The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


State Unrecognition and Covid-19 Politics: Somaliland, Palestine & Syria

30 June 2020, 2:00 pm–3:00 pm

Post COVID-19 Urban Futures webinar series - No. 8 Hosted by Michael Walls & Haim Yacobi

Event Information

Open to



Nimo-Ilhan Ali



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State Unrecognition and Covid-19 Politics: Somaliland, Palestine & Syria 

In this event, the panel will focus on the experience of ‘unrecognition’ and its impact on responses to the COVID-19 pandemic from three distinct perspectives. In the Somaliland case, the issue is a geopolitical one relating to the effect of a lack of formal political recognition in efforts to combat the pandemic. Aid flows are officially meant to pass through the government in Mogadishu, even though they have no effective jurisdiction over Somaliland, directly impacting Somaliland capacity to manage their response. In the case of Palestine, the issue relates to the longstanding and perpetually problematic relationship between Palestine and the external world and the complicated ways that relationship is mediated and often compromised by the involvement of Israel. In Syria’s case, the focus will be on the way areas that do not support the Damascus government have had to employ often informal channels to enable their own COVID-19 response, again requiring complicated strategies to deal with the antagonism of ‘recognised’ authorities.

Chair: Nimo-ilhan Ali (DPU)
Host: Michael Walls (DPU) & Haim Yacobi (DPU)


  • Muhammad Shehada

Muhammad Shehada is a Palestinian writer from Gaza. He is a columnist at the Forward newspaper and Europe Regional Manager at the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor.

  • Dr Jama Musse Jama

Dr Jama is an ethnomathematician with a PhD in African Studies specialising in Computational Linguistics of African Languages. He has authored and edited several books. Currently Director of the Hargeysa Cultural Centre in Somaliland, Dr. Jama is known for his research on traditional African games and their potential for use within formal education. A cultural activist, historical researcher and a preserver of Somali oral histories, Dr. Jama is the founder of Hargeysa Cultural Centre and the influential Hargeysa International Book Fair and in 2018 he was the host of the 13th International Congress of Somali Studies International Association in Hargeysa. He is now the formal President of the Somali Studies International Association. Dr Jama is also a Senior Research Associate at the Development Planning Unit (DPU), University College London.

  • Dr Abdulkarim Ekzayez

Dr Ekzayez is a Syrian Medical Doctor and an Epidemiologist. He is a Research Associate at King's College London working on health systems in the Middle East and Northern Syria. In 2013, Dr Ekzayez was training to be a neurosurgeon when his residency was interrupted by the war. Karim has worked in many field hospitals in Northwest Syria. He was the Health Lead for Save the Children in Syrian between 2013 and 2016. He was also involved in the rebuilding of the health system in opposition-controlled areas in Syria. He is a trustee member of two NGOs – Shafak and Refugee Trauma Initiative. Dr Ekzayez received his MD from Aleppo University and his MSc from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He also completed a fellowship on leadership in international affairs from The Queen Elizabeth II Academy for Leadership in International Affairs at Chatham House, and another fellowship in international relations from the Institute for International Cultural Relations at The University of Edinburgh.

About the Post COVID-19 Urban Futures series

COVID-19 is a massive game changer in all spheres of life: Are we ready to imagine a better post COVID world? The Post COVID-19 Urban Futures series will feature written blogs, webinar events and video outputs reflecting on the impact of COVID-19 on cities.

The series of 60min webinars to imagine the future in light of this world-changing pandemic. This is an opportunity for academics, students, professionals and the general public to reflect on what the world might look like and what we can do to share its direction towards a more just outcome.