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EU-Yemen relations

13.11.2020

A factsheet about the actions of the EU in Yemen

EU response to the conflict in Yemen

The war in Yemen, ongoing since 2014-2015, has turned the country into a humanitarian catastrophe. According to the UN, almost 21 million people (two thirds of the population) are in need of assistance, out of which 10.3 million children. The UN is conducting its largest food aid operation in history to feed 13 million Yemenis every month. The conflict, which initially pitted the Government of Yemen against the Houthi movement (Ansar Allah), has been internationalised since March 2015 when a KSA-led coalition intervened in support of the internationally recognised government headed by President Hadi. Although the parties signed the Stockholm Agreement in December 2018, agreeing to a set of confidence-building measures concerning the port city of Hodeidah, Taiz and prisoner exchanges, implementation remains a challenge and hostilities have never stopped. The exchange of 1,056 prisoners in October 2020 was a long awaited step towards full implementation of this agreement. The Riyadh Agreement on power-sharing and security cooperation, signed by the Government of Yemen and the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) in November 2019 following violent clashes between the two, has also only been partially implemented. A new government was formed on the basis of the Riyadh Agreement in December 2020. The EU welcomed the new government but regretted the lack of women in the cabinet. The EU continues to call upon the government to appoint women to leading positions. There have been renewed UN-led efforts towards a cease-fire and political negotiations in the past months, with new momentum generated by stepped up US engagement, a more forthcoming stance by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and active facilitation by Oman. Hostilities, however, continue on several frontlines.

Throughout the conflict, the EU has remained active in three main areas:
1) Political support
2) Humanitarian assistance
3) Development assistance

Since 2015 the EU's overall contribution to Yemen in these three areas amounts to approximately €1 billion. The EU's response has been guided by various sets of Council conclusions. 2019 Council conclusions welcomed the Stockholm Agreement agreed in December 2018 and reiterated the EU's full support for the UN-led political process and the work of UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths. The EU's interventions in Yemen aim to operationalise the Development-Humanitarian-Peace Nexus. EU programmes address both immediate, medium, and long-term needs, with a particular focus on unlocking the potential for development in Yemen.

1)  Political support
The EU continues to actively support the efforts of the United Nations in achieving a peace settlement in Yemen. The EU pursues political consultations with all stakeholders, in Yemen and in the region. This is in full support of and closely coordinated with the efforts of current UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths to end the war through the resumption of an inclusive political process. As of 2020, the EU is part of an international contact group (P5+4 [1]) that aims to accompany those peace efforts.
The EU is currently providing €15 million for crisis-response activities. In coordination with the UN Special Envoy's office, the EU supports inclusive capacity building on political negotiations and governance for young Yemenis,  local dialoguesprovides economic and development analyses, supports agreement on local ceasefires and supports the participation of local actors in peace negotiations. The EU also supports de-mining efforts in the country, the UNDP-led Peace Support Facility for Yemen, the Yemeni Coast Guard and 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 about the conflict, to build trust among parties, and promote videographic reflections on the future of the country.
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 is among major donors to the United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) based in Djibouti. EU support to UNVIM was articulated in a Council decision in August 2018 and was renewed for another year in October 2020.
In order to address political fragmentation, weak governance and deficient criminal justice the EU, with other partners, financed 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. The first one aims at enhancing law enforcement capacity on counterterrorism in accordance with human rights and the rule of law (€11 million), and the second contributes to national and regional efforts to meet international standards on anti-money laundering (AML) and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) (€6 million). Furthermore, the EU is financing an action aiming at setting up a ceasefire monitoring in close collaboration with the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Yemen (OSESGY) and also supports Track II mediation efforts at different levels (local authorities, CSOs, political parties and tribes).
The EU and EU 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.
The EU is working towards a strengthened engagement by all parties as regards the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda in Yemen, and the EU Delegation to Yemen co-chairs the International Gender Coordination Group (IGCG) together with UN Women.

2) Humanitarian aid
The conflict in Yemen has created the world's largest humanitarian crisis. Yemen's humanitarian needs are enormous and most of its population is affected. More than 4 million people have been displaced since the start of the conflict. Yemen is also the biggest food security crisis in the world. 16.2 million Yemenis are food insecure, of which 5 million are just one step away from famine in the first half of 2021. Since 2020, malnutrition rates increased by 16%, with 400,000 children suffering from malnutrition. The situation could further deteriorate if restrictions to imports of basic commodities, such as of food, fuel and medicines, and obstructions to access persist. The crisis is further aggravated by an economic crisis, inflation and currency devaluation.

In addition to the food crisis, Yemen also faces the spread of preventable diseases. The cholera outbreak that has been affecting Yemen since 2016 has become one of the worst outbreaks of the disease in recent history. In 2020, the already fragile health system came under enormous strain due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The EU has reacted to the crisis by increasing its humanitarian assistance. The initial allocation for 2021, EUR 90 million, more than doubled in comparison with 2020. In 2020, the EU allocated close to €120 million to humanitarian assistance for Yemen, bringing the EU’s support to humanitarian funding to a total of €648.36 million since the beginning of the conflict in 2015.
This aid goes to projects implemented by EU partners (United Nations, International Committee of the Red Cross, Red Cross branches and International Non-Governmental Organisations) across the whole country. The EU's focus has been on emergency assistance to conflict affected populations, including Internally Displaced People (IDPs), as well as wider support on nutrition – especially to treat severely malnourished children – healthcare and food security programmes.
With the recent epidemics that occurred in Yemen, such as cholera, preparedness and response to epidemics was already a key focus in the EU’s humanitarian strategy during the last years. To respond to the recent Covid-19 outbreak, the EU supports infection prevention and control measures. 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.
In addition to providing financial support, the EU is also a lead actor in humanitarian advocacy and coordination. The EU and Sweden have regularly convened the donor community promoting coordinated, principled and accountable humanitarian action. This takes place mainly through the Yemen Humanitarian Senior Official Meetings (SOM Process) commenced in February 2020.

3) Development assistance
The conflict has exacerbated pre-existing economic challenges and shortcomings in the country. This has lasting and devastating effects on the livelihoods of large parts of the Yemeni population. Since 2015, the EU provided €353.7 million in long-term assistance. Hence, the EU is a leading development partner in Yemen.
The allocation for Yemen in the period 2018-2020 under the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) amounted to €150 million. The EU has focused this assistance on the provision of basic services to strengthening the resilience of local communities in the face of crisis. The EU is currently programming the next seven year phase of global development assistance and will continue to be a solid partner for development and recovery in Yemen.
The Covid-19 outbreak has put Yemen’s already fragile health system under severe strain – it is estimated that only approximately half of health facilities were operational at the onset of the pandemic. The situation has only worsened with scarce resources being diverted from key healthcare sectors to respond to the rising needs in response to the pandemic. The immediate EU development response was aimed at supporting health infrastructure and systems with a dedicated Covid response special measure of €14.3 million. Ongoing development projects in the health sector were also adapted to better respond to the pandemic.
The EU also supports Yemen's fragile health services and infrastructure with projects worth €26 million that address malnutrition and work to create a network of community health workers to complement and support the country's struggling health system.
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 such as Beit Al Faqeeh where teachers have been trained in methods to resolve local conflict through 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 have benefited from community asset rehabilitation through 'cash for work' schemes and 870 micro-businesses have been 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 the Al Amal Bank, the EU has disbursed 2,000 micro-grants to businesses whose operations had stopped due to the conflict.
In 2019, the EU launched additional resilience support for local communities worth €79 million. The package builds on the success of the ERRY programme, expanding the work to urban areas under the SIERY project – the largest single EU endeavour towards the social and economic wellbeing of the Yemeni population. In parallel, the EU is dedicating tailored advice and support to Yemeni economic institutions in the field of macro-economic policy.
More than four 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 four 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 an 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.
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 four 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. The EU Delegation to Yemen also co-chairs, together with Switzerland, a local Group of Friends on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) in Yemen.

 

[1] It includes the permanent five of the UN Security Council plus Germany, Kuwait, Sweden, and the EU.