Saving Yemen From Itself

September 11, 2012 3:02 pm 0 comments

Ali Abudllah Saleh, the former President of Yemen. Photo: wiki commons.

Yemen as a nation has gone through dramatic turmoil brought about by internal violent conflicts occurring over the last several decades. The forced resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh (replaced by Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi) in February, along with the formation of a transitional unity government, has had little effect on the fundamental issues that bear down on Yemen. Although recent efforts made by the Saudi government to raise billions of dollars geared toward the development of Yemen is a welcome sign, there is little assurance that these funds will in fact stabilize the situation and save the country from itself unless the money is delivered and invested wisely.

Yemen’s internal conditions are and have been dismal for decades, with nearly seven million citizens deprived of basic necessities, a half million children affected by acute malnutrition and a startling 50 percent unemployment rate. The media in and outside of Yemen has scarcely reported on this dire situation, choosing instead to focus on major violent incidents committed by al-Qaeda and other extremist militia in the Arabian Peninsula (yet only to the extent that they affected neighboring Arab countries or the United States). Moreover, despite the political changes, it has and continues to be extremely difficult to assess what is really taking place on the ground, and the situation remains murky at best. While the law establishing the transitional government was lofty in content, it has had little effect on the day-to-day life of ordinary Yemenites.

The lamentable lack of attention to Yemen was also precipitated by the country’s marginal political influence both regionally and certainly within the international arena. Although in the latest meetings in Riyadh international donors pledged nearly $6.5 billion for Yemen’s development and security, these funds may still meet the fate of earlier monetary pledges made this past May, much of which was either not delivered or was largely misappropriated with little effect on changing the quo. Successive governments in Yemen under the deposed President Saleh’s 33-year reign were plagued by rampant corruption and patronage which continues unabated to this day, particularly since many of the same corrupt officials continue to hold the same position they held in the previous government.

Assuming that much of the money pledged in May (and more recently) is finding its way to the Yemeni treasury, the paramount concern remains how best to utilize these funds in order to prevent Yemen from becoming a failed state, if it has not already. To begin with, some of these funds must go toward improving the security conditions throughout the country. As long as al-Qaeda and other militant Islamist groups continue to violently undermine and sabotage any efforts to rebuild Yemen as a state, developing a lasting peace will remain on the wishful list. For the security forces to become effective, money in and of itself will not suffice to improve the overall security vacuum. External advisers and trainers from some regional states and forces such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and the US should devote time, energy and resources to train Yemen’s internal security forces, improve intelligence, and provide these forces with proper military hardware to deal with the insurgency and systematically disrupt and eventually prevent al-Qaeda from operating almost freely throughout the Arabian Peninsula.

Moreover, a significant portion of these funds should be channeled toward the development of crucial infrastructure such as roads, schools and medical clinics. Although these projects should be undertaken by the government, they must nevertheless be supervised by representatives of the donor countries. These states, specifically Saudi Arabia, ought to ensure that these funds are not squandered by corrupt officials and however critical the internal security may be, the development of the infrastructure cannot wait until all security requirements are fully met. To have the most effect, the funds should be divided into installments. Before providing the second installment, Yemeni authorities must demonstrate that the initial payment has been utilized for what was intended by providing accountability and transparency.

In addition to security and infrastructure, sustainable participatory development projects should receive special attention. Although building infrastructure and institutions necessary to create jobs and improve the overall quality of life remains the purview of the government, empowering ordinary citizens through sustainable development should attain top priority. Sustainable economic development invariably creates wealth both for the communities that adopt such projects and for the state treasury, which can generate more income through increased tax revenues. In turn these funds (taxes) can be used toward improving the social safety net and the overall health of the economy. The great benefit in engaging in sustainable development is that small communities are empowered to collectively decide through advice and consent on projects of their choice, from which they can benefit while the principles of democratic culture are simultaneously fostered. It is worthy to note that such projects require limited capital and do not necessitate infusion of new capital and advanced technology. In fact, ten percent of the money pledged ($650 million) could provide more than one million Yemenites a decent living and restore their basic human rights while fostering democratic principles.

It must be noted that none of the three objectives should take preference over the others; improving security, building new infrastructure and implementing sustainable development projects all need to be tackled concurrently. In the interim, an emergency supply of food, medical aid and other necessary provisions must be rushed to despondent families to save the lives of nearly one million who are on the verge of dying from malnutrition, particularly women and children.

Saudi Arabia is an extremely important player in regards to what is happening in Yemen. First, many of the terrorist activities that have occurred in Saudi Arabia were traced to Yemeni citizens largely instigated by al-Qaeda. Secondly, due to Saudi Arabia’s proximity to Yemen, particularly their shared eastern border where a large Shiite concentration and many oil deposits are located, Saudi Arabia has every interest in ensuring Yemen’s stability which informs their substantial contributions of three billion dollars at so-called “Friends of Yemen” meetings in Riyadh. Third, should Yemen become a failed state, Saudi Arabia will be directly affected by the threats of mass refugees and a terrorist infiltration that will permeate the entire Gulf region.

The current reconciliation government must ensure that it is representative of all segments of Yemeni society and in particular must seek, with the support of Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries, a dialogue with the Houthi movement which controls significant portions of northern Yemen. Although the conflict between this tribe and the central government goes back many decades, it is nearly impossible to stabilize Yemen without finding a peaceful settlement with the secessionist groups who have established their own autonomous zone.

By providing funds, however important and critical they may be to addressing Yemen’s malaise, the efforts to save the country must remain an Arab enterprise. That said, only the Yemeni people, with the helping hand of the international community, can pull the country back from the brink of an increasingly imminent disaster.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    JNS.org – At the turn of the century, a young Jewish immigrant arrived in New York. So begins the history of many American Jewish families. It is 27-year-old Albert Allaham’s story, too, with a few unusual twists. Albert’s “century” is the 21st—he arrived almost 100 years after the massive waves of European Jewish immigration. Rather than coming from a small town along the Danube river, his shtetl was Damascus. His first American business was not a pushcart on the Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    Did you know that in the entire Bible, only one birthday is mentioned and it is that of Pharaoh? And did you know that according to some scientists, by accepting Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, it is impossible to prove or disprove that the sun is the gravitational center of our solar system? In his new book, REBBE, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking details as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Mitzvos New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    JNS.org – Omelet sandwich: 5 shekels. Iced coffee: 5 shekels. Tuna sandwich: 5 shekels. Fresh-squeezed orange juice: 5 shekels. Cheese bureka: 5 shekels. There’s plenty more on the Cofizz menu, but you get the idea. Dani Mizrahi and Amir Amshalm, two Israeli men in their early 30s, asked themselves: Why not launch a take-out food joint in busy neighborhoods around Jerusalem where everything—and that means everything—goes for five shekels, or about $1.50. They’d seen the concept take off in Tel Aviv, where [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    The new FX Network drama Tyrant was shot entirely in Israel, just 10 miles north of Tel Aviv, Bloomberg News reported last Tuesday. Tyrant follows the life of an Arab dictator’s second son Barry, played by Adam Rayner, who reluctantly returns home to the Middle Eastern nation of his birth to join the family business away from his suburban life in America. The elaborate set production for the primetime drama included a crew of 300 and a reported cost of over $3 million [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Skokie, Il-born 25-year-old Erin Heatherton (Erin Heather Bubley) is rocking the modeling world. And in a new interview accompanying a cover spread for Miami’s Ocean Drive magazine, she says Jewish moms are “constantly trying to set her up with their sons.” Imagine that – who would have thought? “The moms, they’re doing what they do. It doesn’t matter what country they live in, what city – grandmothers, too,” she admitted. “But I’m probably going to do that too one day.” Heatherton was [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Israel First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    Some 15 Turkish university professors and lecturers will take part in a first of its kind seminar at Holocaust museum Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies starting next week. The trip is especially significant as Holocaust denial is rampant in the Arab world. A Palestinian professor was recently forced to resign after he led a trip to the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz. Participants in the week-long program at Yad Vashem will experience in-depth tours of the museum’s archives and [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music Guns N’ Roses Guitarist Rocks Solo Acoustic Version of Israeli National Anthem – Hatikva (VIDEO)

    Guns N’ Roses Guitarist Rocks Solo Acoustic Version of Israeli National Anthem – Hatikva (VIDEO)

    Ok, fans, question time. What do: Guns ‘n’ Roses shred-meister guitarist, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (aka Ronald Jay Blumenthal), “Hard Rock Hotel”, “Las Vegas” and Israel’s ”Hatikva” (The Hope) national anthem… all have in common? I know, you’re probably thinking, “Hmm, ‘One of these things is not like the other,’ would fit in here,” right? Um, no, turns out. Caught backstage by blogger Darren Garnick at the swanky Vegas gig in early June, Thal, acoustic guitar in hand, fretted out a sweetly melodic [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.