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.

December 1: Gambians Elect a New President

The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh is expected to face his first genuine electoral test in today’s presidential polls, after coming to power through a coup 22 years ago. Businessman Adama Barrow has reportedly attracted significant support in the weeks before the polls, through pledges of economic and democratic progress. Demonstrations and international communications have been banned as voting commences.

December 1: Deadline for Venezuela to Meet Terms of Mercosur Trading Bloc

Brazilian officials have indicated that Venezuela will be suspended from South America’s Mercosur regional trading bloc this week. Caracas will miss the December 1 deadline to meet membership requirements related to economic, human rights, and immigration conditions. The expulsion would come as another blow to the troubled country, whose currency is currently in freefall. The recent decision by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to curb production and prop up prices is expected to provide only temporary relief to its oil-dependent economy.

December 2-3: Summit on Protection of Cultural Heritage During Conflict, Abu Dhabi

France and the United Arab Emirates are working with UNESCO to host the Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage summit from December 2-3. The event will be attended by representatives of more than 40 countries, as well as public and private institutions such as Interpol and follows increasing threats to archaeological sites and other important cultural assets by the likes of the Islamic State. The co-host nations are expected to present the decisions reached at the summit to the United Nations Security Council.

December 4: Italian Constitutional Referendum on Electoral Reforms

Italians will vote on December 4 on whether to accept electoral law reforms proposed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who claims they will provide more political stability in the country by ending the continual changes of its government. Constitutional amendments would primarily seek to reduce the powers of the country’s senate, giving future Italian governments more power to impose the structural reforms key to delivering it from years of economic stagnation.

December 4: Uzbekistan Holds Presidential Elections

On December 4, Uzbekistan will hold its first presidential election not to include Islam Karimov, who died in September this year after leading the country since its creation at the fall of the Soviet Union. Candidates from the four major parties will participate in the polls. Organizations including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will monitor the voting, which is expected to deliver an easy win to longtime Prime Minister and acting President Shavkat Mirziyaev.

December 5: European Finance Ministers Discuss New Greek Bailout Terms, Brussels

European finance ministers and Greek leaders will discuss new proposals on Greece’s ongoing financial bailout on December 5. The country’s banks have reportedly been asked to agree to a plan that would seek to protect its economy from future interest rate rises as it attempts to pay back its debts, which are the largest in the euro zone as a percentage of GDP. There is speculation that the International Monetary Fund may not support the new plan, owing to its lack of long-term measures.

December 5-8: UK Supreme Court Hears Government Appeal on Brexit, London

The United Kingdom’s Supreme Court is due to hear a government challenge to a High Court ruling that Prime Minister Theresa May cannot bypass parliament in triggering an exit from the European Union. The government is attempting to unilaterally trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in order to start the process of leaving the EU, in accordance with the result of a referendum in July. Legal experts predict the current challenge will also be unsuccessful.

December 7: Ghana Stages General Elections

Ghanaians go to the polls on December 7, with President John Mahama seeking a second term in office against the challenge of six other candidates. The presidential hopefuls held a ceremony in the capital Accra on December 1, in which they signed a peace accord promising that their supporters would follow electoral rules and not resort to violence.

December 9-11: 12th Annual Manama Dialogue, Bahrain

The International Institute for Strategic Studies will host the annual Manama Dialogue on December 9-11. Participants from 20 countries, including heads of state and government, defense and foreign ministers, national security advisers, and military and intelligence chiefs. Topics scheduled to be covered this year include the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and the development of a new regional security architecture.

December 11: Kyrgyzstan Referendum on Extending Prime Minister’s Powers

Kyrgyzstan will hold a referendum on December 11 on proposed constitutional reforms that would strengthen the powers of the country’s prime minister. Critics such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe say the reforms will consolidate the executive’s powers at the expense of other branches of government. The reforms are also seen as potentially extending the rule of President Almazbek Atambayev, who is barred from running again.

December 15: Last Contingent of Japanese Troops Arrive in South Sudan, Juba

The last of 350 Japanese troops serving with the United Nations mission in South Sudan will arrive in the country on December 15. The deployment began on November 21 and provides the potential for the first foreign fighting of Japanese troops since the end of World War II. Since taking power in 2012, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has reinterpreted and attempted to revise the country’s postwar constitution, including its war-renouncing Article 9.

December 19: Electoral College Selects US President

The members of the United States Electoral College will cast their votes on the next president and vice president of the country on December 19. Republican candidate Donald Trump and running mate Mike Pence theoretically won enough votes from the college to win the presidency on November 8, but electors do have the constitutional ability to break from polling results, which has been the subject of considerable debate in light of ongoing criticisms of Trump’s suitability for the role.

December 19: Congolese Presidential Mandate Expires, Kinshasa

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s President Joseph Kabila is constitutionally obligated to leave office on December 19, after 15 years in the role. Yet Kabila has indicated an intention to cling to power by failing to organize an election before this time, relying on another constitutional clause that allows him to stay on until a successor is appointed. The international community is reportedly pinning hopes on mediation by the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo to avoid widespread violence.

December 31: Ban Ki-moon’s Term as UN Secretary-General Expires, New York

Ban Ki-Moon will leave his post on December 31, after two terms as United Nations Secretary-General. The South Korean diplomat will be replaced by former Portuguese Prime Minister and UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, who was selected by the Security Council in October this year. Among Ban’s more notable achievements are shepherding through the Paris climate change agreement and UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.