74.The first of DFID’s strategic priorities for Yemen is to support a sustainable and inclusive political solution as the only means to bring long-term stability to Yemen. This is an admirable but challenging objective. Evidence received from Saferworld noted that a lasting solution would have to be inclusive and representative of the population:
“Decades of elite patronage, corruption, and a ‘winner-takes-all’ attitude to power on the part of Yemen’s political leaders has been hugely detrimental to the Yemeni population’s access to basic services, including water, healthcare, education, security and justice. Elite-level deals such as the Gulf Cooperation Council agreement have merely recycled Yemen’s power structures, and to date talks and agreements continue to be seen by the main actors as methods for consolidating power rather than to address the needs of the population and the deteriorating political, economic, security and humanitarian environment.”
75.The UN has acted as the vehicle for peace talks and temporary ceasefires, which have so far been broken and short-lived. A representative of the Yemeni diaspora described the December 2015 talks as a bit of theatre for delegates to reassure allies that they were serious about a political solution, while at the same time the ceasefire on the ground was broken by both sides. The diaspora told us that there needs to be further pressure put on parties to hold the ceasefire on the ground. The UN human rights spokesman has noted that the ceasefire agreed to by the warring parties before the start of the December talks was broken within minutes. In fact, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that the number of civilians killed in December by Saudi airstrikes was more than twice that in November. We hope that the ceasefire which began on 10 April 2016 will be upheld and become more permanent. We also welcome the peace talks being held in Kuwait as a positive step towards securing peace. As the UN Special Envoy for Yemen has said:
“Much work lies ahead to ensure full respect of the cessation of hostilities and the resumption of peace talks in Kuwait. Now is the time to step back from the brink. The progress made represents a real opportunity to rebuild a country that has suffered far too much violence for far too long. A positive outcome will require difficult compromises from all sides, courage and determination to reach an agreement.”
76.DFID suspended its political and economic reform programmes in March 2015 to focus on meeting immediate humanitarian needs, however, the Department has told us that these programmes are ready to scale-up once a political solution to the conflict is found:
“Experience from other conflicts also underlines the value of starting to plan for stabilisation and post-conflict recovery at the earliest opportunity, to lay the foundation for longer-term development. We are engaging with the Government of Yemen, Gulf countries, the World Bank, UN and other donors on these issues.”
DFID Minister Desmond Swayne told us:
“Even now, we have a series of meetings beginning next month working on the recovery and reconstruction of Yemen. We will have a multi-year offer that we will announce in due course. The department is even now working through its budgets. There is a huge level of need and we will have to address it.”
77.In its written evidence to the inquiry, DFID said that it is supporting interventions to retain resilience at individual, community and institutional level, to aid the transition from conflict to post-conflict recovery:
“For example, our humanitarian partners are supporting households and communities to increase their ability to withstand shocks, and we use unconditional cash transfers as a means of giving households the choice of how to allocate scarce resources. Alongside this humanitarian commitment, we also supported SFD [Social Fund for Development]—a quasi-governmental Yemeni institution—to deliver basic services and provide a social safety net for poor Yemenis prior to April 2015. We are currently exploring whether we can continue to support SFD as it remains a key development institution in Yemen and will be critical to Yemen’s post-conflict recovery. Our suspended economic reform programme (“Improving Aid Impact in Yemen”) is also ready to scale up when a political solution is found.”
78.We are encouraged by DFID’s work to consider longer-term development and the Department’s support for the UN’s efforts to facilitate peace talks to bring an end to the conflict in Yemen. As a first step to increasing humanitarian assistance to Yemen and the onward distribution of aid within the country, all parties to the conflict need to respect civilian and humanitarian spaces protected by international law. We are encouraged by the ceasefire which began on 10 April 2016 and urge the Government to continue to apply pressure to all parties to the conflict to hold the ceasefire so that it may become more permanent. We also welcome the peace talks held from 22 April 2016 in Kuwait and hope these will lead to an end to the year-long conflict which has devastated the lives of so many civilians in Yemen.
79.We urge the Government to apply pressure on all parties to the conflict to agree to the next round of peace talks and particularly to ensure that the accompanying ceasefire is adhered to by all sides. The Government should work to ensure that peace talks are inclusive and represent the needs of the Yemeni population, learning from past experience to seek a more sustainable peace.
80.We support DFID’s decision to start considering recovery and reconstruction now and we commend its proactive approach in taking forward the talks on recovery. In addition, its work in protecting key institutions such as the Social Fund for Development demonstrate that it has conducted its approach to Yemen without losing sight of the ultimate goal of peace and stability. We hope that other UK Government Departments, and other international donors, will support this approach, with the objective of progressing away from a humanitarian relief effort, towards a long-lasting peace, within which longer term development can be facilitated.
140 Department for International Development Executive Summary
141 Saferworld para 13.2
142 Note of meeting with Yemeni diaspora, 19 Jan 2016
143 , Voice of America, 5 January 2016
144 , UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 5 January 2016
145 , UN News Centre, 11 April 2016
146 Department for International Development Executive Summary
148 Department for International Development para 35
29 April 2016