The Hague, the Netherlands – United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg opened the second day of the Yemen International Forum (YIF) with an address to more than 250 attendees, including some of Yemen’s most prominent political and civil actors. Grundberg noted that the ongoing informal truce between the warring sides has provided a respite from prolonged cycles of violence, but sounded a note of caution: “While the parties have taken some steps forward, they have unfortunately also taken some steps backward.” He noted that economic warfare had intensified, and said escalating retaliation was damaging Yemen’s already struggling economy, with devastating effects for civilians.
Rafat al-Akhali, a fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University, echoed this concern in the first plenary session of the day, dedicated to creating a shared vision for economic recovery. Warning that the banking sector was on the brink of collapse, Al-Akhali cautioned, “If we lose our banking sector, our struggle will be immense.” The panel, which also included World Bank Country Manager for Yemen Tania Meyer and GCC Ambassador to Yemen H.E. Sarhan al-Minaikher, discussed the keys to facilitating Yemen’s transition to economic recovery, including moving beyond short-term interventions; increasing Yemenis’ resilience; supporting the private sector; and investing in Yemen’s youth, whom Meyer called “Yemen’s greatest asset.”
A later session discussed avenues for revitalizing Yemen’s agriculture and fisheries sectors. Participants underscored the unrealized potential in both sectors, and advocated for the development of a comprehensive strategy that encourages investment and brings together the private sector, the public sector, and donors.
Other YIF sessions invited participants to exchange ideas on topics such as protecting minorities, building trust between communities and security forces, and the role of art in reimagining Yemen’s future. “In the last two years artists are getting more aware of their value and are starting to have an impact,” said one artist, adding that they are “not just doing it as a hobby; art can be a tool to get a message across.”
Two scenario-building workshops were held on Yemen’s security sector and women’s participation. Scenario planning is gaining popularity as a tool to explore future uncertainties in conflict-affected countries. Utilizing this approach, Yemeni stakeholders were invited to engage in dialogue and envision different possible scenarios for the future of their country. Other bilateral and side meetings took place between participants, as well as working groups focused on challenges facing Yemen’s banking sector and the perspectives of the Southern Transitional Council.
The YIF 2023 was organized by the Sana’a Center of Strategic Studies, an independent think tank focused on Yemen, with the support of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the European Union, the Kingdom of Norway, Open Society Foundations, and the Folke Bernadotte Academy. The first YIF, held in Stockholm in June 2022, was attended by over 200 Yemeni and international actors invested in the promotion of peace in Yemen.