What can 2020 bring us on the international scene?


The year 2020 starts with some of the new crises that began in the last twelve months still open and without a clear exit, particularly in Hong Kong, Iraq or Lebanon, and with two major events that will set the agenda in the coming months and even years, Brexit and the November presidential elections in the United States.

On January 31, the United Kingdom will definitely leave the European Union, almost a year after the planned date, but it will only be the beginning of a process that seems complicated, since the future relationship between the country and its former remains to be negotiated. partners and the deadline that has been marked until the end of the year may not be enough.

What can 2020 bring us on the international scene?
What can 2020 bring us on the international scene?

Apart from Brexit, the EU faces 2020 with a new community executive with the conservative Ursula von der Leyen at the head and with Josep Borrell at the head of European diplomacy. Now it remains to be seen, as CIDOB points out in its balance sheet on 'The world in 2020', if it prints “a different course”, it changes the priorities and changes “the ways of doing politics”.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the year begins with a Donald Trump who has become the third president he will be subjected to a political trial in the Senate. The president is convinced that he will be successful in this test, given the majority that Republicans have in the Upper House and could even be reinforced in the face of the appointment with the polls of November 3, in which part as favorite for re-election

The president of the United States, Donald Trump – DPA

Trump will also be key when it comes to setting the international agenda in the coming months, which he has managed to shape with his “extravagant behavior” and his “erratic decisions,” according to CIDOB, who predicts that “he will become one of the main generators of uncertainty and global perplexity in 2020 “.


Rubble after a bombing in Yemen – DPA

With regard to the great conflicts that are currently open, one can generally speak of positive signs in many of them. The war in Syria, which is approaching its ninth anniversary, faces what could be the final battle, given the blunt offensive launched in recent weeks by the Bashar al Assad regime, with support from Russia mainly, in Idlib , the last stronghold of the rebels who raised against the president.

However, even if the Syrian Government has recovered a good part of the territory it lost in these years, a victory in Idlib would not mean the end of the conflict, given the Turkish presence in the north in the framework of its offensive against Syrian Kurdish militias. and the control that the latter have of some areas of the country.

In Yemen, where the last four years of war have caused the greatest global humanitarian crisis, the new year “could offer a rare opportunity to end the war,” said Robert Malley, president of the International Crisis Group, in his article on Ten conflicts to pay attention to in 2020.

The Huthis, who fight against the internationally recognized Yemeni Government, are maintaining contacts with Saudi Arabia, the main supporter of President Abdo Rabbu Mansur Hadi, who could allow the war to be blasted after having contributed to reducing violence in recent months. “The opportunity for peace should be seized now,” says Manley.

Riyadh has adopted a more conciliatory tone, after being forced to intervene to resolve the dispute between the Yemeni government and the southern separatists – allied in the fight against the Huthis – and after suffering an attack on its oil facilities in September, which he suspects that Tehran was responsible.

In addition, after a few years in which the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, declared arch-enemies, seemed imminent, both seem to have concluded that the two have little to gain and much to lose in the event of a confrontation and there has been an indirect exchange of messages, also with the United Arab Emirates, with support from Kuwait and Oman, as highlighted by the Italian think-tank ISPI in an article in which it talks about the possible “pause” between the two countries.

In the case of Iran, the sanctions that the United States has once again imposed after leaving the nuclear agreement in 2018, are making a dent in the economy and have pushed the Government of Hasan Rohani to partially resume its nuclear program, breaking with the agreement.

On the other hand, the country registered October demonstrations motivated by the rise in fuel that were violently repressed by security forces, leaving at least 1,500 dead according to government sources cited by Reuters, although the government has not offered any balance. In this context of malaise, Iran is called to the polls on February 21 in a legislative election that will serve as a “thermometer” to assess Rohani's support.


The leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un – DPA

The neighboring Afghanistan also faces 2020 with expectations of peace, after this December 24 was the 40th anniversary of the Soviet invasion and the country was plunged into a conflict that has not yet managed to leave. The Taliban have been negotiating in recent months a peace agreement with the United States, which would lead to the withdrawal of US troops from Afghan soil in exchange for a commitment by the insurgents that the country will not be used as a platform to commit attacks on others. state.

“The United States has no better option than to seek an agreement with the Taliban. Continuing with the status quo only offers the prospect of an endless war,” warns the president of Crisis Group in his article. However, this agreement “would only be the beginning of a long road to an agreement between Afghans, a prerequisite for peace,” Manley emphasizes.

Following in Asia, one of the conflicts that Crisis Group warns that could erupt is between the United States and North Korea. Despite the second summit between Donald Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, and the historic visit of the US president to the border between the two Koreas, the tension seems to be increasing and the eventual third summit seems far away.

In fact, Kim has started the year warning that the country could resume nuclear and missile tests. Pyongyang demands from Washington some gesture within the framework of the denuclearization process. According to the Atlantic Council, although Trump has so far remained cautious, he could feel “betrayed” and return again to “anger and rage” which would mean “a serious risk of conflict triggered by a miscalculation.”


China begins 2020 with the crisis in Hong Kong still cystic. The massive protests that started in June against the plans of the Government of the former British colony to pass an extradition law to mainland China have not ceased, despite the fact that there was a reversal in this regard and some other concessions have been made. This January 1, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong people – more than a million according to the organizers – took to the streets.

In principle, legislative elections are planned next September but it is not clear if they could get ahead. In any case, Atlantic Council affects its analysis of the 10 elections to follow this 2020, “only half of the 70 seats of the legislative council are elected by popular vote” while the rest “are chosen through mechanisms that Beijing can influence”.

Before those elections, Taiwan holds presidential elections on January 11. The island, on which Beijing claims sovereignty but de facto independent, must choose whether to re-elect the president, Tsai Ing Wen, considered independentista, or opt for the Kuomintang candidate, Han Kuo Yu, a supporter of the approach to China.

Elections are also planned in Burma, the second since the end of the military dictatorship. The National League for Democracy (NLD) of Aung San Suu Kyi will try to revalidate its leadership in November, beset by international criticism of repression against the Rohingya Muslim minority in the country.


Israel also holds elections, the third in less than a year, before the inability of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the main opposition leader, Benny Gantz, to forge a ruling coalition after the two previous appointments. In addition to the March 2 vote, Netanyahu concurs after being accused of corruption last November.

Neighbor Lebanon begins the year plunged into a new political crisis, with a acting prime minister, Saad Hariri, after resigning amidst massive anti-government protests and another budding, Hasan Diab. The complex Lebanese political map has been further aggravated by the severe economic crisis that is going through the country, leaving it on the verge of collapse.

In Iraq, citizens have also massively taken to the streets and have been repressed with blood and fire, which has left almost 500 dead. For now, they have caused the fall of the Prime Minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, but more than a month after his resignation there is still no replacement, given the demand of the protesters to be someone outside the system.

Protesters waving the flag of Iraq – DPA

In Africa, the year starts with several worrying fronts open. The first of them Libya, where field marshal Jalifa Haftar and his army supported by the government based in the east has resumed strongly his offensive to take Tripoli, where the internationally recognized Libyan government is based. In a country in chaos after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, Turkey's decision to send troops to support the Government of Fayez Serraj threatens to further internationalize the conflict, in which Haftar has the backing of Russia, Egypt and the Emirates United Arab.

In South Sudan, the peace agreement signed in 2018 has not yet been implemented, although the level of violence has been reduced considerably. The year starts with a new deadline in February for the formation of the planned Unity Government between the president, Salva Kiir, and the main rebel leader, Riek Machar. Both have assured that the third will be defeated, but the risk of a return to the conflict on a large scale is not ruled out either.


Protest in Algeria – DPA

Nor does peace come to Central African Republic despite the agreement signed in February between the Government and the main armed groups, with sporadic outbreaks of violence. In addition, the country has planned elections by the end of the year.

Another country that has an appointment with the polls is Ethiopia. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has promised that the May elections will be “free and fair” but the growing inter-ethnic tension, accompanied in some cases of violence, makes him fear that his wishes will not be confirmed. The brand-new Nobel Peace Prize has opted for the creation of a new unified party, but it remains to be seen whether his commitment to leaving ethnic-based politics behind leads him to victory.

The situation in Algeria is also worrying, where the massive protests in April caused the fall of Abdelaziz Buteflika and where his successor, Abdelmayid Tebune, does not enjoy the support of the population, which has continued to take to the streets. More hopeful is the situation in Sudan, which also experienced the fall of Omar Hasan al Bashir in 2019 after a military coup after months of protests. The transition process seems for now on track and some measures have already been taken against the old regime.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Republic of the Congo still does not lift its head. The persistent violence in the east of the country, where dozens of armed groups operate, does not remit and neither does the Ebola outbreak that began in 2018. In general, in the Great Lakes region, there is a latent tension that could explode, after the disagreements in recent times of the presidents of Uganda and Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame.

Another destabilization factor could be Burundi, a country that holds presidential elections in May in which President Pierre Nkurunziza will elect a third term after modifying the Constitution for it and after opening a serious crisis in the country in 2015 for his decision to continue in office

We will also have to keep an eye on the appointment with the polls in Guinea, where President Alpha Condé's plans to seek a third term despite the fact that a priori cannot have already provoked violent demonstrations, as well as in Togo, where Faure Gnassingbé could opt for a fourth term, something that in the past also provoked protests.

There could also be demonstrations in the Gambia, where a movement has arisen that demands President Adama Barrow to fulfill his commitment to only govern for three years conforming to the pact reached to nominate him as a candidate for the December 2016 elections, which ended the regime of Yahya Jamé.


Tribute to the victims of the jihadist attack in Niger

But without a doubt, if there is a point on the continent that worries more and more internationally, it is the Sahel. Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger are increasingly the scene of the blows of jihadist groups linked to Al Qaeda and Islamic State, which is not only destabilizing the fragile governments of these three countries but also threatens to expand into the countries from the Gulf of Guinea.

France has assumed a leading role in the military response, increasingly answered by the local population, but its presence is currently being reviewed and Paris is trying to form an international coalition to combat terrorism in this part of the continent, for now without much success.

On the terrorist level, the Lake Chad basin remains another major focus to pay attention to, given that the Islamic State subsidiary – split in 2016 from Boko Haram – is becoming more active every day, as is Somalia, where Al Shabaab continues to hit frequently and Islamic State seeks to settle.


The current president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó

In Latin America, the first litmus test will be the election on January 5 of the president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, still controlled by the opposition. Its until now headline, Juan Guaidó, proclaimed himself on January 23, 2019 as “president in charge” of the country with the objective of evicting the “usurper” Nicolás Maduro from power. A year later, he has not achieved his objective and the Government would be making efforts to avoid his reelection in office. In addition, Chavismo is negotiating with a minority sector of the opposition with a view to calling parliamentary elections in 2020.

In Bolivia, presidential elections should be held at some point during the next few months, but there is no scheduled date. The departure of Evo Morales, beset by irregularities in the elections of October 20, protests against him and the position adopted by the Army and Police, has plunged the country into an institutional crisis that has not yet come out.

In the case of Chile, the constitutional plebiscite of April 26 in which it will be decided whether a new Constitution is drafted and how it is done, is the result of pressure from protesters, who took to the streets in October against the Government of Sebastián Piñera. Prior to that, Peru will also hold parliamentary elections on January 26, following the pulse held between the president, Martín Vizcarra, and the Congress.

Finally, and back to Europe, there also seems to be encouraging signs regarding the conflict in eastern Ukraine, given the will of the new president of the country, Volodimir Zelenski, to put an end to it, although it prevents Crisis Group, it should not Take peace for granted.

Similar Posts