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
- April 1: US-ASEAN Defense Forum, Honolulu
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel discusses Pacific regional issues with his counterparts from Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, and other ASEAN countries at the first US-hosted US-ASEAN Defense Forum, an informal meeting of the defense ministers of 10 countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. However, Thailand’s defense minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, who is also the country’s prime minister, is not expected to attend due to ongoing domestic political uncertainty. This gathering happens at a time when tensions are growing in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, with a more assertive China in the Southeast Asian region. Although the US rebalance toward Asia goes well beyond the military dimension, hosting the US-ASEAN defense ministers’ meeting on US soil reinforces the military angle of the US as a Pacific power.
- April 1–2: NATO meeting on Ukraine, Brussels
Foreign ministers from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization meet at the military alliance’s headquarters to forge a response to the crisis in Ukraine on its eastern frontier. Items on the agenda include training for Ukrainian forces and a possible suspension of cooperation with Russia. With joint NATO military exercises planned, which are likely to bring US forces in proximity with their Russian counterparts in Crimea, tensions remain high.
- April 7–9: P5+1 Resume Talks with Iran, Vienna
Six world powers continue to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program. Although a final deal is sought by July, negotiations will likely continue beyond then. In exchange for lifting sanctions, the six world powers want Tehran to downgrade many aspects of its civil nuclear program, with the US especially concerned about the Arak heavy water reactor. With American and Iranian conservatives drawing hard lines on Iran’s ability to produce weapons-grade uranium and Tehran’s autonomy, respectively, overcoming domestic resistance is one long-term obstacle. In the short term, though, some observers are waiting to see if tensions over the crisis in Ukraine affects the P5+1 diplomats’ ability to stand united on this historical agreement with Iran.
- Mid-April: Arria-Formula Meeting on North Korea
The UN Security Council meets sometime midmonth for an informal discussion on the Commission of Inquiry on North Korea, which has detailed various human rights abuses in the isolated nation. Although the Commission’s report suggests North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and others be referred to the International Criminal Court, China would almost certainly block any such Security Council action. However, further sanctions—including additional blacklisting of high-level military personnel—are a possibility.
- April 29: Israel-Palestine Peace Accord Deadline
April 29th marks the end of the current period of US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which began in July 2013. As the negotiation process hits another snag over prisoner release and mutual party mistrust, envoys and diplomats on all sides are engaged in last-minute negotiations to agree to a “framework” for future peace talks in order to extend the process beyond the April 29th deadline.
- April 30: AU Deadline for Sudan Peace Deal
After African Union–sponsored peace talks broke down in early March between the Sudanese government and the rebel group known as the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), the AU’s Peace and Security Council warned that the parties had to reach a peace agreement before May. However, the AU made no mention of consequences should combatants in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan fail to end fighting that broke out nearly three years ago, shortly after South Sudan seceded. Since then, an estimated 1.2 million people have been displaced. Fighting that erupted in South Sudan last December has also contributed to a major humanitarian crisis. With displacement numbers soaring, and the conflicts threatening to halt oil production in both nations, ceasefires remain elusive.
- Also of Interest:
• April 7: Commemoration for the 20th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide
• April 27: 20th Anniversary of End of Apartheid, South Africa
Elections and Votes
- April 5: President, Afghanistan
Afghans go to the polls for historic presidential and provincial elections. The leading candidates for president include Abdullah Abdullah, former Northern Alliance member who came in second in the presidential election in 2009 and stepped down to avoid a run-off amid widespread claims of fraud; Zalmai Rassoul, former foreign minister under Karzai; and Ashraf Ghani, former finance minister. Given there is no incumbent in the race and no clear leader, there is an expectation that the election will most likely require a run-off. The Taliban has called for a campaign of violence to disrupt the elections (exemplified by an attack on an independent election commission office in western Kabul on March 25th). Concerns also exist about the potential for electoral fraud this year.
- April 7–May 12: People’s Assembly, India
Before the five-year term for India’s lower house, Lok Sabha, ends on June 1st, parliamentary elections in the world’s largest democracy take place over nine phases so that the Indian Election Commission can better handle the poll volume and related security concerns. The IEC expects some 800 million voters to visit polling stations across the country’s 543 constituencies over a five week period, with the results announced on May 16th. The National Democratic Alliance, led by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, is favored to win the most seats, followed by India’s largest party and incumbent, the center-left Congress Party.
- April 9: Parliament, Indonesia
All major parties are sounding a nationalistic tone in the lead up to the Indonesian parliamentary elections this month, as well as the subsequent presidential vote in July, according to Reuters. At the heart of the growing sentiment is trade reform passed this year that bans mineral exports unless they have been processed in the country. The opposition party PDI-P, which largely backs the increased taxes on foreign energy and business firms, is expected to win the most seats in parliament.
- April 17: President, Algeria
Incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is running for a fourth term, despite his age, poor health, and fifteen years in power. He is anticipated to win. Major opposition parties, both Islamist and secular, are boycotting the election.
- April 30: Council of Representatives, Iraq
On April 30, Iraq is scheduled to hold its first parliamentary elections since US troops withdrew in late 2011. A sustained surge in violence, an increased presence of extremist groups from Syria, a growing sectarian divide, and confusion over electoral laws threatens what is already a delicate political process. As the nationwide election campaign kicked off on April 1st, a series of attacks north of Baghdad killed eight soldiers.
- Also of Interest:
• April 6: National Assembly, Hungary
• April 6: President, Costa Rica
• April 13: President and National Assembly (Tentative), Guinea-Bissau
• April 13 and 27: President and National Assembly, Macedonia
- April 2: EU-Africa Summit, Brussels
The fourth EU-Africa Summit will take place in Brussels on April 2–3, 2014. It will bring together representatives of 90 nations from both continents, including 65 African and European leaders, as well as the leaders of EU and African Union institutions. The broad aim of the summit is to foster more trade-based economic development rather than aid. Under the theme “Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace,” participants will discuss topics including education and training, women and youth, climate change and migration, investment, peace, and ways to enhance EU support for African capacities to manage security on the continent. The summit will further provide an opportunity to review the EU-Africa partnership based on the 2007 Joint Africa-EU Strategy, to highlight some of the results that have been achieved, and to explore areas for future cooperation.
- April 23–24: Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, São Paulo
Last month, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a US government branch that oversees all global domain names and other technical functions of the web, announced it would cede control of its duties to an as-yet unformed international body. Following preliminary discussions in Singapore last month, Brazil hosts ICANN and numerous government representatives to outline the transition process. The main agenda items include Internet governance principles and a “roadmap for the further evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem,” according to an ICANN announcement. Washington’s decision to relinquish control comes on the heels of scandals surrounding the NSA’s massive metadata information collection and other contentious intelligence gathering practices. The details of ICANN’s replacement—privatization versus intergovernmental control, for example—could have implications for cyber security as well as commerce in both public and private spheres.
- Also of Interest:
• April 1: World Economic Forum on Latin America, Panama City
• April 3: Women in the World Summit, New York City
• April 4: Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Former Soviet States, Moscow