Toward a Red Sea Forum: The Gulf, the Horn of Africa, & Architecture for a New Regional Order



This paper surveys the changing trends in the Red Sea region and recent initiatives to form a transregional and multilateral governance framework. It advances the idea that the establishment of a Red sea governance framework would benefit the Gulf and African states on the shore, neighboring states and external partners in political, economic and security. The evolving trans-regional multilateral Red Sea governance, albeit highly fluid, is shaped by growing interdependence across three tiers in the Red Sea context. Political transitions in the Horn particularly in Ethiopia and Sudan, new Gulf economic and strategic engagement and rivalry in the Horn of Africa, and great power competition influence maritime security and freedom of navigation and trade. The establishment of such a forum would enable the concerned states to collectively decide on shared interests, articulate emerging threats, and adopt common strategies as a response to new realities. The paper illustrates three specific areas to show the potential benefits of the forum to states on both shores: to manage security-related problems, the prospect of more commercial seaports on the African coast and opening of huge new markets to trade, and common controlling of migration flows. Finally, the paper recommends to the architects of the Red Sea forum to design a mechanism that is flexible, durable, inclusive and attractive to individual members on both shores rather than an exclusive focus on security matters.


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