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Global Summits to Watch in 2014

Author: Stewart M. Patrick, Senior Fellow and Director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program, Council on Foreign Relations
Feb 14, 2014

African Union Expert Brief Participants at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, September 2013 (Dimitar Dilkoff/Courtesy Reuters).

Global attention in 2014 will at times focus less on high politics than on high sport. All eyes will be on the Sochi Winter Olympics (February 7-23) and Brazil's World Cup (June 12-July 13).

But beyond watching triple Salchows and bouncing brazucas, the world has a lot on its plate. Here's a preview of the multilateral calendar for the coming year:

        • The Nuclear Security Summit (The Hague, March 24-25): The Netherlands hosts the third installment of this biennial gathering. Launched by President Obama in Washington in 2010, the NSS aims to foster cooperation to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism, protect nuclear weapons and related facilities, and prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear and radiological materials. Most ambitiously, NSS participants—now comprising fifty-seven nations and international organizations—have pledged to secure all nuclear material by 2014.

          Among other goals, NSS participants have agreed to minimize the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) as nuclear fuel, dispose of HEU stockpiles no longer in use, strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency's nuclear security fund, harden their own nuclear facilities, and safely manage spent nuclear fuels and radioactive waste. The second summit in Seoul, in March 2012, suggested that most countries were on target to achieve their goals—a rare success in the nonproliferation world. The Hague meeting will allow the world to gauge whether progress has stalled or continued over the last two years. It will also provide individual members with an opportunity to announce special initiatives (known as "gift baskets" in NSS parlance) on particular aspects of nuclear security, such as nuclear forensics
        • Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance (São Paulo, April 23-24): The World Cup will not be Brazil's only chance to make noise in 2014. Angered by the National Security Agency's massive PRISM program, which targeted the personal communications of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and her fellow citizens, Rousseff is fighting back against what she calls "a breach of international law and an affront" to Brazilian sovereignty. The summit will involve national governments as well as representatives from industry, civil society, and the private sector International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which currently oversees aspects of Internet governance like IP addresses.

          In São Paulo, they will brainstorm about new global rules for privacy in the digital age. It promises to be an uncomfortable meeting for the United States, potentially emboldening those who wish to wrest management of the Internet from the multi-stakeholder ICANN and place it in the hands of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), where, ironically, it would be even more susceptible to national manipulation.
      • The Group of Eight Summit (Sochi, Russia, June 4-5): On the heels of the desultory G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia will host the next G8 summit in Sochi. President Vladimir Putin will likely exploit the annual meeting of advanced industrial nations to frame Russia as the geopolitical linchpin between the West and the BRICS. He will no doubt stress Russia's indispensable role in helping resolve threats to regional security in the Middle East, notably Syria's conflict and the Iranian nuclear program. Moscow will likely use the summit's location to remind the world that it, not Washington, calls the shots in the Caucasus. As to its substantive agenda for Sochi, Russia has remained coy beyond signaling that migration will be a topic.
    • World Conference of Indigenous Peoples (New York, September 22-24): On the sidelines of the Sixty-NinthGeneral Assembly, the United Nations will host a high-level plenary meeting to discuss the plight of indigenous peoples. This is the sort of UN gathering that elicits yawns from hard-boiled realists. But it is an issue of fundamental human rights that have repeatedly been trampled through dispossession of traditional lands, expropriation and denial of access to natural resources, and forced assimilation into alien societies.

      The UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by majority vote in March 2008 as a nonbinding UNGA resolution, acknowledges the inherent right of indigenous peoples to political "self-determination," cultural "autonomy," non-discriminatory treatment, and access to official mechanisms to redress past and continuing wrongs. It is, to be sure, a flawed document, lacking even a cursory definition of "indigenous people," and the administration of George W. Bush refused to sign it. President Obama reversed course in late December 2010, despite conservative fears that it would expose the United States to unending lawsuits. As a signatory, the United States has a chance to focus the WCIP on tangible steps that national governments can take, rather than a mere recitation of historic grievances.
  • The Group of Twenty Summit (Brisbane, November 15-16): Five years after it set sail in Washington, the G20 is adrift in the doldrums. Last September's sprawling, unfocused summit in St. Petersburg was disappointing for an institution that not long ago saved the world from depression. The assembled leaders issued a bland, 27-page communiqué (backed by a 200-page annex) devoid of action items. Australia, which assumed the chair of the rudderless G20 on December 1, can revive the institution by focusing on five priorities: correcting chronic global imbalances; adding teeth to the G20's Mutual Assessment Process, which evaluates negative spillovers into the global economy of countries' national policy choices; lobbying the U.S. Congress to pass legislation implementing agreed IMF governance reforms; pressing the G20 to adopt a positive global trade agenda; and, not least, sponsoring a G20 Foreign Ministers' forum to run parallel to meetings of G20 finance ministers.
  • UN Climate Change Conference (Lima, December 1-12): The last major gathering on the 2014 global calendar will be a doozy—the twentieth conference of parties (COP-20) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Last month in Warsaw, at COP-19, long-simmering disputes between developed and developing countries erupted yet again, nearly derailing agreement on a timeline for negotiating a "binding" successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, slated to be ratified at COP-21 in Paris in late 2015.

    The Lima conference will address a number of contentious issues that negotiators failed to tackle in Warsaw. These include firm schedules for implementing country pledges for domestic action; ensuring stable funding for and enforcement of the REDD+ program, which fights deforestation; and responding to pressure for assistance to poor countries that suffer "climate-linked losses" (such as November's Typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines). The high-temperature Lima gathering offers a last-ditch opportunity for a breakthrough before the 2015 deadline.

Global Memos are briefs by the Council of Councils that gather opinions from global experts on major international developments.