Key Global Events to Watch in January

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



Peace & Security

      • January 4: South Sudan Peace Talks, Addis Ababa
        Formal negotiations between the South Sudanese government and rebels begin after weeks of violence left over 1,000 dead and cut South Sudan’s oil output. The regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development is mediating the peace talks as fighting continues to displace hundreds of thousands in the state of Bor, 9,000 of whom have taken refuge in the UN base there. The first two items on the talks’ agenda are cessation of hostilities and the question of detainees. Western powers hope the talks can prevent further ethnic violence and outright civil war in the world’s newest country.
      • January 13: ICC Trial of Kenyan DP Ruto Resumes, The Hague
        The case against Deputy President William Ruto and a former journalist, Joshua arap Sang, for their involvement in the 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya has been delayed several times over the last months because some of more than 30 witnesses for the prosecution decided against testifying. Defense lawyers have claimed the prosecution has no case and is stalling while it coaches witnesses, whereas the prosecution has said its witnesses have been intimidated into not testifying or reversing testimonies after threats. Last month, Ruto applied to be absent from the court proceedings to tend to his political duties, but the ICC denied the application because it came too late.
      • January 14-15: Kuwait II Donors’ Conference for Syria, Kuwait City
        Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon chairs the Kuwait II Donors’ conference, where more than 60 states have been invited to contribute to the fund to ameliorate the conflict in Syria. Additionally, surrounding countries, discuss the hosting of Syrian refugees—over 2 million people have fled Syria—and plans moving forward. $1.5 billion was raised in Kuwait last January.
      • January 21: Nuclear Watchdog Meets with Iran, Tehran
        Following an initial meeting on December 11, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iranian government continue discussions to review progress implementing the IAEA-Iran cooperation pact. The nuclear watchdog visited the reactor site in Arak last month and plans to discuss access to two others. Although the IAEA-Iran deal is separate from the negotiations between the the G5+1 and Iran, continued cooperation with IAEA is central to easing the crippling sanctions on the country. 

Nine Recent Books That Capture a World in Flux

What kind of world emerges in the vision of the authors of the books presented in the nine events hosted by the International Peace Institute (IPI) as part of its 2013 Beyond the Headlines series?

It is a world in which national borders are receding as definers of political and cultural movements; in which the West, and, in particular, the United States, is struggling to maintain influence in the face of growing distrust; and one in which extremism, and the efforts to combat it, distort and undermine entire societies. It is also a world where high profile acts of terror go unaccounted for and unpunished, where Muslim women are rising to leadership and overcoming traditional discrimination, and one in which humanitarian affairs are increasingly the focus of United Nations attention. 

Two authors dealt with the perception of declining American leadership and what to do about it. Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, recommended “less nation-building abroad, more at home” in his book Foreign Policy Begins at Home. He argued the Mideast is no longer the center of US foreign policy or great power rivalry, and that Asia/Pacific is. Vali Nasr, Dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, sounded a cri de coeur for renewed international engagement in his book The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat. He deplored what he saw as America’s growing reluctance to provide global leadership and urged a policy less reliant on military means and domestic partisan concerns and centered instead on trade and development and multilateral diplomacy.  

Robert D. Kaplan, author of The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate gave an IPI audience a tour d’horizon in which he argued that the Sahara should be thought of as beginning at the southern border of Europe, and that North America actually extends down through the Caribbean all the way to the jungles of Venezuela. And Kaplan used geography to forecast which countries in the Middle East and North Africa have the best chance of prospering from the Arab spring uprisings. And which don’t. 

In Egypt’s New Constitution, Are Women Equal Citizens?

Two women search for their names at a polling station in al-Mahalla, Egypt, May 23, 2012. (credit: Nehal El-Sherif/Flickr)

Since its approval on December 1, 2013 by the 50-member commission, the revised Egyptian draft constitution has been dissected and analyzed from practically every angle. Some were extolling its new virtues and congratulating its victors, while others were pointing to its losers and lamenting its failings. The consolidation of the military’s role in politics at the expense of the rule of law and civilian oversight has attracted the most attention, and been the subject of much controversy.

For the female half of the Egyptian population, the new constitution, despite its shortcomings, gives cause for sober celebration, in terms of guaranteeing women’s fundamental rights and personal freedoms. 

In the retrospective and lofty language of the preamble, equal citizenship, the rule of law, and non-discrimination are cited as the foundations on which the new constitution rests. While affirming that the principles of sharia remain the main source of legislation, the introductory text states that the constitution “will be consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which Egypt participated in its drafting and ratified.” In the last sentence of the preamble, the feminine form of the word “citizens” is fronted before the masculine one when addressing the people of Egypt to whom, it is stated, the constitution is dedicated.

In the body of the text, the new charter, under several provisions, explicitly grants women individual rights that were either excised from or circumscribed in the 2012 constitution. By virtue of article 6, Egyptian women married to a foreigner can henceforth bestow their nationality to their offspring, thus consecrating one of the tenants of equal citizenship mentioned above, and for which women rights organizations have fought hard. Nationality, the article states: the right of a person born to an Egyptian father or an Egyptian mother. The legal recognition of that person and the granting of official documents proving that person’s personal details are rights guaranteed and regulated by law. The law shall determine the conditions for acquiring nationality.

China’s Controversial Air Defense Zone Portends Problems, or Opportunities

This map shows a detail of the Air Defense Identification Zones claimed by Japan, South Korea, and China (approximate).

Much has been made of China’s declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea on November 23, as it adds another dimension to already complicated territorial disputes in the region. Although over 20 countries maintain ADIZs, China’s is problematic because this new zone overlaps with those of its neighbors, and because China is insisting that aircraft comply with its rules regardless of whether they intend to enter Chinese airspace—and this includes military aircraft. 

Equally problematic has been the vagaries of the international response. After the US condemned the move and sent B-52 bombers through the zone to illustrate its position, government authorities instructed American civilian airlines to comply with the zone in the interest of safety. Japan and South Korea followed suit with military flights of their own, but Japan has ordered its civilian airlines to ignore the zone, raising the dangerous possibility that Chinese fighter jets may intercept and escort the hundreds of flights from Japan to China. 

ADIZs are not governed by an international treaty or convention, and the risks of not having one are increasing. It is therefore incumbent on states that have declared ADIZs to begin discussions towards a set of standards that govern the act of declaring and the degree of authority exercised within an ADIZ. Otherwise, more states could begin to declare overlapping ADIZs, as South Korea did following the Chinese declaration, which complicated the protocols of interception, since both parties would claim the authority to escort the other. Also, the declarations of China and South Korea exacerbate ambiguities in international practice following the political decision by a country not to recognize another state’s authority in overlapping ADIZs. 

And speculation is growing that China may declare other ADIZs, including the South China Sea. This, of course, would be decidedly more provocative than the East China Sea, since no South China Sea state currently maintains an ADIZ. However, the Chinese declaration may cause others to do so, creating a pretext for a Chinese response.

Will Iran’s New Support of Human Rights Go Deeper Than Rhetoric?

Mohammad Khazaee, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the UN, addresses a Security Council meeting. (credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine, 2010)

It is no secret that Iran has an image problem in the international arena. As part of a comprehensive campaign to regain credibility and improve its reputation on the world stage, the country is adopting a new approach to diplomacy that seems to extend well beyond the nuclear dossier. But President Rouhani’s attempts to remake the country’s foreign policy since his election last June have met with much suspicion, as many outside Iran fear that this leopard can’t change its spots. 

Delegates in the UN General Assembly have been noticing a turnaround in the way that the country’s representatives engage with social, humanitarian, and human rights issues. In October, observers were taken aback by the palpable softening of Iran's tone1 in the delegate’s reaction to the latest report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran. In its statement, the Iranian representative to the Third Committee sounded conciliatory as she declared that “Iran emphasizes the need to use the momentum engendered by this election [of President Rouhani] to adopt a new and constructive approach by all relevant parties towards cooperation and dialogue for the promotion and protection of all human rights” adding that the “government does not claim that the situation of human rights within the country is perfect.”

In November, the same tone was apparent in the response of the Iranian Permanent Representative Mohammad Khazaee to the resolution presented by Canada on “the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Though he still rejected the country-specific nature of the resolution—which Canada puts forward yearly—characterizing it as “politicized” and “subjective,” he also noted the country’s “long term approach,” “genuine measures,” and “constructive engagement” to safeguard all human rights, signaling future improvements.

However, the clearest evidence of this new approach is perhaps the effort to present the resolution, “A World Against Violent Extremism” to the General Assembly—to be voted on this week. Iran, traditionally perceived as a spoiler on humanitarian and human rights issues, has untypically chosen to be a main sponsor of a resolution attempting to build consensus around the subjects of violence and extremism.

Despite the fact that resolutions such as these have a mostly symbolic value, they are an indication that the new Iranian president has launched a wide-ranging diplomatic campaign attempting to change perceptions in areas such as human rights, humanitarian issues, and the culture of peace, which fall under the Third Committee of the General Assembly. In fact, the Permanent Representative of Iran has been personally invested in dozens of démarches—that is, hours and hours of discussions with other permanent representatives. 

New Threats in Africa Mean New Questions for UN Peacekeeping: Interview with Major General Patrick Cammaert

New types of UN peacekeeping brigades could compromise the United Nations' basic principle of impartiality and put UN personnel, their families, and other organizations at risk, said Major General Patrick Cammaert, the former military advisor to the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations and former Eastern Division Commander to the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Mr. Cammaert said that although the UN's first "intervention brigade" helped the Congolese army defeat the M23 rebel group in early November, "there are a lot of questions to be raised before we can say this is now the recipe for the future."

"We first had a transition from traditional peacekeeping under Chapter VI of the [UN] charter to multidimensional peacekeeping under Chapter VII of the charter. Are we now going one step further where we have a kind of blurring of one of the principles, the consent of the parties? Or, are we now calling in first coalitions of the willing multinational forces with a non-consent attitude sanctioned by the [Security] Council?"

Mr. Cammaert said the first priority should be to develop a political consensus between the Security Council, DPKO, and the troop-contributing countries of what “robust” peacekeeping is from a tactical standpoint. 

“And maybe with all of this blurring of consent and impartiality, the principles of peacekeeping, maybe it's time that we have another Brahimi report,” he said, referring to the landmark report published in 2000. 

Mr. Cammaert said UN peacekeepers are running up against “a threat that has never been seen in Africa before.” He cited new weaponry such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suicide bombs, and car bombs that are changing the game in Africa. 

Mr. Cammaert discussed the use of drones, known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), in UN peacekeeping, and described three hurdles. One is that UAVs can only fly with the consent of the parties in that country. The second is that neighboring countries get very nervous when drones are being used just across their borders. And the third is the question of who is controlling, interpreting, consuming, and transforming the data. 

“In general terms, the discussion on drones has opened a debate on using more technology in peacekeeping,” he said. “I think there are now technologies available that should be used by peacekeepers, concepts developed by UN headquarters, the office of military affairs." He said what is needed now is not stereotypical peacekeeping units, but tailor-made forces for each country.

The interview was conducted by Bianca Selway, research assistant in the peacekeeping program at the International Peace Institute.


Bianca Selway: Today, I welcome Major General Patrick Cammaert to the Global Observatory. He's the former military advisor to the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations and former Eastern Division Commander to the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

My first question is: Earlier this month, the M23 rebel group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo surrendered following a military defeat by the Congolese armed forces and UN troops. What was the role of the UN intervention brigade in this defeat? 

Patrick Cammaert: Before I really give an answer on the role of UN intervention brigade in the defeat, I would like to mention that the FARDC, the Congolese army, did play a significant role in this operation, which was a little bit unexpected because the reputation of the FARDC was not that good, to say it mildly, and certainly not when we remember November-December last year when the M23 managed to have the FARDC on the run and have the United Nations peacekeepers in a very passive role, and then march into Goma. That was still the perception when the whole thing developed recently. 

So, the FARDC did a tremendous role, and the role of the United Nations mission—and the intervention brigade in particular—was very much a support of the operations of the FARDC. And support means providing fire support, providing advice by their force commander, the brigade commanders, providing logistic support, and working in joint operations quite closely with the FARDC in all sorts of blocking positions, and, in the end, using the attack helicopters to further bring the M23 on their retreat and on their surrender. So, the intervention brigade did a good job, and I also think that the FARDC did a very, very, very good job. 

Despite Deal, Iran Still Needs Pressure (and UN Sanctions)

Most reporting on the nuclear agreement with Iran has tended to generalize about the types of sanctions and the impact of the deal on these various measures, so it would be easy to assume that United Nations sanctions are being eased or lifted, but this is not the case. The deal primarily eases unilateral sanctions by the United States and the European Union against Iran, leading to what is estimated to be around $7 billion in sanctions relief. 

UN sanctions against Iran—found in resolutions 1737, 1747, 1803 and 1929—will only be assessed at the six-month mark, with an eventual goal (the so-called “comprehensive solution”) of lifting them within a year. In the near term, the only commitment with regard to UN sanctions is that no new nuclear-related UN Security Council sanctions be imposed. 

This raises an important issue: how should UN sanctions be approached in the meantime? 

Under Article 25 of the UN Charter, member states remain obligated to give effect to Security Council measures. The new deal with Iran has not altered the obligation to implement sanctions.  But on this front, work remains to be done. Gaps in the implementation of UN sanctions against Iran, which have been in place since 2006, are pervasive. Dual-use items, such as goods, software, and technology that may be used for both civilian and military purposes, have been a particular problem. Interpretation of resolution language and implementation of general terms in specific contexts have also led to implementation problems. Finally, because information on sanctions busters can involve classified information, states are very careful about what they share and with whom they share it. 

Beyond the Violence in Central African Republic, a Pact for Peace?

The situation in the Central African Republic continues to teeter on the edge of catastrophe following the UN-backed French intervention that began last week. But a small victory won in early November—a “republican pact” signed by the country’s leaders—could offer local and international actors an additional tool for promoting reconciliation and a nonviolent way forward for the fractured nation. 

Following peace talks in September, the Republican Pact was designed to “facilitate communication between political actors and to lead them to a meaningful election in 2015,” according to Mauro Garofalo, the external relations officer of the Christian community of Sant’Egidio who worked to facilitate the accord in the central African nation. It seeks to provide the country’s leaders with guidelines and expertise “to avoid further ethnic and religious tensions,” Garofalo said in an interview with the Global Observatory.

On December 4, as part of its Resolution 2127 on the Central African Republic, the UN Security Council urged all parties to follow up on the pact, saying it was "a credible framework to promote inclusive national dialogue between all the political parties, social and religious, of the country."

While articulating strong support for international intervention and humanitarian assistance in CAR, Garofalo added that “it’s also important to support all the local efforts aimed at fostering reconciliation within communities.” 

Indeed, religious leaders in CAR have been promoting calm and reconciliation while also offering humanitarian assistance, particularly following a wave of massacres killed more than 500 people in the last week. While the violence seems to be taking on increasingly religious overtones—with Christian militias, or anti-Balaka, now taking revenge against the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels—this polarization between majority Christian and minority Muslim communities is underpinned by an array of longstanding political, social, and economic grievances in the country.

The Republican Pact “comes from a long history of engagement by Sant’Egidio in Central African Republic with political parties and religious communities,” Garofalo said. The organization has provided conflict mediation services in settings as diverse as Mozambique, the Balkans, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

In the case of CAR, it is conceivable that the organiztion could be perceived as partial, as a Christian group. However, Garofalo said Sant’Egidio is able to do this kind of mediation work because it is perceived as a trustworthy stakeholder, since it does not benefit strategically or economically from the negotiation. “This is our weakness, but also our strength,” said Garofalo. “We cannot coerce the actors to engage in a political process, but this freedom from pressure and from outside intervention can also provide a space to the actors to take ownership of the process.”

Sant’Egidio plans to continue its work promoting dialogue in the CAR, and a second meeting in Rome is expected within the next two months. “We will continue to support the country in the process of national reconciliation to prepare them for the next election that will take place in 2015,” said Garofalo. “We think that our work is not done yet, and we considered the signature of the Republican Pact a good start, but only a start.” 

The interview was conducted on November 26, 2013 by Marie O’Reilly, Associate Editor, International Peace Institute.

Listen to interview (or download mp3):


Marie O’Reilly: Mauro Garofalo is an officer in the external relations unit of the community of Sant’Egidio, a Christian community that since the late 1980s has provided conflict mediation services, most notably in Mozambique, also in Algeria, the Balkans, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and today in the Central African Republic. 

In early November, Mauro, leaders in the Central African Republic signed a Republican Pact drafted by Sant’Egidio. What is the objective of the pact, and how did it come about?

Mauro Garofalo: The first objective of the pact is to facilitate communication between political actors and to lead them to a meaningful election in 2015, to provide them guidelines and expertise to avoid further ethnic and religious tensions. It comes from a long history of engagement by Sant’Egidio in Central African Republic with political parties and religious communities. Since 2003, we have been following the situation with concern, and we proposed to host a meeting of inclusive dialogue in Sant’Egidio to the actual leadership.

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