Families around the world suffer devastating loss when their relatives are killed in U.S. drone strikes and other attacks. Their suffering is magnified and prolonged by uncertainty and injustice when the U.S. government does not officially acknowledge their loss or explain the strikes, as has frequently been the case for U.S. strikes in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Continual non-recognition or denial of their harm suggests to families that their loved ones are dispensable, not even worthy of minor recognition.
Over the past six years Yemen has been experiencing a period of widespread destabilization, which intensified in September 2014 and resulted in full-blown civil war and international military intervention in early 2015. While the violence has been vicious and destructive, by far the most damaging consequences for the wider Yemeni population have been how the conflict has undermined the systems by which the country functions – devastating the economy, social integration, the humanitarian situation and developmental progress. The result is that millions of people in Yemen are now enduring severe economic deprivation and near-starvation.
The Yemeni government’s decision in September to relocate the central bank and replace its governor has left the country without an institution capable of providing basic economic stabilization. While all the belligerent parties to Yemen’s armed conflict have sought to leverage economic factors, the incapacitation of the central bank may represent an unprecedented escalation in this regard and the international community must act to ensure the starvation of millions of people is not employed as a tactic of this war.
In July this year the United Nations elevated the humanitarian crisis in Yemen to Level 3 – the highest designation the UN has – placing it in the same category as Syria, Iraq and South Sudan. As of October, some 370,000 Yemeni children were currently acutely malnourished; four out of five of Yemen’s 26 million people required humanitarian assistance, and for nearly half the population this assistance was considered life-saving. Read More
Yemen’s local councils are responsible for the day-to-day provision of basic public services to 26 million Yemenis and are amongst the most crucial institutions of governance in the country.
However, the outbreak of civil war in 2014 and the subsequent Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen in March 2015 has devastated local councils’ ability to provide these services: financial resources have evaporated, armed militias challenge their authority, and extremist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have assassinated council members. Despite the challenges, local councils have been generally resilient and continue to operate in some form in most parts of the country, though they have been rendered ill-equipped to handle the largest humanitarian crisis in the country’s history.
The current armed conflict in Yemen began, essentially, as a domestic struggle for power between political and tribal factions. This reality ran contrary to the conventional narrative in the international news media that Yemen was another sectarian arena in the proxy war between the Middle East’s two great Sunni and Shia rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran, respectively.
The Gulf Cooperation Council and the international community brought together Yemen’s various political power brokers in 2011 to help end the crisis the country had entered following the so-called “Arab Spring” uprisings. These negotiations resulted in an agreement that became known as the GCC Initiative, which ushered Yemen into a “transitional phase”. This period was intended to pave the way for a peaceful transfer of power away from President Ali Abdullah Saleh, address citizen demands for democratic reform and transitional justice, empower the Yemeni state, curb the use of violence by political actors and prevent a return to authoritarianism.
In whatever post-conflict scenario eventually prevails in Yemen, the domestic currency and the institutions of state will be essential to the rebuilding process. To date, both have persevered despite the enormous pressure of a vicious civil war and foreign bombing campaign. The Central Bank of Yemen’s actions have successfully protected the value of the Yemeni riyal against the American dollar – essential in a country that imports 90% of its food requirements – while the central government, which even at the best of times held tenuous authority over large swathes of the country, has managed to keep the structures of its institutions intact by operating them at a minimum capacity.
This policy paper, published by the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies in partnership with the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, aims to provide a reading of Yemen’s current economic situation. It offers a contemporary context to the crisis, examines the economic impact of the ongoing civil war and Saudi-led military intervention, then discusses policy recommendations for stakeholders regarding how best to prevent the disintegration of Yemen’s economy and the onset of famine.
The Yemen Peace Project (YPP), in partnership with Resonate! Yemen and Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, has published a new report entitled United States Policy & Yemen’s Armed Conflict. The report examines the events leading up to the outbreak of the conflict in early 2015, assesses the successes and shortcomings of US foreign policy before and during the conflict, and presents realistic recommendations for a more peaceful and constructive American approach to Yemen’s crisis. The report focuses on five specific policy areas: diplomatic engagement, military intervention, humanitarian assistance, security and counterterrorism, and assistance to US citizens in Yemen, and it concludes with a set of additional recommendations for constructive US involvement in Yemen’s eventual post-conflict reconstruction effort..
As civil war persists in Yemen, it is crucial for international and local policymakers, as well as military leaders, to expand their understanding of the role of local actors, and the dynamics at play between them, in order to reach an inclusive long-term peace agreement. In the absence of this awareness, Yemen risks remaining in a state of conflict and in the face of a tenacious humanitarian catastrophe for the foreseeable future. This policy brief is the second in a series of policy briefs issued by the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies and in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) aiming to bring better understanding of Yemen’s multiple current crises..