Humanitarian Aid in Yemen: Collaboration or Co-Optation?


School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding and Development

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Political Science and International Affairs

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According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of February 2019, there were more than 24 million people in Yemen in need of assistance and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reported over 2 million displaced people and refugees as a result of the conflict (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2019; UNHCR, 2019). Further, the Armed Conflict Location & Data Events Project (ACLED) estimates 91,600 fatalities since 2015 and approximately 11,700 reported civilian fatalities, though the actual number of fatalities is likely higher (ACLED, 2019). As conflict continues to wage, civilians are increasingly being affected, creating an ongoing humanitarian crisis. There are thousands of local, regional, and international humanitarian nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) operating in Yemen, though it is unclear how many of these organisations are extremely active. Despite their enormous number and the potential for aiding the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, many have critiqued the process and effectiveness of humanitarian assistance in Yemen (Altman, 2018; Jarhum, 2019). As Altman (2018) from the Center of Strategic and International Studies points out, aid organisations have struggled to meet the needs of the population of Yemen, encountering problems with delivering aid and navigating the political landscape, particularly since the conflict is still ongoing.

Whilst the difficulties of providing aid in Yemen have been discussed, little research has considered exactly how the various local NGOs, international NGOs, international organisations, and governments involved in Yemen cooperate or coordinate with each other in their work on the ground. International NGOs and international organisations, such as the United Nations, tend to have significantly more resources than those at the local level; however, local-level organisations have a better, and more nuanced, understanding of the specific concerns facing the population, as well as a greater understanding of the types of policies that might be most welcome by the population of a country. This country briefing considers how local NGOs interact with each other (horizontal collaboration) and with other actors, such as international NGOs, donor agencies, and governments (vertical collaboration), to approach the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Further, the briefing considers how well international NGOs and organisations consider the local context and to what extent they include local NGOs within their work. More importantly, we consider whether international NGOs and organisations fully collaborate with local NGOs by engaging them in each part of the process, or whether the work of these international actors tends to consider local needs in a more cursory way, allowing these international organisations to co-opt and exert greater control over the process. The briefing also considers the extent to which external actors, such as Saudi Arabia, influence the operation of various international and local organisations.

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Journal of Peacebuilding and Development





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