Wednesday, September 20, 2017
The Yemen - Write Up Of A Talk: What's Happening, Why and What We Can Do!
There has been some things to celebrate. Firstly, the nuclear weapons ban. It prompted a recognition of the madness of thinking of them as deterrents. We honoured the life of Petrof who died earlier this year. Thirty years ago, he was working in military intelligence and his screens all showed that Russia were under attack and that a nuclear war head was on its way. This meant that they should retaliate right then, if they were going to at all. Remember the ‘4 minute warning’ associated with nuclear war. However, Petrof did not think it was right to send one back and he felt that there was still a chance that there was a technological error. For whichever strong presence of mind he had, he took the unilateral decision not to tell his senior officer. If he had, the world would have been destroyed then.
The treaty says that arms should not be sold to any country where there is any risk of them being used in violation of international humanitarian law. There have been 121 breaches of this International Humanitarian Law in Yemen. CAAT – Against the Arms Trade and Transparency International took the British government to court last year for selling arms to Saudi Arabia who are bombing the Yemen. It was a Judiciary Review, rather than a case where a jury might have sat, and for some reason the judge took the decision that selling arms, in this case, was not an ‘extreme action’. Even though it is registered as the worst humanitarian crisis with 20.7 million people in need of humanitarian aid and the worst outbreak of cholera too with over half a million dying of it, due to the unavailability of clean water. For many, people this brought the legal system’s impartiality and independence from government under suspicion.
The Saudi Aramco oil project is about to be floated and Britain wants a bit of the 3 trillion value of it. The City of London, as in the business regulatory forces has said that it can ‘overlook’ some aspects of the project so that we can have a piece of the pie. Money overrides everything else.
In the Yemen tourist guide, in 1988, it read ‘The unconscious goal of all civilizations is to create a state of society in which all mankind will be able to live in Harmony’ It was a beautiful country – the Queen Of Sheba came from there – it is also very friendly. It has always been a violent country though with many guns.
Timewheel is an organization that has been recording how many air raids there have been in the Yemen, how often, where they’ve hit and who they have hit. The statistics were arranged on a timeline with a little flag marking when cease fires had been agreed. The cease fires did not create even any temporary change in the intensity of bombing.
Hits were divided into
The hospitals and other buildings paint on their roof massive signs to say they are aid organizations, like Oxfam and Medicine Sans Frontiers but everyone has been targeted. We learnt about ‘Acute Food Insecurity Phases’; minimal, stressed, crisis, emergency and famine.
From April to August 2017
Population: 27.4 million
Needing Aid: 20.7 million
Females needing protection: 5.5 million
With Cholera: 585,527 thousand
There is food available, massive sacks of grains, rice and flour but incomes have stopped with the collapse of the civil service. That was paying nearly one in every family a wage. The central bank has now collapsed too (this was theirs not the World Bank – which might become interesting if that is what comes down the line to replace it). The central bank were told to move to near the port but many of their employees did not go as their families were threatened, if they did. The investment, the bank had relied on, also did not continue after the bank was forced to move. They have a payroll of 300 million dollars and an income of 200 million. Saudi Arabia unexpectedly put a billion dollars investment into the bank but now they can’t find that money. Corruption is rife. Ships will no longer deliver food (85% was imported until now). Because the central bank is gone, the trade and consignments can no longer be paid for.
The port is now blockaded, by the Saudi’s and Yemen's own president’s coalition. Their president (who is considered the lead of the only legitimate government of a united Yemen) actually lives in Saudi and is not representing the Yemen people in any significant way except perhaps by saying that he must rule the whole country or the war will go on. An all or nothing stance. They all still believe in a ‘military solution’ which might consist of forcing the rebels, on the Saudi border to go back to Iran in the South, although they didn’t actually come from there. Then they intend to move the government back to the capital of Yemen. That does not look likely at the moment.
There is a UN agreement that states that this player, much removed from the situation in Yemen, is the ‘only legitimate government’ which makes all the other players ‘rebels’ and excludes them from negotiations, talks and most notably prevents other countries talking to them. The situation has been over simplified and the UN has tied its own hands. We just need a new UN resolution. Saudi Arabia does want to find a way out of this as it is embarrassing to them to be the richest country in the middle east at war with the poorest country and still not have won. What winning might look like was discussed.
Aid work was varied. Bore holes for water had been deepened and existing waterwork cleared up. Small fields of solar panels were installed to run pumps. People must be employed to protect those. They noted the importance of creating demand-driven not supply-driven architecture. One girl had canisters for collecting water that neither fitted under the tap to fill, nor could she lift when they were full. What was the biggest risk, bombing? Others stealing or exploiting the most vulnerable, by stealing what they’d grown or any money they’d made? Actually, it was a third thing: A catastrophic personal event was the biggest risk. This might be a fall where you break a bone, a serious illness or a toothache. There are no resources at all to deal with anything AND it means you can’t work. Charities had started an amputee with a little shop, a family of 3 girls, all under 13, making clothes and a small but valuable sesame seed oil industry. He called this a real opportunity.
A concept of a ‘Theory Of Change’ for Yemen came up. It looked a very bleak situation and the only hope was that ‘time passes and things change’.
It was said that peace will come from families. It was asked whether we can do anything, such as write to local MPs. Britain was described as the ‘pen holder’ on the Security Council and they have the power to draft a new UN solution, which could bring more parties to the negotiating table. A new stance is needed and more comprehensive (not oversimplified or non existent) coverage, by the media. It is the worst humanitarian crisi and worst cholera epidemic in the world today, after all. It was asked if donations would help and it was responded that the priority is 1) a new UN solution and 2) to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia. 3) Donate to a Yemen Appeal. It would support the very needed work on the ground but it creates minimal real change and improvement. An expression/analogy was used; something like: the aid that charities could offer was just putting an Elastoplast over a very severe wound.
It was discussed how responsibility for addressing food insecurity has passed to charities and NGOs rather than being a central matter for government. Someone mentioned that bread had been taken off the inflation index recently and housing had been taken off long ago. This suggested that a society’s housing and food needs were now not central to government, leaving only military security and the economy in their remit.