In October and November 2021, ZMO will host an online only speaker series that examines the history and current dynamics of the crisis of structural poverty, political violence, and large-scale migration in the Red Sea Region. The United Nations classes seven countries in the region as ‘least developed,’ its lowest ranking. Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somaliland (Somalia), and Yemen have, amongst other indicators, a per capita gross national income of less than $1,018USD, a high prevalence of stunted growth from under- and malnutrition, high rates of maternal and infant mortality, low levels of education, and a large population vulnerable to environmental disasters.
Long before the recent outbreak of violence in Yemen and Ethiopia, poverty in the Red Sea Region had been identified by the public policy community as a primary contributing factor to international instability. Western governments, international agencies and NGOs have been warning for over three decades that local conflicts over scarce resources in the Red Sea Region drive outbreaks of international terrorism and organized crime that spill over national boundaries. This has been used to justify the NATO anti-piracy operations off the Somali coast and support of Saudi bombardment of Yemen. The escalation of local conflicts has millions of men, women, and children, to migrate within and out of the region.
Despite being clearly linked, poverty, violence and migration are not each the exclusive cause of the other. Long distance migration, for example, was historically a source of wealth and, at times, stability. Until the nineteenth century, the circulation of people integrated disparate communities into a cosmopolitan maritime socio-economic system that produced sufficient surplus wealth to allow for economic specialization, the development of varied material cultures and the maintenance of complex states. Though this system has in many ways broken down, its legacy continues to inform social, political, and economic strategies at the individual, household, community, and national levels.
Through case studies and thematic talks, the speakers in this series will answer three key questions: 1) What were the historical causes of structural poverty in the Red Sea Region? 2) What effect has structural poverty played in outbreaks of political violence in the region? 3) What have been the push factors that have led to large scale migrations into and out of the Red Sea Region, and how have these changed over time?
This speaker series is organized by Dr. Steven Serels in coordination with RedSeaNet.
All events will be held online, please register in advance: https://tinyurl.com/5xswd368