Conflict Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding Yemen


September 17, 2020

Yemen: Enough of war

By Khaled H. Alyemany

After six years of war in Yemen, it looks like the world’s worst humanitarian crisis is being forgotten and treated with indifference. The international community is overstretched with many crises, and Yemen seems far from the highest priority.

The latest report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) shows that only thirty United Nations (UN) member states pledged $1.35 billion in humanitarian assistance for 2020 at the virtual High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen on June 2, despite a call for $3.38 billion. The pledge is much lower than needed to meet the country’s humanitarian needs, which have been further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and the flooding and torrential rains of recent months.

In preparation for the UN high segment that will start next week, the United Kingdom—the lead country for Yemen at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)—will organize a roundtable session to assess the situation in Yemen jointly with Kuwait, Germany, and Sweden. During the meeting, UN Secretary-General António Guterres will reaffirm his vision for ending the Yemen war by joining efforts to combat COVID-19 and sending a message to the Yemeni government and the Houthis to work on the Joint Declaration to end the conflict.

The gathering will paint a catastrophic picture of Yemen for the attendees. Widespread conflict with the Houthis’ constant attempts to take Marib, the last government stronghold in the north, threatens the lives of more than 1.5 million internally displaced Yemenis, who sought safe haven there. The death toll in recent confrontations is catastrophic and a waste of young lives.

Over the last few months, I have explained the importance of Marib in the overall approach to the conflict on multiple occasions. On the one hand, preventing the fall of Marib preserves hope that Yemen can be free of militias and maintains the high morale of the united Federal Republic and the establishment. On the other hand, the collapse of Marib would definitively consolidate the Houthi regime and change the conflict’s dynamics, putting an end to UN and international efforts to achieve peace and opening the door for further fragmentation of Yemen.

The economic crisis is deepening with the depreciation of the Yemeni rial, which lost 70 percent of its value against the US dollar in the last five years. During recent times, the huge supply of Yemeni currency reached six trillion compared to two trillion in 2014, spiking accumulative inflation to 110 percent. Today, 24 million Yemeni citizens depend partially or totally on international or regional assistance. Yemen’s economy depends on money from aid agencies, such as the Saudi deposit in the Central Bank of Yemen and expat remittances, but the sources are depleting. That grim picture is tied to the government’s inability to operate from Yemen, serve the people, and mitigate the drastic impact of the war by contributing to salary payments.

The Houthis have also been responsible for the depreciation of the Yemeni rial by looting of all the reserves from the Sana’a branch of the Central Bank, as have warlords from both sides in the oil and derivatives black market. But the most impactful element on the current economic situation lies in the government decision to float the trade of oil derivatives, which empowers and enriches warlords across the political divide, enabling them to invest millions in blood money in the neighboring countries of the Middle East. 

For the last six months, UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths has continued his efforts to reach a Joint Declaration between the Yemeni government and the Houthis, consisting of a national ceasefire, economic and humanitarian measures, and a resumption of political consultations to reach a sustainable and implementable political solution in Yemen. If the parties are not willing to take up the initiative this time, they still have the choice to opt for peace or continue down the path of war, destruction, human carnage, and suffering of the Yemeni people.

Today, the Security Council has an urgent call to action from all Yemenis living in total despair. It’s time to step up for war-torn Yemen by pushing for a resolution to the conflict. There is still a window of opportunity through the Joint Declaration, which the Council should seize by demanding in the strongest terms that the parties must compromise and work for peace. This will lead to the cessation of hostilities and send the right signal to the international community to be more generous with its pledges to Yemen, which, in turn, will save millions from the brink of famine. Once the government of Yemen and the Houthis move one step towards peace, worldwide donors will see the light at the end of the tunnel and will come to help.

Yemenis also urge the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC), our allies in the struggle for a more peaceful Yemen, to continue their generous contribution to the UN Humanitarian Appeal as they did during 2018-2019.

Finally, the Yemeni people will always remember the tireless efforts of the United Kingdom to pursue peace in Yemen, continued today by the kind, sustainable, and predictable support announced on September 17 by UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

Let’s work for peace to ensure hope for future generations.  

Khaled Hussein Alyemany is the former foreign minister of Yemen.

Image: Children walk at a camp for people recently displaced by fighting in Yemen's northern province of al-Jawf between government forces and Houthis, in Marib, Yemen March 8, 2020. Picture taken March 8, 2020. REUTERS/Ali Owidha