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

Egypt, Japan, Senegal, Ukraine, and Uruguay joined the United Nations Security Council on January 1st as its new non-permanent members. The five countries were voted in by the UN General Assembly in October 2015 and replace Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania, and Nigeria for two-year terms on the key decision-making body.

January 1: SDG Framework Comes Into Effect, New York

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework came into effect on January 1st, replacing the expired Millennium Development Goals. The SDG framework consists of 17 goals and 169 targets for national governments to achieve between now and 2030, including eradicating hunger and poverty, and tackling climate change.

January 2: Parties to Yemen Conflict End Ceasefire

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen ended a ceasefire on January 2nd, citing violations by the other side. The ceasefire began on December 15th in tandem with UN-brokered peace talks aimed at ending Yemen’s conflict. No agreement was reached at the talks in Geneva, but the parties are likely to return to the negotiating table later this month.

January 3: Saudi Arabia Severs Diplomatic Ties With Iran, Riyadh

Saudi Arabia has severed diplomatic ties with Iran after protestors in the latter country attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran. This followed Riyadh’s execution of Shiite cleric and opponent of the Saudi royal family, Nimr al-Nimr. Many now fear a further escalation of the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which has already led to sectarian clashes in countries such as Syria and Yemen.

January 4: Puerto Rico Partially Defaults on Debt, San Juan

Puerto Rico is set to default on a $36 million USD payment to its Infrastructure Finance Authority on January 4th as its debt crisis deepens. The United States territory faces debts of more than $1 billion USD in total and already defaulted on payments to its Public Finance Corporation in August 2015. The island’s economy has shrunk by 10% in the past decade and faces a poverty rate of around 45%.

January 6: Scheduled Resumption of Burundi Peace Talks, Arusha

Burundi’s government and opposition are due to meet in Tanzania on January 6th for a fresh round of talks aimed at ending the country’s violence. However, there are fears Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza could boycott the talks following the African Union’s proposed deployment of 5,000 peacekeeping troops to the country, to protect citizens caught in violent clashes between rival political factions.

January 12: Myanmar to Hold Peace Conference, Yangon

Myanmar will hold a peace conference on January 12th, aimed at ending the country’s long-standing ethnic-based conflict. The conference follows the December 2015 finalization of a political dialogue by the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee. The committee includes representatives of government, ethnic armed groups, and other political parties, including the National League for Democracy, which won a landmark national election at the end of last year.

January 12: President Obama Delivers Final State of the Union Address, Washington DC

United States President Barack Obama will deliver his final State of the Union address on January 12th. The White House has indicated that the speech will be “non-traditional” and focus on the president’s overall vision for the country. The administration has sought to counter the limited effectiveness of its final year in office, and will reportedly target outcomes such as gun control reform and the closure of the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

January 14: Guatemala’s New President Takes Power, Guatemala City

Guatemala’s new leader Jimmy Morales will be sworn in on January 14th, with United States Vice President Joe Biden and leaders of several other countries expected to attend. Following his success in October 2015 polls, Morales will succeed President Otto Pérez Molina, who was implicated in a corruption scandal that led to widespread street protests. Morales heads the conservative FCN-Nacion party, which holds only 11 seats in the 158-seat Guatemalan Congress.

January 16: Taiwan to Hold General Elections

Taiwan will head to the polls on January 16th to elect a new president and legislature. The frontrunner to be the country’s new leader is Tsai Ing-wen of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, who would be its first female president. Cross-strait tensions with China are expected to play a major role in what is expected to be the most important Taiwanese election in decades. Ing-wen has rejected the so-called “1992 consensus,” which maintains that Taiwan and the mainland both belong to one China.

January 20-23: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Davos

The World Economic Forum will host its annual meeting in the Swiss city of Davos from January 20-23, bringing together world leaders from across government, business, academia, and the civil society sectors. This year, the forum will focus on the theme of “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” referring to the economic upheavals caused by the increasing pace of scientific and technological development around the world.

January 21-31: African Union Annual Summit, Addis Ababa

The African Union will hold its 26th annual summit from January 21-31 at the organization’s headquarters in Ethiopia.  This year’s summit will focus on 2016 as the “African Year of Human Rights,” with a special focus on the rights of women. Among other things, the summit and events throughout 2016 will seek to evaluate the level of AU member states’ commitment to regional and international human rights instruments.

January 25: UN-Brokered Peace Talks on Syria Recommence, Geneva

The United Nations hopes to convene peace talks between Syria’s warring parties on January 25th in Switzerland. The UN Security Council unanimously approved an international roadmap for a peace process in December 2015, aiming to bring an end to five years of civil war. A spokesperson for the UN’s Syrian mediator Staffan de Mistura said the talks would aim to bring together “the broadest possible spectrum of the Syrian opposition and others.”

January 26-30: Iranian President Rouhani to Visit Europe

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is scheduled to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican and President Francois Hollande in France at the end of January, after an earlier trip was cancelled following the November Paris terror attacks. Rouhani, a self-declared moderate in an ultra-conservative country, was expected to build on the progress of the Iran nuclear deal, which has seen a renewed European political and economic interest in the country.

January 31: CAR Likely to Hold Runoff Presidential Election

The Central African Republic is likely to face a runoff presidential election at the end of January, with former prime minister Faustin Archange Touadera gaining only a narrow lead over another former leader, Anicet Georges Dologuele, in polls held in December. CAR witnessed considerable sectarian violence in 2015, and the mandate of United Nations-backed interim president Catherine Samba-Panza expired at the end of the year.