Key Global Events to Watch in May

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

May 1: 2015 World Fair on food security begins, Milan

The 2015 Expo Milano, this year’s universal exposition on the topic of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” will open in Milan, Italy on May 1. The international event will run until October 31, 2015 and will see over 140 countries showcasing their technological achievements in terms of food security, nutrition, and sustainability. The first exposition was held in London in 1851, and every edition has explored different topics with global relevance. The next edition will take place in 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan on the topic of “Energy of the Future.”

May 2: US Secretary of State travels to Sri Lanka for first time since 2004, Colombo

US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Colombo, Sri Lanka to meet the country’s new president, Maithripala Sirisenahe—the first such trip in 11 years. The two countries have seen strained relations in recent years, as the Obama administration maintained the international focus on Sri Lanka’s accountability for alleged war crimes during the 1983-2009 civil war and Sirisena’s authoritarian predecessor sought closer ties with Beijing. During the visit, Mr. Kerry is expected to praise Sri Lanka’s recent election as well as raise human rights concerns.

May 2: Cyprus peace talks resume, Nicosia

Peace talks between Cyprus’ Greek and Turkish communities will resume on May 2, after the island’s Greek leaders unveiled a new proposal to boost inter-communal trust on April 28. The talks will be the first time leaders have met after the process stalled last October. Measures such as the handover of maps detailing the location of 28 mine fields the Greek Cypriot military laid before the 1974 war are expected to build confidence between the two parties, as is the transfer of control over Turkish places of worship to Turkish Cypriot authorities. The UN has had a peacekeeping and negotiating presence on the island since 1964.

May 2-4: UNESCO, Latvia host World Press Freedom Day celebration, Riga

From May 2-4, the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), together with the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will host this year’s celebration of World Press Freedom Day, focusing on gender equality and media safety in the digital age.

May 3: Nagorno-Karabakh region plans to hold parliamentary elections, Azerbaijan

The Nagorno-Karabakh region in Azerbaijan plans to hold parliamentary elections on May 3. The region is currently at the center of intense peace negotiations between the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan and brokered by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The region has been a de facto independent—though unrecognized—state since the 1994 war. The scheduled vote has been criticized by many, including the secretary-general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

May 4: UN envoy kicks off new round of Syria talks, Geneva

On May 4, United Nations special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will kick off a new round of talks aimed at taking stock of the four-year-old war in Syria and evaluating progress related to the 2012 Geneva Communiqué. The talks will take place at UN headquarters in Geneva and gather “as many of the parties as possible,” including the Syrian government, opposition representatives, civil society, and key regional and international stakeholders. The talks follows Russian-hosted discussions in Moscow, where the parties could not agree on any breakthrough. The Geneva-based consultations are expected to last for an initial period of five to six weeks.

May 5-7: Latin American and Caribbean consultations for World Humanitarian Summit, Guatemala City

Individuals, government representatives, and organizations from across Latin America and the Caribbean will convene in Guatemala from May 5-7 for the region’s consultations leading up to the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit. The summit organizers have been holding regional consultations since June 2014 with the aim of soliciting ideas and proposals for the upcoming event. Suggestions from past regional consultations have included proposals seeking to: improve policies related to protection of civilians; ensure humanitarian access to civilians in need; devise holistic approaches to crisis management; and improve local capacity-building measures.

May 5-7: Second Session of the Arab High-Level Forum on Sustainable Development, Manama

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia and the UN Environment Programme, in cooperation with the League of Arab States, are convening the Second Session of the Arab High-Level Forum on Sustainable Development from May 5-7 in Manama, Bahrain. The forum—which sets the stage for the third session beginning in New York in June—will take stock of the global post-2015 and sustainable development goals (SDG) processes. It will also function as a platform for regional stakeholders to share their perspectives on where the Arab region stands regarding the SDGs.

May 7: Parliamentary elections, United Kingdom

United Kingdom citizens will head to the polls on May 7 to choose who will run their next government. The main contenders are incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour’s Ed Miliband, both of whom have vowed change. Mr. Cameron’s ruling Conservatives have promised to renegotiate powers with the European Union and a referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU. Mr. Miliband has promised tighter regulation and a commitment to rein in financial markets.

May 8: Germany holds special summit on refugee crisis, Berlin

The German government will hold a special meeting to discuss the country’s growing refugee crisis, on May 8. The meeting was announced on April 17 in the midst of a spike in migrant deaths in the Mediterranean. The meeting will address the issue of funding for refugee relocation, as well as the increasing number of violent attacks against migrant shelters in Germany. A recent poll showed that 58 percent of citizens believe there is a climate of hostility toward foreigners in the country. Germany, together with Sweden, currently hosts the vast majority of Syrian refugees admitted to the European Union.

May 11: President Hollande makes first visit of a French head of state to Cuba, Havana

On May 11, President François Hollande will be the first French head of state to travel to Cuba on an official state visit, and the first Western leader to do so since the December announcement of a rapprochement between Cuba and the United States. Among other issues, Mr. Hollande is expected to discuss trade with the Cuban leadership as Paris looks to Latin America to expand its business ties.

May 13-14: Gulf leaders travel to US-GCC Summit, Washington DC

Leaders from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates will be in Washington DC and Camp David on May 13 and 14 respectively, for a summit hosted by United States President Barack Obama. During the two-day event, leaders will discuss ways to enhance their partnership and cooperation in the midst of growing threats in the Gulf region, including terrorism and the conflict in Yemen.

May 13-14: NATO foreign ministers meet, Antalya

NATO’s 28 foreign ministers will gather in the Turkish city of Antalya on May 13-14 to discuss major issues on NATO’s agenda. Some of these include security threats at NATO’s southern and eastern borders, such as the rise of the so-called Islamic State and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. On the sidelines of the event, the foreign ministers will also meet with the ministers of NATO partner nations to discuss common security challenges.

May 15: Mali government, rebel groups meet for potential peace accord, Algiers

Representatives of Mali’s government and some of the country’s northern Tuareg rebel groups have agreed in principle to sign a peace deal in Algiers on May 15. The date is not confirmed yet because one of the rebel groups, the Azawad National Liberation Movement, said more talks were needed. The ongoing negotiations have attempted to put an end to a nearly five-decade-long uprising.

May 18-19: Azerbaijan hosts Third World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, Baku

The Third World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue will take place in Baku, Azerbaijan on May 18-19 on the topic of “Culture and Sustainable Development in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.” The forum will focus primarily on projects dedicated to the May 21 World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, declared by the United Nations General Assembly, as well as the role of faith, religions, migration, sport, education, art, and business in building trust and cooperation among cultures and civilizations.

May 21-22: EU holds Eastern Partnership Summit, Riga

European Union heads of state and government will gather in Riga, Latvia on May 21-22 for this year’s summit on the EU’s Eastern Partnership. The summit will assess the EU’s progress in its relations with its eastern neighbors Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. Launched in 2009, the initiative seeks to enable countries interested in moving toward the EU and increasing political, economic, and cultural links.

May 24: Parliamentary elections, Ethiopia

Ethiopians will head to the polls on May 24 to choose their next parliament. The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front has been in power for 23 years and has won each of the last five elections. According to news sources, 33 Ethiopian opposition parties have announced plans to boycott the election, citing intimidation and harassment.