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: Transfer of Power in Gaza Postponed

The Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, has taken over most government functions and border crossings in Gaza from Hamas following a deal struck in October. A unity government was scheduled to take full administrative control of Gaza today, though the transfer has been delayed until December 10 to allow time to “complete arrangements.” Fatah and Hamas are due to meet again in Cairo later in December to reach a timetable for implementing the next steps in the deal.

DECEMBER 1-8: Peace Talks in Burundi

A new round of talks aimed at ending the political crisis in Burundi opened a few days ago and will continue until December 8 in Arusha, Tanzania. The meeting brings together President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government and opposition representatives, though the main opposition alliance has not taken part. Burundi was thrown into a political crisis in April 2015 when Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term that his opponents said was unconstitutional. Since then, between 500 and 2,000 have been killed, according to various sources, while over 400,000 have fled the country.

DECEMBER 1-15: UN-led Syria Dialogues May Cease

While UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura announced that the Geneva peace talks on Syria would continue through December 15, Syria’s negotiator, Bashar al-Ja’afari, has threatened to pull out of the negotiations citing language used by the opposition recently that President Bashar al-Assad could have no role in a transition period. A proposed Russia-organized summit on Syria in Sochi, originally scheduled for December 2-3, has been postponed until February.

DECEMBER 4-6: UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi

The UN Environment Assembly, the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment, will gather in Nairobi from December 4-6. Under the theme of pollution, the Assembly aims to deliver tangible commitments including: a political declaration; resolutions and decisions; voluntary commitments by governments, private sector entities, and civil society organizations; and pledges by individuals.

DECEMBER 7: Nepal to Hold Second Phase of Legislative Elections 

The second round poll for Nepal’s lower house of parliament and state assemblies are set to be held on December 7. The two-stage election—which will fill hundreds of positions at the national and regional levels—is the first under the new constitution, adopted in 2015 after a ten year civil war. Despite violence around Kathmandu in the lead-up to the first round, there was a reported voter turnout of 65%. A proportion of seats in the federal and provincial assemblies will be allocated to women, people from indigenous communities, and the lowest Dalit caste.

DECEMBER 8-10: Annual Manama Dialogue on Middle East Security

This year’s Manama Dialogue, the premier defense security summit for the Middle East and North Africa organized by the International Institute for Security Studies, takes place amid a range of political, economic, social and security challenges in the region. On the agenda for the summit is US policy on Middle East stability, the creation of a regional security architecture, responses to extremism, the conflicts in Yemen and Syria, and cooperation in the Gulf. Delegates from over 20 countries will be in attendance.

DECEMBER 10: WTO’s Eleventh Ministerial Conference

The eleventh biannual ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is being held in Buenos Aires from December 10-13. The meeting, which brings together the WTO’s highest decision-making body, comes at a time of disputes on the role of the institution. The United States has blocked the nominations of jurists to fill seats in the WTO’s appellate body and has called into question the purpose of the organization. At the same time, Canada has opened a case against the US over its decision to import duties on Canadian lumber imports. India is also apparently planning to oppose restrictions on its right to give price subsidies to farmers.

DECEMBER 12: Zanu-PF Congress in Zimbabwe

The ruling Zanu-PF party in Zimbabwe will hold a congress in Harare that will bring together party delegates from across the country. The extraordinary congress, planned prior to the resignation of Robert Mugabe, is set to confirm President Emmerson Mnangagwa as the substantive leader of the party and the presidential candidate for the 2018 elections. Originally scheduled to run for five days, President Mnangagwa reduced the budget and shortened the duration of the congress in recent days.

DECEMBER 14-15: EU Brexit Summit in Brussels

EU leaders will deliver a verdict on whether sufficient progress has been made on the terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union during a summit in Brussels from December 14-15. The verdict follows intense negotiations between Brussels and London. EU ambassadors, special envoys, and UK Prime Minister Theresa May will be spending the next two weeks negotiating the final proposal on the financial terms, Irish border issues, and citizens’ rights.

DECEMBER 15: Security Council Meeting on North Korea

North Korea’s launch of another intercontinental ballistic missile—its most powerful yet—has been met with announcements of new sanctions that would aim to target financial institutions doing business with Pyongyang. After an emergency session of the Security Council on 29 November, Japan—the president of the Security Council December—has organized a meeting of the council on December 15 on the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

DECEMBER 17: Presidential Election Run-off in Chile

Following the election’s first round on November 19, Chile is set to hold a run-off on December 17 between conservative Sebastián Piñera and socialist contender Alejandro Guillier. Piñera garnered 36.6% of the vote and Guillier 22.7%. A victory for Piñera would mark another shift to the right in South America after the rise of conservative leaders in Argentina, Brazil, and Peru.

DECEMBER 21: Elections in Catalonia

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has urged Catalans to turn out for a December 21 election to “restore normality” to a region buffeted by attempts to split from the rest of Spain. Despite initial opposition to the Madrid-imposed early election following its takeover of direct rule of Catalonia, the two leading pro-independence parties—PDeCAT and the ERC—have said they will participate. The jailed Catalan leaders have accepted direct rule from Madrid in an effort to secure their release in time to fight the election.

Expected in December: Postponed Runoff in Liberia

The runoff election for Liberia’s presidency in November—delayed by the Supreme Court after allegations of fraud were made by Liberty Party candidate Charles Brumskine—is speculated to take place before the end of December. The Liberty Party has appealed their fraud case to the Supreme Court after the elections commission ruled that the first round election on October 10 was fair.