Americas: Canadian FQM initiates international arbitration over Cobre Panama copper mine

Sectors: mining; all
Key Risks: frustration of contract; international arbitration; business risks; economic

In Panama, on 1 December Canadian miner FQM initiated international arbitration over a contested contract renewal with President Laurentino Cortizo’s government. On 28 November the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the contract – agreed on 20 October – for FQM to operate its flagship Cobre Panama mine for another 20 years in return for US$375m in annual payment to Panama City was unconstitutional. Cortizo subsequently ordered the mine’s shutdown. The contract renewal sparked environmental protests which grew into nationwide anti-government demonstrations. The shutdown of Cobre Panama – which accounts for almost 5 per cent of the country’s GDP and 1 per cent of global copper production – will put Cortizo’s administration under heavy economic and political pressure ahead of the May 2024 general elections. The country risks losing its investment grade credit rating. Arbitration proceedings are expected to be complex and lengthy.

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Asia Pacific: IS claims responsibility for IED attack at Catholic Mass in the Philippines

Sectors: all
Key Risks: terrorism; targeted attacks; violent clashes

In the Philippines, on 3 December four people were killed and 54 others were injured in an IED attack on a Catholic Mass conducted at the Mindanao State University in Marawi city, Lanao del Sur province, in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Islamic State (IS) militants claimed responsibility for the incident. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had earlier blamed the attack on “foreign terrorists” while security officials suggested that it was possible retaliation for security force operations against Maute Group – an IS affiliate also known as Dawlah Islamiya (DI) – in Maguindanao del Sur province on 1 December during which 11 militants were killed. The attack will likely prompt further similar operations and heightened security measures in BARMM and in the capital Manila, particularly as places of worship are expected to face a heightened risk of terror attacks during the Advent season nationwide.

Click here to access Philippines’s Global Intake country profile.

Eurasia: Armenia and Azerbaijan discuss border delimitation amid bleak prospects for peace deal

Sectors: all
Key Risks: war-on-land; territorial disputes

In Armenia and Azerbaijan, on 30 November the two sides’ state commissions on border delimitation met as part of broader talks aimed at reaching a peace agreement. The talks yielded a preliminary agreement on the organisation of commission meetings but made no progress towards a border demarcation. The talks took place amid Baku’s increasing hostility towards third-party mediation efforts, particularly by the US and the EU. On 18 November Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan stated that while Yerevan and Baku had agreed on basic principles for a peace treaty, the two parties were “still speaking different diplomatic languages”. Baku has yet to publicly commit to the principles agreed upon, including the mutual recognition of territorial integrity, border delimitation based on the 1991 Alma-Ata Declaration and the opening of regional trade, transport and communication while mutually respecting sovereignty. Prospects for a peace agreement by end-2023 remain bleak.

Click here to access Armenia’s Global Intake country profile and here to access Azerbaijan’s Global Intake country profile.

Europe: Polish Sejm to hold confidence vote on PiS government by 11 December

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability; policy uncertainty

In Poland, the Sejm – the upper chamber of parliament – is expected to hold a confidence vote on the government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki from the Law and Justice (PiS) party by 11 December. President Andrzej Duda swore in Morawiecki’s government on 27 November despite its low chances of securing support in the Sejm – where the opposition holds a majority. The government has two weeks to formulate the programme and present it to the Sejm, which will then hold a confidence vote. The Sejm will then appoint its candidate – likely former prime minister Donald Tusk. Uncertainties remain over when President Duda would officially swear in the new government as his office stated that he would travel in December. However, Tusk is expected to push to be appointed at the earliest date possible to be able to attend the European Council summit on 14-15 December.

Click here to access Poland’s Global Intake country profile.

MENA: Israeli operations in Gaza resume, reignite fears of regional escalation

Sectors: all
Key risks: internal conflict; external conflict; regional escalation

In Gaza, on 3 December the Health Ministry reported that over 700 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli airstrikes across the enclave since the resumption of Israeli operations on 1 December following the breakdown of a week-long truce. The intensity of the fresh bombardments signals the Israeli government’s clear intent to pursue military operations until all hostages are rescued, Hamas is destroyed and the Gaza Strip neutralised as a security threat to Israel. The end of the truce also saw the resumption of regional confrontations led by Iran-backed militant groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Despite the looming threat of regional escalation, Tel Aviv is expected to further expand its operations in Gaza, with reports indicating impending IDF ground operations in southern Gaza – where most Palestinian residents have been forced to flee since the beginning of the war on 7 October.

Click here to access Gaza and the West Bank’s Global Intake country profile.

 SSA: East African Community Regional Forces begin withdrawal from eastern DRC

Sectors: all
Key risks: internal conflict; insecurity; political instability

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, on 3 December the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) began withdrawing its troops from North Kivu province in the eastern DRC ahead of the 8 December deadline. Initially deployed in November 2022 to support peace efforts and observe the withdrawal of the Rwanda-backed M23 rebel group, the force has come under criticism from Kinshasa which urged it to fight the M23 – a task beyond its mandate. Kinshasa accused the EACRF of colluding with rebels and refused to renew its mandate. The decision was communicated to the summit of the EAC Heads of State on 24 November. M23 rebels have vowed to retake territories as EAC forces begin to withdraw. The security vacuum left by the EARCF risks leading to further instability in the province ahead of the 20 December general elections.

Click here to access the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Global Intake country profile.