Key Global Events to Watch in February

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

February 1: WHO Holds Emergency Meeting on Zika Virus, Geneva

The World Health Organization (WHO) has convened an emergency meeting on the Zika virus outbreak for February 1st. The virus is now present in 23 countries in the Americas, and Brazil has reported around 3,700 associated birth defects. The WHO, which was heavily criticized for its slow response to Africa’s Ebola outbreak of the past few years, has forecast up to four million people could become infected by Zika.

February 1: Peace Talks on Syrian Crisis Continue, Geneva

Talks aimed at finally ending the Syrian crisis began in Switzerland on January 29th. The priorities of the attendees are thought to be achieving a broad ceasefire, providing access for humanitarian aid deliveries, and tackling the threat of the so-called Islamic State. Longer term goals will be to satisfy the requirements of a United Nations Security Council resolution approved in late 2015, which called for a peace settlement including a political transitional period ending with national elections.

February 1: Myanmar’s New Parliament Convenes, Naypyidaw

Myanmar’s new National League for Democracy (NLD)-dominated parliament will convene for the first time on February 1st. Led by the country’s longtime democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD dominated historic national elections held in in November last year, taking 80% of available seats. Nonetheless, a national constitution drafted by the country’s military junta will continue to limit the political transformation. Suu Kyi is banned from becoming president and the military controls three ministries and a quarter of parliamentary seats.

February 1: Trial of Former Ivory Coast Leader Gbagbo Continues, The Hague

The International Criminal Court (ICC) case against former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo and his colleague Charles Ble Goude began on January 28th after several postponements. The two men are accused of crimes against humanity resulting from the country’s widespread violence during 2010-2011, which followed Gbagbo’s refusal to acknowledge defeat in a national election. This is the first time the ICC has tried a former head of state.

February 2: Anti-ISIS Coalition Convenes for Fourth Time, Rome

United States Secretary of State John Kerry will lead a meeting of the US-led coalition against the so-called Islamic State in Rome on February 2nd. A State Department official said the group of mainly Western and Middle Eastern countries would “review progress to date and discuss ways to further intensify commitments across all lines of effort to degrade and defeat this terrorist group.”

February 2-3: Aid and International Development Africa Summit, Addis Ababa

Ethiopia will host the Aid and International Development Africa Summit 2016 from February 2-3rd. Organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the summit will focus on how technological innovations and best practice can improve aid delivery and development strategies in East Africa. It will gather more than 250 representatives and advisers from regional governments, UN agencies, NGOs, investors, donors, and other institutions.

February 4: Signing of Trans-Pacific Partnership, Wellington

The massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal is due to be signed by participating governments in New Zealand on February 4th. The deal between 12 Pacific Rim countries is considered the financial underpinning of United States efforts to shift its strategic focus to Asia, and counter the rise of China. Local protests are scheduled to coincide with the signing, reflecting controversy over the TPP’s supposed erosion of the sovereignty of participating nations and potential damages to their local industries.

February 7: Haitian President Martelly Due to Step Down, Port-au-Prince

Haitian President Michel Martelly is due to give up his post on February 7th, but the country is yet to elect a successor. A runoff election scheduled for January 24th was postponed following widespread violent protests. Jude Célestin, the runner-up in an initial presidential poll held in October last year, complained of a fraudulent electoral process. The Organization of American States has authorized a special mission to the country to try to negotiate a new poll date.

February 12-14: 52nd Munich Security Conference, Munich

More than 20 heads of state and government are expected to attend the Munich Security Conference from February 12-14th. The annual event is hailed as the “major global forum for the discussion of security policy” and has been held in the Bavarian capital since 1962. This year’s event is expected to focus on the ongoing Syrian conflict, the global refugee crisis, and the European security order.

February 13: UN Report on Syrian Chemical Weapons Due, New York

A United Nations body seeking to assign blame for the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian crisis is due to deliver its first report on February 13th. The new Joint Investigation Mechanism is considering findings from investigations of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which reported that a toxic chemical, most likely chlorine, was used during attack in northern Syria in 2014.

February 15: Bosnia and Herzegovina Applies for EU Membership, Brussels

Bosnia and Herzegovina will officially submit its application to join the European Union on February 15th. The country has made slower progress to EU accession than other former Yugoslav republics, largely due to a protracted recovery from the war of 1992-95 and lingering ethnic divisions. Leaders of the semi-autonomous Serb-dominated Republika Srpska continue to question the terms of the country’s 1995 peace accords. It could take up to a decade for the country to join the bloc.

February 15-16: US President Obama Meets with ASEAN Leaders, California

United States President Barack Obama will host a first-of-its-kind summit with leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at a resort in the Californian desert from February 15-16th. A White House statement said the meeting would “further advance the Administration’s rebalance to Asia and the Pacific.” Four ASEAN members are part of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. The meeting is also expected to discuss ways of curbing Chinese influence in the South China Sea.

February 18: Uganda Hosts General Elections

Ugandans go to the polls on February 18th, with President Yoweri Museveni hoping to secure a fifth term that would extend his 30 years in power. Nine candidates are contesting the election, though only three are considered to have a realistic chance of winning: Museveni, his former prime minister and adviser Amama Mbabazi, and longtime opposition leader Kizza Besigye. The chief of the country’s defense forces has warned that he will not tolerate disturbances, following accusations of militias being enlisted by rival candidates. The election will also determine 458 members of parliament.

February 18-19: EU Summit on Terms of UK Membership, Brussels

European Union leaders will meet in Brussels from February 18-19th to make a case for the United Kingdom remaining a part of the bloc. UK Prime Minister David Cameron is hoping to negotiate a new settlement on the terms of his country’s EU membership, including setting new conditions on internal European migration and rules for Britain’s lucrative financial sector. Pending agreement of a deal, a referendum on the so-called “Brexit” could be held as early as June 23rd this year.

February 21: Bolivia Holds Referendum on Presidential Term Limits

Bolivians will vote in a referendum on February 21st to decide whether to eliminate the country’s constitutionally mandated two-term limit for president. A “yes” vote in the compulsory plebiscite would allow President Evo Morales to stand for election for a fourth term at the 2019 election. The socialist leader has accused the United States of funding the opposing “no” vote. He faces a trend of political defeats for left-leaning governments in South America as lower commodity prices, principally for oil, drain finances for populist welfare programs.

February 21: Niger Holds General Elections

Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for February 21st in Niger, following local polls held in January this year. President Mahamadou Issoufou is expected to win a second term, but has faced criticism for his supposed authoritarianism and courting of Western interest in the country. Nearly a quarter of the country’s potential voters have been barred from participating in the polls because they lack proper identification. Security threats, such as attacks from Boko Haram, are also feared.

February 23-24: Global Women’s Forum, Dubai

On February 23-24th, the United Arab Emirates will host the first ever event organized by the Women’s Forum in the Middle East and North Africa region. The Women’s Forum Dubai 2016 will bring together leaders from the worlds of business, government, academia, and more to further efforts for women’s empowerment globally. Meeting under the theme of innovation, delegates will explore what role tradition can play, in addition to the typical focus on the roles of technology and other new developments.

February 26: Iran Elects New Parliament and Assembly of Experts

Iranians go to the polls on February 26th to elect members of the 290-seat National Parliament and 88-seat Assembly of Experts, which has the power to select a new supreme leader upon the death of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is now 76. Overseers have allowed only a fifth of potential candidates for the assembly to stand for election, which is seen as a sign of hardliners seeking to exclude moderates from power. Iran has taken steps to re-engage with the world under President Hassan Rouhani, including signing the recent nuclear deal that provided relief from international economic sanctions.