We asked our CIPS experts to give us a heads-up on what to watch for this summer. No one can predict the next coup or terrorist attack, of course, but we can be certain of some things. Donald Trump will say something mystifying. Vladimir Putin will scowl. Justin Trudeau will stop for a selfie with a fan. But beyond that, what might we miss if we get distracted by swinging in the hammock getting drunk on sunshine?
The speech that Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland gave on June 6 in the House of Commons counts among the most important Canadian foreign policy speeches of this generation. The context is the unenviable “post-truth, post-West, post-order” in which Canada finds itself today. The right course of action for Canada, in Freeland’s interpretation, is to try and mitigate this calamity by supporting what’s left of established international rules, of multilateralism, and of free trade. Importantly, her speech set out a foreign policy awareness week for the Canadians, with Defence Policy and International Development Reviews released on June 7 and June 9, respectively. These are all sensible, long overdue moves on the part of our government and bear watching for what they will bring.
A Hot Summer in Taipei?
Taiwan’s Grand Justices ruled May 24 in favour of same-sex marriage. Shortly thereafter, Taiwan’s legislature granted official status to languages of 16 indigenous tribes. Yet, political backlash looms. Conservative Christians plan to protest marriage equality, joining forces with opponents of pension reform. Indigenous groups are furious that proposed legislation about traditional territory omits private property. Domestic discontent is brewing as Beijing heightens international pressure, most recently enticing Panama to sever a 107-year-old diplomatic relation with the Republic of China. Chinese-nationalist politicians could channel oppositional forces into a conservative bloc. Or, Taiwan could end up asserting a more independent international identity.
Arctic Issues Heat Up
We are still waiting for further development in the creation of a new fisheries regime for the Central Arctic Ocean. Arctic and non-Arctic states met in Iceland last March and much progress was observed but no clear signal can be detected as of today. Such an agreement would be significant as the Central Arctic Ocean will be the last waterway to open as a result of global warming. Moreover, such an agreement would truly signal the arrival of non-Arctic states, including China, Japan, and South Korea in the Arctic region as the Central Arctic Ocean is considered international waters, relegating Arctic states to equal partner status.
For those of us watching global environmental policy issues, the big trend to watch this summer is the fallout from the Trump administration’s decision on the Paris Climate Accord. It will be equally important to follow the response of the international community with Canada, in the meantime, working with representatives from the EU and China to prepare a high-level ministerial conference in September focused on supporting the Accord. Let’s hope — for the climate’s sake — that the US finds a way back to the table come end of summer!
Old World Issues
Let’s look at the Old World only. In Africa, millions are threatened by famines induced by severe droughts and multiple wars. West Asia is beset by its horrific hot and cold wars, a shattering in Arab diplomatic and economic relations with Qatar and by an actual Kurdish independence referendum in Iraq, set for September. South and East Asia shake under nuclearized inter-state tensions. Europe is tormented by its morally debased migrant policies, by Putin and Putin’s many supporters on what used to be called the fringe of politics, by Brexit, and by continuing Eurozone woes. One other piece of news to ponder: Antarctica is about to lose an ice shelf the size of the Netherlands.
WHO’s Back on First?
On 23 May 2017 the member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) elected Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as the new Director-General. He previously served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Health for Ethiopia. Over the coming months we should watch for what actions he takes to rebuild trust in the organization following the documented failures during the Ebola crisis. Equally important will be what he does to implement promises to expand universal health coverage, strengthen the front-line work of the WHO, and put accountability at the heart of the agency’s culture.
New Feminist International Assistance Policy
Something to watch for this summer is the implementation of Canada’s new International Assistance Policy. Over 15,000 people participated in consultations last year, across Canada and in 65 countries around the world. The results, repeatedly delayed, were released on June 9. In keeping with the Trudeau government’s emphasis on gender equality, the new policy is billed as a feminist approach; “the most effective approach for Canada to reduce poverty and to build a more inclusive, peaceful and prosperous world.”
Meanwhile, in other news…
The international media this summer will remain fixated on President Trump’s tweets and tumbles. Add the Brexit negotiations, and any story from the African continent might well start with the well-worn phrase “Meanwhile, in other news…” But there is much to watch for on the African continent over the summer months. If I had to pick only one story, it would be the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where the political turmoil continues to deepen. President Kabila, in power since 2001, should have stepped down last year, but failed to hold elections. Mediation efforts are at a standstill, tensions have increased in major cities, and a new conflict has erupted in the Kasai province, killing at least 400 people and displacing over a million. Under these conditions, it is unclear if the rescheduled elections will go ahead in December. If they don’t, the challenge of replacing President Kabila — peacefully — will remain, and the DRC’s political turmoil might deepen yet further.