The Inter-Agency Standing Committee, the primary mechanism for inter-agency coordination of UN- and non-UN humanitarian assistance, recently labeled the conflict in Yemen a category 3 emergency—the most severe category in the international system. With more than 1.25 million displaced, over 4,000 killed, and about 80 percent of the Yemeni population in desperate need for help, the prospects for Yemen as a future functioning nation state do not bode well without a proactive plan to stop the fighting. In response to the ever-growing humanitarian emergency, twenty NGOs and prominent figures—including Atlantic Council Board Director Odeh Aburdene and Nonresident Senior Fellow Nabeel Khoury—have signed a letter calling on the US government “to recognize the severity of the crisis and to act swiftly to ensure its peaceful resolution.”
The letter suggests five areas of focus through which the Obama administration could mitigate the humanitarian fallout of the conflict in Yemen. These areas include:
1. Achieving and sustaining a lasting peace
2. Increasing humanitarian access and funding for conflict-sensitive assistance
3. Prioritizing protection of civilians and enforcement of international humanitarian and human rights law
4. Respecting local solutions and working with civil society
5. Employ known best practices for engaging in complex emergencies
Assistance needs to target the root causes and drivers of conflict to ensure that the situation does not spiral into greater violence. Yemen can serve as a pilot that demonstrates the effectiveness of smart aid reform, including ending extreme poverty, applying smart strategies for countering violent extremism, and supporting flexible, conflict-smart humanitarian assistance.