Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East and has become a focal point of the evolving global fight against terrorism. The country’s dwindling oil reserves, which the World Bank expects to dry up over the next 12 years, provide 75 percent of government revenues and comprise 90 percent of the country’s exports. Unable to diversify, analysts across the world question how Yemen will generate sufficient employment and raise living standards for its citizens. Persistently high levels of food and water insecurity coupled with rapid population growth are other signs of the country’s socio-economic difficulties. It is highly likely that Yemen will fail to meet any of the Millennium Development Goals.
Against the backdrop of the Arab Spring, Yemen continues to face a fragile security situation that is closely linked to its significant humanitarian challenges. It remains to be seen if the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011, the first change in the country’s leadership for 33 years, will help usher in a period of relative stability and development.
The U.K. Department for International Development is dedicated to helping Yemen address humanitarian issues during this fragile political transition period. In line with the U.K. Building Stability Overseas Strategy and the U.K. Humanitarian Policy, DFID’s engagement is mainly geared toward supporting the interim government and alleviating Yemen’s most dire socio-economic problems.
From 2010-11 to 2014-15, Yemen will receive a total of 275 million pounds ($441.6 million) from DFID. Over this period, U.K. aid is expected to increase by some 80 percent.
Aid and development organizations face high security risks in Yemen, which limits DfID’s choice of programming and implementing partners. This has led the agency to channel the majority of its aid through a small number of trusted organizations such as the World Bannk, the United Nations and international nongovernmental organizations. In addition, DFID provides significant support to the Social Fund for Development, a Yemeni public organization that is well-recognized in implementing development projects in the country. Monitoring and evaluation of projects is largely entrusted to local partners.
DfID’s intervention in Yemen targets short-term humanitarian results rather than long-term development goals. The agency’s aid portfolio consists of five key areas: 1) wealth creation; 2) governance and security; 3) education; 4) poverty, hunger and vulnerability; and 5) humanitarian assistance.
The largest project funded by DFID in Yemen is the Social Fund for Development Phase 4 (100 million pounds). Due to the U.K. focus on more urgent security and humanitarian issues, DfID has temporarily halted its support of health, justice and law enforcement programs in Yemen and will likely discontinue its investment in Yemen’s education sector.
The growth of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, has taken a serious toll on Yemen and the country’s near-term development outlook. Fortunately, prominent foreign aid donors have not abandoned the country and Yemen remains a U.K. priority country for official development assistance. Two donor conferences, one of which was co-chaired by U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague, led to a significant rise in aid levels for the country. Recognizing this priority status, freshly elected Yemeni President Abdo Rabbuh Mansur Hadi met U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron on his first non-Arab state visit to discuss U.K. support for counterterrorism and the needed political reforms in Yemen. Any further and sustainable increase of British aid volumes in Yemen beyond 2015 will be closely tied to the country’s evolving security situation and the effectiveness of DFID’s support to the incumbent transitional government.
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