Reconstruction and Recovery in Yemen: Recommendations from the Development Champions

Reconstruction and Recovery in Yemen: Recommendations from the Development Champions

Nearly five years of conflict in Yemen have created a humanitarian catastrophe that has brought the country to the brink of famine. The economy has collapsed and fighting has ravaged the country’s infrastructure. The reconstruction and recovery of Yemen will demand rebuilding the economy, restoring state institutions and infrastructure and repairing the social fabric. As yet, no official, donor-led, comprehensive reconstruction process is underway.
The Development Champions emphasize that reconstruction and recovery efforts must begin immediately, even while the conflict is ongoing. Urgent humanitarian interventions should be linked to Yemen’s long-term economic recovery. The reconstruction of Yemen should aim to transform the country, and not only to restore the status quo ante. Yemenis and local institutions must be involved in this process from the planning stages to ensure legitimacy and local ownership; ultimately, local actors will be responsible for implementing these plans.

Economic Confidence Building Measures – Civil Servant Salaries

Economic Confidence Building Measures – Civil Servant Salaries

In December 2018, 23 of Yemen’s leading socioeconomic experts convened in Amman during the Fourth Development Champions Forum to discuss economic confidence-building measures in the peace process in Yemen. The discussions at the Forum, which is part of the Rethinking Yemen’s Economy initiative, touched on a number of economic mechanisms that could be implemented to build confidence. These included supporting the Central Bank as an independent institution that serves all of Yemen; ensuring the deposit of public revenues in all governorates at the Central Bank headquarters in Aden; and opening ports and ensuring the free movement of goods, humanitarian aid and people between governorates. The Forum focused on the payment of salaries and pensions to all civil servants due to the critical importance of the issue; this policy brief presents the outcomes of this discussion.

Priorities for Government Policy in Yemen

Priorities for Government Policy in Yemen

This policy brief outlines recommendations for the immediate priorities of the Government of Yemen, both to achieve quick wins and to prepare the ground for medium and long-term success. These recommendations are the outcomes of in-depth discussions held during the fourth Development Champions Forum convened on December 8-11, 2018, in Amman, Jordan. They are designed to offer Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed and his cabinet a set of practical measures to help the government build on the momentum and increased visibility it achieved in the final quarter of 2018.

Yemen’s obligations to respect, protect, and fulfil the right to mental health

Yemen’s obligations to respect, protect, and fulfil the right to mental health

Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review for Yemen

Submitted by: Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies
Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic
Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis

Third Cycle
32nd Session
Human Rights Council
January-February 2019

 

I. Summary

  1. The Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies (Sana’a Center), Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic (the clinic), and the George Warren Brown School, Washington University, jointly submit this report to inform the examination of The Republic of Yemen (Yemen) during its 3rd Universal Periodic Review. This submission focuses on international human rights and humanitarian law concerns related to Yemen’s obligations to respect, protect, and fulfil the right to mental health.
  2. Yemeni civilians are frequently exposed to a wide range of stressors, including air strikes, arbitrary detention, injuries and deaths of friends and family, threats and harassment from non-state armed groups, a cholera epidemic, food insecurity and famine risk, inability to access health care, and the non-payment of salaries. There is a high risk of pervasive poor mental health in Yemen, including major depressive disorder, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. These mental health conditions can have far-reaching consequences, affecting family relationships, physical health, domestic violence, education, the ability to work, and willingness to support peaceful measures to end conflict. Yet health services are minimal, and little action is being taken to mitigate and respond to the clear risk
  3. International human rights law protects the right to health, including the right to mental health.[1] Yemen has ratified all the major human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,[2] the Convention on Rights of the Child[3] and the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.[4] International humanitarian law also protects against certain harms to mental health.[5]
  4. This submission presents concerns regarding two issues: (1) the impact of war on the mental health of civilians in Yemen, and (2) the lack of attention to, and services aimed at promoting, mental health and psychosocial wellbeing in Yemen.[6] The submission also sets out questions for Yemen and recommendations to promote compliance with human rights and humanitarian law obligations.

 

II. Cause for Concern: Mental Health Risks in Yemen

  1. The average 25-year-old in Yemen has lived through 15 armed conflicts. The armed conflict in Yemen has directly and indirectly affected over 80 percent of the population.[7] Persons living in Yemen have faced widespread and frequent exposure to harm, violence and conflict, which, compounded by a context of neglect from the government, widespread insecurity, increased poverty, fractured social ties and a lack of basic social services, creates a serious risk of significant adverse mental health among the population.
  2. Yemeni mental health experts report a 40 percent increase in the suicide rate in Sana’a between 2014 and 2015, and an increase in psychiatric patients.[8] One of the few scientific studies on mental health found that 79 percent of children reported post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, 70 percent had trouble sleeping and 63 percent had doubtful views of the future.[9]
  3. Even before the civil unrest that started in 2011, the population of Yemen experienced poor mental health conditions. There was a lack of appropriate and sufficient health structures, services and policies, and widespread stigma around mental health.[10] This was exacerbated by the ongoing civil war which began on September 21, 2014 with the Houthi take-over of Sana’a, and was compounded by the intervention, at the invitation of the Yemeni government, of the Saudi-led military coalition on March 26, 2015.
  4. As of late December 2017, there have been 9,245 conflict-related deaths and over 52,807 injuries reported. All sides to the conflict have carried out human rights violations in Yemen, including illegal detentions, airstrikes[11] and torture in prisons. These actions are particularly harmful to the health of survivors and their families and friends.
  5. In 2017, the UN declared Yemen to be the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.[12] As of January 2018, the UN estimates that there are 22.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance or protection, an estimated 17.8 million are food insecure, 16 million lack access to safe water and sanitation and 16.4 million lack access to adequate healthcare.[13]
  6. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in armed conflict generally, an estimated 17 percent and 15 percent of the population will suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) respectively.[14] Research from other countries suggests that, without significant efforts to improve well-being, Yemen is at risk of seeing poor mental health continue for many years into the future,[15] with adverse effects on physical health, family cohesion, education, and participation in the workforce. Peace and reconciliation efforts are also at risk of being undermined, as research from other contexts has found that PTSD correlates to support for further violence.[16]
  7. In addition to war-related violence, various government measures, outlined below, have had a negative impact on mental health by affecting the “underlying determinants of mental health”:[17]
    1. Relocation of Central Bank and famine risk: The contraction of the economy is a contributing factor to hunger and the consequent negative psychological impact on individuals and families. The economy, already ravaged by the conflict, worsened in September 2016 when the Yemeni government relocated the Central Bank of Yemen from Sana’a in the north to Aden.[18] The relocated headquarters in Aden lacked professional staffing, institutional memory, networks and cash liquidity. This exacerbated the risk of famine by impairing commercial and governmental structures facilitating the trade of basic commodities.
    2. Public sector salaries: From September 2016, salaries for 1.2 million public sector employees were stopped, and were generally resumed in early 2017 in only government-controlled areas, with two to five months of delays.[19] An estimated 60 percent of public sector employees (720,000 people) remain without their salaries; with an average family size of seven to eight people, this means that an estimated over 5 million Yemenis have lost their main breadwinner. Retired public sector staff in all areas of Yemen have not received pensions since the relocation of the Central Bank. The lack of salaries and pensions has a significant effect on well-being and affects the abilities of millions of families to purchase basic necessities.
    3. Aerial, sea, and land blockade: Allies of the Yemen government, led by Saudi Arabia, have enforced air, land and seaports restrictions and obstacles to the entry of humanitarian and commercial imports to Yemen. Saudi Arabia has enforced restrictions on the movement of humanitarian aid and commercial imports and exports. Yemen relies heavily on imports for basic provisions such as food, medicine and fuel.[20] This has also led to a severe scarcity of medicines, and driven up the price of medicines that are available, compounding the tragedy and threatening the health conditions of civilians.
    4. Sana’a airport closure: Saudi Arabia closed the Sana’a International Airport on August 9, 2016; no reasonable justification was given for this move by either the Saudi-led coalition or the government of Yemen. This has affected the free movement of civilians and particularly impacted persons in need of medical  treatment that is only available outside Yemen. These restrictions have led to an estimated 10,000 preventable deaths.[21]

 

III. Mental Health Services in Yemen

  1. The Ministry of Health and Population adopted a National Mental Health Strategy for 2011-2015, which included steps to promote mental health, improve treatment of disorders and address stigma and discrimination through community mobilization.[22] However, economic conditions and the disruption of public services following the 2011 uprising, the subsequent political crisis and the onset of full-scale war in 2015 led to the strategy being discontinued.[23] The Yemeni government has not made efforts to integrate policies or programs on mental health, and has viewed mental health as a non-priority.[24]
  2. The WHO’s Health Resources Availability Mapping System (HeRAMS) surveyed 3,507 health facilities in 16 of 22 governorates in Yemen and found that only 1,579 (45 percent) were fully functional and accessible, 1,343 (38 percent) were partially functional and 504 (17 percent) were non-functional.[25] The survey also found that 274 facilities had been damaged because of the conflict, including 69 facilities that were totally destroyed and 205 facilities partially damaged.
  3. To date, there has not been a detailed breakdown of the conflict’s impact specifically on mental health care facilities and access to services. The WHO HeRAMS survey found that among 3,507 health facilities, “services for non-communicable diseases and mental health conditions are only fully available in 21 percent of health facilities.”[26]
  4. There has also been a shortage of psychiatric specialists in Yemen since the start of the conflict. In January 2016, the WHO estimated that there were 40 psychiatric specialists in Yemen, most of whom were based in Sana’a. In December 2016, the director of the mental health program at the Ministry of Health suggested there were just 36.[27] There are 0.17 psychologists per 100,000 Yemenis.[28]
  5. In addition to limited health facilities and a lack of trained mental health professionals, the quality of available mental healthcare in Yemen has been a concern:
    1. There is a lack of specialized care for specific groups such as women, children, teenagers and the elderly, as well as addiction and chronic cases;[29]
    2. Mental health is not integrated into the primary healthcare system. Many Yemenis are unable to access treatment when they first make contact with the healthcare system;[30]
    3. There is no official protocol or standardized guidance for mental health diagnosis or assessments which are relevant to a Yemeni social and cultural context;[31] and
    4. The cost of medication is prohibitive for many Yemenis and the use of electroconvulsive therapy remains widespread.[32]

 

IV. Legal Frameworks and Issues

  1. International human rights and humanitarian law create protections for mental health.
  2. The Government of Yemen has acceded to all the major international conventions relating to human rights.[33] The Government of Yemen has also ratified the main Geneva Conventions.[34]
  3. Under international human rights law, everyone has the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”[35] States have a duty to respect, protect and fulfil the right to mental health.[36] This includes refraining from interfering with anyone’s right to access mental health care, preventing and redressing interferences with the right by third parties (including hospitals and psychiatric institutions), and taking positive measures to provide mental health care facilities, goods and services.[37]
  4. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ General Comment 14 explains that the right to mental health requires that mental health care goods, facilities and services be available, accessible, acceptable, of good quality and non-discriminatory.[38] The right also requires that everyone has information about, and the ability to participate in, decisions about their mental health and well-being.[39]
  5. Mental health ‘goods’ include essential medicines for the treatment of psychosocial disorders.[40] Mental health ‘facilities’ include primary, secondary and specialized care clinics providing mental health ‘services’, including diagnoses, treatment, rehabilitation and recovery related to mental illnesses and psychosocial difficulties.[41] Facilities also include the institutions and support required to educate and train qualified health professionals, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, community health and social workers and guidance counsellors.[42]
  6. In addition, states must address basic living conditions which are prerequisites to good health.[43] These conditions, known as “underlying determinants”, may be physical (such as safe drinking water)[44] or social (such as promoting non-violent and respectful relationships).[45]
  7. The right to mental health is also interdependent with other human rights.[46] For example, violations of the rights to be free from torture or arbitrary detention, or of the rights to work or food,[47] risk undermining mental health and well-being.[48],[49] Similarly, violations of the right to mental health may undermine the ability of persons to fully exercise their civil and political rights.[50] Additionally, individuals suffering from serious mental illnesses or disabilities can be extremely vulnerable to violations of their rights, particularly in institutional care, where they may face humiliating and degrading treatment, coercion or sexual abuse.[51]
  8. States also have non-negotiable minimum core obligations to:
  • Provide non-discriminatory access to mental health goods and services,[52] with a special emphasis on the rights of groups who may experience marginalization or vulnerability, such as women, children, older persons, persons with disabilities and refugees and internally displaced populations.[53]
  • Ensure access to the underlying determinants of mental health,[54] including minimum essential food, basic shelter, housing, sanitation and an adequate supply of safe and potable water;[55]
  • Adopt and implement a national mental health strategy;[56]
  • Allow meaningful participation of affected persons and stakeholders in designing and/or deciding on public policy on mental health;[57]
  • Conduct periodic review and monitoring of the right to mental health;[58]
  • Provide education and access to information on mental health, including on methods of prevention.[59]
  1. Under international humanitarian law, which applies to all parties to the conflict in Yemen, medical personnel, units[60] and transport may not be the subject of attack or harm,[61] and should be allowed to carry out their exclusively humanitarian work without undue interference. Parties to the conflict have both affirmative and negative duties to protect medical units, including refraining from attacking them, and placing such units out of harm’s way.[62] 
  2. International humanitarian law also provides for protections for the wounded and the sick, which includes military and civilian persons in need of medical assistance because of “trauma, disease, or other physical or mental disorder or disability.”[63]
  3. Persons whose rights have been violated have the right to a remedy, and are entitled to access to “effective judicial or other remedies.”[64] Remedies can include: adopting adequate legislation;[65] investigating violations;[66] providing access to justice;[67] compensation for damage, including mental harm resulting from gross violations of human rights law and serious violations of humanitarian law;[68] rehabilitation, which includes the provision of “medical and psychological care and legal and social services”;[69] and guarantees of non-repetition of violations, which include protecting people in the medical professions.[70]

 

V. Recommendations

  • Immediately, the Government of Yemen should make all efforts to reduce the burden of the conflict on Yemenis by:
    • Calling on the Saudi-led coalition to lift restrictions and reduce delays on inspections of imports and exports and humanitarian access to Yemen.
    • Calling on the Saudi-led coalition to reopen Sana’a International Airport for commercial and civilian movement into and out of Yemen, and particularly to allow the travel of civilians seeking medical treatment outside Yemen.
    • Paying public sector salaries without interruptions to all areas of Yemen.
  • The Government should work toward creating a participatory process for a new national health strategy which includes a significant focus on mental health.
  • With support from United Nations agencies, donor governments and nongovernmental organizations, the Government of Yemen should promote access to appropriate psychosocial support for persons living in Yemen.
  • The Government should ensure people with mental illnesses have access to safe and appropriate services and support.
  • The Government should include issues of mental health and support for those affected by the conflict in the peace talk processes.
  • The Government should remedy the lack of research into mental health by facilitating independent research in Yemen, and ensuring that its coalition allies facilitate the free movement of researchers into and out of Yemen.
  • The Government should ensure that its mental health-related policies, planning, programs and research meet the needs of groups which may experience vulnerability or marginalization, including women, children, older persons and ethnic minorities.
  • The Government should work toward integrating mental health into primary health care, by ensuring the integration of psychological and specialized assistance in all health care services to meet the needs of affected people at all levels of villages, districts, cities and governorates.
  • The Government should ensure that mental health is an important factor in all its national planning, and is considered in medical and health interventions conducted in collaboration with regional and international agencies.
  • The Government should take steps to support more training for counsellors, psychologists, teachers and community leaders.
  • The Government should conduct awareness-raising and de-stigmatization programs among the Yemeni population.

 

VI. Questions

  • What steps is the Government currently taking to ensure citizens suffering from poor mental health have access to medical care and psychosocial support?
  • How does the Government plan to address the mental health needs of its citizens, and the lack of existing services?
  • What plans does the Government have for immediate, mid-term and long-term programs, initiatives and services to address the effects of the war on the mental health and well-being of Yemenis?
  • What plans does the Government have to create a new national health strategy, including provisions for mental health?
  • What data does the Government have about mental health conditions and services in Yemen? What number, location, and types of doctors and other practitioners are performing mental health-related work? What programs, initiatives and services exist for psycho-social support across the country? What studies has the government conducted to assess the well-being and mental health needs of the population?
  • What steps is the Government taking to ensure that its own security forces, and its partners and partners’ proxy forces in Yemen are respecting the mental health and well-being of Yemenis? What steps are being taken to stop abuses—such as illegal detention, torture in prisons, and illegal airstrikes—which seriously harm well-being?

 


Notes:

[1] ‘Mental health’, as recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), is a broad concept which goes beyond meaning the absence of mental illness. The WHO recognizes a state of ‘mental health’ as encompassing the “subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, intergenerational dependence and recognition of the ability to realize one’s intellectual and emotional potential”. It has also been defined as a “state of well-being which allows individuals to recognize their abilities, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and make a contribution to their communities.” See World Health Organization, Investing in Mental Health 7 (2003), http://www.who.int/mental_health/media/investing_mnh.pdf.

[2] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Dec. 6, 1966, S. Treaty Doc. No. 95-19, I.L.M. 360 (1967), 993 U.N.T.S 3 (Accession date Feb. 09, 1987) [hereinafter ICESCR].

[3] Convention on the Rights of the Child, Nov. 20, 1989, 1577 U.N.T.S. 3 (Accession date May 01, 1991.

[4] Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Dec. 13, 2006, 2515 U.N.T.S. 3 (Accession date Mar. 26, 2009) [hereinafter CRPD].

[5] International humanitarian law protects certain categories of persons during armed conflict. See Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons In Times of War, Aug. 12, 1949, 75 U.N.T.S. 287, art. 33 [hereinafter Geneva Convention IV]; Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflict (Protocol I), Aug. 6, 1977, 1124 U.N.T.S. 3, art 51(2), art. 11 [hereinafter Addl. Protocol I]; Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of non-international armed conflicts, (Protocol II) Aug. 06, 1978, 1125 U.N.T.S. 609, art. 5(2) [hereinafter Addl. Protocol II]. It has also been proposed that incidental mental harm can be protected under international humanitarian law. See Steve Wilkinson, Incidental yet Monumental: Incorporating Mental Health Impacts into IHL Proportionality Assessments, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, (Apr. 7, 2017), https://reliefweb.int/report/world/incidental-yet-monumental-incorporating-mental-health-impacts-ihl-proportionality. Finally, medical personnel, units and transport are also protected, see Geneva Convention for the amelioration of the condition of the wounded and sick in armed forces in the field, Dec. 08, 1949, 75 U.N.T.S. 31, arts. 19(1), 24-26 [hereinafter Geneva Convention I]; Geneva Convention for the amelioration of the condition of the wounded, sick and shipwrecked members of the armed forces at sea, Dec., 08, 1949, 75 U.N.T.S. 85, arts. 23, 36 [hereinafter Geneva Convention II]; Geneva Convention IV arts. 18, 20, 21; Addl. Protocol I, arts. 12(1), 15, 21; Addl. Protocol II, arts. 9, 11(1).

[6] This submission draws on a briefing paper published by the submission co-authors: Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic & Mailman School of Public Health, The Impact of War on Mental Health in Yemen: A Neglected Crisis (2017), http://sanaacenter.org/files/THE_IMPACT_OF_WAR_ON_MENTAL_HEALTH_IN_YEMEN.pdf. The briefing paper was based on an extensive literature review, and interviews with health professionals, psychological and social experts, and UN and Yemen government officials [hereinafter Briefing Paper].

[7] The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [UN OCHA], Humanitarian Response Plan: 2018, (Jan. 2018), https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/20180120_HRP_YEMEN_Final.pdf.

[8] See Briefing Paper, supra note 6. 

[9] Fawziah al Ammar, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among Yemeni Children as a Consequence of the Ongoing War, Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient (Mar. 20, 2018), https://carpo-bonn.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/10_carpo_brief_final_printerfriendly.pdf

[10] See generally, Briefing Paper, supra note 6. 

[11] Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, Blind Air Strikes: Civilian Victims of Saudi-led coalition’ air strikes in Yemen, (Dec. 15, 2015), http://mwatana.org/en/blind_air_strikes/.

[12] See Joint Statement from Agency Heads: WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and WFP Executive Director David Beasley, UN Leaders Appeal for Immediate Lifting of Humanitarian Blockade in Yemen – Millions of Lives at Imminent Risk (Nov. 16, 2017), https://www.unicef.org/media/media_101496.html

[13] The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA], Yemen: 2018 Humanitarian Needs, (Dec. 04, 2017), https://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/yemen-2018-humanitarian-needs-overview-enar.

[14] World Health Organization Executive Board Secretariat, Global Burden of Mental Disorders and the Need for a Comprehensive, Coordinated Response from Health and Social Sectors at a Country Level: Report by the Secretariat, ¶ 3, E.B. 130/9 (Dec. 1, 2011), http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/EB130/B130_9-en.pdf.

[15] Indeed, a 2010 study covering a region of Liberia revealed that some 45% of the population exhibited symptoms of PTSD nearly 20 years after the end of the conflict. Sandro Galea et al., Persistent Psychopathology in the Wake of Civil War: Long-Term Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Nimba County, Liberia, 100 Am. J. Pub. Health 1745 (2010).

[16] Theresa S. Betancourt et al., Psychosocial Problems of War-Affected Youth in Northern Uganda: A Qualitative Study, 46 Transcultural Psychiatry 238 (2009).

[17] Several underlying determinants of health are self-standing human rights, including the rights to food, water, sanitation, and adequate housing. States are obligated to concurrently secure these rights, as enumerated in the ICESCR and interpreted by the CESCR’s General Comments. See generally http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/TBSearch.aspx?Lang=en&TreatyID=9&DocTypeID=11 (last visited Jul. 11, 2018).

[18] Mansour Rageh, Amal Nasser & Farea Al-Muslimi, Yemen Without a Functioning Central Bank: The Loss of Basic Economic Stabilization and Accelerating Famine, Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, (Nov. 2, 2016) http://sanaacenter.org/publications/main-publications/55.

[19] “There are many devils” – A conversation with Governor of Taiz Ali al-Mamari, Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies (Nov. 12, 2017), http://sanaacenter.org/publications/analysis/5046.

[20] Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Relief [OCHA], Ensuring Yemen’s lifeline: the criticality of all Yemeni ports (as of 13 Nov 2017) (Nov. 13, 2017),  https://reliefweb.int/map/yemen/ensuring-yemen-s-lifeline-criticality-all-yemeni-ports-13-nov-2017-enar.

[21] Norwegian Refugee Council, “Yemen airport closure killed more people than airstrikes,” (Aug. 09, 2017) https://www.nrc.no/news/2017/august/yemen-airport-closure-killed-more-people-than-airstrikes/.

[22] Yemen National Mental Health Strategy, supra note 17, at 5.

[23] Briefing Paper, supra note 6.

[24] Briefing Paper, supra note 6, at 9.

[25] World Health Organisation, Survey Reveals Extent of Damage to Yemen’s Health System, (Nov. 6, 2016), WHO EMRO, http://www.emro.who.int/pdf/media/news/survey-reveals-extent-of-damage-to-yemens-health-system.pdf.

[26] World Health Organisation, Survey Reveals Extent of Damage to Yemen’s Health System, (Nov. 6, 2016), WHO EMRO, http://www.emro.who.int/pdf/media/news/survey-reveals-extent-of-damage-to-yemens-health-system.pdf.

[27] Briefing Paper, supra note 6.

[28] Briefing Paper, supra note 6, at 8.

[29] Yemen Ministry of Health and Population, National Mental Health Strategy: 2011-2015 (Mar. 2010) at 58, http://sfd.sfd-yemen.org/uploads/issues/health%20english-20121015-132757.pdf [hereinafter Yemen National Mental Health Strategy].

[30] Yemen National Mental Health Strategy, supra note 17, at 5.

[31] Maan A.Bari Qasem Saleh, Mental Health in Yemen Obstacles & Challenges, 14 (2013), (slideshow presentation), http://slideplayer.com/slide/679600.

[32] Maan A.Bari Qasem Saleh & Ahmed Mohamed Makki, Mental Health in Yemen: Obstacles & Challenges 5 Int’l Psychiatry 90, 91 (2008).

[33] The Government of Yemen has ratified the CRPD, supra note 4, and acceded to all the other human rights conventions, except the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Dec. 18, 2002, 2375 U.N.T.S. 237; the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, Dec. 20, 2006, 2716 U.N.T.S. 3; the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, Dec. 15, 1998, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414; and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, Jul. 1, 2003, 2220 U.N.T.S. 3.

[34] The Government of Yemen has either ratified or acceded to all the major Geneva Conventions, with the exception of the Protocol Addl. to the Geneva Conventions of Aug. 12 1949, and relating to the Adoption of an Additional Distinctive Emblem (Protocol III), Dec. 8, 2005, 2404 U.N.T.S. 261.

[35] The right to mental health is recognized in human rights treaties, including the ICESCR, supra note 2, and the CRPD, supra note 4; several UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions, see G.A. Res. 217 (III) A, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Dec. 10, 1948), G.A. Res. 58/173, The right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (Dec. 22, 2003), G.A. Res. 46/118, The protection of persons with mental illness and the improvement of mental health care (Dec. 17, 1991); Regional human rights treaties, see African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Jun. 27, 1981, 1520 U.N.T.S. 217, art. 16 and African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, Jul. 11, 1990, CAB/LEG/24.9/49 (1990), art. 14; decisions of regional human rights courts,  see e.g., European Court of Human Rights [Lazariu v. Romania (2015); Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Romania-Helsinki Committee on Behalf of Ionel Garcea v. Romania (2015); M.H. v. United Kingdom (2014)]; Inter-Am. Commission of Human Rights [Ximenes-Lopes v. Brazil, Report No. 38/02, Petition 12/237, October 9, 2002; Victor Rosario Congo v. Ecuador, Report 63/99, Case No. 11.427; OEA/Ser.L/V/11.106 Doc 6. Rev., April 13, 1993]; Inter-American Court of Human Rights [Ituango Massacres v. Colombia, Inter-Am. C.H.R., (ser. C) No. 148 (Jul. 1, 2006); Moiwana Community v. Suriname, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 124 (June 15, 2005)]; African Commission on Human and People’s Rights [Sudan Human Rights Organization, et al. v. Sudan, Comm. No. 279/03-296/05 (2009)]; decisions of the UN human rights treaty bodies, see e.g., UN Human Rights Committee [Williams v. Jamaica, Communication No 609/1995, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/61/D/609/1995 (4 November 1997); Francis v. Jamaica, Communication No 606/1994]; Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women [L.C. v. Peru, CEDAW, U.N. Doc. CEDAW/C/50/D/22/2009 (2011)]; reports by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Special Rapporteurs (discussed in notes 40, 45, below); decisions of national courts; and academic articles, see e.g. Lawrence O. Gostin & Lance Gable, The Human Rights of Persons with Mental Disabilities: A Global Perspective on the Application of Human Rights Principles to Mental Health, 20 Maryland L.R. 63 (2004); Jonathan M. Mann et al., Health and Human Rights, 1 (1) Health & Human Rights 7, at p.7 (1999); Carla A.A. Ventura, International Law, Mental Health and Human Rights, The Center for Civil & Human Rights, (Jun. 2014).

[36] UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 14: The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health (Art. 12 of the Covenant), U.N. Doc. E/C.12/2000/4 (Aug. 11, 2000), ¶ 33 [hereinafter General Comment No. 14].

[37] General Comment No. 14 supra note 37, ¶ 33.

[38] See generally General Comment No. 14, supra note 33.

[39] General Comment No. 14, supra note 37, ¶12.

[40] Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, E/CN.4/2005/51(Feb. 11, 2005), ¶ 46; Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/35/21 (Mar. 28, 2017) ¶ 55, [hereinafter UNSR Mental Health Report].

[41] UNSR Mental Health Report, supra note 41, ¶ 55.

[42] UNSR Mental Health Report, supra note 41, ¶ 55, 56.

[43] This affirmation to address the underlying determinants of mental health was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2017. See, United Nations General Assembly, Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on 28 September 2017, UN Doc. A/HRC/RES/36/13 (Oct. 9, 2017).

[44] Access to safe and potable water and adequate sanitation; an adequate supply of safe food, nutrition, and housing; healthy occupational and environmental conditions; and access to health-related education and information. See General Comment No.14, supra note 37 ¶11.

[45] The ‘social’ determinants include living in a safe environment free of direct violence, the threat of violence, and armed conflict; and the promotion of supportive relationships. For more, see UNSR Mental Health Report, supra note 41, ¶ 67. See also Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, U.N Doc. A/HRC/68/297 (Aug. 9, 2013) at ¶ 8 [hereinafter UNSR Health in Conflict Report]; General Comment No.14 supra note 37, ¶ 10, citing “Common Article 3”, common to all four Geneva Conventions. See Geneva Convention I, supra note 5, art. 3; Geneva Convention II supra note 5, art. 3; Geneva Convention III supra note 5, art. 3; and Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War art. 3, Aug. 12, 1949, 6 U.S.T. 3316, 75 U.N.T.S. 135, art. 3 [hereinafter Geneva Convention IV]. It also cites Addl. Protocol I, supra note 5, art.75 (2) (a); Addl. Protocol II, supra note 5, art. 4 (a).

[46] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Dec. 16, 1966, 99 U.N.T.S. 991 [hereinafter “ICCPR”].

[47] Similarly, the right to mental health is dependent and related to the realization of other rights including the rights to food, housing, education, life, non-discrimination, and equality. See, General Comment No.14, supra note 37, ¶ 3. For instance, having an inadequate supply of safe food and nutrition, such as in times of famine, can cause poor mental health. See, T.S. Sathyanarayana, M.R. Asha, B.N. Ramesh, and K.S. Jagannatha Rao, Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illness, 50(2) Indian J Psychiatry 77 (2008).

[48] This includes their rights to life, dignity, and self-determination. See UNSR Mental Health Report, supra note 41, ¶ 31; General Comment No.14, supra note 37, ¶ 8.

[49] This includes their rights to life, dignity, and self-determination. See UNSR Mental Health Report, supra note 41, ¶ 31; General Comment No.14, supra note 37, ¶ 8. 

[50] Id.

[51] See Economic and Social Council Res. 2000/10 (Jul. 2, 7, 2001); Leandro Despouy (Special Rapporteur on disabled persons and human rights), Human rights and Disability, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/1991/31 (1991); Erica-Irene Daes (Special rapporteur of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities), Principles, guidelines, and guarantees for the protection of persons detained of grounds of mental ill health or suffering from mental disorder, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/1983/17 (1983).

[52] Id., ¶ 43.

[53] UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 3: The Nature of State Parties’ Obligations (Art. 2, Para. 1 of the Covenant), U.N. Doc. E/1991/23 (Dec. 14, 1990) [hereinafter General Comment No.3]] ¶ 12, General Comment No. 14, supra note 37 ¶ 18-27.

[54] Several underlying determinants of health are self-standing human rights, including the rights to food, water, sanitation, and adequate housing. States are obligated to concurrently secure these rights, as enumerated in the ICESCR, supra note 2, and interpreted by the CESCR’s General Comments. See generally http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/TBSearch.aspx?Lang=en&TreatyID=9&DocTypeID=11 [last accessed Jul. 11, 2018].

[55] General Comment No. 14, supra note 37, and General Comment No. 3, supra note 54.

[56] General Comment No. 14, supra note 37.

[57] General Comment No. 14, supra note 37.

[58] General Comment No. 14, supra note 37.

[59] General Comment No. 14, supra note 37, ¶ 44.

[60] Under Addl. Protocol I, supra note 5, art. 8(e), “medical units” include establishments and other units, fixed or mobile, permanent or temporary, organized for medical purposes.

[61] See Geneva Convention I, supra note 5, arts. 19(1), 24-26; Geneva Convention II, supra note 5, arts. 23, 36; Geneva Convention IV, supra note 46, arts 18, 20, 21; Addl. Protocol I, supra note 5, arts. 12 (1), 15, 21; Addl. Protocol II, supra note 5, arts. 9 11(1). 

[62] See Geneva Convention I, supra note 5, art. 19(2); Geneva Convention IV, supra note 46, art. 18(5); Addl. Protocol I, supra note 5, art. 12(4).

[63] Addl. Protocol I, supra note 5, art. 8(a).

[64] G.A. Res. 60/147, Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law (Mar. 21, 2006), art.3 [hereinafter Basic Principles on the Right to Remedy].

[65] Basic Principles on the Right to Remedy, supra note 65, art. 17.

[66] Basic Principles on the Right to Remedy, supra note 65, arts. 3(b), 4.

[67] Basic Principles on the Right to Remedy, supra note 65, arts. 3(c), 11(a), 12, 13.

[68] Basic Principles on the Right to Remedy, supra note 65, art. 20.

[69] Basic Principles on the Right to Remedy, supra note 65, art. 21.

[70] Basic Principles on the Right to Remedy, supra note 65, art. 23.

Beyond the Business as Usual Approach: Combating Corruption in Yemen

Beyond the Business as Usual Approach: Combating Corruption in Yemen

Corruption, or the abuse of power for private gain, is deeply entrenched in the Yemeni political economy. For decades Yemen has witnessed state capture, with political leaders at the highest level extracting rents from state institutions to benefit a select few. Administrative corruption, too, has been commonplace in Yemen: low-level bribery and favoritism have become a part of everyday life. There is arguably a cultural acceptance — even an expectation — of corruption in politics and business, as informal networks have come to wield more influence than official institutions.

Policy Brief: Corruption in Yemen’s War Economy

Policy Brief: Corruption in Yemen’s War Economy

Executive Summary

Corruption, or the abuse of power for private gain, has been deeply entrenched in the Yemeni political economy for decades. Over the course of the ongoing conflict, however, as the war has fragmented and regionalized the country, state capture in Yemen has become far more complex. In the war economy, patronage networks are now emerging among previously marginal or unknown figures. The financial involvement of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has extended patronage across national borders. Alleged collusion between Houthi-affiliated importers and officials allied with the internationally recognized Yemeni government indicates patronage networks that potentially cross the frontlines of the war themselves. As greater numbers and a wider variety of actors profit from illicit activity in the war economy, vested economic interests in continued conflict become more entrenched.

If state capture is among the main drivers of Yemen’s war economy, then post-conflict recovery must include a strong anti-corruption agenda. Policymakers must begin planning to address corruption as a part of a potential post-conflict strategy. Given the multi-faceted pervasiveness of corruption in Yemen, any anti-corruption agenda must aim to understand the complex configuration of patronage networks in Yemen, to be introduced gradually, and to get the buy-in of as wide a group of Yemenis as possible. Without these basic building blocks, more specific policy changes such as encouraging transparency or reducing conflicts of interest may founder. Corruption has become deeply entrenched in Yemen; any post-conflict anti-corruption agenda must be great in scope and long-term in vision.

This policy brief is based on the longer white paper ‘Combating Corruption in Yemen‘.

Introduction

Corruption, or the abuse of entrusted power for private gain,[1] is endemic in Yemen. In 2017 global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International ranked Yemen 175 out of 180 countries, with an index score of only 16 on a scale of 0-100 where zero is highly corrupt.[2] Yemen’s index score has trended downward in the past several years, indicating increased corruption.[3]

Corruption in Yemen is not a new development. For decades the country has witnessed what the World Bank terms “state capture,” wherein an elite minority distorts state institutions for illicit gain.[4] A narrow range of actors have manipulated Yemen’s state institutions, reaping the rewards of their elevated position and dictating the rules of the game.

Read the white paper

The country’s informal elite networks have become more influential than formal state institutions — another hallmark of state capture.[6] State capture and lower-level administrative corruption, characterized by everyday bribery and favoritism,  have been underpinned by informal institutions and a tacit cultural acceptance in Yemeni society that the abuse of power in business and politics is simply “how things are done.”[7] Despite the presence of a legal framework that technically prohibits such practices, arbitrary fines and unpredictable bribes to authorities are considered commonplace.[8]

The ongoing conflict in Yemen has not altered the basic workings of this system of state capture. An elite minority of actors continues operate according to rules of the game that remain fundamentally unchanged from before the conflict. However, the players involved are shifting. Yemen’s burgeoning war economy has seen the emergence of previously marginalized or unknown actors. Patronage networks now cross frontlines, with perceived adversaries willingly cooperating for the sake of maximizing private gain. The networks also now extend beyond Yemen’s borders. To some extent, these shifting patronage networks — and the war economy that supports them — are a driving force behind the conflict. If Yemen is to recover from this period of violence and instability, corruption cannot go unaddressed.

The following policy brief details the development of Yemen’s war economy, new players and dynamics in Yemen’s corruption networks, and then offer recommendations to international stakeholders and the Yemeni government to curb the worst excesses of corruption over the long run post-conflict.

 

Corruption in Yemen’s War Economy

As the conflict in Yemen has evolved since March 2015, so too has its burgeoning war economy. In the war economy, corruption has become systemic and even, to some degree, apolitical. At first glance, actors who are politically and militarily opposed to one another compete for influence on the ground. Beneath the surface, however, the reality is more complex. A wide array of actors shape Yemen’s thriving war economy: senior decision-makers, military commanders, established and newly empowered businessmen, local security officials that control checkpoints, commercial bankers, money exchangers, truck drivers and civil servants. Networks of corruption transcend the conflict, seamlessly crossing frontlines and regional borders, with perceived adversaries cooperating for the sake of maximizing profits.

New Actors in Control of State Resources

The conflict has seen state resources – specifically energy resources – come under the control of actors that were previously marginalized or unknown. In northern Yemen, the Houthis have taken control of the import, distribution, and sale of fuel as well as customs and taxation, the telecommunications sector, and car imports.[9] The internationally recognized government, led by Hadi, nominally controls all areas not controlled by the Houthis. However, for large periods of the conflict, Hadi and members of his cabinet have operated from exile in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

In the functional absence of the internationally recognized government, the UAE-backed pro-southern independence body Southern Transitional Council (STC) has been gaining influence in southern Yemen. A large swath of Yemen’s southern coastline that stretches from the southwestern Taiz governorate to northeastern al-Mahra governorate – and includes the ports located in Taiz, Aden, Hadramawt, Shabwa, and al-Mahra governorates – is now monitored by the UAE directly or through UAE-backed security actors such as the Hadrami and Shabwani Elite forces. The Hadrami and Shabwani Elite forces also have influence over the key energy facilities in both Hadramawt and Shabwa.[10] Meanwhile, the country’s other major energy facilities in Marib, nominally under the authority of the internationally recognized government, are increasingly under the independent control of the governorate’s own local authorities.

 

Mechanisms of Corruption in Yemen’s War

Inflating Military Payrolls

As in Saleh’s era, the inflation of military payrolls with non-existent soldiers (“ghost soldiers”) continues to be a major source of patronage for actors operating within Yemen’s military and security apparatus. Senior officers, particularly those operating under the banner of the internationally recognized Yemeni government, reportedly exaggerate the number of soldiers under their command in order to pocket the excess salary payments. Government officials are also thought to be complicit in this scheme.[11]

Besides salaries, senior military commanders receive matériel (weapons, ammunition, fuel, vehicles and other important equipment) based on the number of soldiers that they claim to have under their command. Inflating their payroll results not only in extra salary payments but also extra matériel, which can then be sold at a profit.

The money for inflated payrolls comes primarily from the two dominant members of the Saudi-led coalition, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The entrance into the conflict of these two wealthy patrons has increased the incentive for various anti-Houthi tribal, military, and security commanders to fabricate the number of men under their command.[12] Lower down the chain of command, anti-Houthi military and security personnel “double dip” — they are registered for payment on more than one command roster, thus receive two separate salaries from two different sources. s the two wealthy countries continue to fund inflated and duplicated military payrolls, Yemeni patronage networks extend beyond national borders.

There is evidence to suggest that weapons reportedly being smuggled to the Houthis pass through areas nominally under the control of the internationally recognized Yemeni government.[14] While the details of the weapons flows are uncertain (regarding weapon type, quantity, and entry point into the country), the ease with which weapons make their way from the eastern governorates to Houthi-controlled areas indicates willing collusion among actors affiliated with both sides of the conflict. If both parties to the conflict are in fact profiting from the same weapons flows, it suggests that patronage networks have come to transcend the conflict’s frontlines.

Monopolizing Fuel Imports

After Yemen’s oil and gas facilities went offline, the country became dependent on fuel imports. This presented an opportunity for established players and for those looking to capitalize on the country’s fuel needs. Fuel imports have become the most lucrative branch of Yemen’s energy sector during the conflict.[15]

Ahmed al-Eisi is the dominant player in Aden. Al-Eisi is aided in his dominance by his ownership of the top maritime fuel transportation company in Yemen, Alessi Group. Opaque  tender bidding processes essentially hand al-Eisi the procurement contract for supplying fuel to Aden: one contract viewed by the author contained conditions that included a tight fuel delivery deadline that no other applicant could meet.[16] With Alessi Group holding a monopoly over Aden Refinery Company (ARC), the sole entity authorized to import fuel into Aden, al-Eisi in effect has a monopoly over fuel imports — and, by default, distribution. Although Hadi in March 2018 nominally “liberalized” fuel imports in areas under the nominal control of the internationally recognized Yemeni government, there have been no visible changes in al-Eisi’s monopoly in Aden thus far.

In Houthi-controlled areas, fuel imports are an equally significant source of patronage. Houthi-affiliated fuel importers who were previously unknown to members of the Yemeni business community have over the course of the conflict learned from — and supplanted  — established players such as CruGas.[17] These Houthi-affiliated fuel traders now effectively control fuel imports through Hudaydah Port and domestic fuel market sales in areas under Houthi control. They allegedly import low-quality Iranian petrol and diesel in order to sell it on the local Yemeni market for a significant markup.[18] They have reportedly targeted the assets, such as fuel transportation trucks and petrol stations, of non-Houthi traders.[19] They also reportedly require non-Houthi competitors to pay hefty unofficial last-minute fees to unload at Hudaydah Port.[20]

Notably, the blockade of Houthi-controlled ports introduced another source of patronage. The Saudi-led coalition would only permit imports if the request had President Hadi’s seal of approval. This empowered Hadi’s son, Jalal Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Despite holding no official government position, from March 2015 until the installation of the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM) in May 2016, Jalal reportedly became the man to contact and essentially pay off in order to obtain the necessary fuel import permits.[21] Houthi-affiliated businessmen reportedly established a good working relationship with Jalal as a result of obtaining fuel import permits for Hudaydah through him. They obtained those permits through middlemen that brokered deals in Sana’a that were then signed off on in Riyadh.

Misusing State Funds

Besides enabling the specific mechanisms of inflating military payrolls and monopolizing fuel imports, the conflict has allowed governing authorities to avoid scrutiny on their use of funds. In some instances, this is merely a lack of transparency: in Marib, for example, the Central Bank of Yemen (CBY) branch is unwilling to disclose the numbers behind its locally sourced revenues and expenditures.[22] Also hidden from scrutiny are the customs revenue generated from Yemen’s ports, the Houthi-controlled inland customs checkpoints, and the Shahen and al-Wade’ah land borders with Oman and Saudi Arabia.[23]

However, governing authorities on both sides have also reportedly actively misused state funds. I n 2017, 2 billion Yemeni rials (YR), printed in Russia and en route to the CBY in Aden, were reportedly delivered straight to the presidential palace in Aden; by now the money has allegedly been disbursed via the office of the prime minister as “discretionary spending.”[24] For a time, the internationally recognized government was receiving payments for its stake in the Masila oilfield in Hadramawt directly into a private bank account held at AlAhli bank in Saudi Arabia in President Hadi’s name.[25]

The Houthis, meanwhile, have been accused of diverting money from the CBY in Sana’a to pay for their military campaign.[26] The money is allegedly used to pay the salaries of Houthi military and security commanders and their respective fighters. It was also used to pay for thousands of Houthi-sanctioned civil servants installed by the group in the Ministry of Interior in Sana’a as part of a broader strategy in which they sought to replace Saleh loyalists with Houthi supporters over the course of 2016 and 2017.[27] The Houthis reportedly installed many young, inexperienced, unqualified individuals in senior positions at the ministry as part of an attempt to weaken Saleh and his allies’ hold over north Yemen’s military and security apparatus, with the Republican Guard one of the main targets.[28] This Houthi effort to staff important institutions with supporters served the aim of garnering power and as well as a system of patronage to provide employment and comparatively stable government salaries to Houthi supporters.

Yemen’s war economy presents a challenge to any policymaker concerned with building peace in Yemen. It is clear that no one individual or group is solely culpable for corruption. Instead, what external analysts might see as corrupt practices are widely accepted as normal transactions – simply the cost of doing business. More importantly, the conflict’s shifting, expanding networks of patronage may form the basis of the kind of informal institutions that could enable corrupt practices in a post-war context. This could potentially endanger the prospect of peace. Corruption, therefore, must be an integral part of any post-conflict agenda.

 

Conclusion and Recommendations

As the war in Yemen continues, the main sources of patronage and power — control over state institutions and access to major sources of revenue — remain unchanged from Saleh’s era. Weapons flows, tendering processes, fuel subsidies and falsified military payrolls continue to enrich the few at the expense of the many.

However, Yemen is witnessing a shift in the individuals involved. Patronage networks have become more complicated. Previously marginal or unknown figures are making inroads into traditional means of illicit profit. Parallel state institutions have emerged, affording new instances of state capture. The entrance of two wealthy regional patrons — Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — has changed the calculus of wealth. Reported collusion between Houthi-affiliated importers and senior officials allied with the internationally recognized Yemeni government, if true, represents adversaries at war cooperating for purposes of private gain.

Despite the grim reality of ongoing corruption in a conflict that shows little sign of abating, policymakers must nevertheless begin now to consider how to build a lasting peace. If corruption is among the main drivers of the conflict, then post-conflict recovery must include an anti-corruption agenda.

Given the complex nature and wide reach of corruption in Yemen, any anti-corruption agenda must seek to understand the complex configuration of patronage networks in Yemen, to be introduced gradually, and to get the buy-in of as wide a group of Yemenis as possible. Without these basic building blocks, more specific policy changes such as encouraging transparency or reducing conflicts of interest may founder. Corruption has become deeply entrenched in Yemen; any post-conflict anti-corruption agenda must be great in scope and long-term in vision.

 

Guiding Principles

Acknowledge Complexity

Any attempt to address the abuse of power in Yemen should include a detailed analysis of the complex, context-specific mechanisms of corruption at the heart of Yemen’s war economy. Rather than shying away from the time-consuming and difficult task of disentangling the broad, ever-evolving political and economic relationships among the actors engaged in corrupt activity, policymakers must attempt to understand such complexity. A well-developed contextual understanding will allow policymakers to weigh up potential benefits and anticipate pitfalls when developing a anti-corruption strategy. Constant observation and analysis is key to keeping pace with developments on the ground.[29]

Implement Gradually

State capture should be rolled backed gradually, with a phased implementation of anti-corruption reforms. It would be unrealistic and perhaps counterproductive for policymakers to introduce a sudden and aggressive anti-corruption strategy. Actors currently profiting from the war economy may resist wholesale changes. Worse, rushed or superficial efforts to combat corruption may lead to grave policy errors where instead of restraining the actions of corrupt individuals the policies lead to greater suffering among the Yemeni people, who are already dealing with the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.[30]

Engage as Many Actors as Possible

Given the widespread reach of corruption in Yemen, anti-corruption efforts should not selectively target any single actor, but should instead seek to have an impact across the system as a whole. While efforts should certainly be made to curb the activities of actors known to be engaging in corruption, such actors should not be singled out exclusively. To do so would leave policymakers  open to accusations of political bias. If any breakthrough is to be made in creating short- or long-term peace, policymakers will need the buy-in of as many actors as possible.

 

Recommendation for the Government of Yemen’s Post-Conflict Policies

Build on the Existing Anti-Corruption Framework in Yemen

  • Strengthen Yemen’s existing state-run anti-corruption agencies, including the Central Organization for Control and Auditing (COCA), Supreme National Authority for Combating Corruption (SNACC), the Real Estate Authority, and the Financial Information Unit (FIU).
  • Sufficiently fund the anti-corruption agencies to provide training and institutional capacity-building programs.
  • Encourage greater coordination and data-sharing among already established anti-corruption agencies.
  • Ensure that all anti-corruption agencies operate independently of government officials.

Encourage Transparency and Accountability

  • Conduct a recurring, independent audit for all state-owned and state-run companies.
  • Establish a government agency to process freedom of information requests, in accordance with Law No. 13 of 2012 concerning the Right of Access to Information.
  • Create a new regulation whereby appointed officials publicly release annual personal financial statements during their tenure.
  • Make publicly available the details of all government tenders and the details of the salaries and bonuses of all senior government staff.
  • Establish a system issuing national identification numbers to Yemeni citizens and to non-Yemeni residents who have secured a residency visa. Link the number to personal financial information and biometric data stored on a secure and confidential government database.
  • Officially register and publish all government assets, including weapons inventories.

Reduce Conflicts of Interest

  • Implement conflict of interest measures to ensure that personal relationships between government officials responsible for tenders and companies competing for those tenders do not influence the awarding of contracts.
  • Legally obligate government employees to relinquish control of any private businesses.
  • Regularly rotate on a mandatory basis all positions that are central to economic control and management (e.g. in state-run energy companies).
  • Implement new regulations establishing equal employment opportunities within the public sector.
  • Ban the issuing of state-run contracts to senior military commanders.
  • Gradually dismantle checkpoints to reduce the incidence of bribes.
  • Reform, unify and gradually downsize the military and security apparatus.

Improve the Management of Government Finances

  • Establish a system for collecting government receipts and controlling the disbursal of money to the different branches of government and state institutions.
  • Implement a new national budget and make the details of it publicly available.
  • Ensure tight budgetary controls and supervision over government revenues and expenditures.
  • Restore the CBY to a fully functioning independent national entity. While the government should set spending priorities, the CBY should be in charge of the distribution of these funds according to the national budget.
  • Deposit all revenues generated by the respective central governing authorities in the local CBY branch (e.g. in Aden, Marib, Hadramawt, Sana’a, or Taiz) rather than redirecting them to government officials’ offices.
  • International stakeholders must draft, deliver, and monitor implementation of a long-term financial assistance package that makes assistance conditional on continued adherence to existing anti-corruption legislation. Focus on channeling donations through local government institutions, local NGOS or INGOs on the ground in Yemen, when and where appropriate to minimize the opportunities for bureaucratic corruption.
  • Closely monitor financial assistance provided for post-war reconstruction and local development projects. Make such assistance conditional upon progress toward stated outcomes.

Decentralize Economic Power

  • Empower local authorities, specifically local councils, to deliver public services and implement local development projects.
  • Aid the creation and expansion of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to facilitate economic diversification and economic growth.
  • Empower anti-corruption agencies to monitor fuel import companies, investigating discrepancies over registered and real owners. Their findings, along with accurate company details, should be made publicly available.

 


Bibliography

[1] “What is Corruption?” Transparency International, accessed June 25, 2018, https://www.transparency.org/what-is-corruption.

[2] “Corruption Perceptions Index 2017,” Transparency International, last modified February 21, 2018, accessed June 25, 2018, https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2017.

[3] “Corruption Perceptions Index 2017 Shows High Corruption Burden in More than Two-thirds of Countries,” Transparency International, last modified February 21, 2018, accessed June 25, 2018, https://www.transparency.org/news/pressrelease/corruption_perceptions_index_2017_shows_high_corruption_burden_in_more_than.

[4] World Bank, Anticorruption in Transition: A Contribution to the Policy Debate, (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2000) accessed June 25, 2018, 1, https://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWBIGOVANTCOR/Resources/contribution.pdf.

[5]  For details regarding corruption in Yemen during the rule of late former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, please see the full white paper of “Combating Corruption in Yemen” at

[6] Glenn E. Robinson et al., Yemen Corruption Assessment (Burlington, VT: ARD, 2006) accessed June 25, 2018, https://photos.state.gov/libraries/yemen/231771/PDFs/yemen-corruption-assessment.pdf.

[7] Abdulwahab al-Kibsi has called this the “inevitability mindset” — Yemeni citizens have come to expect corruption to be so pervasive that they themselves are powerless against it. Abdulwahab Alkebsi and  Christopher Boucek, “Corruption in Yemen: Screening of Destructive Beast,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, last modified September 30, 2010, accessed June 25, 2018, http://carnegieendowment.org/2010/09/30/corruption-in-yemen-screening-of-destructive-beast-event-3034.

[8] Researcher interview, October 2017.

[9] In addition to the customs duties the Houthis charge at Hudaydah Port, they also established a number of internal customs checkpoints over the course of the conflict. The major customs checkpoints are located in al-Bayda governorate, Arhab district in northern Sana’a governorate, and Dhamar governorate. The Houthis also installed other customs checkpoints for travel between the following destinations: Marib–Sana’a, Taiz–Ibb, Abyan–al-Bayda, and al-Dhalea–Dhammar. While conducting research for this paper, several sources spoke to the author about the “probability” that there are individuals (both Houthi and non-Houthi-affiliated) that are  exploiting the customs and taxation system the Houthis established for their own personal gain. Though investigations are ongoing, at the time of writing, the research had not yielded enough verified information to present in this paper.

[10] During the conflict, the UAE helped establish local security forces across southern and eastern Yemen, providing them with training, arms, equipment, and money. There are the Security Belt forces in Aden, Abyan, and Lahij, as well as the Hadrami Elite and Shabwani Elite forces.

[11] Peter Salisbury, “Yemen: National Chaos, Local Order,” Chatham House, last modified December 20, 2017, accessed May 23, 2018, 20. https://www.chathamhouse.org/publication/yemen-national-chaos-local-order.

[12] Tribal leaders providing security forces are also paid through a similar mechanism. Sources with a first-hand knowledge of the composition of anti-Houthi forces stationed in Marib, claim that Saudi Arabia is paying for approximately 50,000 anti-Houthi fighters.This number is almost certainly inflated and is thought to include money paid to secure the backing of local tribes. Researcher interviews, Cairo, February and March 2018.

[13]  Private conversations with Adeni activist, April and June 2018. To note but one example, this is known to occur in some of Yemen’s southern governorates such as Aden where UAE-backed security actors are present. According to a source well-connected with Security Belt (Hizam Amni) forces, there are members of Security Belt who receive a salary from their chief patron, the UAE, while also being registered on a separate list with the Yemeni ministry of interior.

[14] Notably, there were no weapons seizures off Yemen’s western coastline in 2017 or in the first half of 2018. Weapons are being transferred from Yemen’s eastern governorates, particularly al-Mahra and Shabwa, to Houthi-controlled areas via al-Bayda or Marib governorates: testament to the fact that “business as usual” continues with regard to weapons smuggling. As long as each party along the way is paid their share – from arms dealers to those driving the trucks and individuals stationed along the road manning the checkpoints – then arms sales run smoothly, no matter where those arms are destined. This conclusion is based of numerous conversations and interviews with tribesmen from shabwa, well-informed contacts with knowledge of known smugglers in al-Mahra, senior military commanders, among others from January until May 2018.

[15] Two key developments in 2015 gave fuel imports added importance: (1) a sudden decline in oil and gas production and the cessation of oil and gas exports due fighting on the ground that also led to the departure of foreign energy companies; and (2) the Houthis’ decision to eradicate fuel subsidies on July 27, 2015 (a year after they staged on the outskirts of Sana’a a public opposition campaign against Hadi for doing the same thing) and easing of fuel import restrictions. See Yemen Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, “Oil Sector Recovery in Yemen Urgently Needed,” ReliefWeb, last modified May 2016, accessed June 15, 2018, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/yseu14_english_final_1.pdf; Abubakr al-Shamahi, “Yemen Returns Full Circle as Houthis End Fuel Subsidies,” New Arab, last modified July 28, 2015, accessed June 15, 2018. https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2015/7/28/yemen-returns-full-circle-as-houthis-end-fuel-subsidies; “Houthis Cut Oil Subsidies Endangering Support,” Medialine, last modified August 3, 2015, accessed June 15, 2018. http://www.themedialine.org/news/houthis-cut-oil-subsidies-endangering-support.

[16] Private conversations with a Yemeni fuel trader, January-March 2018.

[17] Ammar Tawfiq Abdulrahim Mutahar runs CruGas. He is also the listed Deputy General Manager of Tawfiq Abdulrahim Mutahar Group (“TAM”) but is reportedly not on good terms with his brothers who have taken over TAM following the death of their father Tawfiq in 2013.  Mohamed al-Absi, “What is the Truth about the Oil Company and the Black Market?” mohamedalabsi.blogspot.com (blog), June 7, 2016, accessed June 25, 2018, https://mohamedalabsi.blogspot.com/2016/06/blog-post_28.html.

[18]  When sold on the black market, the profit margin is particularly large. Mohamed al-Absi, “Since the Disaster of Flotation Fuel in the Stations with Official Pricing: More Black Market Scandals,” Mohamed al-Absi (blog), December 5 2016, accessed June 25, 2018, https://mohamedalabsi.blogspot.com/2015/11/blog-post_14.html; Mohamed al-Absi “Document: Mechanism for the Purchase of Oil Company 50% of Shipments Merchants Sold to the Citizen at the Official Price,” Mohamed al-Absi (blog), June 28, 2016, accessed June 25, 2018,  https://mohamedalabsi.blogspot.com/2016/06/50.html.

[19] Mohamed al-Absi, “Since the Disaster of Flotation Fuel in the Stations with Official Pricing: More Black Market Scandals,” Mohamed al-Absi (blog), December 5 2016, accessed June 25, 2018, https://mohamedalabsi.blogspot.com/2015/11/blog-post_14.html; Mohamed al-Absi “Document: Mechanism for the Purchase of Oil Company 50% of Shipments Merchants Sold to the Citizen at the Official Price,” Mohamed al-Absi (blog), June 28, 2016, accessed June 25, 2018,  https://mohamedalabsi.blogspot.com/2016/06/50.html.

[20] Refusal would consequently leave the importer and their fuel shipment stranded as well as faced with the daunting prospect of having to pay expensive demurrage costs. Other additional costs incurred once the fuel shipment is unloaded and ready to be sent out for distribution and sold on the local market include the payment of fees to Houthi officials in each Houthi-controlled governorate and Houthi forces manning the checkpoints that transportation trucks must pass through during the journey from Hudaydah port to the point of destination. Researcher conversation with a well-informed Yemen economic expert with a first-hand knowledge of the distribution of fuel and other commodities after being imported via Hudaydah port, June 2018.

[21] Private conversation with two different Yemeni economic experts with a detailed knowledge and understanding of Yemen’s oil and gas industries in December 2017 and January 2017; “UNVIM”; “United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen: Update May 2016,” United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism, last modified May 2016, accessed June 15, 2018, https://www.vimye.org/docs/UNVIM%20Update%20May%202016.pdf.

[22] Researcher interview with confidential source with close ties to CBY in Aden, June 2018. Marib, one of Yemen’s oil-producing regions, reached a deal in 2017 with the internationally recognized government allowing the governorate to keep a share of the revenues from oil produced in Marib. As of this writing, however, ongoing disputes between the CBY branch in Marib and the branch in Aden have meant that instead of transferring 80 percent of oil revenues to the Aden branch, the Marib branch has refused to transfer any.

[23] Peter Salisbury, Yemen’s Cratered Economy: Glimmers of Hope? (Washington, DC: Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, 2018) accessed June 25, 2018, https://www.agsiw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Salisbury_Yemen-Cratered-Economy_ONLINE-1.pdf.

[24] In 2016, then-CBY Governor Monasser al-Quaiti, ordered a total of YR400bn new banknotes, worth approximately $1.2bn at the time. In 2017, there were several separate shipments of Russian-printed Yemeni rials, presumably tied to the order placed by al-Quaiti. Rather than being deposited straight into the CBY in Aden, YR2bn was reportedly delivered straight to the presidential palace in the Masshiq area of Crater district, Aden. According to a source with close ties to the CBY in Aden, the majority of this Russian-printed money has now reportedly been disbursed via the office of Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid bin Dagher as “discretionary spending.”  The UAE supposedly grew increasingly frustrated with Hadi and the internationally recognized Yemeni government in 2015 over the lack of accountability over donor funds and government spending, to the point in which the UAE decided to limit the direct financial support it provided to Hadi.

[25] Researcher interview with confidential source with close ties to CBY in Aden, June 2018. See also: Salisbury, Yemen’s Cratered Economy.

[26] This particular accusation is what prompted Hadi to announce the relocation of the CBY headquarters from Sana’a to Aden and the dismissal of former CBY Governor Mohammed bin Hammam, see: Hadeel al-Sayegh, “Yemen President Names New Central Bank Governor, Moves HQ to Aden,” Reuters, last modified September 18, 2016, accessed May 23, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-cenbank/yemen-president-names-new-central-bank-governor-moves-hq-to-aden-idUSKCN11O0WB.

[27] Researcher interviews, Cairo, February and March 2018; Researcher WhatsApp conversation with an employee of the Houthi-controlled Ministry of Interior in Sana’a, in October, November, and December 2017.

[28] Researcher interviews, Cairo, February and March 2018; Researcher WhatsApp conversation with an employee of the Houthi-controlled Ministry of Interior in Sana’a, in October, November, and December 2017.

[29] This policy brief is meant to give policymakers an overview of the corruption mechanisms that have continued while the conflict rages. By the time it is published, some of those mechanisms are likely to have evolved further still.

[30] One example might be a policy to clamp down heavily on Yemen money exchangers/hawala networks due to concerns over the Houthis use of money exchangers to access foreign currency and pay exporters. Money transfer transactions are a critical lifeline for beleaguered citizens outside the commercial or political class. Regular citizens rely on remittance flows — the backbone of the money exchange system — to purchase essential commodities, including food and water. Any ill-considered disruption of these money flows may sever one of the few remaining lifelines for a broad subset of Yemenis whose interests are often ignored when discussing corruption-deterring measures.

Generating new employment opportunities in Yemen

Generating new employment opportunities in Yemen

Decades of political instability and cyclical armed conflict have curtailed Yemen’s economic growth, job creation and labor productivity. Before the current conflict, much of the country’s working population was engaged in unskilled labor, working in rural agriculture or informally employed in small businesses. More recently, the ongoing conflict has destroyed normal commerce and left millions of Yemenis without a means of supporting themselves or their families. Even those not directly affected by the fighting now face brutal economic hardship. The economic crisis has become the primary driver of what the United Nations has called the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe. In the midst of this crisis, the need for job creation is paramount.

The Need to Build State Legitimacy in Yemen

The Need to Build State Legitimacy in Yemen

The ongoing conflict in Yemen has severely strained state legitimacy in the country. Legitimacy, a key component of state sovereignty, reflects a “social contract” between the state and the people it governs: an agreement on how power is exercised and how resources are distributed. A state’s legitimacy derives in part from its ability to deliver public services, ensure economic stability, and provide security. After three years of conflict, Yemen’s already fragile state institutions are unable to meet the most basic needs of the Yemeni people, intensifying the country’s economic and humanitarian crises.

The Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies is seeking a full-time editor

The Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies is seeking a full-time editor

The Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies is seeking a full-time editor. The Center’s editorial department is the hub between the center’s various programs, which currently examine the socioeconomic, political, security, gender, humanitarian, and human rights issues at play in Yemen.

As an editor you would work immediately under the chief editor and in close cooperation with senior management, researchers and writers. Primary duties would involve editing articles for publication and facilitating all aspects of the production cycle, from helping writers develop and structure ideas to posting finished articles online.  

We are a dynamic, highly mobile, multi-lingual team with diverse backgrounds and expertise. Our main office is in Sana’a, while the majority of our team works remotely from locations across Yemen, around the Middle East and in Western capitals. Among our core strengths are our versatility, initiative, access, networks, and audacity. We seek new team members who would complement this dynamic.

Qualifications:

Absolute necessities:
  • Strong editorial experience;
  • a command of English that goes well beyond grammar and vocabulary;
  • an intuitive sense for how the arrangement of words impacts their reception and the ability to craft them appropriately for the audience at hand;
  • in editing others, you are able to identify and strip away the language habits, confusions and ego that often blur the message;
  • the ability to properly structure a sound argument at 5,000-words or more;
  • the ability to work remotely and travel periodically for Sana’a Center events; and
  • you are candid, poised and patient.
Preferable assets:
  • Arabic language skills, spoken and written;
  • previous experience related to Yemen and/or the surrounding region;
  • economic and financial literacy.
Starting salary:
  • Based on experience, and to be reviewed following a three-month trial period.

For those interested, please email jobs@sanaacenter.org with the following:

  • Your CV and a cover letter.
  • Three professional writing/editing samples.

All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, political affiliation, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, disability or age.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. We will contact only those candidates who meet the qualifications and seem like they may be a good fit for our team.

This job opening will close once a qualified candidate is found.  

 

More about the Sana’a Center:

Founded in 2014, the Sana’a Center is one of the few independent research centers that has continued to operate in Yemen throughout the ongoing armed conflict. While the Center maintains cordial relations with all key stakeholders it has remained fiercely unaligned with any of the belligerent parties. The Sana’a Center has thus maintained a unique positioning and ability to work throughout Yemen and beyond.

The Sana’a Center maintains a strong network across Yemen with access to key political, military and security figures, tribal leaders, the financial sector, economists, journalists, humanitarian actors, civil society and other important stakeholders. The Center has also established a broad network and presence within the international community connecting it to international organizations, diplomatic circles, regional and international policy makers, research centers and global forums.

The Sana’a Center’s reports and researchers are widely quoted in local, regional and international media outlets, while the analysis of the Center’s experts is regularly sought out by local and international stakeholders.

Private Sector Engagement in Post-Conflict Yemen

Private Sector Engagement in Post-Conflict Yemen

Yemen has spent much of the past 60 years embroiled in armed conflict and political crisis, with this cyclical instability and insecurity among the primary factors that have stymied both private sector development and the establishment of a strong state with well-functioning public institutions. The vast majority of the Yemeni private sector is made up of small or very small businesses, providing almost 70 percent of working Yemenis with their livelihood. The largest employment sector within the private sector is rural agriculture, which has traditionally provided work for more than half the population.