The Delegation of the European Union to Yemen

Restoring and preserving Yemen's urban environments

08/08/2019 - 14:57
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Yemen is known for its unique historic urban centres. These urban environments are not only important for being an integral part of the Yemeni cultural heritage but they also contribute to fostering Yemenis’ social cohesion and their sense of national identity. Preserving these urban environments is a matter of particular importance to the EU, which recognises how these heritage sites are vital for Yemen’s sustainable development. Therefore, it is currently funding two complementary projects focusing on preserving historic heritage sites and promoting a development-oriented urban recovery process. Implemented by UN-Habitat, the EU supports the comprehensive profiling of seven Yemeni cities and the elaboration of urban recovery strategies. In addition, an EU-funded project implemented by UNESCO combines the creation of livelihoods for Yemeni youth with the maintenance and rehabilitation of historic urban heritage.

Yemeni architecture

Yemen is known for its unique architectural heritage and historic urban centres. The Old Cities of Sana’a, Shibam in Hadhramout and Zabid in Hodeidah are considered to be among the most authentic and wonderful examples of urban civilizations that have developed up to four millennia ago. To highlight the importance of their preservation, the three Old Cities were successfully added to the World Heritage List at the end of the 20th century. Since the beginning of the war, these historic urban centres have suffered tremendously from airstrikes and other damages linked to the ongoing armed conflict. Over 60 historic settlements, archaeological sites, public buildings, museums, archives and libraries have already been damaged or entirely destroyed. As a further consequence, many Old Cities in Yemen are threatened by well-intended but ad hoc and haphazard reconstruction, which accelerate the deterioration of the authenticity and integrity of Yemen's urban environment. Simultaneously, urban populations and environments are exposed to the socio-economic strains linked to political instability, widespread displacement and high unemployment rates. In combination with restricted access to education, this situation especially affects young Yemenis who often lack the opportunities and essential skills to seek employment. In some cases, these hardships increase their vulnerability to the influence of violent extremist groups.

The Rapid City and Neighbourhood Profiling – Towards a development-oriented urban recovery process in Yemen, UN-Habitat project works relentlessly to facilitate better targeted and coordinated recovery and development activities based on in-depth data collection and comprehensive action plans. The damage assessments and the city and neighbourhood profiles carried out by the project for seven Yemeni cities (Aden, Al-Houtha, Hodeydah, Saada, Sana'a, Taez, Zinjibar) create the foundation for the elaboration of comprehensive urban recovery strategies. These strategies are developed to bridge the gaps between the immediate reconstruction and the longer-term development of these Yemeni cities to be more resilient, safe, inclusive and sustainable according to the principle of "building back better". By informing recovery and development activities, the project therefore ultimately also contributes to a more peaceful and stable future for Yemeni urban populations.

The Cash for Work: Promoting Livelihood Opportunities for Urban Youth in Yemen, UNESCO project combines the support for Yemeni youth with the preservation of Yemen's historic urban centres. UNESCO is focusing on the four Yemeni cities of Sana'a, Shibam, Zabid and Aden. It will team up closely with Yemeni partners, such as the Social Development Fund, as well as international and national NGOs, municipalities, local government agencies and local master builders and guilds. UNESCO will create cash for work programmes for participants of different qualification levels to engage a broad range of young people in the rehabilitation and restoration activities. Furthermore, master craftsmen, engineers and conservation architects will offer on-the-job trainings for the project's participants to transfer the necessary expertise and skills related to the maintenance and rehabilitation of Yemeni urban heritage. These trainings will not only benefit the participants by giving them access to new livelihood opportunities, they will also help to address the decline of traditional savoir-faire in the mostly informal Yemeni cultural industry. The investment in Yemen's youth hence not only benefits Yemen's historic urban centres, it also contributes to the future recovery and stability of the Yemeni society.


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