concerns about the freedom and fairness of the elections, with key institutions in the electoral process being dominated by regime loyalists. The Spanish newspaper ABC reported that armed groups of young men are ready to unleash violence and defend Chavez’s rule by force, should he lose the election.
- October 28: Parliamentary Election, Ukraine
Polling estimates that Fatherland, the party of now-jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, will receive 26 percent of votes, while President Viktor Yanukovic’s Party of Regions will receive 24 percent. Prominent politicians—most notably Tymoshenko and former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko—remain imprisoned for alleged abuses of power while in office. Last week, Tymoshenko recorded a video message against President Viktor Yanukovic and urged voters to defeat his party in the parliamentary elections. The impact on voters is hard to assess. However, Ukrainian citizens are skeptical of the upcoming elections. In an August poll by DW-Trend, 73% of respondents did not believe that elections would be free and fair.
- Also of Interest:
• October 12: First Round of Legislative Elections, Czech Republic
• October 14: First Round Parliamentary Elections, Lithuania
• October 14: Parliamentary Elections, Montenegro
• October 20: Constitutional Referendum, Iceland
• October 30: Parliamentary Elections, Vanuatu
• October: Togo, Parliamentary (tentative)
Multilateral Meetings of Interest
- October 1-19: Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, 53rd Session, Geneva, Switzerland
- October 2: The Third Summit of South American and Arab Countries (ASPA)
- October 1-3: Social Forum of the Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland
- October 1-5: Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination Against Women in Law and in Practice, 5th Session
- October 1-5: Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, 6th Meeting, Hyderabad, India
- October 9-14: Annual Meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, Tokyo (On Thursday October 11, 2012, Japan seeks Myanmar debt relief at the IMF meeting).
- October 16-17: Global Economy Symposium, Rio de Janeiro
- October 18-19: European Council Meeting, Brussels, Belgium
- October 22-24: World Energy Forum, Dubai, United Arab Emirates