Payton Knopf is an advisor to the Africa program where his work focuses on the intersecting political, economic and security dynamics in the Red Sea. He is concurrently an advisor to the European Institute of Peace.

Knopf is a former U.S. diplomat with expertise in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, and the Middle East. Immediately prior to joining USIP, Knopf was the first coordinator the United Nations Panel of Experts on South Sudan, from its inception in 2015 until April 2017. He was also formerly a senior advisor at the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI)/Martti Ahtisaari Centre and the PeaceWorks Foundation.

Before leaving government, he was spokesman at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations under then-Ambassador Susan E. Rice, having previously served as a policy advisor to U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell. From 2006 to 2008, he was based at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, where he advised the then-U.S Special Envoys for Sudan Andrew Natsios and Richard Williamson on issues related to the conflict in Darfur and to the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for Sudan.

His other State Department assignments included in the Office of Egypt and the Levant and at the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  He was an International Affairs fellow in residence at the Council on Foreign Relations from 2010-2011 where is researched focused on diplomatic engagement with non-state armed groups.

Publications By Payton

Normalizing Sudan-Israel Relations Now is a Dangerous Game

Normalizing Sudan-Israel Relations Now is a Dangerous Game

Thursday, September 24, 2020

By: Payton Knopf; Jeffrey Feltman

With the UAE and Bahrain having joined Egypt and Jordan in declaring peace with Israel, those asking “who’s next?” often look enthusiastically westward, toward Khartoum. Adding new chapters to the Abraham Accords is in the U.S. interest, but so is a successful transition in Sudan. And the sequence of these steps is critical. A unified Sudanese government with a popular mandate will be better able to forge a warm and sustainable peace with Israel, whereas a rushed Israeli-Sudanese agreement has the potential to unravel Sudan’s transition and generate renewed support for Sudan’s Islamists and their foreign backers.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Global Policy

Sudan, One Year After Bashir

Sudan, One Year After Bashir

Friday, May 1, 2020

By: Manal Taha; Payton Knopf; Aly Verjee

Dictator Omar al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for nearly three decades, was overthrown in April 2019. After months of protests, negotiations led to a joint civilian-military transitional government to govern the country for a period of 39 months. However, Sudan’s political transition remains tenuous, and even before the coronavirus pandemic, the risks of failure were many. USIP’s Manal Taha, Payton Knopf, and Aly Verjee discuss the past year in Sudan and the need for further international support to shore up the transition.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Global Health

The Latest on Ethiopia: 3 Things You Need to Know

The Latest on Ethiopia: 3 Things You Need to Know

Thursday, July 11, 2019

By: Payton Knopf

Last year, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s efforts to enact political reforms and broker a peace deal with neighboring Eritrea ushered in new hope for the country. But recent political assassinations have raised questions over Ethiopia’s transition. Here are three things you need to know.

Type: Blog

Democracy & Governance

Payton Knopf on the Stakes in Sudan

Payton Knopf on the Stakes in Sudan

Thursday, May 23, 2019

By: Payton Knopf

What’s at stake in Sudan as tense negotiations between the Transitional Military Council and protesters continue? “We need to see a swift transition to civilian-led rule,” says Payton Knopf. “Otherwise I’m afraid what will result is increased instability … or potentially a catastrophic failure of the state.”

Type: Podcast

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

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