Key Global Events to Watch in July

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, and Development

    • July 1: Iraq faces deadline to form new government, Baghdad
      After substantial amounts of pressure from both his political opponents and the United States, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has pledged to form a new national government by July 1. Mr. Maliki refused, however, to form a new emergency government by that date, as some had called on him to do, because that would be a “coup against the constitution and the political process.” The call to form an emergency government came from his critics, who believe that Mr. Maliki’s government has not been sufficiently inclusive of the country’s Sunni population. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration has indicated that it will push for a new, more conciliatory government with or without Mr. Maliki.
    • July 2: Iran talks resume, Vienna
      Iran and six world powers resume negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program, only days before a July 20 deadline to reach a final comprehensive agreement. The Iranian leadership reportedly said the latest round of talks held last month in Vienna yielded no breakthrough on the main sticking points, and both parties hope to strike a final deal by July 20.
    • July 2: OECD holds annual global forum on development, Paris
      The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) will hold its annual Global Forum on Development in the French capital on July 2. This year’s topic will be “Innovating for Development,” and the Forum will serve as the platform for the launch of this year’s Perspective on Global Development initiative by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. The aim of the event is to assess progress on contributions to tackling structural challenge to development.

Why is Statehood So Popular?

UN member state flags hang at the UN's Vienna International Centre.

From Scotland to Syria to Somalia, various groups are seeking to create independent states. The Scots will vote on independence this September. Kurds in northern Syria and Iraq have revived their hopes for an independent Kurdistan as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) envisions redrawing the map of the Middle East. And tribal leaders in northwest Somalia govern the territory they claim more effectively than the internationally-recognized Federal Government of Somalia controls the south.

While their domestic contexts may be dramatically different, the broader political aims of these groups are part of a larger trend of rising secessionism. Secessionism has been on the rise since the mid 20th century, and in 2014, there are over 50 secessionist groups around the world. Why do so many groups seek statehood today?

One Year After Morsi’s Ousting, Shadow of Mubarak Falls Over Sisi’s Egypt

Defendants, including Al-Jazeera journalists, stand inside the court cage as their wait for the court's ruling on terror charges, June 23, 2014. Amnesty International called the trial a "sham." (© Mohammed Bendari/ZUMA Press/Corbis)

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was predictably elected Egypt’s president almost one year after he played a key role in the July 2013 coup that ousted former President Mohammed Morsi. Many Egyptians hoped that Sisi, the former defense minister and supreme commander of the Egyptian Armed Forces, would bring stability to the country, or, at the very least, create the conditions for economic recovery. Yet, as evident in the mass sentencing to death of 529 Egyptians in March and 683 in April without due process, the stability that Sisi appears to have in mind is likely to involve more repression and a continued erosion of many of the democratic gains of the 2011 revolution.

Indeed, as many analysts and journalists have noted, Egypt is now looking ominously reminiscent of the Mubarak years. Even Sisi’s economic plan—“Map of the Future”—lays out a largely state-led development plan that is almost 30 years old and based on practices inherited from the previous regime.

New Book "Betrayed" Discusses Tools for Inclusive Statebuilding

Last week, Seth D. Kaplan spoke with Maureen Quinn, Director of Programs at the International Peace Institute, about his recent book Betrayed: Politics, Power and Prosperity, in which he discusses the dynamics of poverty and tools for inclusive development. Mr. Kaplan teaches, writes, and consults on issues related to fragile states, governance, and development.

Your book discusses building inclusive societies and how these societies often succeed. What do you mean by "inclusive?"

My definition is much more of an East Asian one–I lived in East Asia for 11 years, so obviously I'm very influenced by how East Asians view development and social progress. For me, inclusiveness is not so much the type of institutions—it's the type of society, the type of end-result of how the state behaves towards the population, how elites behave towards the population. So what I mean by inclusive–and I mean economically, politically to some extent, culturally for sure–is that the state is acting equally to all citizens. If a state can act equally for everybody, and then you have leaders, elites that, for whatever reason—whether it’s a moral obligation, an ideological necessity, or simply because they feel that everyone in their country and them are from the same group, whether it's simply incentives or some accountability—that they’re working day in and day out on behalf of all of their population.

Can MINUSMA’s Mandate Include the People of Mali?

Blue helmets from Burkina Faso on patrol in Ber, Mali. (MINUSMA/Marco Dormino)

Tomorrow, June 25, the UN Security Council will extend the mandate of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). One year after its establishment, MINUSMA is at a critical crossroad. A recent report from the UN Secretary-General concludes that the security situation in northern Mali has deteriorated since the beginning of 2014. The report observes an expansion of areas controlled by armed groups after clashes in Kidal and concludes that there is no common vision between the government and armed groups on the way forward for negotiations. With a decrease in security and no progress in negotiations, let alone in dialogue or reconciliation, MINUSMA is moving further rather than closer to the implementation of its mandate.

In order to bring MINUSMA back on track and make use of its potential, its role has to be framed more comprehensively into both local and regional perspectives. This will require much more than merely “transferring its center of gravity to the north,” as proposed by the UN Secretary-General to the Security Council.

New Book Looks Beyond Big Data Into a Naked Future

What if we could have predicted the ISIS insurgency in Iraq? Promising examples of innovations in engineering and data science technologies exist today, revealing to us the potential to predict such conflicts in the future. The Satellite Sentinel Project effectively predicted that the Sudanese Armed Forces would invade Abyei in 2011. And through Big Data analysis of hundreds of news reports, Georgetown University fellow Kalev Leetaru has been able to retroactively pinpoint the location of Osama bin Laden within a 124-mile radius of Abbottabad, Pakistan. Imagine how much shorter the war in Afghanistan could have been if we had just used the right algorithm.

How do we get it wrong? Predictions about the future can be wrong in one of two ways. Errors can range in type from false positives that erroneously assert that some event will happen (e.g., the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq) and false negatives that do not predict cases that will actually happen (e.g., the failure of many policymakers to foresee the relapse of violence in South Sudan). While the fallibility of policymakers depends on political context, all such failures are indicative of how difficult and complicated it is to foretell tomorrow.  A lot could happen, and in the end, there is a good amount of guesswork.

Are Security and Energy Concerns Moving Turkey and Israel Toward Reconciliation?

The Mavi Marmara set sail from Antalya, Turkey, in May 2010 in an attempt to break Israel's naval blockade against Gaza; the incident resulted in 9 deaths and created a rift between Turkey and Israel. (Wikipedia)

Earlier this month, about 3,000 people marched through the streets of Istanbul in memory of the eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American killed by Israeli Defense Forces when the Mavi Marmara ship, known as the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, tried to break through Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010. The incident marked a nadir in Israel and Turkey’s strained relationship in recent years, and neither country’s ambassador has since returned to his former post.

Four years later, a possible reconciliation agreement between these former allies has fueled speculation of a normalization of relations between the two countries. The agreement would entail reparations for the Mavi Marmara victims’ families; a mechanism to rescind all legal claims against Israeli Defense Force officers implicated in the attack; and approval to facilitate Turkish civilian aid to the Gaza Strip. While the proposed agreement does not fully satisfy all of Turkey’s outstanding demands following the incident—an Israeli apology, compensation for the families of those killed on the Mavi Marmara, and a lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza—it gets close. During a visit with US President Barack Obama in March 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and offered his apologies. Details of payment of compensation are being worked out, as stated by Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and while the blockade has not been lifted (nor is this likely anytime soon), Israel and Turkey have agreed to its easing by which Turkey would be allowed special status to deliver humanitarian assistance.

Will ISIS' Advance in Iraq Shift Dynamics of the Syrian War?

In the northern province of Raqqa, Syria, female students wear full face veils (niqabs) in accordance with sharia law enforced by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which  took control of the area last fall. (March 31, 2014/© Stringer/Reuters/Corbis)

The swift and destructive advance of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) into Iraq could affect the ongoing conflict in neighboring Syria, as ISIS’ seizure of Iraqi military equipment and financial resources is likely to give the group a comparative advantage over other rebels in Syria, said Dr. Thomas Pierret, a lecturer in contemporary Islam at the University of Edinburgh.

Dr. Pierret, who has advised US, British, and other Western governments on the Syrian crisis, spoke to me by telephone on Monday, June 16 about ISIS’ advance in Iraq and its implications for the Assad regime, Syrian rebels, and the response of key regional players.

In the eastern Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor, ISIS has been fighting against other rebels in an effort to gain full control of Syria’s eastern flank. According to Dr. Pierret, ISIS’ seizure of Iraqi armored vehicles and of over $400 million during its advance toward Baghdad could tilt the balance, both materially and psychologically, in favor of the terrorist group.

“There is also a symbolic dimension here,” he said. “ISIS victories in Iraq have provided the group with some prestige,” which, he said, ISIS could use to render other rebel groups like al-Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) more hesitant about fighting against it.

Sign Up

Subscribe to the GO's weekly roundup email:

What to Watch in 2014

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

2013-multilateral-602014 Top 10 Issues to Watch in Peace & Security: The Global Arena
A list of ten key issues to watch that are likely to impact international peace and security in 2014, compiled by IPI's Francesco Mancini.