Analysis

Key Global Events to Watch in August

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

 

 

Aug 1: European treaty on violence against women comes into force, Europe 

The first European treaty to specifically target violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention, will come into force on August 1 following the 10th ratification by Andorra. The convention closes the gap in the protection of fundamental human rights of women by requiring state parties to prevent violence, protect victims, prosecute the perpetrators, and to co-ordinate any such measures through comprehensive policies. As it enters into force, the convention has so far been signed by 36 states, of which 13 have already ratified it.

Aug 2: Afghan President Karzai’s term scheduled to end, Kabul

On August 2, incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai is scheduled to step down after 13 years in power, even as an international audit of over 8 million votes to determine the winner in the presidential vote is still underway. Karzai has reportedly reiterated his intention to stick to the August 2 deadline, despite the fact that the auditing deal brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry has been marred by both criticism and delays. Whether the audit will be completed by then, or whether Karzai will step down, are still open questions, but the date is expected to bring some new development to the impasse. 

Aug 3-4: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Nepal, Kathmandu

India’s newly-elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi will pay an official visit to Nepal, marking the first official bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister to Kathmandu in 17 years. Modi’s visit will seek to strengthen ties with Nepal as part of a regional outreach strategy and, after June’s visit to Bhutan, it is his second official bilateral visit since he took office in May. Some sources suggest that India’s overture toward its neighbors is part of a strategy to counter China’s influence in the region. One of the primary issues the two heads of state are likely to discuss is Beijing’s role in Nepal. These same sources point to how Nepal’s strategic importance for India may have come under attack in light of China’s recent efforts to enlarge its strategic footprint there.

MH17 Tragedy Could Accelerate Deterioration of Geopolitical Relations

A makeshift memorial at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport for the victims of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, July 20, 2014. (Roman Boed/Flickr)

The horrific human tragedy of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), which was shot down over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, risks to be remembered as the accelerator of today’s deteriorating geopolitical relations between Russia and the West.

All indicators point toward a renewed Cold War between the East and the West, where the new dividers are not the –isms of the past (Capitalism vs. Communism), but the economic and political interests of the present.

In fact, while some have suggested the MH17 tragedy is an opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to cut his support to the rebel groups in east Ukraine, it is very unlikely. He still sees Russia’s influence over Ukraine and the prevention of it joining NATO as a national security interest. He still finds the global order that emerged from the end of the Cold War unacceptable, and will continue to undermine it. Other countries, including China, will ride with the tide.

Is a Ceasefire in the Gaza Strip Feasible?

Soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces are briefed during a search for tunnels in the Gaza Strip, July 19, 2014. (IDF)

After truce negotiations brokered by Egypt last week and a brief humanitarian ceasefire promoted by UN Special Coordinator Robert Serry failed to bring about an agreement between the parties to stop the hostilities, the Israeli government decided to launch a ground invasion in the eastern perimeter of the Gaza Strip. Its main goal has been the destruction of dozens of tunnels that the Palestinian militias had dug underneath this area over the last few years. Some of the tunnels have offensive purposes—their exits are located on the Israeli side–though most of them are defensive, allowing the militias to move underground and avoid detection by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) drones and observation points along the security fence.

The ground offensive started right after the IDF foiled a spectacular attempt by thirteen commandos of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades to infiltrate Israeli territory in a very similar way the Popular Resistance Committees did in June 2006 when they kidnapped the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The fact that this attempt took place a few hours before the beginning of the five-hour humanitarian ceasefire that had been agreed upon through Serry's mediation, and that it was captured on camera and broadcast widely on TV and social media, made the ground invasion unavoidable. Even Israel's military intelligence experts were amazed by the degree of sophistication of the tunnel networks.

Leaders Agree on Immunity for Themselves During Expansion of African Court

The opening ceremony of the 23rd Ordinary Session of the African Union in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, June 26, 2014. (African Union)

The tension between African leaders and the International Criminal Court (ICC) reached a new high at the 23rd Ordinary Summit of the Assembly of the African Union (AU), held on June 26-27, 2014 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, where regional leaders formalized an expansion of the African court of justice and human rights' jurisdiction to include international crimes; they also proclaimed their return to the internationally-abandoned principle of immunity for serving heads of state or government and other senior officials from prosecution of the same crimes. These changes had already been adopted by African justice ministers and attorneys general in May in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, through a series of amendments to the 2008 protocol that established the court.

Far from easing strained relations between African governments and human rights defenders and supporters of the international justice system around the world, the revised protocol puts further at risk thousands of African men, women, and children who are already threatened by grave and massive human rights abuses, some of which are perpetrated by state security agencies.

Opening the Door to Humanitarian Aid in Syria: Significance, Challenges, and Prospects

The Security Council unanimously adopts a resolution that allows for aid to be delivered using the most direct routes in Syria, without needing permission from the Syrian government, July 14, 2014. (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

In a rare moment of unanimity on Syria, earlier this week the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2165, authorizing UN agencies and their humanitarian partners to use routes across conflict lines and four specific border crossings (Bab al-Salam, Bab al-Hawa, Al Yarubiyah and Al-Ramtha) to “ensure that humanitarian assistance, including medical and surgical supplies, reaches people in need throughout Syria through the most direct routes.”

By opening humanitarian access to the approximately 10.8 million Syrians in need of assistance, the resolution has the potential to make a tangible difference to the lives of those most affected by Syria’s conflict. This is no small feat: humanitarian assistance can sometimes be the difference between life and death. Politically, while the Council has reached points of consensus on Syria before, this is the first time it has authorized operational measures without the consent of the Syrian government.

To what extent, though, does this represent a departure from past practice, and what impact can we expect Resolution 2165 to have on the ground?

Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation Complicated by War

Palestinian protesters in May 2014 wave their national flag (R) alongside the flags of Fatah (yellow) and Hamas (green) in support of national reconciliation and the announcement of the formation of a national unity government. (SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)

After eight years, the conflict between the two Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, which effectively divided Gaza and the West Bank into two separate entities, came to an end after a surprise announcement of reconciliation in April 2014. The deal came at a time when the West Bank authorities faced a deadlock in the peace negotiations with Israel, and an almost-broke Hamas had lost most of its allies. Both parties needed to find a way to move forward.

The Islamic movement Hamas, with headquarters in Damascus under the protection of the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, fell from grace when they supported the opposition in the Syrian uprising. The collapse of the Arab Spring and the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt further complicated the situation for Hamas in Gaza. The border and smuggling tunnels to Egypt were the lifeline of the Gaza regime, providing a supply of food, energy, and raw materials, circumventing the Israeli-imposed blockade on Gaza. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s new president, closed this lifeline, putting the Hamas regime under severe pressure. With a deteriorating economy, and unable to pay public salaries, Hamas sought reconciliation with Fatah as a solution to the crisis. In this weak position, they were willing to adhere to nearly all the Fatah conditions.

How Will It End? A New Wave of Violence Between Israelis and Palestinians

Palestinians examine a rocket that did not explode in a home east of Rafah in southern Gaza Strip, July 15, 2014. (© Abed Rahim Khatib/NurPhoto/Corbis)

The recent wave of violence between Israel and Hamas, which to date has resulted in the death of more than 192 Palestinians and the injury of more than 1,100 as well as the injury of several Israelis, continues to escalate with no clear sign of when it might end, despite a ceasefire proposed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The only thing that is fairly certain is how it will end. Both parties understand the decision between violence or ceasefire is primarily a function of credibility and how much pain they are willing to endure.  When each feels it has re-established its credibility to a level it can live with, and the pain is becoming unacceptable, then a renewed truce will take hold. Few on either side have any illusions that they can deliver a devastating blow to the other that will change the uneasy truce that has prevailed–with some major interruptions–since Hamas took over control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority (Fatah) in 2007. Current reports indicate that Israel accepted the ceasefire on July 15, but Hamas’s military wing hasn’t, so Israel is planning renewed attacks on Gaza, while additional rockets fell on Israel after the ceasefire was to take effect.

ISIS Advance Creates Chaos and Opportunity for Regional Powers

Iraqi Shiite tribesmen brandish their weapons as they show their willingness to join Iraqi security forces, Karbala, Iraq, June 17, 2014. (Mohammed Sawaf/AFP/Getty Images)

The sudden and sweeping advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its recent announcement of an Islamic caliphate have thrown the entire Middle East region into a cloud of uncertainty. Images of ISIS forces dismantling the Sykes-Picot border posts between Syria and Iraq have cast an additional veil of doubt over prospects for long-term peace and stability. And while it remains unclear what the concrete consequences of the announcement of a caliphate will be, there are signs that ISIS’ actions are already contributing to a shift in the region’s dynamics.

How some of the key regional powers—Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey—will react to the ISIS advance is tricky to predict. What is clear is that the four countries have substantial interests at stake, and ISIS’ recent gains are already pushing them to adjust accordingly, either to secure strategic gains or to avoid losing power and influence. Below are some possible implications.

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What to Watch in 2014

Key Global Events in August
A list of key upcoming meetings and events with implications for global affairs.

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