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Peace Economy: Yemen

Tens of thousands of people attend a protest rally in the Yemeni capital Sana’a on May 12, 2017 to voice their outrage at the US-backed Saudi war on the impoverished Arab country. (Photo by al-Masirah) The Yemen war economy that stretches back decades  between Shia and Sunni has  evolved into a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-allied Saudi Arabia and it’s ally the US. This conflict has become an epic tragedy of destruction and starvation. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reports that the scale of the food crisis in Yemen is staggering with 17 million people – two thirds of the population – severely food insecure and seven million of these on the verge of famine. “The need for long-term political solutions for achieving sustainable peace in Yemen is unquestionable, but there is much we can do now to fight hunger and malnutrition. We save lives by saving livelihoods,” Graziano da Silva said of FOA. It is time for a peace economy between Shia and Sunni, between America and Iran to save Yemen and the Middle East. The Yemen people want peace not more destruction.

In March 2015 as part of air campaign, Saudi forces began a naval blockade of Yemeni ports to keep weapons from getting into Houthi hands, which also made it difficult for critical food shipments to get through. Five cranes in Hodeidah which were formerly used to offload goods from ships arriving in the port city were destroyed by Saudi airstrikes.  A substantial portion of Yemeni infrastructure has been bombed, mostly by Saudi Arabian and UAE jets. Key bridges, viaducts, dams and water treatment plants have all been destroyed in the fighting, causing water scarcity to reach unprecedented levels. Now the two biggest problems for 70% of Yemen’s population are also the most basic: food and water. These have been pushed aside, even as the crisis deepens for the sake of power not people. The economy has been shattered, food prices are on the rise and essential services like health and education are collapsing. Many people have lost their jobs and cannot afford basic items.
The Peace economy is about  saving livelihoods by workings democratically with all parties to stop the destruction, bring food and water to starving families and start the rebuilding of peoples’s lives, livelihoods. A Economy where all nations work together for the mutual security and benefit of all.  A War Economy is nationalistic, tribal, ethnic or religious groups dominated by males that are intolerant of others and always use violence as policy. A economy where people cannot work together to share a resource such as water.
 At the root of this humanitarian disaster are year’s of Yemen’s civil war that has been compounded and partly caused by a water crisis in the country.  The world hears most about the proxy war between factions supported by other countries, but according to the Yemeni newspaper Al-Thawra, 70% to 80% of conflicts in the country’s rural regions are water-related.  The country’s Interior Ministry has estimated that across the country, water and land related disputes kill 40,000 people a year – more than terrorism. In Al-Jawf Governorate, a dispute over a well’s placement has led to a blood feud that has continued for more than 30 yearsThe inability of Yemen to work together on a national level to manage a resource critical to the survival of all Yemen’s citizens has led to crisis at the local level.
Yemen’s groundwater is the main source of water in the country but the water tables have dropped severely leaving the country without a viable source of water. For example, in Sana’a, the water table was 30 meters below surface in the 1970s but had dropped to 1200 meters below surface by 2012. The groundwater has not been regulated by Yemen’s governments.[11] Even before the revolution, Yemen’s water situation had been described as increasingly dire by experts who worried that Yemen would be the “first country to run out of water”.[12] 
The political instability caused by the local water blood feud  and the civil war economy between Sunni and Shia has made Yemen one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, with — 54 percent — living in poverty, according to the World Bank. Yemen is considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world. It’s an oil-based economy, but the revenues don’t flow to the people. Despite its ancient roots as the crossroads of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, the modern Republic of Yemen is a relatively new state. Yemen was divided at end of Ottoman and British rule between North Sunni Yemen and South Shia Yemen and has been in a constant state of civil war since.
   In a democratic effort to end the war, the two governments merged on May 22 1990  to formed the modern republic of Yemen and reached a full agreement on the joint governing of Yemen. A unified parliament was formed and a unity constitution was agreed upon.  Ali Abdallah Saleh was selected president. In the 1993 parliamentary election, the first held after unification, the General People’s Congress won 122 of 301 seats. However the war economy persisted between the north and the south, killing hundreds and displacing thousands of people.
  It was during this period of political chaos that America became involved in Yemen’s civil war in October 2000 when 17 U.S. personnel died after a suicide attack on the U.S. naval vessel USS Cole in Aden, which was subsequently blamed on al-Qaeda. In January 2009, the Saudi Arabian and Yemeni al-Qaeda branches merged to form Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen. In 2009 President Obama authorize the US military to launch cruise missile and drone strikes to curb a perceived growing terror threat.  Many time instead of hitting Al-Qaeda operatives, drone strikes hit villages destroying homes, shops, killing civilians and even American citizens.
In hope for a better life and the freedom of cooperative government that comes with democracy the Yemeni revolution followed other Arab Spring rising in the Egypt and Tunisia to oust oppressive and corrupt presidents in early 2011. The uprising was initially against unemployment, corruption and lack of democratic reform. Soon the protesters demands escalated to demand the end President Ali Abdallah Saleh Saleh’s 33 year reign and proposal that his son could inherit the presidency.  In a “Friday of Anger” on 18 February, tens of thousands of Yemenis took part in anti-government demonstrations in the cities of Taiz, Sana’a and Aden.
As with all Arab Springs protests, the government responded with violence. In March 2011, police snipers opened fire on the pro-democracy camp in Sana’a, killing more than 50 people. In May, dozens were killed in clashes between troops and tribal fighters in Sana’a. By this point, Saleh began to lose international support.  On 23 November 2011, Saleh flew to Riyadh, in neighboring Saudi Arabia, to sign the Gulf Co-operation Council Plan for political transition. Upon signing the document, he agreed to legally transfer the office and powers of the presidency to his deputy, Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Yemen was beginning its slide into famine.

Disillusioned with the transition, due to the lack of democratic and economy progress, many ordinary Yemenis – including Sunnis – supported the Houthis and in September 2014 they entered the capital, Sanaa, setting up street camps and roadblocks, later toppling the government. In response, the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries launched an air campaign against the Houthis with support from the United States, UK and France.

The campaign has only made Yemen’s local problems worse. It has so far failed to bring peace or restore democracy. The latest figures show that the fighting and airstrikes have killed more than 12,000 people and displaced at least 3.3 million, the United Nations says.  Twenty people are dying every day, many of curable diseases because barely 45 percent of the health facilities are functioning. A Human Rights Watch report, referring to the UN panel’s findings, notes that the panel documented attacks on camps for internally displaced persons and refugees; civilian gatherings, including weddings; civilian vehicles, including buses; civilian residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques; markets, factories and food storage warehouses; and other essential civilian infrastructure, such as the airport in Sana’a, the port in Hodeidah and domestic transit routes.” Nearly 3.3 million Yemenis, including 2.1 million children, are currently suffering from acute malnutrition, while more than seven million people are grappling with starvation. The figures, however, could drastically increase if the US fed Saudi war machine continues to rain destruction on the Yemeni people. Yemen’s war economy has created a nationwide humanitarian crisis of of destruction, suffering and more bombing, killing will not bring peace, save lives or livelihoods. Yemen needs urgently to switch to the peace economy.

As Graziano da Silva says:””If we don’t urgently address the needs of rural people – who make up 70 percent of Yemen’s population – we will not have the prospect for a better future.” The first step towards a Peace Economy is food and water.

FAO is doing its best to respond to the crisis on many fronts and with limited funding. So far this year, FAO has reached 450 000 people with a mixture of animal health, dairy, animal feed, crop and vegetable production. In Yemen, at a cost of $220 per family, a crop kit can yield enough food for about three months. A vegetable kit costing $80 per family can yield enough vegetables that families can eat and even sell to their communities all year long. FAO is working closely with the World Bank, the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and others to increase food production, maintain and enhance livelihoods, protect and public health.  Yemen a country of scenic beauty  has  terrace farm fields that date back to the 3rd millennium BCE. For a faction of the cost of creating  famine America could make it’s citizens safer by helping farmers feed their families.

Sana’s agriculture before is was destroyed see above.

                                                                                      The good news is water can be at the core of peace in Yemen. Water management can be an instrument of regional cooperation to promote human development and security, and not an activity to be pursued for its own sake. A recent study by Strategic Foresight Group (SFG) on 205 shared river basins from 148 countries concludes: “any two countries engaged in active water cooperation do not go to war for any reason whatsoever, including land, religion, economy or terrorism.” The key to peace thus lies in the intensity of cooperation as measured by the water cooperation quotient (WCQ)the report introduces.  Singapore and Senegal are examples of how to avoid conflict through good water governance and transboundary cooperation.

To promote active water cooperation, the SFG has developed the Blue Peace approach that transforms water from a source of potential crisis to an instrument of cooperation. Specifically, it consists of creating regional mechanisms for cooperation, engaging mainstream political leaders from rival river-bordering countries, and enabling them to negotiate trade-offs between water and other public goods. Such mechanisms are already in place in Europe, North and South America, and West Africa.

Water diplomacy of Yemen’s water resources management is a road map to the Peace Economy. America needs to stop participating in Yemen’s War Economy, it is not making us safer or is it bringing peace to Yemen, it is only expanding the famine and destruction. In order to save lives, livelihoods, and stabilize democracy America has to halt the coalition air campaign and join with the United Nations to bring food and water to the Yemen people. Water diplomacy requires negotiation among parties and America needs to start talking with all nations and groups. It time to talk with Iran. That will take courage for the US government dominated by males and the women follow on security, will need to stop butting heads, posturing for power, name calling, shouting threats and admit the current war policy is not working and begin  to work on a policy of peace with negotiations in order to make the US  and nations around the earth a more democratic, greener and safer place. The American people and people around the world have to tell their elected representatives that we want a life of peace with clean water, enough to eat, to be able to earn a living, have education for the children, healthcare, retirement and hope for a better future. A Peace Economy.

The war economy has created broken nations, killed hundreds of thousands, displaced millions, the planet is less secure  and the future is only more death and destruction. What can change this ominous scenario? Only a bold political act of deep social and economic reforms that can heal a broken society.  A courageous policy change from a War Economy to a Peace Economy. A policy change from not talking to talking is the long term solution that can bring stabilization, economic and democratic reforms  to Yemen, the Middle East and everyone else. A economy where progress is measured not by body count, but by how many lives and livelihoods have been saved. The Yemeni People are demanding this and we the people around the world need to add our voices and shout we want a Peace Economy.

Join CodePink and it’s peace partners as we work to help the Yemen People please Donate to Yemen_famine  all donations will go to Unicef’s Famine Relief Efforts.

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Shibam is a city in Hadramaut, Yemen, with a population of 13,316 inhabitants (2004) Shibam is famous for its incomparable architecture, which is included in the UNESCO World Heritage program.

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Preventing water wars: how to build bridges over rivers: lmas Futehally is executive director and co-founder of Strategic Foresight Group. This piece was first published in Building Peace.

Various Articles BBC News.

Various Articles Wikipedia on Yemen.

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