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. 
      • January 22: Geneva II Syria Peace Conference, Geneva
        After several delays, representatives from Assad’s government and rebels seeking to overthrow him meet for the first direct negotiations.  A mutually accepted transitional administration, as discussed at the previous meeting in Geneva, is the main goal. However, Assad has said several times he will not step down. Who will represent diverse factions of competing rebel groups is still unclear. US Secretary of State John Kerry recently said Iran could play a critical role on the sidelines of the peace negotiations but did not extend a formal invitation to Tehran officials. 
      • January 24–31: African Union Summit, Addis Ababa
        At the AU’s semiannual summit, peace and security issues are high on the agenda. Notably, the representatives discuss a strategic plan for the peacekeeping mission in the CAR, which the AU took over last month with support from the UN. Also, the regional organization elects a new rotating chairperson to take over from Ethiopia’s Prime Minister. During his tenure, Prime Minister Desalegn has taken a strong stance against the ICC as exemplified by statements he made to the UN General Assembly last September. 
      • Also of Interest:

        • January 8: Trial of Deposed Egyptian President Morsi Resumes, Cairo

        • January 17: Luxembourg and UK Hold Arria-formula Meeting on Participation of Women in the Syrian Transitional Process

        • January 29: UN Security Council Open Debate on War, Its Lessons and Search for Permanent Peace

        • January 31: Mandate of UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in CAR Expected to be Renewed


Elections and Votes

      • January 5: Parliamentary, Bangladesh
        With widespread boycotts, turnout in parliamentary elections in Bangladesh averaged around 22 percent—a steep decline from the last general elections when more than 87 percent voted. At least 18 people were killed during the polls and dozens more died in the run-up to the election. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina refused to hold a debate on whether fresh elections were needed until her rivals put a halt to violence.
      • January 8: Presidential, Puntland, Somalia
        The fourth presidential poll in the autonomous region of Puntland in northeastern Somalia comes shortly after President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole dissolved the state parliament. In accordance with the Puntland constitution, traditional tribal leaders appointed new MPs to the 66-member parliament in December. At that time, the incumbent, running for his second term, clashed with opponents over issues related to the Vetting and Conflict Resolution Committee, a state body that oversees the election process.
      • January 14: Deadline to Adopt New Constitution, Tunisia
        Tunisian political parties have set the third anniversary of the Tunisian revolution as the deadline for passing this key document for the country’s transition. The national assembly must approve the draft by a two-thirds majority; otherwise, it must be put to referendum. Voting—article by article—begins on January 4th. Disagreements between the ruling Ennahda party and opposition parties dragged out the process of drafting the text over two years. For many, overcoming this political impasse and moving the transition forward now hinges on the adoption of this text.
      • January 14-15: Referendum on Egyptian Constitution, Egypt
        Egyptians take to the polls as the Muslim Brotherhood calls for a boycott, branding the process a farce that goes against the will of the people. Although the national document grants constitutional protections to women and others, many are concerned that it strengthens the military’s ability to interfere with national governance. If ratified, the constitution would be the first major milestone since a transitional administration took control after the arrest of President Morsi, and pave the way for presidential and parliamentary elections next summer. Leading up to the referendum, seventeen people were killed as Islamist protesters clashed with the military-led transitional government Friday, January 3. It was the most violent day in months.

Additional Multilateral Meetings

      • January 1: Latvia Joins EURO
        The euro replaces the lat, which is highly regarded by many as a national symbol of sovereignty, making the euro the fourth currency in Latvia in two decades. Although Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis has been praised by the EU for sticking to austerity measures that restored the Baltic state to growth after a long recession, many fear price rises with the adoption of the European note. The switch signals a shift of allegiance away from the Soviet Union. 
      • January 4-5: Nile Basin Countries Meeting on Renaissance Dam, Khartoum
        Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan meet for a third time in Khartoum to discuss the controversial Grand Renaissance Dam. With 30 percent of the hydropower plant complete, it remains unclear whether an agreement will be reached. The political tug of war between Egypt and Ethiopia–each guided by a different interpretation of how the dam will affect their water security–continues to be the center of the deadlock amongst the Nile Basin countries. 
      • January 20-22: World Future Energy Summit, Abu Dhabi
        This conference showcases developers and investors—both in government and private—focused on renewable energy, efficiency, and clean technologies. Coming in the middle of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the summit runs concurrently with conferences on water and ecowaste.
      • January 22-25: World Economic Forum Meeting, Davos
        Many of the foreign ministers participating in the Geneva talks are likely to move on to Davos afterwards, to attend the annual meeting of political and business leaders hosted by the World Economic Forum. This year’s theme is “The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business.” In the wake of Geneva II and the broader reshaping of the Middle East, the meetings between international leaders that happen on the sidelines may have consequences of their own. 
      • January 27-28: Russia-EU Summit, Brussels
        Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his EU counterpart Catherine Ashton meet in Brussels to discuss ties between the two entities. Among other subjects, they are set to discuss trade agreements between Ukraine, Russia and the EU. The two diplomats previously met along the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September, 2013 to discuss obstacles to a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1.  
      • Also of Interest:

        • January 1: Myanmar’s ASEAN Chairmanship Begins 

        • January 1: International Year of Small Island Developing States

        • January 1: Six-Month Greek EU Presidency Begins