More than half of Yemen’s 25 million people are on the verge of starvation, according to aid agencies that have been sounding the alarm over the past several months regarding Yemen’s growing food crisis. Next week, at a donors’ conference on September 4 and 5 in Riyadh, attention will turn to the dire economic and humanitarian challenges facing the Yemeni population and what the international community can do amid an unstable political and security environment.

This Riyadh meeting is a pivotal opportunity for the international community to focus attention on the status of Yemen’s transition process and how the deteriorating humanitarian and economic conditions are impacting prospects for success. The commitments that emerge from this meeting will be re-affirmed at the Friends of Yemen meeting on September 27 in New York.  

Since the last donors’ meeting in the spring, Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi has made some significant moves that deserve robust and renewed international support. President Hadi has removed several members of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s family from key military positions, appointed some promising governors, transferred military units from both Ahmed Ali Saleh and Ali Mohsen to a more neutral presidential guard, initiated the National Dialogue process that is moving on course, and delivered a credible two-year economic plan for the transition. Yet, while he has made some tangible progress, the most difficult economic, political, and security challenges lie ahead. Without sufficient financial and political support from the United States, the European Union, the Gulf states, the United Nations, and others, Yemen’s transition is at risk of faltering. The pressure from thousands of internally displaced persons, influx of refugees, and the lack of access to food, water, fuel, and electricity threatens an already precarious situation.  

The United States government has played an essential role in supporting Yemen, having increased US assistance to Yemen considerably in recent months, with the US now the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Yemen. At the upcoming meetings in Riyadh and New York, we call upon the United States to continue its leadership in supporting Yemen in the following ways: 

  • Send a strong signal of American support for Yemen’s political transition process with a visit by Secretary Clinton to Sana’a in the coming months and committing to Secretary Clinton’s presence at the Friends of Yemen meeting on September 27.
  • Increase pressure on Gulf states and other allies to fulfill prior pledges made to the Friends of Yemen and to make new contributions based on the new two-year transition plan submitted by the Yemeni Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation.
  • Increase contributions for humanitarian and emergency support and encourage other partners to do the same. The UN estimates that it needs $591 million to meet current humanitarian needs in Yemen but has received less than half that amount. 
  • Continue to support a National Dialogue process that is truly representative of all major stakeholders in Yemen and includes meaningful roles for youth and women. 
  • Maintain pressure on any elements that seek to undermine or derail the transition process through political or military means and clearly state U.S. willingness to invoke sanctions authorized by President Obama’s June 2012 Executive Order against any actors seeking to obstruct Yemen’s transition to an accountable, democratic government.
  • Raise concerns with the Yemeni government about ongoing human rights abuses on the part of government and military forces that are used to suppress peaceful protest and dissent. 

This statement was coordinated by the Yemen Policy Initiative, a new collaborative effort of the Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council and the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), which seeks to advance a more sustainable, long-term US policy that guarantees US national security interests and supports Yemen’s political transition.