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Final Report and Recommendations of the Senior Study Group on Peace and Security in the Red Sea Arena

Authors: Senior Study Group on Peace and Security in the Red Sea Arena

Affiliations: United States Institute of Peace

Organization/Publisher: United States Institute of Peace

Date/Place: October 29, 2020/USA

Type of Literature: Report

Number of Pages: 64

Link: https://www.usip.org6/publications/2020/10/final-report-and-recommendations-senior-study-group-peace-and-security-red-sea?

Keywords: Red Sea Arena, Geopolitics, Changing Trends




This report identifies the conditions of peace and security in the Red Sea arena and the factors that reshape the region. The Red Sea arena refers to the region in Arabian and African coasts of the Red Sea as a shared economic, political, and security ecosystem that contains the eight states of the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda) and the states of the Middle East whose increasing involvement considerably affects the region (Egypt, Israel, the Gulf states, and Turkey). Over the past few years, the geopolitical, geo-economic dynamics and regional order of the Horn of Africa has become an integral component of the Middle East, the Indio-Pacific, and the Mediterranean regions by the virtue of its vicinity to the strategically important Red Sea and the states that border and rely on it for trade and transit. Thus, developments in the African Horn are shaped by and have direct political, economic, and security effects on the aforementioned regions. The report identifies six emerging trends in the Red Sea arena. Firstly, Middle Eastern rival governments (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, and Turkey) for political, economic, and security influence over the region have resulted in increasing militarization of the region. Secondly, the region has been hosting historical political transition in Ethiopia and Sudan since the end of the Cold War. If these transitions succeed, they could serve as a paragon for democratization in the region. If they fail, civil war and state failure would destabilize the already politically fragile region with consequences damaging to the interests of the US and its EU and Middle Eastern partners. Thirdly, the skyrocketing population growth in the region has resulted in a demographic political explosion in which the new generation (as it enters a political age) is questioning the kleptocracy and corrupted leaders in the region. Such demographic explosions have been the driving factor behind changes in Sudan and Ethiopia. Fourthly, despite the apparent conflicts in the region, the Red Sea is disregarded when it comes to maritime insecurities and risks to international trade, global internet service, and regional stability. Fifthly, the Covid19 pandemic could result in a catastrophic economic crisis in the region. The final finding illustrates that while US political engagement in the Red Sea has declined, many other extra-regional actors—including China, Russia, Japan, Iran, and several EU members—pay significant attention and have increased their military involvements in the region, driven by the sea’s economic importance and security threats created from exploiting the region. The report recommends four strategic frameworks for the US to successfully defend its interests, promote its value, and respond to the altered geopolitical landscape of the Red Sea arena, namely: adopt a political and diplomatic strategy to insulate the Horn of Africa against Middle Eastern competitions; establish a special envoy to the Red Sea arena; readjustment of US support to promote inclusive, good governance and economic development in the region; and to pursue active congressional engagement on the Red Sea arena. 


By: Jemal Muhamed, CIGA Research Associate



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