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 2: Spanish Parties Face Deadline to Form Government

A deadlock between Spanish political parties will not be broken by today’s deadline to form a new national government, paving the way for a fresh election on June 26th. The ruling People’s Party’s reduced majority in December 2015 polls meant it was unable to form government on its own, while its opponents were also unable to come to terms on a coalition government, leading King Felipe VI to abandon negotiations. Public polling suggests fresh elections will also fail to produce a definitive result, leading to possible Europe-wide political and financial repercussions.

May 5: Climate Action 2016 Summit, Washington DC

The Climate Action 2016 multi-stakeholder summit will aim to deepen and expand coalitions between government, business, finance, philanthropy, civil society, and academia that were launched at United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s 2015 Climate Summit in New York. The event comes two weeks after the signing of the landmark Paris climate change agreement and will be attended by Ban, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, and representatives of institutions such as the World Resources Institute and European Investment Bank.

May 5: Scotland Holds Parliamentary Elections

Scotland will hold parliamentary elections on May 5th, with the separatist Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon expected to win big, even as the national economy continues to flag due to the global oil price collapse. The SNP won 56 of 59 Scottish seats in the United Kingdom’s 2015 general election but was unsuccessful in pushing for Scottish independence a 2014 referendum. Still, the secessionist issue continues to resonate ahead of a UK-wide referendum on the future of European Union membership in June. Scottish voters are reliably more pro-Brussels than others in the UK.

May 6: North Korean Holds Rare Workers’ Party Congress, Pyongyang

North Korea’s Political Bureau has announced it will hold the country’s first congress of the ruling Workers’ Party since 1980. There is speculation that the event will herald a major announcement on the future of the isolated country, possibly a new economic development program. The 1980 congress concluded with the announcement that Kim Jong-Il, father of current leader Kim Jong-Un, would replace the regime’s founder Kim Il-sung as leader. The event comes amid increasing Pyongyang belligerence and nuclear weapons posturing.

May 9: Philippines Holds General Election

The Philippines will go to the polls on May 9th to elect a replacement for President Benigno Aquino, with the populist mayor of Davao, Rodrigo Duarte, currently the favorite. The country has experienced impressive economic growth in recent years and has also managed South China Sea tensions with China better than many other Southeast Asian nations. Nonetheless, there are tensions over whether its growth has been inclusive of all parts of the country, while tensions over extremist violence in Muslim areas are also expected to figure in voter’s minds. The election will go ahead despite a massive data breach that revealed the personal details of 55 million voters.

May 10: Syria Peace Talks Possibly Resume, Geneva

United Nations Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has called on the leaders of the United States and Russia to play a more active role in the next round of peace talks aimed at ending the Syrian crisis. There had been speculation talks would resume on May 10th, but the UN has not confirmed a date as yet. Despite some signs of progress at previous discussions, fresh clashes in Aleppo last week, including two reported attacks on hospitals, have cast fresh doubt over the chances of a political solution.

May 10-11: High-Level Thematic Debate on UN Peace and Security, New York

The United Nations General Assembly will host a high-level debate on the theme of “UN, Peace and Security” from May 10-11th, to be attended by member state representatives, observers, civil society, research institutes, media, and other stakeholders. The event will reportedly provide a platform for identifying key threats to international peace and security, as well as the tools available to tackle them. The event will aim to build on the “common trends and synergies” from three major reviews of UN peace operations released last year.

May 15: Dominican Republic Holds General Elections

The Dominican Republic holds general elections on May 15th, with incumbent President Danilo Medina of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party leading in public polling ahead of rival Luis Abinader of the Modern Revolutionary Party. The election takes place amid fears that Dominicans of Haitian descent will be disenfranchised in the voting process, following moves by the government to strip their citizenship rights in recent years. The national government has clashed with the United States over its desire to send monitors to oversee the vote.

May 22: Vietnam Holds Elections for National Assembly

Vietnam will elect 500 new members of the National Assembly on May 22nd. Despite the communist country ostensibly showing signs of embracing democratic change, the National Elections Committee has barred the vast majority of 162 self-nominated candidates from contesting the polls. A total of 870 candidates have been officially endorsed to run, with only 11 coming from outside the ruling party.

May 22: Tajikistan Holds Referendum on Presidential Term Limits

Voters in Tajikistan will decide on May 22nd whether to amend the national constitution to remove term limits for the country’s president. Previous constitutional changes have allowed current leader Imomali Rakhmon to successfully run for office four times over a period stretching back to 1992, shortly after Tajikistan gained its independence with the breakup of the Soviet Union. As it stands, Rakhmon would be constitutionally barred from contesting the next election due in 2020.

May 23-24: Inaugural World Humanitarian Summit, Istanbul

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will convene the inaugural World Humanitarian Summit from May 23-24th in Turkey. The event will bring together heads of state and government, the humanitarian sector, and representatives of other sectors to seek new commitments to humanitarian action aimed at saving lives and reducing suffering around the world. It comes as leaders grapple with a global refugee crisis and new conflict environments that have made traditional humanitarian engagement increasingly difficult.

May 23-27: United Nations Environment Assembly, Nairobi

The second session of the United Nations Environment Assembly will take place in Kenya from May 23-27th. The event will focus on how to deliver on the environmental dimension of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is expected to culminate with resolutions aimed at addressing critical environmental challenges for the world. The Assembly was created after the UN’s Rio+20 Summit in 2012 and held its first session in 2014.

May 23-28: World Health Assembly, Geneva

The World Health Organization will host the 69th World Health Assembly in Switzerland from May 23-28th. The Assembly is the WHO’s decision-making body and brings together delegations from all member states to discuss an agenda prepared by the Executive Board. The event comes after a period of criticism of the WHO’s inaction on Africa’s Ebola crisis, which prompted a more proactive response to the recent Zika outbreak in Latin America. The Assembly has begun the process of seeking a replacement for Director-General Margaret Chan, who departs next year.

May 26-27: Annual G7 Summit, Ise-Shima

The leaders of seven of the world’s largest economies will meet for the annual Group of Seven (G7) Summit in late May in Japan, which currently holds the presidency of the group. Participants will discuss areas of mutual and global interest, including changes in the international energy landscape, progress on trade deals, and threats to peace and security. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe embarked on a European visit in early May to meet with leaders on economic and environment issues. He also planned to meet with Vladimir Putin, leader of suspended G7 (formerly G8) member Russia, to discuss issues such as territorial disputes between their two countries.

May 30: France Holds Middle East Peace Conference, Paris

The French government has announced it will host an international conference in Paris on May 30th, with the intention of restarting the stalled Israel-Palestine peace process. The event is designed to pave the way for face-to-face talks between the two sides and is expected to include representatives of the United States, Russia, the European Union, United Nations, and other countries and institutions. Israel officially rejected the conference in late April, however.

May 31-June 1: Annual OECD Forum, Paris

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development will hold its annual forum in Paris at the end of May. The event is expected to be attended by about 2,000 participants from 70 countries, including heads of state and government and representatives of NGOs, academia, and the labor movement. This year’s forum is being held under the theme of “Productive Economies, Inclusive Societies.”