Red Sea Net
Climate Change, Political Economy, and Connectivity in the Red Sea Region
Project Phase 1
The Red Sea region, spanning East Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, is one of the most unequal in the world. Marked by vast disparities in security and wealth, the region is home to fragile states, newly sovereign states, and oil-rich states with some of the highest GDP per capita in the world. Despite these differences, the region faces common environmental and socio-economic challenges exacerbated by drought and desertification, water scarcity, and low levels of food self-sufficiency. The region is also increasingly connected through the growing military, political, and economic presence of the Gulf States in the Horn of Africa and through these societies’ mutual dependency on transnational labor and remittances.
Made possible by the generous support of the Social Science Research Council’s Transregional Collaboratory on the Indian Ocean region, this project--“Red Sea Net”-- starts with the urgent question of how, in one ecological region, some of the richest and poorest societies in the world are weathering today’s profound climatic, economic, and political transformations.
By creating a network of specialists across disciplines -- particularly across the traditional boundaries of African Studies and Middle Eastern Studies -- and across institutions based in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, “Red Sea Net” enables a deeper investigation of how environmental transformations and political economies connect and shape this geopolitically-critical space:
How are the societies of this severely unequal, but intensely connected system responding to and participating in region-wide climatic, economic, and political transformations?
How will stacked ecological, political, and economic crises impact coastal livelihoods, public health, natural resource use, food supplies, labor markets, transregional migration, capital flows, regional conflicts, humanitarian assistance, and international rivalries in this region?
Will the political economies of the Gulf States and East Africa become ever more interconnected due to the disparate effects of global warming and the massive migrations of capital, humans, and other species across the Red Sea?
Within this wider inquiry emerges a fractal network of related research questions. Rather than impose externally-driven research questions, this project has stewarded trans-regional, interdisciplinary collaboration of scholars from across the Red Sea Arena to produce a joint research initiative.
First, the project will conduct a transnational survey of urban educated youth within nine countries (Somaliland, Djibouti, Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates) to evaluate the perception of climate change as an active or impending factor in their everyday lives.
Second, the project will conduct a transnational study on the impacts of climate change on agro-pastoral communities in six countries (Somaliland, Djibouti, Sudan, Jordan, Yemen, Oman). Specifically, it will survey smallholder farmers and pastoralists to examine the impacts of climate change on their livelihoods and their developing adaptation strategies and constraints.
Together, these two components form the basis of a comparative transregional framework to conceptualize climate change in the Red Sea region. While seemingly distinct, these two surveys address a key nexus of climate change adaptation. As ecological degradation forces increasing urbanization, the two surveyed demographics become increasingly intertwined. Moreover, the perceptions of educated urban youth will likely shape much of the national policy that attempts to address climate change within both populations during the coming decades, whereas, investigating the vulnerability of the fragile agricultural systems of the Red Sea region to climate change based on the feedbacks drawn from farmers, pastoralists, and experts by following quantifiable method approaches guarantees comprehensive and successful future climate change adaptation plans. Understanding the affinities, discordances, and dynamics of each population both within and across target countries will enable a critical evaluation of highly localized issues in the context of (trans)regional climate effects and transnational socio-commercial networks.
This project has been made possible by the generous support of the Social Science Research Council's Transregional Collaboratory on the Indian Ocean with funds from the Andrew Mellon Foundation.