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.

January 1: New UN Security Council assumes office, New York

Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain, and Venezuela will join the Security Council on January 1 as the new non-permanent members of the UN’s decision-making body. The five countries were voted in by the 193 members of the General Assembly on October 16 and succeed Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, Rwanda, and South Korea.

January 1: New NATO mission begins in Afghanistan

On January 1, the 11-year NATO mandate changes from a combat to non-combat mission in Afghanistan. Consisting of 12,000 personnel from both NATO and partner nations, the new mission, Resolute Support Mission, will train, advise, and support Afghan ministries and institutions. Several nations have pledged financial and logistical support to post-2014 Afghanistan, including recently Australia and Germany.

January 1: Eurasian Economic Union comes into force, Moscow

The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), an international economic grouping of four member states—Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia—is set to come into force on January 1. The new international body, led by Russia, is expected to bring the economies of the region closer to each other by lowering tariffs and boosting trade.

January 3: New UN Ebola chief travels to West Africa for first time  

The newly appointed head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, will begin his first visit to Ebola-afflicted West Africa January 3. Mr. Ahmed will be accompanied by UN Special Envoy for Ebola David Nabarro. The visit will start in Ghana and continue to Guinea, Mali, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The outbreak has killed over 8,000 people so far in the region.

January 5: Genocide trial of Guatemalan ex-dictator resumes, Guatemala City

The trial of José Efraín Ríos Montt, the former military leader who ruled Guatemala from 1982 to 1983, will resume on January 5. Montt is currently facing charges of crimes against humanity for his alleged involvement in state-sponsored illegal detention and torture during his time in power. His first guilty verdict was overturned by the Guatemala’s Constitutional Court earlier in 2014.

January 8: International Monetary Fund mission travels to Ukraine, Kiev

A mission of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will travel to Ukraine beginning January 8 in order to assess progress with the country’s economic reform program. Ukraine has already received 4.8 billion USD worth of aid from the IMF, as part of an international bailout effort agreed to in April 2014 aimed at supporting the country’s economy and boosting its foreign currency reserves. The mission is expected to conclude its work in Kiev before the end of the month.

January 8: Sri Lanka holds snap presidential elections

Sri Lankan voters will head to the polls on January 8 to choose their next president, two years earlier than the scheduled vote. The elections were called by current President Mahinda Rajapaksa, reportedly because of the decline in support for the ruling alliance he leads—the United People’s Freedom Alliance. Opposing candidate and member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party Maithripala Sirisena is hoping to implement a set of constitutional and institutional reforms, including a possible replacement of the country’s presidential system with a parliamentary one.

January 8-9: Beijing hosts first ministerial meeting of China-Latin America forum

On January 8-9, the Chinese government will host the first ministerial-level meeting of the China-CELAC Forum, an international grouping that gathers ministers and government officials from China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony together with Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís, whose country currently holds the CELAC presidency. The two sides are expected to discuss economic, political, and cultural cooperation.

January 9: Impeachment hearing begins for ousted Thai prime minister, Bangkok

Hearings in the impeachment trial of former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra will begin on January 9. Impeachment proceedings against the ousted official began last November, when the military-appointed legislature opened the case against her in connection to a failed rice-subsidy program. Ms. Shinawatra was removed from office in May 2014 at the height of a long period of street protests in Bangkok, which culminated in the army staging a coup and taking control of the country.

January 11: Croatia holds runoff presidential elections

Voters in the newest member of the European Union will head to the polls on January 11 to choose their next president in a runoff vote after a December 28 delivered no winner. The center-left incumbent, Ivo Josipovic, will face his conservative opponent, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic. Although the presidency in Croatia is largely a ceremonial position, the vote represents a test for the country’s largest political parties.

January 15: Iran nuclear talks resume, Geneva

Negotiations between Iran and six world power—China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, and the US—over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program will resume at the deputy level in Geneva on January 15. After failing to reach a final agreement by the November 2014 deadline, the parties agreed to resume negotiations hoping to reach a comprehensive deal by June 2015.

January 15: Ukraine president meets French, German, Russian counterparts in Astana (canceled)

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, François Hollande of France, and Angela Merkel of Germany in the Kazakh capital of Astana on January 15 (the meeting has since been canceled). The leaders are expected to discuss ongoing peace efforts between the Ukrainian government and Russia-backed rebels.

January 15-19: Pope visits Philippines for first time in 20 years, Manila/Tacloban

Pope Francis will travel to the Philippines from January 15-19—the first time a sitting pope has visited the country since 1995—to visit areas affected by the earthquake and typhoon that hit the country at the end of 2013.

January 19-30: 21st UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review

The UN Human Rights Council will undertake its 21st Universal Period Review (UPR) from January 19-30. Established in 2006, the UPR is a two-week process through which the council assesses the human rights records of all 193 member states. During the review, states update the UN human rights body on what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situation in their countries and to fulfill their obligations.

January 20: Zambia holds presidential by-election

Zambia’s voters will head to the polls on January 20 to pick the successor to interim President Guy Scott, who assumed office in October 2014 following the death of president Michael Sata. Zambia’s constitution requires that an election be held within 90 days in order to fill the office. Patriotic Front (PF) candidate Edgar Lungu will face Nevers Mumba, member of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD).

January 21-24: Annual World Economic Forum, Davos

The World Economic Forum will host its annual meeting in the Swiss city of Davos from January 21-24. This year, the forum—a major event that convenes world leaders from across government, business, academia, and the civil society sectors—will focus on cooperation in a globalized world, economic stability, technological innovation, and global security.

January 23-31: African Union hosts 24th summit on Women’s Empowerment, Addis Ababa

The African Union (AU) will host its 24th summit on the topic of “Women’s Empowerment Year and Africa Development for the Concretisation of Agenda 2063.” The summit will focus on the role of women in the implementation of the AU’s Agenda 2063, a long-term initiative that seeks to boost Africa’s socioeconomic transformation over the next 50 years.

January 25: Greece holds snap general election

On January 25, Greeks will head to the polls for a general election after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras failed to secure enough support for his presidential candidate in December. The elections are seen as an important test for Greece’s fate in the Eurozone. The main opposition party, the far-left radical Syriza party, has run on a staunchly anti-euro, anti-international-bailout agenda, which Mr. Samaras has said could lead to Greece’s exit from the 19-member monetary union.

January 26-29: Renewed Syria peace talks begin, Moscow

The Russian government has invited both sides in the Syrian civil war to a new round of peace talks in Moscow from January 26-29. Although it is still unclear whether the talks will take place, this is the first attempt to restart the negotiations after two failed rounds held in early 2014. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura is likely to attend the talks; however, the newly elected head of the National Coalition, Khaled Khoja, has rejected the Russian-led initiative, saying it is “out of the question.”