Last week saw delegates from across the world make the pilgrimage to the snowy heights of Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum in Davos. The hosting of this January ritual is another sign of a gradual return to a pre-pandemic normal for global diplomacy – and kicked-off a calendar that is shaping up to be quite the year for international politics. Between summits, elections and anniversaries galore, there’s plenty to keep an eye on for the year ahead. Here are the highlights we know so far.
The EU–Ukraine Summit will take place on 3 February. The annual meeting, just ahead of the looming one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, is expected to be hosted in Kyiv and will likely have a strong focus on European military and financial support to Ukraine.
On the other side of the world, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has flagged a trip to China from 5–6 February. This will follow the Biden–Xi meeting in November at the G20 and is likely to cover a broad array of issues amid the administration’s talk of establishing “guardrails” to manage tension between China and the United States.
From 17–19 February the annual Munich Security Conference will take place in Germany. Following a tumultuous 2022, the conference will again focus on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and take stock of the future of the rules-based international order.
On 25 February, Nigeria is due to head to the polls to elect a new president and vice president. The head of Nigeria’s electoral commission has said the election will proceed as planned, despite increasing attacks on officials and a deteriorating domestic security environment.
Meanwhile, 26 February marks 50 years of diplomatic relations between Australia and Vietnam. Throughout the year, there will be a program of work celebrating all aspects of the bilateral relationship, so it will be a big year for Australia–Vietnam watchers.
The end of the month sees the commencement of the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, which will run from 27 February to 4 April in Geneva.
India will host the 2023 Raisina Dialogue, run by the Observer Research Foundation, from 2–4 March in New Delhi. While a specific date hasn’t been set, sometime in early 2023 will also see the next Quad foreign ministers meeting in New Delhi – perhaps on the sidelines of Raisina?
Sometime in March, the Australian government will also release the Defence Strategic Review. The Review will consider Australia’s force posture and structure to ensure Australia can meet future security challenges. An announcement about the acquisition of nuclear-powered AUKUS submarines is also expected by March – quite probably to pair up with the release of the Defence Strategic Review.
The UN 2023 Water Conference will be held in New York from 22–24 March. The conference will encourage progress to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Amid warnings that democracy continues to backslide around the world, from 29–30 March the United States will co-host the second Summit for Democracy with Costa Rica, the Netherlands, South Korea and Zambia.
General elections are scheduled to be held in Paraguay on 30 April.
The coronation of King Charles III will take place on 6 May, with heads of state from around the world expected to attend the ceremony at Westminster Abbey. The next day, Thailand will hold its general election.
June looks set to be a busy month for foreign policy and security watchers. Regional leaders and defence ministers will descend on Singapore for the annual Shangri-La Dialogue hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies from 2-4 June to discuss the regional security environment.
On 18 June, Turkey will head to the polls for an election, although Turkish President Recep Erdoğan has signalled it may be brought forward to 14 May.
While dates have yet to be released, the middle of the year will also see the Pacific Islands Forum in the Cook Islands, the Quad Leaders’ Summit in Australia, the next meeting of the EU–US Trade and Tech Council, and the signing of the Australia-PNG Security Deal. India is also expected to host the 2023 Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit in New Delhi, but a date has yet to be set (Vladimir Putin’s potential attendance will be hotly speculated).
The 2023 NATO Summit will be held in Vilnius, Lithuania from 11–12 July as tensions between Russia and the West remain high, so this summit will be an important opportunity for leaders to discuss and coordinate their responses.
Additionally, Cambodia’s general election will be held on 23 July although it’s unlikely to produce a surprise result – after 38 years in power, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has confirmed he will run again.
The G20 Summit will be held in New Delhi, India from September 9–10 as challenges in the world economy look set to worsen.
The 78th session of the UN General Assembly will commence from 12 September, with Leaders’ Week from 19 September the chance to address international peace and security, economic development and human rights.
The two-year anniversary of AUKUS falls on 15 September, and with the decision on subs expected to be settled, this presents an opportunity for leaders from the three countries to announce progress made in other aspects of the technology-sharing partnership.
The 2023 Internet Governance Forum will take place in Kyoto, Japan from 8–12 October, where leaders from government, civil society and the private sector will discuss and address issues related to the governance of the internet.
14 October is the last date for Pakistan to hold its general election – although it’s looking like it may be held a lot sooner than October. With a turbulent political situation since Imran Khan stepped down last year, the outcome of this election could have significant implications for the future of the country and the region.
Finally, 29 October marks the date of Argentina’s elections for a new president as the country continues to grapple with economic and political challenges.
November marks Asia’s annual “summit season”. From APEC Leaders Week in San Francisco to the East Asia Summit in Indonesia and the ASEAN Regional Forum, November will be choc-a-bloc with announcements, speeches and bilateral meetings.
Also on the agenda sometime in the last quarter of the year will be Australia’s Indo-Pacific Endeavour – last year it ran for three months from September to December 2022.
On environmental diplomacy, COP28 will be held in Dubai from 30 November to 13 December – although given the UAE has appointed the head of one of the world’s largest oil companies to lead the climate talks, it’s hard to be optimistic the talks will lead to substantial climate action.
The 75th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights will be celebrated on 10 December. Australia is expected to host the annual AUSMIN talks sometime around then, should it follow the same schedule as the last round of consultations hosted by the United States in December 2022.
The schedule and plans of many official visits and events are often announced close to the date, so the line-up, especially for the latter part of the year, will gradually become clear. While this isn’t a definitive list of everything that will happen in 2023, it’s already clear that a big year lies ahead. And that’s before the inevitable surprises intrude.