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10 events to watch for in 2016

As 2015 winds down, mark your calendars with this mix of upcoming events slated for Canada, North America and the international community.

By: /
24 December, 2015
The Rio 2016 Olympic torch is seen during a National Sports Forum seminar to discuss the legacy of the games, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, September 9, 2015. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
Catherine Tsalikis
By: Catherine Tsalikis
Former Senior Editor, Open Canada.

1. Date To-Be-Decided: North American leaders’ summit

Last February, amid chilly relations with his American and Mexican counterparts, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper postponed this year’s North American leaders’ meeting, popularly dubbed the “Three Amigos” summit.

But current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems to have set relations back on the right track with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto by committing to remove visa requirements for Mexican citizens entering Canada. After meeting Trudeau at November’s G20 meeting in Turkey, Nieto tweeted: “We agreed on the importance of realizing before long the North American Leaders’ Summit.”  

2. March: Justin Trudeau to attend White House state dinner

The new Liberal prime minister will receive the red carpet treatment next year at a formal state dinner hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama (announced on Dec. 29 that it will be held in March). These sorts of invitations are hard to come by; Obama has previously hosted only nine of these dinners. The last Canadian prime minister to attend one was Jean Chrétien, invited by Bill Clinton in 1997.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau was no stranger to these lavish events. He attended two White House dinners as prime minister, in 1974 and 1977 – the guest of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, respectively. 

3. April: Panama Canal expansion project expected to be completed

Despite delays, the $5.5 billion Panama Canal expansion project, authorized by the Panamanian government in 2006, is nearly complete (96 percent complete, in fact).

The head of the Panama Canal Authority, Jorge Quijano, has said that navigation tests will begin in April. The project will double the canal’s capacity, at a time when Central America can expect to see increased trade benefits following the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. 

4. April 19-21: UNGASS meeting on drugs

The United Nations General Assembly Special Session, or UNGASS, is a meeting of UN member states to discuss and debate pressing global issues. Over the last few decades, the effects of international drug wars – mass imprisonment, corruption, violence and health crises – have been felt by governments and citizens alike, all over the world. At this meeting, the UN General Assembly hopes to review the workings of the international drug control regime and set out reforms to deal with this growing crisis.  

5. July: New UN Secretary-General selection process begins

Current United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has one more year left in his term. The selection process for his replacement is to begin in July, with a new Secretary-General to start his or her term in January 2017.

For the first time, all 193 UN member states will be included in the decision to choose the next Secretary-General, who was traditionally appointed by the General Assembly following the recommendation of the Security Council’s five permanent members (the United States, United Kingdom, China, France and Russia).

In a letter, the presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council argued for inclusiveness not only in the decision-making process but in the actual selection of potential candidates: “Convinced of the need to guarantee equal opportunities for women and men in gaining access to senior decision-making positions, Member States are encouraged to consider presenting women, as well as men, as candidates for the position of Secretary-General.”

6. August 5–21: Summer Olympics in Rio

From the FIFA scandal to the Russian doping crisis, 2015 hasn’t been the best year for integrity in sports. Next year’s Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, have not been able to avoid negative spotlight, plagued with budget problems, allegations of construction corruption and worries about severe water pollution. But what recent Olympics Games have been planned without some major handwringing and apocalyptic forecasting? Here’s hoping all will be forgotten by the time the world’s athletes land in Rio. 

7. September: UN General Assembly and special summit on refugees

World leaders will gather in New York City next September for the 2016 United Nations General Assembly, where President Obama plans to host a high-level summit on the refugee crisis. The UN puts the number of people who have been forced to flee their homes at 60 million, the highest since World War II.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said the goal of a refugee crisis summit during the UNGA would be to “secure new commitments” and sustained support for UN humanitarian appeals.

8. Nov. 8: The 58th U.S. presidential election

Americans will head to the polls on November 8 to elect their next president. To Canadians – and to many Americans, we’re sure – it might feel like campaigning by presidential hopefuls has already been going on for a head-scratchingly long period of time (longer than our entire election period). But with the Democratic and Republican candidates still battling it out for the nomination of their respective parties, much more excitement, controversy and irritation over Donald Trump can safely be expected to feature in the long race to the White House.

9. Nov. 7-18: COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco

Following this year’s historic agreement at the climate conference in Paris, the next meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) will take place in Marrakech, Morocco.

The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts, established at COP19 in 2013, will be up for review. Its purpose is to address loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change in developing countries.

And while the feeling behind this year’s COP21 may not be matched, it will be a perfect opportunity to check in on how far we have come since.

10. TBD: EU referendum

UK Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party have promised to hold a referendum on British membership in the European Union by the end of 2017, so this could be an event to watch for next year. Before the referendum date is set, Cameron has the thankless task of coming up with reforms to the UK-EU partnership that must be accepted by both European leaders and politicians back home who are keen for more autonomy. 

Could we see the UK actually leave the EU? After talks in Brussels earlier this month, Cameron told the press that a “big step forward” had been taken for a “better deal” for Britain.

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