Weekly Risk Roundup – Week 08

Headlines From This Week

  • Eastern Ghouta Assault and Afrin Developments – The Syrian government, backed by Russia, has advanced on the rebel-held area of Eastern Ghouta, close to the capital Damascus. More than 400 have been killed and 1,400 injured since the Syrian government began operations on 18 February. The area is mainly held by Islamist groups, but reports suggest that the government has been indiscriminate in their attacks, intentionally striking hospitals, schools, and mosques. Only one aid convoy has been allowed into the region since November 2017; the government has been accused of trying to force rebels to submit through starvation. In Afrin, where the Turkish military have crossed the border, ostensibly to target Kurdish terrorists, developments have taken place that could have significant ramifications. Syrian Kurdish militants, allied to the United States, have welcomed pro-government troops into the region to provide assistance in the fight against Turkey. Reports suggest that these government troops have been attacked by Turkish artillery. This move means that a NATO member (Turkey) is fighting the ally of another NATO member (Syrian Kurds and US respectively), which is being provided assistance by NATO’s opponents (the Syrian and Russian governments). This situation has the potential to lead to a significantly larger regional conflict. 
  • Military Take Control in Rio de Janeiro – Due to a substantial increase in crime in Rio de Janeiro state, President Temer signed a decree, ratified by Congress, to federalise policing in the state by deploying the military. The murder rate in 2017 saw an increase of eight per cent on the year previous and a 26 per cent rise on 2015 and has been linked to criminal drug gangs. However, there are fears that the use of the military will lead to human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings. The move, which may prove to be a political boost for Temer, is unlikely to combat the underlying causes for the high levels of crime. 
  • Little Progress with Corruption – Transparency International released its annual Global Corruption Perception Index on 21 February, showing that the world has not made much progress on challenging corruption. In the 2017 index, New Zealand and Denmark ranked highest while Syria, South Sudan, and Somalia ranked lowest. The best performing region was Western Europe while the worst performing regions were Sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Since 2012, several countries have significantly improved their index score, including Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, and the United Kingdom, while several countries declined, including Syria, Yemen, and Australia. 
  • States of Emergency in New Zealand – Five regions have issued states of emergency after New Zealand was hit by the remnants of Tropical Cyclone Gita. In Tasman on the South Island and New Plymouth on the North Island the states of emergency remain in place, while it has been lifted in Christchurch, Selwyn, and Westland. Gita struck the west coast on 20 February but fortunately weakened before making landfall. Thousands are still without power and damage has been reported at key infrastructure points, though no deaths have been reported. 
  • Measles in Europe – The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported on 19 February that measles cases grew by 400 per cent in 2017 compared to the year previous, with 20,000 infections and 35 deaths attributed to measles in Europe. The WHO has suggested several reasons for the increase, including a shortage of the vaccine and poor healthcare facilities, as well as an anti-vaccine movement. The largest outbreaks were reported in Romania, Italy, and Ukraine.

What To Look Out For Next Week

  • Further Anti-Kabila Marches in DRC – The Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has arranged a further march against the rule of President Kabila to take place on 25 February. The Union for Democracy and Social Progress, the main opposition party in the DRC, has delayed its party congress in order to join the march. Protests on 21 January 2018 and 31 December 2017 led to at least 15 deaths and dozens of injuries. Further violence and aggressive policing should be expected on 25 February, with marches set to begin after mass has finished in Kinshasa and other major cities in the DRC 
  • Winter Olympics Comes to an End – The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics is set to come to an end on 25 February. The Games have largely been viewed as a success for host nation South Korea despite the spectre of an unstable North Korea looming over events. Even with issues with the weather and an ongoing norovirus outbreak, the Games have passed without significant incident. The Closing Ceremony will take place on 25 February in Pyeongchang, with protests possible. A North Korea delegation will be present and be led by General Kim Yong-chol, a controversial figure in South Korea. He has been accused of plotting several attacks across on the South. Namely, the sinking of the Cheonan warship and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. 46 sailors were killed in the Cheonan’s sinking, while two civilians and two marines were killed in the shelling of Yeonpyeong. Kim had been banned from visiting the South for his alleged involvement in the North’s military provocations and nuclear weapons development.
  • Jewish Festivals of Purim – The Jewish festival of Purim begins at sundown on 28 February and ends on the evening of 01 March. The festival marks the salvation of the Jewish people from Persian rule and a plot to destroy them, as recorded in the book of Esther in the Bible/Torah. It is considered one of the most joyous of Jewish holidays and is often marked with parades and fancy dress; some have described it as the ‘Jewish Mardi Gras’, partly due to the amount of alcohol consumed. Purim is a national holiday in Israel where related activities are set to take place from 01 to 03 March.
  • Anti-Fascist March in Rome – On 24 February, supporters of the Democratic Party, the National Association of Italian Partisans, the CGIL trade union, and other civic organisations are set to rally in Rome, Italy against fascism. The march is set to begin at the Piazza della Repubblica rom 1330 local time, before heading to Piazza del Popolo. The march comes as Italy goes to the polls on 04 March. Travellers should note that there is the potential for far-right counter-demonstrations.
  • Pro-Democracy Activists to Rally in Bangkok – The Democracy Restoration Group in Thailand are set to rally on 24 February. The demonstration is set to begin around Thammasat University from 1500 local time. The activists are demanding that elections are held by November. A ban on political gatherings remains in place in Thailand, all large gatherings should be avoided for this reason.
  • Mobile World Congress – The 2018 Mobile World Congress is due to take place between 26 February and 01 March at Fira Gran Via, Barcelona, with limited events also taking place at Fira Montjuïc. Security has already been stepped up in preparation for the world’s largest gathering for the mobile industry. 100,000 people are set to descend on Barcelona.

Significant Dates and Events

  • 24 February – Estonia – Independence Day
  • 24 February – Brunei – National Day Holiday
  • 25 February – Kuwait – National Day
  • 25 February – Philippines – People Power Anniversary
  • 25 February – Cambodia – Senate Elections
  • 26 February – UAE – Dubai Marathon
  • 26 February – Kuwait – Liberation Day
  • 26 February – Italy – Alitalia to Launch 24-Hour Strike
  • 26 February – India – Chandigarh International Airport to reopen after maintenance work
  • 27 February – Belgium – Public Sector Strike
  • 27 February – Norway – Rail Workers to Strike
  • 27 February – Dominican Republic – Independence Day
  • 28 February – Taiwan – Peace Memorial Day
  • 28 February – Spain – Andalucía Day
  • 28 February – Spain – Unionised RENFE rail workers in Catalonia to stage limited strike
  • 01 March – Bosnia and Herzegovina – Independence Day
  • 01 March – Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand – Makha Bucha Day
  • 01-02 March – India (and locations with Indian diaspora) – Holi Festival
  • 01 March – Paraguay – Hero’s Day
  • 01 March – South Korea – Independence Day
  • 01 March – Spain – Balearic Islands Day
  • 01 March – United Kingdom – St David’s Day (Wales)
  • 01 March – Sri Lanka – Madin Full Moon Poya
  • 02 March – Ethiopia – Victory of Adwa (defeat of Italian invasion in 1896)
  • 02 March – Myanmar – Peasants Day
  • 02 March – China (most notably) – Lantern Festival
  • 02 March – Puerto Rico – American Citizenship Day
  • 03 March – Bulgaria – Liberation Day
  • 03 March – Malawi – Martyrs’ Day
  • 04 March – Italy – Legislative Elections
  Click the following link to download this report as a PDF: Weekly Risk Roundup – Week 08 The Weekly Risk Roundup highlights significant events from the last week and what to look out for next week. Week 08 Weekly Risk Roundup was compiled by Solace Global’s in-house intelligence team.