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African challenges to multilateralism: the geopolitics of the Nile between conflict and cooperation

2021 - 2022

The tensions between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan pertaining the GERD risk undermining the stability of the entire region of the Horn of Africa, which has been already tested by the recent crisis in Tigray, as well as by the political transition occurring in Sudan and the ongoing civil war in South Sudan. Moreover, despite the several attempts at mediation by both regional and international organisations, no agreement on the functioning of the dam seems to be in sight. Indeed, critical issues and local opposition in the three countries involved challenge the attempts made by the international community at promoting multilateral solutions.

The aim of this project was to identify the possible solutions attainable through multilateral mediation in the Horn of Africa between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan, with regard to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) - the dam which Ethiopia is building on the Upper Nile. The project provided an analysis of the role that international organisations, and particularly the African Union, as well as external actors, such as the European Union, can play in the political resolution of conflicts in an area which constitutes a priority for Italy.

Against this background, the papers on national perspectives answered to the following research questions:

  • What are the main dynamics of conflict and patterns of cooperation for the governance of the Nile  and how have they developed overtime, from a national perspective? 
  • How do the national interests of the riparian states favour or oppose such dynamics? What is at stake  for the, and what are their options for negotiations? Which stakeholders (central or local authorities, political  parties, civil society) are mainly involved in the national debate and how so? 
  • How do external actors – such as the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, Turkey, the US and the EU  – influence these dynamics, at a national level? 
  • What are the instruments and processes available to regional organisations to foster multilateral  solutions for the governance of the Nile?

Funding: Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Fondazione Compagnia di San Paolo

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