Key Global Events to Watch in March

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 29- March 24: 31st session of the UN Human Rights Council, Palais des Nations, Geneva

Representatives of 47 United Nations member states will meet February 29- March 24 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva for the 31st session of the UN Human Rights Council. The four-week session will address the crises in Syria and Burundi, and convene interactive dialogues on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Iran and Myanmar. The annual debates on the rights of children and of persons with disabilities will also be held.

March 1-18: Hearing held in Alan Kurdi smuggling case, Bodrum, Turkey

Two men accused of causing the drowning of three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi, as well as the deaths of four others (including the boy’s mother), will appear in court early this month on charges of human trafficking. The heart-wrenching image of the boy’s body washed up on a Turkish beach made global headlines and brought about a wave of empathy for the victims making the arduous journey to Europe in the refugee crisis.

March 14-24: 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, UN headquarters, New York

Following International Women’s Day on March 8, United Nations member states, representatives from UN agencies, and world NGOs will gather at UN headquarters in New York from March 14-24 for the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. The two-week session will discuss the achievements and implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a document adopted in 1995 to support and promote gender equality around the world. The session will also address opportunities for achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment in the post-2015 development agenda.

March 7: EU and Turkey hold extraordinary migration summit, Brussels

Officials from Turkey will travel to the European Union seat of government March 7 for a special summit aimed at stemming the flow of migrants into Europe. Emphasis will be placed on implementing the special deal reached in November, in which the EU promised three billion euros in aid, and the speeding up of the Turkish bid for EU membership, in exchange for Ankara’s promise to curb the numbers of refugees crossing to Greece. Another key issue for the summit is restoration of the EU’s passport-free Schengen area, following several countries re-imposition of border controls since the refugee crisis broke out.

March 14-18: 14th session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Lima

Beginning March 14, the 14th session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) takes place in Lima, Peru. Heads of state and government will be joined by civil society, business, and academic leaders to develop proposals for tackling global trade and development issues. The conference will determine UNCTAD’s program of work, and offers a unique opportunity to consider the best methods for delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals.

March 18: Crimea marks anniversary of its absorption into Russia, Avtonomna Respublika Krym, Ukraine

Today marks a milestone in the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, which began in February 2014 with Russia’s military intervention. Last March, 97% of voters backed splitting from Ukraine in the disputed referendum held in a predominantly ethnic-Russian region. On March 18, 2014, the Treaty on Accession of the Republic of Crimea to Russia was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov, Chairman of the State Council of Crimea, Vladimir Konstantinov, and de facto Sevastopol mayor Aleksei Chaly. Following an emergency EU-G7 meeting, the EU and US called the vote “illegal,” and Kiev emphasized it would never accept the treaty. One year later, sanctions imposed on government officials and other figures in Russia, Crimea and Ukraine, appear largely ineffectual.

March 18-21: Inter-American Development Bank Meeting, Nassau, The Bahamas

The annual meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Inter-American Investment Corporation will provide a forum for discussion among the institution’s governors, most of whom are ministers of finance, presidents of central banks, or other high-level authorities of the member countries. The IDB will assess the impact of investments made towards addressing the development challenges facing its 26 borrowing members in Latin America and the Caribbean. Representatives from multilateral financial institutions, development agencies, and commercial and investment banks also participate.

March 20: Kazakhstan holds snap elections, Kazakhstan

A wave of government distrust kicked off in Kazakhstan when 14 protestors were killed in a clash with police on the country’s independence day in December 2011. Regional stability is at stake in the March 20 election, originally expected to be held at the end of this year or in early 2017. President Nursultan Nazarbayev made the call to dissolve the lower house on January 20, 2016. The 75-year-old Nazarbayev, who is exempt from laws limiting presidential terms, came to power in 1989. The election is likely to be impacted by the routine stifling of political opposition and the independent media in the country.

March 21-22: US President Obama visits Cuba, Havana

In a breakthrough for US-Cuban relations, President Barack Obama visits Havana, becoming the first serving American head of state to visit the island country in more than 80 years. Diplomatic relations were recently normalized, having been strained since the US imposition of a trade embargo with the country in 1960. Nearing the end of his presidency, Obama is expected to discuss his plan to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba during the summit.

March 23: Unofficial deadline for signing peace deal between Colombian government and FARC, Bogotá

The Colombian government and the Fuerzas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) rebel group are expected to sign a peace deal that will resolve the 50-year old conflict which has cost over 220,000 lives March 23. The government and FARC began a peace process in October 2012, and the negotiations yielded an agreement this September. The resulting innovative transitional justice framework, Sistema Integral de Verdad, Justicia, Reparación y No Repetición (Cohesive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and No Repetition), was unveiled in Havana, along with a timeline to finalize negotiations by March 23rd, 2016. In a show of good faith, FARC promised to disarm and demobilize within 60 days of signing the agreement.

March 24: ICTY delivers verdict in case of ex-Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, Den Haag, Netherlands

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) pronounces its verdict in the case of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on March 24. Karadzic was a key architect of the campaign by Serbia to “ethnically cleanse” Bosnian territory of Bosnian Muslims which began in April 1992. Eleven charges have been brought against him, including genocide, murder and rape. The persecution of Bosnian Muslim men and boys of Srebrenica through both organized and opportunistic executions is just one specific case of the bloody conflict for which he could be held individually responsible. Five hundred and eighty six witnesses have participated in the trial. Karadzic has maintained his innocence since his 2008 arrest. He faces life imprisonment convicted.

March 31: Expiration of United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO) mandate, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

With the expiration of the MONUSCO mandate at the end of this month, the future of one aspect of the mission on which South Africa took the lead is in question. South Africa’s extended military deployment, the Force Intervention Brigade, best known for its role in the defeat of the M23 rebels in the eastern DRC in 2013, deployed 1,388 troops in the DRC and 850 troops in Darfur, Sudan, as well as 220 troops working to deter piracy along the Southern African Coast of the Indian Ocean last year. President Zuma extended these mandates the last time he faced the annual decision to recommit troops, but it is uncertain whether he will do so again. Peacekeeping is a central aspect of South African foreign policy in Africa, and the nation has had some military presence in the DRC for the past 15 years.