Toward a Red Sea forum: The Gulf, the Horn of Africa, and architecture for a new regional order

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Drawing on consultations with diplomats and experts from more than 20 governments and international institutions, this report surveys the changing geopolitical context astride the Red Sea, outlines the rationale for a Red Sea multilateral framework, and offers design elements for architects to consider. It unpacks the diplomatic initiatives undertaken to date—by the EU/Germany, African Union/IGAD, and Saudi Arabia/Egypt—and finally, it offers perspectives from the Red Sea’s littoral countries, from “neighboring states,” and from global actors—including Europe, the United States, and China.

Gulf and African states, as well as external partners, can benefit from the establishment of a Red Sea Forum. These stakeholders may soon have to decide whether to participate in a proposed forum, how to maximize its value, and how to harmonize potentially competing visions. Obstacles abound, but the potential dividends of integration, economic development, and conflict prevention merit the effort. A Red Sea forum will not deliver shared prosperity or cure all ills, but it can offer this diverse set of actors a venue to shape the emergent trans-regional order in what might otherwise become a dangerously chaotic arena.

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Zach Vertin

Zach Vertin served as Director of Policy for the US Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan from 2013 to 2016. During this period he was intimately involved in the South Sudanese peace process both as a US diplomat and as a de facto adviser to the mediation led by the Inter - governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). He is currently a visiting lecturer at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and the author of a forthcoming book on South Sudan,A Rope from the Sky: The Making and Unmaking of the World’s Newest State.

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