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EU response to the conflict in Yemen
The war in Yemen, which has been raging for four and half years, is taking a heavy toll on the country and its population. According to the UN, over 24 million people are now in need of assistance, out of which 12.3 million children. The UN is conducting its largest food aid operation in history to feed more than 10 million Yemenis every month. The conflict, which initially pitted the Government of Yemen against the Houthi movement, has reached a proxy war dimension that involves several countries and actors from the region. Although the parties signed the Stockholm Agreement in December 2018, agreeing to a set of confidence-building measures on Hodeidah, Taiz and the exchange of prisoners, implementation remains a challenge. Moreover, the hostilities have not decreased and even intensified on several frontlines.
Throughout the conflict, the EU has remained active in three main areas:
1) Political support, security and human rights
2) Humanitarian assistance
3) Development assistance
The EU's overall contribution to Yemen in all three areas has gone over more than €1 billion since 2015. The EU's response has been guided by various sets of Council Conclusions, the last of which welcomed the Stockholm Agreement agreed in December 2018 and reiterated the EU's strong support to the United Nations Special Envoy in view of resuming peace negotiations. With about €1 billion allocated since 2015, the EU's interventions in Yemen aim to operationalise the Development-Humanitarian Nexus. EU programmes address both immediate medium, and long-term needs, with a particular focus on the resilience of the country.
1) Political support, security and human rights
The EU will continue to support and complement the efforts of the United Nations in achieving a peace settlement in Yemen. The EU pursues political consultations with all stakeholders, both in Yemen and in the region, with a view to complementing the efforts of the UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths and push for the resumption of political negotiations.
The EU is providing €13 million in support of crisis-response activities. In coordination with the UN Special Envoy's office, the EU promotes local dialogues, trains journalists, provides economic and development analyses, facilitates the agreement on local ceasefires and supports the participation of local actors in peace negotiations. The EU also supports de-mining efforts in the country, provides assistance to the Yemeni Coast Guard and prepares a technical assessment of the infrastructure and security impediments to reopening the Sanaa airport.
Moreover, the EU, in coordination with the UN and other donors, has convened several initiatives to raise awareness on the conflict, to build trust among parties, and promote a reflection on the future of the country. The EU is also a donor to the UN’s Peace Support Facility for Yemen.
In a country that relies heavily on imports, the EU is backing UN-led efforts to facilitate the flow of commercial items and humanitarian aid into Yemen. In this regard, the EU has been among the top donors to the United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) based in Djibouti. The EU's support to UNVIM was articulated in a Council Decision in August 2018 and is expected to be renewed for another year in October 2019.
Political fragmentation, weak governance and deficient criminal justice capabilities have prompted the EU to work along other donors on stabilisation initiatives with actions worth €18 million. These are meant to enhance the capacities of local key security providers such as the judiciary and law enforcement agencies. The EU also trains selected community leaders on how to improve security structures at the local level.
Additionally, the EU pursues two security-related regional projects that include Yemen in their scope: the first one (€11 million) aims at enhancing law enforcement capacity on counterterrorism in line with human rights and the rule of law, and the second (€6 million) contributes to national and regional efforts to meet international standards on anti-money laundering (AML) and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT).
The EU and its Member States have reaffirmed their support to accountability mechanisms in Yemen in view of achieving sustainable peace. In this context, the EU has supported the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen established by the UN Human Rights Council. It has called on all sides to cooperate with the Group and advocated for a reinforcement of the Group's mandate.
2) Humanitarian aid
The conflict in Yemen continues to fuel the world's largest humanitarian crisis. Yemen's humanitarian needs are enormous and most of its population is affected. According to the UN, 24.4 million people (over 80% of the population) are in need of humanitarian assistance, of which 14.4 million in acute need. Within this population, 20 million Yemeni suffer from severe food insecurity and 9.7 million people are in pre-famine situation – a 15% increase since last year. According to the UN, nearly 240.000 people are in famine conditions in different parts of the country. The situation could further deteriorate if restrictions to imports and obstructions to access persist, combined with a devaluation of the national currency.
In addition to the food crisis, Yemen is also facing the spread of preventable diseases. The cholera outbreaks occurring in Yemen since 2017 have affected nearly 2 million people. It was declared the worst cholera epidemic ever documented.
The EU has reacted to the crisis by stepping up its contribution to the humanitarian effort. The EU reinforced its humanitarian commitment in 2019 with an additional contribution of €80 million, bringing this year's total allocation to €115 million and reaching a total of €439.2 million since the beginning of the conflict in 2015.
This aid goes to projects implemented by EU partners (UN, ICRC and INGOs) across the whole country. The EU's focus has been on emergency assistance to Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and those directly affected by violence as well as wider support on nutrition – especially to treat severely malnourished children -, healthcare and food security programmes.
In response to the cholera epidemic, the EU also funds treatment centres and prevention activities, while supporting emergency outbreak response in areas affected by measles and diphtheria. The EU has also funded protection activities with a particular focus on gender-based violence, education in emergencies and actions that enhance rapid response capacity among partners, logistical support (including UNHAS flights), and coordination and advocacy actions.
3) Development assistance
The conflict came on top of pre-existing economic woes in the country, with lasting devastating effects on the livelihoods of large parts of the Yemeni population. The EU has so far provided €323 million in long-term assistance, making the EU one of the leading development donors in Yemen.
The allocation for Yemen in the period 2018-2020 under the Development Cooperation Instrument amounts to €150 million. The EU plans to focus this assistance on the provision of basic services to ensure that local communities are protected from famine and disease, strengthening their resilience in the face of crisis. Addressing the urgent needs of internally displaced populations and their host communities is also an important component of EU development assistance to Yemen.
One of the EU's flagship programmes, worth €70 million and running from 2016 to 2021, has been dedicated to Enhanced Rural Resilience in Yemen (ERRY). In a country where millions are on the verge of famine, the EU has offered special support to agri-businesses and livelihoods in rural communities to help families build up sustainable farming practices.
Through this programme, the EU has also supported social cohesion by recruiting and training local mediators, including female mediators in places like Beit Al Faqeeh where teachers have been trained in methods to resolve local conflict though non-violent means.
The EU has also focused on maintaining the social fabric within communities in Yemen and on building trust between the citizens and their local institutions. In rural areas, the EU has helped re-establish hundreds of local community councils and assisted communities in adopting more than 500 self-help and self-reliance initiatives, including on education, benefiting more than 80.000 Yemenis through a range of community infrastructure projects. More than 22.000 individuals benefited from community asset rehabilitation through 'cash for work' schemes and 870 micro-businesses were created.
The EU has also helped set up two micro-business associations that can support and advocate for a better economic environment in the country. Through our partner Al Amal Bank, the EU has also disbursed 2.000 micro-grants to businesses whose operations had stopped due to the conflict.
In 2019, the EU will launch additional resilience support for local communities worth €79 million. The new package will build on the success of the ERRY programme, expanding the work to urban areas. In parallel, the EU will assist economic actors and small-scale businesses, in order to create jobs and opportunities for Yemenis to sustain their livelihoods.
The EU is also supporting Yemen's fragile health services and infrastructure with projects worth €26 million that fight malnutrition and work to create a network of community health workers to help prevent the country's health system from collapsing.
More than three million Yemenis have had to flee their homes since the start of the conflict. One million have been able to return only to find their homes and communities destroyed. Almost two and a half million remain internally displaced. The EU is responding to the continuous displacements caused by the conflict by contributing to the resilience of IDPs and their host/return communities through a new action worth €30 million. Additionally, Yemen hosts 60,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from other countries, mainly from Somalia, and it remains a transit country for thousands of migrants from the Horn of Africa on their route to the Gulf States.
Children cannot wait for conflicts to end. This is why the EU is also seeking to ensure adequate access to education to a generation of Yemeni children, some of whom have been out of school for more than two years. Through EU support to the education sector, the number of students attending school has increased by 33% and dropout rates have decreased from 11% to 3% in target areas.