WASHINGTON, D.C., United States —
Panel: The Humanitarian Crisis: Relief and Development in Yemen
Organizer: Washington Center for Yemeni Studies and U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations
Moderator: Oussama Jammal – Secretary General at US Council of Muslim Organizations.
Jeehan Abdul Ghaffar – Sr/Advisor to Executive Director at World Bank Group.
Dr. Habib Rajeh – Global program Director of United Muslim Relief
Summer Nasser – Chief Executive Officer of Yemen Aid.
Oussama Jammal commenced the panel by referring to the Regional Security and Armed Groups. He lamented and questioned the ineffectiveness of the Arab coalition in ending the Houthi coup. He condemned the coalition’s role in weakening the government and the legitimate representative of the Yemeni people. Jammal called on Yemenis to create a mechanism of communication or agreement that Yemen is their country, their land, and their people with all its diversity, and they have the right to their sovereignty; otherwise, their fate will remain in the hands of others.
Habib Rajeh started his remarks by sharing his internal debate on the way to the conference: “Should I come as a humanitarian aid worker? Or should I come as a Yemeni? In the end, I decided to be both.”
Dr. Rajeh explained that to understand the humanitarian crisis, one must understand the political and historical aspects of the current conflict. He explained that the Houthis are an extension of the supremacist ideology that ruled Yemen for nearly a thousand years. He referenced the 1962 revolutions against Mutawakkilite Kingdom’s theocratic rule to establish a democratic rule. He pointed out that the Houthis are seizing lands, radicalizing children, changing curriculums, and their recent graduation ceremony crackdown. He then shifted towards the weakened Yemeni government, whose weakness is caused by weak allies, unlike the Iran-Houthi alliance.
If we want to save comfort in Yemen, we should focus on learning from other conflicts in the world, from the Ukrainian war and Iranian interventions. In his speech, he said we must focus on economic empowerment to give Yemenis access to income-generating activities. The United Nations must move away from traditional programs, for example, distributing food. Rather than providing food, the focus should be on how Yemenis obtain their income from different ways of, different resources, and power and how they use them to achieve this.
He pointed out that women must also be empowered, and an alternative way to share information must be found. We have an excellent example from the Iranian assessment that now gives them access to the internet, allowing people to access internet information because the social movement is based on steganography for people in Yemen. They need access to most of the resources on the internet. They should avoid the volume that the sharing of information is blocked and they cannot access, which will increase their extremism among the miniature people every time.
Our role is to create and find alternative ways to empower and educate Yemenis, “I cannot split politics and humanitarian issues.”
Finally, he concluded, we should support the economy. Dr. Rajeh recommended adopting the Somalian model of using mobile money, transferring money from one mobile to another since Yemenis suffer from financial institutions collapse and different currencies printed by Houthis than the currency used in areas under government control. Therefore, it is necessary to pay to find a solution to end the suffering, and to search for an excellent solution for the Yemeni prices, because they are historical.
The second speaker, Summer Nasser, began her remarks by mentioning the misfortune Yemen has suffered for decades from the media’s negative stereotypes that either ignore or dismiss Yemeni voices. Moreover, she applauded the Washington Center for Yemeni Studies for playing an essential role in creating an alternative platform where Yemeni voices are heard and amplified.
Ms. Nasser said that Yemen’s Humiantrains Crisis has been catastrophic due mainly to instability and economic downfall. She pointed out that unlike in Syria, whose conflict resulted in the refugee crisis, Yemen has four million people who are internally displaced. In addition, 70% of Yemen’s 30 million people are in dire need of humanitarian support. She shared that domestic travel has become very difficult, which causes delays in travel and delivering goods and services, and inevitably leads to increases in costs and suffering of the already- impoverished population, especially in populous cities like Taiz.
Summer shared her vision of humanitarian intervention reform in Yemen. She recommended a case-by-case approach to accommodate each province’s unique needs. She said traditional status quo interventions that do not meet sustainability requirements are doomed to failure. She referenced the increase in need, although millions of dollars are given to supply humanitarian work in Yemen.
On a lighter note, Nasser recognized the efforts of Yemeni-American leaders and community members to improve their compatriots’ humanitarian situation back home.
However, there are complications, she says. For example, the challenge we see is obtaining permits for fundamental rights in light of a different political situation in the north that the Yemeni people suffer from, such as identity killing. On the other hand, a legitimate government in the south suffers from political and military turmoil, which caused Humanitarian organizations to suffer from significant complications, whether in obtaining permits to renew activity or allowing the implementation of projects on the ground in some government departments. This situation has amounted to corporate blackmail to obtain personal benefits.
Jihan Abdul Ghaffar said we have to consider different perspectives of solutions for each situation and must always bear in mind that the international community has allowed the humanitarian crisis in Yemen to continue and made it an international card of blackmail. She recommended a change in the narrative about the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and the conference is an optimal opportunity to do so. She urged Yemenis to seek to revive the Yemeni economy and the proposed solutions to end this crisis, starting with stopping the war in Yemen and creating job opportunities for Yemenis through investing and building concrete bridges between Yemeni humanitarian organizations and the United Nations.