January 19 – North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
Germany announces it will raise military spending, which will reach $41.6 billion in 2017. However, this will amount to 1.22 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), which still will be way below the 2 percent NATO guideline. In 2006, NATO member countries agreed to spend a minimum of two percent of their (GDP) on defense as a commitment to the Alliance’s common defense. In 2016, only five out of 28 NATO members – the United States, Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia, and Poland – met this target. During his presidential campaign and after taking office, U.S. President Donald Trump criticized NATO members for failing to meet the alliance’s 2-percent target and sparked concerns after calling NATO obsolete.
February 2 – European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) orders Russia to pay opposition activist Alexei Navalny $68,000 in compensation for violating his right to peaceful protest, unlawful arrests, and other rights violations. Alexei Navalny is Russia’s most prominent anti-corruption activist and critic of President Vladimir Putin and his regime. (February 8): A court in Russia finds Alexei Navalny guilty of embezzlement and sentences him to a suspended five-year term. This is a retrial and repeated sentence of the 2013 trial, which was annulled after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the Russian court had violated Navalny’s right for a fair trial. The sentence bars Navalny from running for president in 2018. He calls the sentence politically motivated and says he will pursue his presidential campaign despite the conviction.
February 9 – UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Kenya’s High Court blocks the government’s effort to close the country’s largest refugee camp in Dadaab. It rules that targeting just one group of people, in this case the Somali refugees, is illegal, discriminatory, and in violation of international law. The government planned to close the camp claiming that the camp has become a haven for terrorists. Dadaab camp was founded in 1991 to accommodate Somali refugees escaping civil war in their home country. Today, it hosts more than 256,000 refugees, making it the largest refugee complex in the world. It is run by UNHCR and funded by foreign donors.
“Life in Dadaab: three generations of refugees isolated from Kenyan society” from The Guardian.
February 20 – UN World Food Programme (WFP)
South Sudan and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) declare famine in South Sudan’s several counties, with 100,000 people affected. They also report that another 1 million people are on the brink of famine and another 5 million urgently need food, agriculture and nutrition assistance. It is estimated that more than one million children are currently acutely malnourished across South Sudan. South Sudan has a population of 12.5 million people. This famine is man-made exacerbated by three years of violent conflict that disrupted food production and by economic crisis.
March 20 – Sustainable Development Solutions Network
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations releases the 2017 World Happiness Report. Using the following variables—social support, freedom of choice, generosity, honesty, health, life expectancy, income and perceived corruption— the study ranks 155 countries based on the happiness of their people. It also analyzes the findings to explain why some countries are happier than others. According to the study, the happiest place is Norway followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, and Canada. At the very bottom of the happiness list are countries from Sub-Saharan Africa and those hit by conflict, such as Syria and Yemen. Despite an improving economic performance and tripling incomes since 1960s, the U.S. happiness report fell from rank 3 in 2007 to 14. According to the study, rising inequality, corruption, isolation, and distrust are the reasons for this decline.
Full World Happiness Report 2017
April 4 – United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
The Trump Administration withdraws its support and ends funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) claiming the organization is breaking the U.S. laws by supporting coercive abortion and sterilizations. UNFPA rejects the claim as erroneous and says it provides maternal and child health in more than 150 countries and helps with family planning. In just 2016, the organization saved the lives of 2,340 women from dying during pregnancy and childbirth; prevented 947,000 unintended pregnancies; ensured 1,251 fistula surgeries; and prevented 295,000 unsafe abortions. The UNFPA is funded with voluntary donations by governments from all regions. In 2015, the United States was its fourth-largest donor, contributing $75 million.
April 4 – United Nations
Syrian government forces attack the town of Khan Shaykhun in the Idlib province with toxic gas including sarin, killing at least 70 people. Hundreds of others suffer from the effects of the toxic chemicals. Sarin is a nerve agent, 20 times as deadly as cyanide. During this chemical attack, the town was under the control of one of the anti-government rebel groups, Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as the al-Nusra Front. Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government denies its involvement, but the international community says it has a proof of Assad’s involvement. (April 7): U.S. President Donald Trump orders a military strike on Al Shayrat Air Base from which Syrian government planes allegedly staged the attack. US warships launch 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles, targeting aircraft, shelters and storage facilities. The U.S. strike is conducted without authorization from either the United States Congress or United Nations Security Council and it raises questions about its legality under the U.S. law as well as international law. Russia vetoes a proposed resolution that would condemn Syria for the chemical attack on its own people. Russia is President Bashar Assad’s ally.
For more on Syria’s gas attack.
April 24 – World Health Organization (WHO)
The World Health Organization (WHO) is leading and coordinating a pilot program to implement the malaria vaccine in small children in three African countries of Kenya, Ghana and Malawi. WHO will collaborate with Ministries of Health in these countries and it will also assess the safety and effectiveness of the vaccination. The RTS,S vaccine will provide partial protection in young children against the most deadly malaria parasite. Vaccinations are due to begin in mid-2018. Despite progress in the fight with malaria, there were still 212 million new cases in 2015 worldwide and 429 000 deaths. Africa is the hardest hit and most of those who die are in children.
April 25 – United Nations (UN)
During a pledging meeting in the Swiss city of Geneva, 48 countries, as well as a number of UN agencies, regional organizations, and non-governmental humanitarian organizations pledge $1.1 billion (out of $2.1 requested by the UN) for Yemen, which suffers from “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world”. Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland warns that Yemen is facing a “famine of Biblical proportions” towards the end of this year. One of the poorest country in the Middle East, Yemen has been additionally devastated by a two-year conflict between Houthi rebels and the government supported by the Saudi-led coalition. According to the UN, of Yemen’s 25.6 million people, close to 19 million are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. More than six million people are at risk of famine.
Listen to more on the crisis in Yemen from NPR.
May 29 – International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announces that since Yemen’s Ministry of Health has declared the state of emergency on May 5 to cope with an outbreak of cholera, the number of cases reached more than 55,000 and 500 people have died. Yemen’s health care professionals have hard time dealing with the outbreak because after two years of war the health care industry has been decimated and there are shortages of medicines and medical supplies.
More about cholera, including “Cholera: Q&A” video (2:05 min) from World Health Organization (WHO)
June 1 – Paris Climate Agreement
U.S. President Donald Trump announces that he is withdrawing the United States from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement against the advice and appeals of many world leaders, scientists, big U.S. corporations, and major U.S. energy companies. President Trump characterizes the Paris Agreement as a bad deal for the U.S. that would cost the country in lost GDP and millions of jobs. In the past, he often referred to climate change as a hoax. International leaders widely condemn Trump’s decision and vow to continue to uphold the agreement without the U.S. In the United States, Disney’s chief executive Robert Iger and businessman Elon Musk resign as the White House advisors in protest of the decision, while governors of New York, California, Hawaii, and Washington vow to uphold the terms of the Paris Accord in their states. However, Republican congressional leaders and the coal industry welcome the move. Because the process of exiting the agreement is lengthy, the U.S. will not leave the Paris Agreement until 2020.
Further information on key aspects of the Paris Agreement from UNFCC.
More on the consequences of the U.S. leaving the Paris Agreement from NPR
June 5 – Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agrees to admit Morocco despite its location in North Africa. The move is part of Morocco’s efforts to strengthen its relations with Africa. The West African economic union was established in 1975 to foster free trade and free movement of people. It consists of 15 West African members with a total population of almost 352 million.
More on ECOWAS history, its fundamental principles, and life within the union.
June 14 – Polio Global Eradication Initiative
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports new cases of polio in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the first ones since 2012. These new cases come from areas with poor vaccine coverage. Polio is a potentially deadly infection that results in permanent paralysis. Thanks to efforts to eradicate polio worldwide, cases of the disease decreased by over 99 percent since 1988, from more than 350 000 cases to 37 reported cases in 2016. It remains endemic in three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Until polio is completely eradicated, all countries, but especially those with weak public health and immunization services, remain at risk of importation of polio.
Explore more about polio and efforts to eradicate it.
June 19 – North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
A Russian military jet aggressively flies within 5 feet of a US spy plane over the Baltic Sea. (June 21): A NATO fighter jet approaches a Russian plane carrying the defense minister to the militarized Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea. A Russian jet escorts it away from the plane. Tensions between Russia and NATO have intensified in recent years after the alliance expanded its military presence in Poland and the Baltic states following Russia’s aggression into Ukraine in 2014. The tensions intensified after the recent downing of a Syrian jet by the US forces in Syria. Russia is an ally of the Syrian regime.
Listen to an NPR’s interview about the growing military standoff between NATO and Russia in northeastern Europe.
June 22 – Global Issues
The US Department of State releases its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which measures and ranks government efforts in three areas: prosecuting traffickers, protecting victims, and preventing the crime. Human trafficking includes sex trafficking, forced labor, domestic servitude, and recruitment and use of child soldiers. The Report incorporates the insights of NGOs, advocates, and survivors with firsthand experience to provide evidence and to educate the public about the $150 billion illicit human trafficking industry. It also intends to provide an incentive for governments to prevent and prosecute trafficking, support victims, and shield at-risk populations.
The Report ranks countries in three tiers according to their response to human trafficking. Tier 1 consists of countries whose governments fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA). Tier 3 includes countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA and are not making efforts to do so. This year’s report downgrades China, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Russia, and Uzbekistan to tier 3, the rank of worst offenders.
2017 Trafficking in Persons Report
August 5 – United Nations
The United Nations Security Council unanimously passes a resolution imposing new sanctions on North Korea for its repeated intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) testing in violation of previous UN resolutions. The new sanctions target the country’s main exports of coal, iron, lead, and seafood, as well as banks and joint ventures. They are meant to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions. According to U.S Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, the sanctions could cost North Korea $1billion a year in revenue. North Korea threatens to retaliate by striking the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam. (August 15): As an implementation of the UN sanctions, China imposes import bans on coal, iron, and seafood from North Korea. The country depends on China heavily for its trade, with over 90 percent of its exports going to China. (August 29): North Korea conducts a provocative ballistic missile testing by firing a missile over Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, which then crashes in the Pacific. The Japanese government prompts the residents to take cover. In defiance, North Korea vows more military operations in the Pacific. (September 5): Russian President Vladimir Putin says that pursuing more sanctions against North Korea is “useless” and calls for diplomatic solutions.
August 17 – International Organizations for Migration (IOM)
Spain’s coastguard rescues 600 migrants in one day at sea crossing from Morocco to Europe. According to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 8,000 migrants have arrived in Spain so far in 2017, almost three times as many as in the previous year. In 2016, most migrants were reaching Europe through Greece. However, a deal with Turkey to intercept migrant boats and tighter border controls in the Balkans forced migrants to look for different options. Most migrants leaving the coast of Morocco cross the seven-mile Strait of Gibraltar in cheap flimsy vessels, paddle boats without motors, or even jet skis. This allows them to bypass smuggler networks and their fees. The majority of these migrants come from West African countries. Many migrants still chose the route from the coast of Libya to Italy. In June alone, the Italian coastguard rescued about 5,000 people one day in the Mediterranean. Since January 2017, there were nearly 126,000 arrivals to Europe by sea, mostly to Spain and Italy. More than 2,500 migrants drowned attempting the crossing.
More maps and charts from OIM on migration flows to Europe: recent trends, transit routes, stranded, relocated, and missing migrants, and internally displaced and refugees
August 17 – International Criminal Court (ICC)
The International Criminal Court (ICC) finds Mali Islamic militant Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi liable for $3.1 million in damages for deliberate destruction of the UNESCO world heritage site of Timbuktu in 2012, which included nine mausoleums and the secret gate to the 15th century Sidi Yahia mosque. As a member of Ansar Dine group, a Tuareg Islamist militia in North Africa with links to al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, Mahdi not only directed the rebels to destroy the historic sites, but himself actively participated in it. He is the first person convicted by the ICC for such a crime and in 2016 sentenced to nine years in prison. Because Mahdi has no money, the funds for the damages for the community of Timbuktu will come from the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims. Some of the vandalized sites have been already restored using old photographs and testimonies of the elders.
Video and pictures of Timbuktu historic sites from UNESCO
August 28 – International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) / Nuclear Threat Initiative (NIT)
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NIT) and the government of Kazakhstan (the world’s top source of uranium) open Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) international Bank in northern Kazakhstan. This unusual bank will deposit low-enriched uranium—nuclear fuel— used for peaceful purposes in nuclear power plants, but also used to build nuclear weapons. The goal of this initiative is to avoid nuclear weapons program by convincing nations not to build their own uranium enrichment facilities, but withdraw the fuel they need for power plants from the LEU Bank. The bank was initiated by NIT. A third of its cost – $50 million – was funded by Warren Buffett. An additional $100 million came from the governments of the United States, Norway, the United Arab Emirates, the more than two dozen countries in the European Union, Kazakhstan, and Kuwait. The Bank will be owned and operated by IAEA. According to former U.S. Senator and NTI Co-Chairman, Sam Nunn, “the launching of the LEU Bank is a major milestone for global nuclear security and nonproliferation efforts.”
September 14 – North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
Russia and Belarus launch large-scale joint military exercises, called Zapad-2017 (“West-2017”), held across Belarus, as well as Russia’s military district of Kaliningrad, Russia’s small territory on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania. Russia says that fewer than 13,000 troops are participating, which means they don’t have to invite international observers. But NATO and Western military experts believe as many as 100,000 troops may be involved in the drills. These troops include armored units, warships, and aircrafts. This show of Russia’s force and power makes its neighbors nervous, especially Ukraine, which is not part of NATO and its eastern part is under pro- Russian separatists. In 2014, Russia has also already invaded and annexed Crimea, which is part of Ukraine.
Map showing the area of the Zapad-2017 military exercises
In 2016, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) established a forward presence with four multinational combat-ready battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland on a rotational basis. They serve as a deterrent on eastern flank of the Alliance.
Map of NATO Enhanced Forward
September 25 – United Nations Human Rights (UNHR)
A report issued by the United Nations Human Rights (UNHR) accuses Russia of violating human rights in Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014. It details “grave human rights violations, such as arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment and torture, and at least one extra-judicial execution.” It says that Ukrainian laws and citizenship were replaced with the Russian ones in violation of the obligation under international humanitarian law to respect the existing law of the occupied territory. Hundreds of prisoners and pre-trial detainees have been transferred to Russia despite the practice being strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law. Education in the Ukrainian language has almost disappeared from Crimea, jeopardizing one of the pillars of an individual’s identity and cultural affiliation. The report also says that while those human rights violations have affected Crimeans of all backgrounds, Turkic-speaking minority, the Tatars, have been particularly targeted, especially those with links to the Mejlis organization, which initiated public protests against Russia’s annexation.
To access the full report
October 6 – International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017. Through their choice, the Norwegian Nobel Committee draws attention to “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.” ICAN is a coalition of several hundred non-government organizations, from local peace groups to global federations from 100 countries with its main office in Geneva, Switzerland. It works to build public support for the abolition of nuclear weapons by organizing global days of action, public awareness-raising events, and engaging in advocacy at the United Nations and in national parliaments. ICAN works with survivors of the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of nuclear tests, helping share their testimonies with the public and decision makers.
More about ICAN including a video (2:12 min) “Nuclear Weapons are not Somebody Else’s Problem”
All Noble Peace Prizes since 1901
October 9 – UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
The UN’s Humanitarian Office reports that due to continued fighting between Iraqi government forces and Islamic State (IS) more than 5.4 million Iraqi civilians have been displaced since 2014. The Agency is also worried about “incidents of collective punishment, restrictions on free movement, evictions, forced returns and sexual exploitation and violence, including in emergency sites and camps.” The statement continues that “hundreds of thousands of people, including very young children, have been exposed to extreme danger, stress, and trauma and will require years of specialized support and care.”
October 12 – UNESCO
The United States and Israel are withdrawing from the United Nations cultural organization UNESCO citing anti-Israel bias as a reason. Both are planning to exit as of December 2018 and establish observer missions instead. UNESCO is a body of the United Nations that promotes international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication. It is especially known for its designation of World Heritage Sites, locations with particular cultural significance.
“Here’s what UNESCO is and why the Trump administration just quit it” from Vox
November 10 – Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
During his five-nation trip to Asia, U.S. President Donald Trump takes part in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. In his address, President Trump attacks multilateralism, claiming lower trade barriers hurt American workers and lead to big trade deficits. He says his Administration prefers that the U.S. enter bilateral trade deals. His policy reverses the role of the United States that created many of the multilateral and free trade agreements for Asia in the past. This vacuum is being filled by China, a rising economic and political influence in the region, with President Xi Jinping speaking in support of free trade and globalization.
APEC is committed to reducing barriers to trade and investment among its 21 member-countries (2.8 billion people) from the Pacific region (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, The Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United States, and Vietnam.) It represented 59 percent of world GDP and 49 percent of world trade in 2015. Between 1989 and 2015, APEC total trade has increased more than 6.7 times to $20 trillion. In the same years, trade by the rest of the world grew by 5.6 times. Thanks to APEC, GDP in the region increased from $19 trillion in 1989 to $42 trillion in 2015, while per capita income in the region rose by 74 per cent, lifting millions out of poverty and creating a growing middle class.
(November 11): A group of 11 countries (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam) revive the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) without the United States under a new name of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the TPP claiming it would hurt US economic interests. This major multinational trade agreement guarantees tariff-free trade between the members, allowing their companies faster and better access to each other markets. The new deal still has to be signed and ratified by each country.
December 6 – United Nations
United States President Donald Trump announces the United States recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing nearly seven decades of American foreign policy of neutrality on the matter. He also orders the preparations to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel welcomes the move, saying Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for thousands of years. However, the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, which has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 war, as the capital of the future Palestinian state. The move leaves the United States isolated as it is criticized by majority of international leaders, including the European Union, which says that its stance on the neutrality of Jerusalem will remain unchanged. According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is supposed to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks. This unilateral decision of the U.S. sparks protests across the globe. (December 13): Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announces that the latest unilateral move by the United States disqualifies it from serving as peace broker in the Palestinian–Israeli conflict. He also suggests the United Nations should take over as a mediator. (December 21): The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly passes a motion — 128 to 9 with 35 abstentions — condemning the unilateral decision by the United States to recognize the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Among the countries that voted in favor of the resolution are many traditional U.S. allies, such as the United Kingdom and France. Canada and Australia abstained.
How the U.S. lost its ability to mediate peace in the Middle East
Why Is Jerusalem a Controversial Capital? Video (01:47)
Jerusalem: Three religions, three families | Faith Matters: video (26:06)