Key Global Events to Watch in February

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 1: Start of Brazil’s Legislative Session 

After President Jair Bolsonaro loosened gun control in Brazil via an executive decree on January 15, the start of the country’s legislative session today will be his opportunity to push for legal restrictions on firearms to be removed. Bolsonaro’s decree came under heavy criticism given Brazil’s high homicide rate, and it remains to be seen if he will be able to rally enough votes for expanded gun rights. Even if the laws are not changed in Congress, there is concern that Bolsonaro’s decree will still result in increased violence.

FEBRUARY 2: US to Withdraw from Nuclear Arms Treaty

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced that the US will withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF). The withdrawal will take effect on February 2. The US government has accused the Russian government of deploying a missile near European borders that violates the terms of the treaty. US officials had warned that if Russia did not destroy its 9M729 ground-based missile system that the US would begin working on its own. There is speculation that the real aim of withdrawing from the treaty is to broaden its terms to include China, since the US has been unable to deploy new weapons to counter China’s efforts in the Western Pacific.

FEBRUARY 3: Presidential Election, El Salvador

El Salvador will hold its election for president on February 3, where it seems likely that the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) will be unseated after ten years in power. The former mayor of San Salvador, Nayib Bukele, has had a lead in polls since mid-December and recently became head of the right-wing Great National Alliance (GANA). One of Bukele’s principal campaign promises has been the implementation of a commission against impunity, though his other policy positions remain unclear.

FEBRUARY 7: Conference on Situation in Venezuela

The governments of Mexico and Uruguay announced an international conference of “neutral countries” aimed at opening space for dialogue on the situation in Venezuela. The conference will be held in Montevideo, Uruguay on February 7. The governments of the two countries said they expect at least 10 countries and organizations to participate. Separately, Mexico and Spain have called for talks between Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido that would lead to elections.

FEBRUARY 11–21: 57th Session of the Commission for Social Development, New York

The fifty-seventh session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD57) will take place from February 11 to 21 in New York. The Commission is the advisory body responsible for following up on the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action and reports to the UN’s Economic and Social Council. This year’s priority theme is addressing inequalities and challenges to social inclusion.

FEBRUARY 13: Renegotiated Brexit Deal

United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May is set to deliver a renegotiated Brexit deal no later than February 13. If she is unable to do so by then, the government will table a statement about its plans and vote on them the next day. The European Union’s chief negotiator has told Britain that the original withdrawal agreement—voted down by UK Parliament on January 15—is not up for renegotiation. The most intractable part of the deal—the question of the Irish border—remains unresolved.

FEBRUARY 16: Elections for President and Parliament, Nigeria

Elections for president and parliament will be held in Nigeria on February 16. The main challenger to President Muhammadu Buhari is opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar, who has made corruption, security, and the economy his key issues. Buhari has focused on anti-corruption measures as part of his reelection bid. Abubakar has said he would consider amnesty for corruption suspects in a bid to help recover billions of dollars held outside the country. Just weeks before the election, Buhari suspended the country’s chief justice, prompting concern from the European Union’s Election Observation Mission (EU EOM).

FEBRUARY 25: UN Human Rights Council’s 40th Session Begins, Geneva

The 40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council will begin in Geneva on February 25. The month-long session will cover a range of topics including presentations and debate on the reports of the Special Rapporteur on Iran, the Special Rapporteur on North Korea, the situations in Syria and South Sudan, and the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review for Saudi Arabia, Central African Republic, Chad, and China, among others.

FEBRUARY 25: Taliban-US Peace Talks, Qatar

After agreeing on a draft peace deal, Afghanistan’s Taliban and the US are tentatively set for another round of talks on February 25, according to a Qatari foreign ministry official. The draft deal stipulates that US troops would leave within 18 months of the agreement being signed, potentially ending the war more than 17 years after American-led forces invaded Afghanistan. According to Taliban sources, the group gave assurances that Afghanistan will not be allowed to be used by al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants to attack the US and its allies, a key demand of Washington.

FEBRUARY TBD: Summit on Syria, Kazakhstan

Having last met in September, the presidents of Russia, Turkey, and Iran, along with members of the Syrian government, oppositions groups, and observers from the UN and Jordan, will meet in Astana, Kazakhstan in mid-February to continue negotiations to end the Syrian conflict. The Astana process was launched by Russia, Turkey, and Iran in January 2017 with the aim of bringing all warring parties in Syria to the negotiating table, as a complement to UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva.

FEBRUARY TBD: Head of Yemen Monitoring Mission Stepping Down

Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert, the current head of the UN mission responsible for overseeing the truce in the port city of Hodeidah, plans to step down in February. Officials reported that he will be replaced by Danish Major General Michael Anker Lollesgaard. Like his predecessor, Lollesgaard will report to UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths. He will oversee the increase of observers in the monitoring mission to 75 observers, a decision approved by the Security Council earlier this month.

FEBRUARY TBD: US-North Korea Summit

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that preparations are being made for a second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, to be held before the end of February. The primary outcome of the leaders’ first summit was a commitment by North Korea to denuclearize. While President Trump has said that “there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” a US government intelligence assessment concluded that “North Korea will seek to retain its W.M.D. capability and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability.”