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.

November 30-Dec 11: UN Climate Conference Continues, Paris

The 21st Session of the Conference to the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is taking place in Paris from November 30-December 11. The landmark event will aim to achieve a new legally binding international agreement on climate that will be applicable to all countries and attempt to keep global warming to no more than 2°C above the global average temperature since the Industrial Revolution.

December 1-2: Meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers, Brussels

Foreign ministers from the 28 North Atlantic Treaty Organization member states will discuss common security challenges at their annual meeting in early December. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg identified destabilization in Afghanistan, relations with Russia, and the bids of Ukraine and Montenegro to join the alliance as major agenda items. NATO member Turkey’s recent downing of a Russian jet, and France’s campaign against the so-called Islamic State are likely to command significant attention.

December 4: OPEC Meeting, Vienna

The 168th meeting of the conference of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will take place in Vienna on December 4th. The gathering follows a year in which OPEC pursued a Saudi Arabia-led strategy of ignoring low oil prices and maintaining high output, in an attempt to squeeze rivals such as North American shale producers out of market share. With these efforts failing to produce their desired results, OPEC members such as Iran are expected to push for a new direction heading into 2016.

December 4-5: Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Johannesburg

South Africa will host the sixth China-Africa Cooperation Summit from December 4-5, with Chinese President Xi Jinping expected to attend along with more than 50 leaders of other nations and regional institutions. Held every three years, the summit helps to set Beijing’s future agenda in Africa. China has established itself as the major investment partner for the continent’s economies, but has suffered a major slowdown in the past year.

December 6: Venezuelans Vote in Parliamentary Elections

Venezuela will hold parliamentary elections on December 6th, with the ruling socialist party expected to lose control of the legislature for the first time since 1998. The parliament is currently dominated by President Nicolas Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), but polls show a significant drop in its support in light of the country’s ongoing economic slump. There are fears the PSUV may attempt to hold onto power through electoral and judicial manipulation, potentially leading to clashes with opponents.

December 8-10: International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Geneva

The 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent will bring together the 189 national societies of the organization, their international federation and committee, and all state parties to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Taking place every four years, the event is the biggest gathering of the international humanitarian community and provides a non-political forum for discussion of relevant issues.

December 10: Gulf Cooperation Council Summit, Riyadh

The six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council gather in Saudi Arabia from December 9-10 for their 36th summit. The gathering occurs amid several major concerns for the bloc, including ongoing crises such as Yemen and Syria, the rise of the so-called Islamic State, and the downturn in the global oil market. Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah said that the international fight against terror would top the agenda.

December 12: Saudi Arabian Women Participate in Elections for First Time

Women will be allowed to vote and stand for election in Saudi Arabian municipal councils on December 12th, in a significant break with the ultraconservative country’s history. About 865 women are currently among the 6,140 candidates campaigning for the two-thirds of seats available in the country’s 284 councils, with the remainder to be appointed by the government. Women’s participation was allowed under a 2011 decree from King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who died in January this year.

December 15: UN Agency to Rule on Iran Nuclear Investigation, Vienna

A special meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on December 15th will decide if an investigation into whether Iran carried out work on developing nuclear weapons can be concluded. The head of the UN agency, Yukiya Amano, has warned that there will be no definitive conclusion in a report to be issued ahead of the meeting, in early December. The investigation was sparked by 2011 IAEA suspicions around Tehran’s activities, and was required as part of the recent deal with several world powers that paved the way for an Iranian civilian nuclear program.

Mid-December: Saudia Arabia to Hold Talks on Syrian Crisis, Riyadh

Saudi Arabia has announced plans to host a meeting of armed and political opponents of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad, in parallel to the ongoing international peace talks taking place in Vienna. United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura has said the planned meeting could boost unity and support for peace among the Syrian opposition, but Syrian ally Iran is opposed to the event.

December 15-18: World Trade Organization Ministers Conference, Nairobi

Kenya hosts the 10th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization from December 15-18. The event will once again attempt to resolve an impasse over a worldwide package of trade reforms proposed at a meeting in Doha in 2001. A draft declaration issued in advance of the event steered clear of contentious issues around the removal of trade barriers, and WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said the Nairobi talks were again unlikely to produce a definitive way forward.

December 17-18: European Council Meeting, Brussels

The European Council will meet in Brussels from December 17-18, with the regional migration and refugee crisis still expected to dominate discussion. The EU held a summit with Turkey in late November, at which it agreed to provide financial support to the country in return for helping stem the flow of refugees into Europe. The council will also discuss the United Kingdom’s demands related to its promised referendum on leaving the EU.

December 20: Spain Holds General Election

Spain will go to the polls on December 20th for a general election in which no party is likely to obtain a majority. The ruling People’s Party is currently attracting 22.7% support, with long-term opponents the Socialists on a similar 22.5%, and newcomers Ciudadanos on 22.6%. Key election issues are expected to be the nation’s continuing economic struggles and the Catalan independence movement.

December 27: Haiti to Hold Runoff Presidential Elections

Government-backed candidate Jovenel Moïse and opponent Jude Célestin are scheduled to contest a runoff election for Haiti’s presidency on December 27th.  The two were the best performing candidates in the first round of  elections held in October this year. The official announcement of the runoff participants led to violence in the capital Port-au-Prince, as supporters of third candidate Moise Jean Charles protested his omission.

December 27: CAR Scheduled to Hold Parliamentary and Presidential Polls

Elections for a new president and parliament in the Central African Republic are scheduled to occur on December 27th, following a postponement from October 18th. The mandate of United Nations-backed interim President Catherine Samba-Panza is set to expire on December 31st this year, but the country has witnessed renewed sectarian violence in recent months.

December 31: Scheduled Implementation of ASEAN Economic Community

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has set December 31st as the date for implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community, which was originally projected to commence in 2020. Member states adopted a formal declaration on the new community at their annual summit in Kuala Lumpur in November. The community is expected to create a single economic market valued at an estimated 2.4 trillion USD.