British Aid and British Arms: A coherent approach to Yemen? | Yemen | Houthis

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The situation in Yemen is among the worst humanitarian crises in the world. Since the conflict dramatically escalated in March 2015, more than 1.4 million people have fled their homes, and more than 20 million people now lack access to clean water and sanitation. The World Food Programme has warned that the country is ‘one step away from famine’. Long a lead donor in Yemen, the UK has given tens of millions of pounds in new aid this year to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis. However, British arms may be contributing to the growing number of civilian deaths, as evidence mounts of war crimes by all parties, including Houthi and Saudi-led coalition forces. The UK government has declined to tell Parliament what arms Britain is still supplying to parties engaged in the conflict. This briefing note calls for the suspension of all British arms shipments to the parties engaged in the conflict
  OXFAM GB BRIEFING NOTE 11 SEPTEMBER 2015 Millions of Yemenis are suffering from a water crisis and have to walk long distances to collect a few litres of water for their families. Photo: Oxfam, July 2015 BRITISH AID AND BRITISH ARMS: A COHERENT APPROACH TO YEMEN? Yemen is among the worst humanitarian crises in the world. British aid is saving lives, but British arms may be contributing to the growing number of civilian deaths, as evidence mounts of war crimes by all parties. Human rights groups have documented attacks on civilians by Houthi and coalition forces alike. Stephen O’Brien, the UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, has condemned all parties’ ‘failure to meet their responsibilities under international humanitarian and international human rights laws’, including Houthi and anti-Houthi groups, and Saudi-led airstrikes for being ‘in clear contravention of international humanitarian law and unacceptable’.   Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development, warns that ‘millions face starvation’ as the conflict continues. 1  It is time to bring this devastating conflict to an end. The UK government has declined to tell Parliament what arms the UK is still supplying to parties engaged in the conflict. It knows, as do we all, that civilians have been killed in indiscriminate attacks by all sides. The risk assessments required by both UK law and the Arms Trade Treaty should lead the UK to denying any further transfers, and suspending current export licences. The risk that UK arms could be used to harm civilians is too high, and therefore arms should not be sent to any side during this conflict. Britain should be proud of the £55m it has already given to Yemen to meet its growing humanitarian needs. It should, however, suspend arms supplies to any party engaged in the conflict, and report fully to Parliament and the public on arms supplies already sent. The politics of the region are complex but that must not stop the UK from using its diplomatic influence and taking every possible step to push for a ceasefire and a negotiated peace. It must also continue to push for vital humanitarian and commercial supplies of food, fuel and medicine to enter the country. Yemen: governorates, main cities and the surrounding region 2  RECOMMENDATIONS FOR UK ACTION The UK government should: ã condemn in significantly more outspoken terms attacks on civilians by all sides, including by Houthi and anti-Houthi armed groups, and by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes; ã report to Parliament and the public on what UK arms have been supplied to any party engaged in Yemen’s conflict since it escalated in March 2015, any restrictions placed on the end-use or end-user of that equipment as a condition of the transfer, on how it understands this equipment has been used, and the basis for that understanding; ã refrain from issuing any further export licences to any party to the conflict while a clear risk that they may be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law continues; ã suspend or revoke current licences under which deliveries may still be made, at least until Saudi Arabia and other coalition partners have in place mechanisms to ensure observance of international humanitarian law, in order to ensure that no future breaches of international humanitarian law can occur using UK-supplied equipment and arms; ã undertake an urgent examination of all UK arms transfers that have taken place, including since March 2015, to establish an accurate understanding as to whether they have contributed to violations of international law, including the death of civilians or destruction of civilian infrastructure; ã take account of the conclusions of that examination, and the risks of misuse of all arms in Yemen, in making rigorous risk assessments of all future applications for arms export licences; ã publicly reaffirm the UK’s commitment to robustly and transparently implementing the Arms Trade Treaty; ã encourage the UN Security Council to urgently adopt a resolution on Yemen that states that no arms or equipment supplied to any combatant party can be used in Yemen, or in support of operations in Yemen; ã continue to push for vital humanitarian and commercial supplies to enter the country; and ã press for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, and a political solution that involves not only all parties to the conflict, but all sections of Yemeni society , including women, youth and the poor in rural communities whose rights and needs must be respected in any sustainable peace. 3  1 HUMANITARIAN CATASTROPHE Twenty-one million Yemenis – 84 percent of the population – urgently need humanitarian aid. Before the conflict escalated in March 2015, Yemen was already wracked with poverty and insecurity and struggling in a transition to a better future. More than 10 million people were already going hungry every day. Yemen was also, according to the 2014 Global Gender Gap Index, the worst place in the world to be a woman. 3  Social and cultural norms had excluded Yemeni women from economic and political life, even though many took to the streets together with men in the country’s popular uprising in 2011. 4  Now Yemen’s humanitarian needs are significantly worse, increasing by 33 percent since March. Yemen relies very heavily on commercial imports – for more than 80 percent of its food consumption, and 90 percent of some staple foods such as wheat. Since March, the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis  – one of several parties in Yemen’s fragmented conflict – has blocked essen-tial commercial supplies from reaching Yemen’s main ports. 5  This has se-verely disrupted the import of food, fuel, medicines and other vital supplies. Even when ships can dock, their goods are often stuck in ports due to the lack of fuel to unload and transport them – while ongoing violence affecting most major roads and cities continues to limit distribution around the country.  As a result, almost all essential goods have been in short supply for five months. There have also been critical fuel shortages, as a result of which water pumps no longer operate, and the price of essential commodities such as food, water and medicines have sky-rocketed. The limited quantities of food and medicine in Yemen’s ports are at risk of spoiling as transport to markets is restricted. 7  The lack of fuel to run generators – as well as the lack of medicines and other supplies – has also contributed to the closure of at least 160 health facilities. 8   And the transition to a better future has been stalled in its tracks. While women, for example, remained marginalized after the 2011 uprising, there was some momentum at least towards women’s rights and political participa-tion, underpinned by the drafting of a new constitution. Now in 2015, with the country consumed by war, even those fragile gains have been rolled back, and negotiations to end the conflict have been almost entirely dominated by men. Yemen’s women must have a real role in any peace process, and a genuine voice in their country’s future. Right now, however, they face the prospect of the very grim future shared by all Yemenis as continuing conflict makes the humanitarian crisis even worse. ‘Since March, the skies of Saada are raining fire every day. Houses are destroyed, farms are burnt, and everyone's gone – they're dead or they've fled, nothing but death all around us. We are alive, but only until we die, senselessly, like the thousands that already beat us there’. Noor, a woman who used to run a health clinic in Saada, Yemen 2   ‘The conflict-driven convergence between the lack of staple food, access to clean water and a diminished fuel supply create the dawn of a perfect storm for the most vul-nerable Yemeni peo-ple’. Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director, World Food Pro-gramme 6   4
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