The BFPG’s 2023 Foreign Policy Calendar

2022 proved to be a particularly turbulent year geopolitically. But what does 2023 have in store? The BFPG has compiled a list of the major milestones and events which are likely to define the geopolitical landscape in the year ahead. As ever with politics, many of the events that will define the year are still unknown but this calendar provides a taste of the major landmarks in 2023 which will shape the tone and trajectory of global power dynamics, as nations navigate an ever-changing international arena.

5th January: Funeral for Former Pope Benedict XVI. The passing of the former Pope is expected to see over 200,000 people flock to the Vatican. Although he resigned from his role 10 years ago due to ill health, making him the first Pope in 600 years to resign, his legacy is far-reaching and the world’s largest Christian Church will now continue along the new path being forged by the current Pope, Pope Francis.

17th – 19th February: 59th Munich Security Conference. With Russia banned from this year’s edition of the world’s largest annual conference on international security, world leaders are expected to use the conference as an opportunity to push for international efforts to prosecute the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.

24th February: Anniversary of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine. A year on from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian military officials have raised concerns that Russia will use the anniversary as an opportunity to invade Ukraine from Belarus. Nonetheless, Ukraine hopes to host a UN Peace Summit by the end of February.

March: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Synthesis Report Released. The IPCC is expected to release the latest iteration of its Synthesis Reports, this time for its sixth assessment cycle. Synthesis Reports are produced every 6-7 years, with the last such report released in 2014. The report will weave together and summarise findings from this cycle, including the three working group reports released over the last year, and will serve as the IPCC’s main input into the Global Stocktake carried out at COP28.

Spring: Second European Political Community (EPC) Summit. Leaders from Europe, including the UK, will meet in Moldova in Spring for the second meeting of the EPC, a new initiative which aims to foster political cooperation and strengthen the security and prosperity of Europe. The summit is expected to cover everything from infrastructure security and support for Ukraine, to hashing out a pan-European energy policy and increasing study exchanges.

4th April: Finnish General Election. Finland will elect a new parliament, which will determine the fate of centre-left Prime Minister Sanna Marin. Marin who is a strong proponent of collective European defence, NATO and trans-atlantic cooperation is expected to hold onto power, likely ensuring Finland’s continued tilt towards Europe.

7th April: 75th Anniversary of the Founding of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Formed out of the ashes of World War II, the WHO will celebrate 75 years of global health leadership – including helping to defeat smallpox, nearly eliminating polio and improving global access to safe water. Alongside dealing with Covid-19’s longtail, WHO will also spend its 75th year developing a legally binding pandemic accord, the first draft of which will be discussed in February 2023.

10th April: 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Signed in 1998 by the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, the Good Friday Agreement officially ended the three-decade-long conflict in Northern Ireland. UK and EU policymakers are hoping to come to an agreement around the Northern Ireland protocol in time for the anniversary, although with a controversial bill that would allow the UK to unilaterally overrule the Northern Ireland protocol currently sat in the UK’s House of Lords – a protocol described by EU diplomats as “a gun to the head” – meeting this deadline will be a challenge.

6th May: His Majesty King Charles III’s Coronation. Following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II last year, His Majesty King Charles III will be crowned in May. The coronation is expected to be a more modest affair than that of his late mother’s, and will officially mark the commencement of his reign, a reign that will provide a new challenge for the Royal Family, as he seeks to maintain the global connections his late mother forged.

13th May: Eurovision Song Contest. With last year’s winners, Ukraine, unable to host this year’s contest, the UK, which came second last year, will host the contest in Liverpool. The UK will look to reflect Ukrainian culture, music and communities at the event, as a nod to the 2022 winners, but this landmark European cultural event will also provide an opportunity for the UK to showcase the best of British music and creativity.

19th – 21st May: 2023 G7 Summit. Hosted by this year’s G7 President, Japan, the summit will bring together world leaders from the seven leading democratic nations in Hiroshima, a location chosen by the Japanese due to its “embodiment of the great ideal of striving for a world without nuclear weapons.” Also on the agenda will be former member Russia’s war in Ukraine, promoting energy security, creating global data flow standards, and further mobilising funds for the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment.

18th June: Turkish General Election. President Erdoğan will face an election in June, against the backdrop of soaring inflation and growing tensions in the nation. President Erdoğan is facing stiff competition from his rivals but with one of his fiercest rivals Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu recently sentenced to two years in prison, early signs suggest it is unlikely the elections will be entirely free and fair. The outcome of the election will have significant repercussions internationally, not least for Greece, with whom Turkey is in heightened tensions over territorial waters in the Aegean.

22nd June: 75th Anniversary of the Arrival of HMT Empire Windrush. Special events and programmes are being planned to mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of HMT Windrush in Essex from the West Indies, a voyage viewed as symbolic of a generation of Caribbean citizens who migrated to Britain between 1948 and 1971. Amidst the celebrations, there is expected to be growing pressure, including from Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy, to compensate victims of the Windrush scandal.

11th – 12th July: 2023 NATO Summit. This year’s NATO summit will be held in Vilnius, Lithuania. In a climate of increasing strategic competition, the transatlantic security summit will focus on strengthening the Alliance’s collective defence and deterrence capabilities, and on increasing support for Ukraine. Finland and Sweden are expected to participate in the summit as NATO members for the first time.

9th – 10th September: 2023 G20 Summit. The 18th G20 Heads of State and Government Summit will take place in New Delhi, India. This year’s summit theme – “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, or “One Earth, One Family, One Future” – will see climate action take high priority. ​​As the second of four consecutive Global South hosts of the G20, India will continue to push for better Global South representation in multilateral institutions. The African Union may also be made a permanent G20 member at the summit, after receiving support from United States’ President Joe Biden.

19th – 20th September: 2023 Sustainable Development Goals Summit. Marking the mid-point of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the SDG Summit will be convened during the United Nations General Assembly high-level week to review the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Autumn 2023: Polish General Election. In Poland, the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) continues to poll ahead of its rivals. Poland has seen tensions rise with the EU under its current premiership over infringements on judicial independence, press freedoms and LGBTQ+ and abortion rights. The PiS has already warned of mass voter fraud, meanwhile opposition parties are attempting to unite in a bid to oust the government in the election, in an election that is expected to be fraught.

29th October: 100th Anniversary of the Republic of Turkey. On this day in 1923, the Republic of Turkey was founded following the fall of the Ottoman Empire. With a general election in June, this anniversary is likely to be afforded special significance, by either a new leadership ushering in a fresh directive, or the long-ruling AKP celebrating an extension to their 21-year dominance.

30th November – 12th December: The 28th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 28). The United Arab Emirates will host COP28 with loss and damage funding and adaptation expected to be top of the agenda. The first global stocktake under the Paris Agreement will also occur at COP28, a process that began at COP26, and will conclude in Dubai. Stocktakes are mandated every 5 years under the Paris Agreement to assess collective progress toward the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C but collective progress is expected to fall well short of this goal.

10th December: 75th Anniversary of the UNGA’s Adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which ensures the rights and freedoms of all human beings, will see the launch of the UDHR 75 Initiative, which will run throughout the year. The initiative will advocate for the universality of human rights, identify human rights priorities for the next 25 years, and seek to strengthen human rights architecture.

10th December: Spanish General Election. By the 10th of December, at the latest, Spain will hold its General Election. Of particular debate will be the issue of Catalan independence. Prime Minister Sánchez needs to mobilise Catalan support to prop up his declining poll numbers, but with pro-independence parties polling at their strongest, his middle-ground approach to negotiations may not be enough. How the election and the independence question unfold will be watched eagerly by separatist movements across Europe and beyond.

The British Foreign Policy Group