ForesightNews world briefing: upcoming events 26 March – 1 April

A weekly round up of world events from Monday, 26 March to Sunday, 1 April from Foresight News

By Nicole Hunt

A week filled with big summits and conferences kicks off in Seoul on Monday, where Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, US President Barack Obama, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti are among representatives from more than 50 countries that will convene to discuss nuclear safety, in all likelihood defying North Korean calls to leave their nuclear programme out of it. Obama is scheduled to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of the summit.

With Afghanistan in the news for all the wrong reasons, Tajikistan hosts the fifth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan in Dushanbe. The annual conference looks at reconstruction and promoting regional integration and stability, increasingly important goals as the eventual withdrawal of ISAF forces looms. Representatives from the UK, US, Afghan, Russian and Pakistani governments are expected, alongside officials from the UN, the World Bank, the WTO and the World Food Programme.

Amnesty International releases its annual report on Death Sentences and Executions on Tuesday. It will be interesting to see whether last year’s Arab Spring had any discernible effect on the number of people sentenced to death in the Middle East; the 2010 report recorded at least 53 executions in Yemen, 27 in Saudi Arabia, 18 in Libya, 17 in Syria, five in the Palestinian Territories, and one in Bahrain. Observers will also be keeping an eye out for Iran in the report, after several high-profile death sentences garnered worldwide criticism in 2011.

Just a week after Greece’s big debt repayment deadline passed, the OECD releases its Economic Survey of the European Union. Considering the last Survey was published in 2009, we can guess that this year’s report is going to be significantly different from its predecessor, which noted that the financial crisis ‘has already triggered reforms to tackle weaknesses in the financial system which, if implemented effectively, should support financial stability and longer term growth prospects.’

Dominique Strauss-Kahn faces two legal battles on Wednesday – he’s due to appear before magistrates in Lille to face questioning over his alleged links to a prostitution ring, while in New York, a hearing takes place in the civil case filed against him by Nafissatou Diallo, the chambermaid who accused Strauss-Kahn of raping her in May 2011.

In New Delhi, the Indian Supreme Court hears what may well be the last day of a six-year long legal battle involving Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis. Novartis is challenging provision 3(d) in Indian patent law, which allows companies in India to manufacture low-cost, generic drugs. The case centres on a leukemia drug called Gleevac, but the outcome of the case could have repercussions for the availability of cheap, life-saving medication for HIV/AIDS and other diseases in the world’s poorest countries.

Staying in New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hosts the annual BRICS Summit on Thursday, welcoming his counterparts from Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa to discuss trade. Also on the agenda is the appointment of the new World Bank President to replace Robert Zoellick when his term expires at the end of June.

The oft-delayed Arab League Summit, which was last supposed to take place in May 2011 but was postponed due to widespread political unrest in the region, finally goes ahead in Baghdad amid a backdrop of very tight security following a spate of recent bombings in the country.  The summit is expected to focus heavily on Syria, which will not be represented at the meeting after being suspended from the regional bloc in November.

Spanish unions have called a general strike on Thursday to protest against what they say are unfair labour reforms, hoping to bring the country to a standstill the day before Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy presents his budget. Following a readjustment of Spain’s deficit target to 5.3%, Rajoy is under pressure from Brussels to implement yet more austerity measures to bring the deficit down to the EU-agreed limit of 4.4%. Spanish Finance Minister Luis De Guindos can expect to hear all about it – again – at an informal meeting of the EU finance ministers in Copenhagen on Friday.

The trial of Curt Knox and Edda Mellas – better known as the parents of Amanda Knox – is due to begin in Perugia, where they face charges of slander for repeating their daughter’s claims that she was beaten by Italian police into confessing to the murder of British student Amanda Knox in 2007. Knox went home to the US when her conviction was overturned on October 3 last year, but her lawyer announced in January that she may return to Perugia if necessary to testify at her parents’ trial.

The European Freedom Initiative, a loose collective of far-right groups in Europe which includes the English Defence League, holds a public meeting and rally in Aarhus on Saturday to discuss sharia law, halal food, and the ‘Islamification of our countries’. Speakers at the event, which is hosted by the Danish Defence League, include EDL founder Tommy Robinson (aka Stephen Yaxley-Lennon), Stop the Islamification of Europe founder Anders Gravers, and Austrian Elisabeth Sabbaditch Wolff, who was convicted last year of denigrating Islam.

The four-day Boao Forum for Asia begins in Boao, China, with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, World Bank President Robert Zoellick, former Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, and Chinese Premier-in-waiting Li Keqiang among those gathering to discuss business and growth in the Asia Pacific region.

By-elections take place in 48 seats in Myanmar/Burma on Sunday, one of which will be challenged by National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The elections, and the democracy activist’s participation in them, are a sign of reform from the ruling military junta, who have also consented to have election observers from the US and the EU present for the first time during the polls.

Finally, jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev (and 32 other people in unrelated cases) could find out the outcome of a review of the ‘legality’ and ‘basis’ of their December 2010 convictions for theft and money laundering. The two were accused of stealing billions from Yukos production subsidiaries, but their prosecution and conviction have widely been viewed as politically motivated. President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the Russian Prosecutor General to review t
heir case
by 1 April.