On 08 October 2020, the Brussels International Center held an online event on the ongoing humanitarian aid crisis in Yemen and how differing perspectives (namely the local, international and institutional) face differing challenges in the trying to manage the humanitarian situation throughout the country. The distinguished speakers were Ms. Muna Luqman, co-founder of Food for Humanity; Mr. Jean Nicolas Beuze, Representative for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); Mr. Borja Miguelez, Humanitarian Aid Desk Officer for the European Commission Humanitarian Adi and Civil Protection Office (DG ECHO); and Mr. Aidan O’Leary, Head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Yemen (OCHA).
The event opened with a presentation from Elisa Cherry, Middle East Analyst at the BIC, who highlighted the key intersections between the ongoing conflict in Yemen and the inability of the international community to prioritize civilians in their humanitarian responses, over underlying political motivations. “Over eighty percent of the population, close to 25 million people is reliant on humanitarian aid for their basic survival. To address this, we should promote cooperation between the international aid institutions and local communities” said Elisa.
The consensus from the discussion was that the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is no longer about waiting for the end of the conflict, it is about learning to manage the situation, and how to best delivery aid to nearly 80 % of the country. There are multiple factors that worsen the crisis, such as the blockage of humanitarian aid access points by warring parties and misdistribution. The solution to aid delivery therefore must remain holistic in its approach.
In addition, as discussed during the event, the economic situation and operational environment for aid workers in Yemen have exacerbated the aid crisis, and will only continue to do so unless parties to the conflict are able to engage in peaceful discussions. The event highlighted the necessary involvement of local actors, who remain at the core of the crisis, and the potential to solve it. Ultimately, the humanitarian aid crisis faces multiple challenges, and there must be a conscious effort to highlight the humanitarian aid crisis in Yemen, especially in a time where the aid systems face multiple challenges due to COVID, funding cuts, logistical and bureaucratic hindrances. Civilians must remain the priority of the aid institutions that are working in Yemen.
Representatives and participants closed the discussion by examining bottom-up and top-down approaches to the conflict that leverage the resilience capacities of local communities in the region, such as enhancing institutional capacity, building proper metrics to access capability of operations, and strengthen coordination with local communities.
The BIC will prepare an outcome report on the event, summarizing the contributions and listing the events final recommendations.