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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work

XCEPT research consortium (formerly X-border local research network)

Aims and Objectives

Beginning in March 2018, the X-Border Local Research Network is a research consortium aimed at developing a better understanding of the causes and implications of conflict in the border areas of north-east Africa, the Middle East and Asia. This project is part of a broader FCDO programme, X (Cross) Border Conflict – Evidence, Policy and Trends (XCEPT).

The X-Border research consortium includes RVI, Carnegie Middle East Centre (CMEC) and The Asia Foundation (TAF). As well as seeking a better understanding of the causes of conflicts in border areas and their international dimensions, the project also supports more effective policymaking and development programming. Increased investment in local research skills is integral to X-Border.

RVI, and the other consortium partners, are working closely with local researchers and institutions to involve and support them in the development, implementation and write up of research projects. This has been achieved, in part, through a number of cross-consortia workshops and conferences held in Nairobi, Beirut and Bangkok in 2018–19. These workshops bring together researchers from the three regions to share ideas, expertise and experience.

Research Agenda

RVI’s work under the project is focused on Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia, as well as some of the countries that they border. At present, there are four main research streams, which may develop further over the five years of the project. These are:

Somalia’s cross-border maritime economy

In year one, this stream—run by Dr Nisar Majid and Khalif Abdirahman, in collaboration with researchers from Puntland State University—focused on the complex economic and social links between north-eastern Puntland (a federal state of Somalia), and Yemen, focused in particular on the fishing industry. A report—Mobility, Trust and Exchange: Somalia and Yemen’s Cross-border Maritime Economy—was published in June 2019. Khalif Abdirahman also wrote a blog documenting his experience of conducting research in north-east Puntland.

Regional Economic Flows and Trans-local Identities

In year one, this stream focused on a research project—run by Dr Edward Thomas and a research team from the Catholic University of South Sudan—on South Sudan’s economic transition from a subsistence to a market economy and its possible impact on hunger and insecurity. A report—Moving towards markets: cash, commodification and conflict in South Sudan—was published in June 2019.

Militarised Labour in Central Sudanic Africa

In year one, this research stream focused on the South Sudan–Sudan borderlands with a project—run by Dr Nicki Kindersley and Joseph Diing Majok—on the systems of militarized and marketized labour that have developed in this region. A report—Monetized livelihoods and militarized labour in South Sudan’s borderlands: cross-border trade, movement and survival in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal—was published in June 2019. A blog piece, written by Joseph Diing Majok, on the challenging livelihoods of many women in the region will be published at the same time as the report.

The Political Economy of Aid and Mobility in the Horn of Africa’s Borderlands 

In year one, this stream—run by Freddie Carver—began research for a policy brief that will problematise the programmatic approach of donors to the region’s borderlands, particularly with respect to refugee-focused policies. Paper forthcoming later in 2019.

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