Key Global Events to Watch in December

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




  • December 12: Meeting of the Friends of Syria, Morocco
    The “Friends of Syria” core group includes the US and like-minded European and Middle Eastern partners–such as France, Germany, the UK–as well as Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE. At the 4th meeting in Marrakesh, assuming it goes ahead, participants might be able to induce as many as 100 countries, including the US, to recognize the new coalition of Syrian opposition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. The coalition would then set up an interim government largely made up of technocrats, as well as a military council and a judicial authority. Should the regime collapse, the interim government would become a transitional one, which would in turn be dissolved once elections could be arranged.
  • December 12: Southeastern Asian Countries Hold Maritime Talks, Manila, Philippines
    The deputy foreign ministers of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam are to meet in Manila as part of Philippine efforts at pushing for a multilateral solution to their rival claims to South China Sea territories. The talks exclude China, which has warned that the move will further complicate the regional situation.
  • December 13: Iran and IAEA in New Round of Talks, Tehran, Iran
    Representatives from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iranian officials have scheduled a meeting in Tehran on December 13th to discuss the ongoing issues regarding the country’s nuclear program. The last round of talks took place in Vienna on August 24th. The latest IAEA report stated that Iran had installed all of the nearly 2,800 centrifuges it will use to enrich uranium at the Fordow plant while also increasing its stockpile of both 5% and 20% enriched uranium.  
  • December 15-17: The Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan
    Following the accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations in March 2011, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been leading a process of learning, and acting upon lessons from the accident in order to strengthen nuclear safety. The upcoming Ministerial Conference is part of the Action Plan to provide an opportunity for learning further lessons and for enhancing transparency. The working sessions are envisaged to cover the following major topics: lessons learned from the accident at Fukushima; strengthening nuclear safety, including emergency preparedness and response; and protection of people and the environment from ionizing radiation.
  • Also of Interest:
    •    December 6-7: OSCE Ministerial Council, Dublin
    •    December 10: World Policy Conference, Cannes, France (more info)
    •    December 10-14: Seventh Conference of the Parties to the Nairobi Convention, Mapoto, Mozambique on the theme: “Partnering for a Healthy Western Indian Ocean” (more info)
    •    December 18: Fourteenth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, New York. States parties will elect nine Members of the Committee (more info)
    •    December 31: United Nations Integrated Mission in East Timor (UNMIT) Mandate Expires
    •    December 31: United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) Mandate Expires


  • December 1: Parliamentary Elections, Kuwait
    Kuwait held its second parliamentary election of 2012 on December 1, with official reports announcing a 39% turn out (compared to 60% in February of this year). The crisis was sparked in June, when the Constitutional Court annulled the elections held in February, in which the Islamist-led opposition made significant gains. The court also reinstated the previous assembly, allied to the ruling family. After months of protests, Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah, ordered the dissolution of that Parliament and announced new elections. The opposition had called for the boycott, saying new rules favored pro-government candidates, who now dominate the 50-seat chamber. The Kuwaiti cabinet resigned on December 3 (a required move after elections) and a new Prime Minister will be appointed next week. The new cabinet is to be formed by December 14 before the new parliament convenes for the first time on December 16th.
  • December 7 and December 28: Presidential (First Round) and Legislative Elections, Ghana
    Ghana’s presidential and legislative elections set for December 7 and 28 respectively are projected to be extremely close. The incumbent President John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) is facing once again Nana Akufo Addo of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), whom he defeated in 2008 by less than 1 percent. A third party, the Convention People’s Party (CPP), could end up as the kingmaker, but neither of the two main candidates can assume its support. Its leader, Abu Sakara, has criticized both parties, especially on issues of corruption.
  • December 15: Constitutional Referendum, Egypt
    President Mohamed Morsi scheduled a constitutional referendum on December 15th after the constituent assembly completed the draft on November 30. This follows a week a of protests in Egypt over Mr. Morsi’s presidential decree on November 22nd in which he assumed legislative, executive, and judicial powers, resulting in an open-ended judicial strike. Judges in Egypt have refused to oversee the vote on the country’s new draft constitution, as tensions heighten between Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court and supporters of Mr. Morsi.
  • December 16: Parliamentary Snap Elections, Japan
    In November, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda dissolved the Parliament and called for an early election as part of a deal with the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which in the summer supported his bill to double the rate of consumption tax in Japan to 10% by 2015. Mr. Noda of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), in power since August 2011, will face newly-elected opposition leader Shinzo Abe. The LDP is expected to win the most seats but the election is seen as unlikely to deliver a clear winner. Support ratings for both the DPJ and LDP are low. A number of other smaller parties draw some support. Polls show that almost half of all voters are undecided, indicating that the next government will likely be a coalition.
  • December 19: Presidential Election, South Korea
    The two main candidates set to face off in South Korea’s Presidential elections are Park Geun-hye of the ruling conservative Saenuri party, or New Frontier Party, and her Democratic United Party rival, Moon Jae-in. A third main candidate, independent Ahn Cheol-soo, dropped out of the race in mid-November and threw his support behind Mr. Moon. Ms. Park is the first woman to run as a presidential candidate by a main political party in South Korea. As part of her presidential campaign, Ms. Park has pledged to prioritize national reconciliation and better economic democracy and social welfare.

    Ms. Park is the daughter of former President Park Chung-hee. She served as South Korea’s first lady for five years after her mother was shot dead in 1974. Her father, who seized power in a military coup in 1961, ruled until he was assassinated by his spy chief in 1979. In September, she apologized for human rights abuses committed under her father. Her opponent, Mr. Moon, is a former human rights lawyer who, as student activist, was imprisoned during the regime of Ms. Park’s father in the 1970s. As part of his presidential bid, Mr. Moon said that he will engage with North Korea, re-examine the country’s Free Trade Agreement with the US, increase taxes on the wealthy, and curb the power of big business. A number of analysts tip Ms. Park as the election favorite, despite her family legacy.

  • Also of Interest:
    •    December 2: Parliamentary Elections, Burkina Faso
    •    December 2: Presidential Election, Slovenia (Run-Off)
    •    December 9: Parliamentary Elections, Romania
    •    December 17: Parliamentary Elections, Bermuda 

Other Multilateral Meetings

  • November 26 – December 7: UN Conference on Climate Change, Doha, Qatar
    The UN Conference on Climate Change, or COP18/CMP8 (Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol), is ongoing in Doha. The conference brings together about 17,000 participants from 194 nations with the aim of drawing up a binding treaty for nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions, an extension of the Kyoto Protocol. Developing countries are pushing developed countries, in and out of the treaty, to take emission cuts of 30 to 40 percent compared to 1990 levels. The European Union has agreed to 20 percent carbon emission cuts from 1990 levels for the period of 2013 to 2020, a level that advocates for cuts say had already been pledged earlier. The United States, which is not a party to the Kyoto Protocol, remains firm on reducing carbon emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels, an estimated 4 percent from 1990 levels. So far, large developing countries have only agreed to voluntary reductions in their carbon intensity–that is, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per dollar generated by the country. It is hard to foresee any substantive progress on this issue by the end of the conference.
  • December 3-14: World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12), Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    The conference will bring together more than 190 governments as well as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to review the current International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), which serve as the global rules for governing telecommunications, and which have not been updated since 1988. The key question is whether the remit of the ITU should extend to the Internet (since the Internet was not commonplace in 1988 and, therefore, did not find mention in the regulations), and if indeed it should, to what parts and aspects of the Internet, and in what way.

    Some countries have tabled proposals for a significant increase in the scope of the treaty and the regulatory burden on operators, including Internet service providers. A broad coalition of critics–including the US, tech corporations such as Google, and rights groups–read these proposals as an attempt to limit the freedom of expression over Internet, with changes leading to censor Web content and stifle innovations in cyberspace. Another controversial battle is over a European-backed proposal to change the pay structure of the Web to force content providers–such as Google, Facebook, and others–to pay an extra fee to reach users across borders. Despite the controversies, it is hard to foresee major changes since decisions will be taken by consensus.

  • December 4-6: World Islamic Economic Forum, Malaysia
    The eighth World Islamic Economic Forum will have the theme of “Changing Trends, New Opportunities,” and will discuss the changing dynamics in global business today after the Arab uprising and Eurozone crisis. It is estimated to gather roughly 1,500 participants, including heads of state, ministers, business, and leading thinkers.
  • December 10: Nobel Peace Prize to be Awarded, Oslo, Norway
    The Nobel Peace Prize 2012 was awarded to the European Union, which “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.” The President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, and the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz will accept the prize. Mr. Von Rompuy and Mr. Barroso will give the acceptance speeches. Approximately eighteen heads of states or governments will attend the ceremony, including French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The prize to the EU was praised by many, but was also criticized by some, including three former Peace Laureates: Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel from Argentina.
  • Also of Interest:
    •    December 3: First meeting of UNCTAD’s Forum on Trade and Green Economy, Doha, Qatar (more info)
    •    December 3-7: FAO Council, 145th Session, Rome, Italy
    •    December 13-14: Summit of the European Union Heads of State and Government, Brussels