Key Global Events to Watch in January

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

JANUARY 7: First Hearing of Gambia Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparation Commission

The Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC) held its first hearing today in Gambia. The TRRC was set up last October and is made up of eleven commissioners with the mandate of investigating the alleged killing, torture, disappearances, and other human rights abuses that occurred during the rule of Yahya Jammeh. The first hearings will center on the circumstances that led to the overthrow of the constitutional order in July 1994 by a group of soldiers led by Jammeh, who went on to rule for more than 20 years. TRCC chairman Lamin Sise said they may have as many as 24 witnesses for this part of the hearing. 

JANUARY 7: US-China Trade Talks, Beijing

China and the United States began a fresh round of trade talks today with a surprise appearance from Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. The US delegation is being led by Deputy US Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish. According to reports, the talks are being conducted in different groups on the areas of non-tariff measures, intellectual property, agriculture, and industrial purchases. They are the first face-to-face interactions between the US and China since the presidents of each country met in Argentina and agreed on a temporary truce in their trade war. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said that the trade war was bad for both China and the US, as well as the world, and that Beijing had “the sincerity to resolve bilateral trade disputes with the US based on mutual respect.”

JANUARY 8: Announcement of Presidential Election Review, Madagascar

The Constitutional Court of Madagascar is scheduled to announce the final results of its review of the country’s presidential election results on January 8. After the electoral commission declared Andry Rajoelina the provisional winner on December 19, his rival Marc Ravalomanana claimed the vote was rigged and demanded a review by the court. Since the announcement, police and army forces have clashed with Ravalomanana’s supporters in a series of protests in the nation’s capital, Antananarivo. The government has ordered tighter security in the city and banned further rallies.

JANUARY 15: Presidential Election Results, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Following last week’s presidential election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) announced a delay in the counting process. This has prompted fears that the election results could be manipulated in favor of Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the handpicked candidate of President Joseph Kabila. The delay comes after preliminary results were to be released on January 6. A definitive count is scheduled for January 15, and the new president is to be sworn in three days later. The Catholic Church—one of the few trusted institutions in the country—has determined that the leading opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu, won the election. Fayulu led Shadary by nearly 30 points in recent polls.

UPDATE: Declared Runner-Up Challenges Congo Election Results

JANUARY 15: Vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit Deal

The United Kingdom parliament will vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal on January 15. The vote was called off last month by the prime minister after significant opposition from members of parliament. The deal has already been approved by leaders of the European Union, but still needs to pass a vote in UK parliament before it can be implemented. Meanwhile, more than 200 ministers of parliament have signed a letter to the prime minister urging her to rule out a no-deal Brexit. The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019 whether a deal is passed or not. 

JANUARY 19–20: Arab Economic and Social Development Summit, Beirut

Lebanon will host the 2019 Arab Economic and Social Development Summit (AESD) from January 19 to 20, which brings together all Arab League member states. The foreign ministers of member states will meet one day earlier, on January 18. The summit will include all Arab states except Syria, whose membership in the Arab League has been frozen since 2011 after the outbreak of the country’s civil war. There is growing support among member states, however, to either invite Syria to the summit in the coming days or reinstate Syria’s membership during the summit. Since December, relations between Syria and other Arab League states have begun to normalize, with President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan making an official visit to Damascus, Algeria calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to be invited to the Arab League summit in March, and the United Arab Emirates announcing the reopening of its embassy in Damascus.

JANUARY 21: 32nd Session of Universal Periodic Review Working Group Begins, Geneva

The working group of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) will hold its 32nd session from January 21 to February 2. During these two weeks, the human rights records of Chile, Vietnam, Yemen, Uruguay, Vanuatu, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Comoros, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Cyprus, Afghanistan, and New Zealand will be reviewed. This session is part of the UPR’s third cycle, which began in 2017 and will conclude in 2021. During each cycle, the human rights records of all United Nations member states are reviewed.

JANUARY 22–25: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Davos

The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) will be held in Davos, Switzerland from January 22 to 25. In addition to bringing together world leaders in government, business, civil society, academia, media, and arts, the forum will likely be another venue for continuing talks between China and the US on their ongoing trade dispute. Vice President Wang Qishan of China will reportedly lead his country’s delegation, and US President Donald Trump will make his second trip to the forum along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner. It is unclear whether President Trump and Vice President Qishan will meet face-to-face.

JANUARY 30: Renewal of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus

The UN Security Council is set to renew the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) on January 30. The Council will be briefed by the Special Representative and head of mission Elizabeth Spehar in advance of any resolution. Although negotiations for a settlement to reunify Cyprus remain stalled, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ envoy for the Cyprus dispute, Jane Holl Lute, met with leaders of the island’s divided communities in December in an attempt to restart talks.

JANUARY TBD: US-Taliban Peace Talks

After at least three meetings between US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban officials in the past year, the fourth meeting set for this month has been rejected by Taliban leaders after Riyadh’s push to include the Afghan government. A senior Taliban official said the group wants to change the venue to Qatar, where it maintains a political office. “Everyone is aware of the fact that the Afghan government wanted the US and its allies not to leave Afghanistan and we have paid a heavy price to expel all foreign forces from our country,” he said. 

JANUARY TBD: Fresh Round of Yemen Peace Talks, Jordan

A new round of peace talks between warring factions in Yemen may be held in Jordan this month. The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, recently met with Houthi rebels before traveling to Riyadh to ensure the recent peace deal brokered in Sweden is fully implemented. Both sides have been accused of violating the terms of the ceasefire agreement over Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah.

JANUARY TBD: Finalization of Second US-North Korea Summit

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump could reportedly meet in Hanoi, Vietnam for their second summit on Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. Talks have sputtered since their June meeting in Singapore, with Washington and Pyongyang each calling on the other to take action. A second summit could address concerns to global security after Kim Jong-un’s annual New Year’s address that threatened he would take a “new path” if the US didn’t relax economic sanctions. US officials have met their North Korean counterparts in Hanoi for discussions on scheduling the talks.