The impact of Yemen Conflict on Human Security

The impact of Yemen Conflict on Human Security

According to the United Nations report, Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is the worst in the World.[1] The humanitarian crisis in the country has been taking a new course in almost every year since it started in 2011 and it is clear that the condition has barreled out of control. Under the current and past circumstances, the idea of remaining optimistic would rather be misguided since they are no signs of ending this catastrophe soon. From the most recent turn out of events where the internal tribal militias and political rivals have continued to uphold on their stern positions, the war is set to be awful and long. The human crisis in Yemen is attributable to the internal military and rebels such as Houthi-Saleh alliance, external militia such as Anti-Houthi bloc, Al Qaeda and the Islamic State and political rivals such president Hadi political camp and retired president Saleh and his allies. Besides, there is also a new element in international influence, especially from Iran and Saudi Arabia with the US back up which has been added and is much likely to worsen the crisis. Research carried out in March 2017 indicated that at least two-thirds of the people in the state needed humanitarian assistance.[2]  Alternatively, since the armed conflict started about 80 percent (over 20 million) of the population has been in dire need of assistance among which 10 million are in desperate assistance to survive with children and women being the most affected.[3] In the same note, this paper seeks to point out that Yemen is undeniably experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe fueled by both political rivals and militias. Both Iran backed Houthi forces and the Saudi led coalition and political leaders as well deepen the humanitarian crisis.

Historical Background

North Yemen attained her independence in 1918 from the Ottoman Empire. In 1967, the British who had established a territory around Aden withdrew, and the area was named South Yemen. A few years later, the Southern government implemented a Marxist ideology. The adoption of the new orientation led to a massive exit of hundreds of thousands of Yemenis to the North.  The exodus of the Yemenis from the South gave rise to twenty years between the two nations. Later in 1990, the two states joined to form the Republic of Yemen.

Current State

Yemen is currently a strong base for the popular militias, especially Al-Qaeda and the Al-Qaeda which have been heightening the instability of the country. The situation in the country seems to get worse day by day, and there is very little hope if any for the nation ascending back to stability. At the end of January 2018, the defiant Southern Transitional Council (STC) blamed the government for perpetrating corruption and called for the impeachment of Ahmed bin Daghar. The Prime Minister, however, rejected the call referring it as a coup “against legitimacy and the country’s unity” when the STC attempted to seize the military bases and government facilities in Aden. The divisions between the Saudi-led coalitions have made the current state more complex. The United Arab Emirates back the STC, unlike Saudi Arabia which is aligned to Mr. Hadi.

Security Profile

A secessionist movement rose from the south in 1994 and was swiftly restrained. The secessionist movement that had been subdued in 1994 from the south reemerged in 2000 in the north. The reemergence of the movement was a response following a clash between the rebels and the government troops. The clash between the Houthi and the troops led to the deaths of hundreds of people and the displacement of more than 0.25 million people. In 2011, a fresh wave of demonstration emerged. The new protests were stirred by the Tunisian and the Egyptian Arab Spring uprisings and demanded the resignation of the then-president Abdallah Saleh. The protesters wanted the president to relinquish his seat to his deputy Abdrabbuh Mansou. Yemen descended to a civil war in 2014 which has paralyzed the country despite the numerous peace initiatives by the outside world.

Yemen Political System

The country’s political structure comprises of the Bicameral legislature with the prime minister as the head of government and president as the head of state. ¬†The three arms of the government are executive, judiciary and legislative.[4] The executive head is the supreme commander of the Yemen forces and the head of government. Judiciary is assumed to be independent, but in reality, its autonomous has been interfered with by the executive branch of the government. Legislature enact laws approve government budgets and plans for socio-economic policies. ¬†Although, the political system in Yemen is designed like any other stable country its political system is rooted in the permanent crisis. [5] This perception is chained in the failure of the country to make economic and political reforms that can end the humanitarian crisis menace after power transition in 2011.[6]

Political Characters

The political characters contributing to the Yemen political instability and humanitarian crisis are both state and non-state actors. The state actors are Houthi-Saleh alliance, Anti-Houthi bloc, Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.[7] The Houthi-Saleh alliance is a cooperation between the former political enemies. The association between the two factions was more of driven-circumstance cooperation since they only formed an alliance when they realized were being pushed away from Islah and power.[8] The narrative behind this association is that war is the only tool that can defend the nation from external threats. The anti-Houthi bloc is the second political actor and comprises of the several groups that fight Houthis political future in Yemen. Third, Al Qaeda and Islamic State who are have entered in the country‚Äôs political turmoil as anti-Houthi. Besides, the state actors, non-state actors have also found themselves as the characters in Yemen’s political menace. These are Pro-Houthi who is based in Iran. Saudi Arabia and the United States influence in the country has also been experienced.

Security Issues

Human security issues in Yemen represent themselves in different dimensions ranging from political, social and economic. Politically, the country is divided along the political affiliations, militia, and tribal lines. This has been caused by weak leadership, and in return, it has contributed to deep divisions making it hard to arrive at the consensus for the benefit of citizens’ security.  Economically, oil which is the major source of wealth in the country is likely to get depleted in the next five year a crisis which further threatens human security. Socially, the Yemenis are suffering from water shortage, an impending famine, diseases and being forced out of their homes and residential areas.[9] Internationally, the technique used by the Saudi Arabia US-backed missions against the Yemen rebels have worsened the humanitarian crisis in the country. For example, the Saudi Arabia air strikes, especially on airports and the blockade of the sea was believed to have been backed by the US. Saudi Arabia confrontation with the rebels has resulted in the massive casualties and deaths among the civilians.[10]

Route of the Threat

The causes of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen originates from the 2011 Arab Spring Movement. This movement influenced pro-democracy protestors to heighten their resent against president Saleh a standoff that caused the emergence of deadly clashes between the tribal militia and the government troops. Other factors that have contributed to the human security threat comprise of economic inequalities, poverty water shortage and unequal distribution of country resources. Failure by the ruling elite to address these issues has caused a lot of grievances from the people. For example, the international donors pointed that majority of the people in the country were living below the poverty line.[11]

Both the state and non-state actors have had big roles in heightening Yemen’s situation, and they have had a huge contribution in fueling the crisis in the country. For example, the rival factions: Houthi-Saleh alliance; anti-Houthi bloc; Al Qaeda and Islamic State; Iran and Saudi Arabia stubborn positions and continued direct and indirect conflicts among all the rivals has been a major threat to the Yemenis security.¬† These actors are driven greedy to leadership, personal, tribal and allied interests and scramble for resources to maintain their stern positions. This has made it hard for the country to find solutions to the political turmoil, economic problems and social challenges that have been a major threat to the citizens.

Political Situation

The ongoing crisis has been so severe and currently does not require security attention but overall humanitarian attention. Millions of people in the state are internally displaced with no access to food and safe drinking water.[12] The Houthi military has remained adamant to accept negotiations with the Yemen government.[13] In the same note, Iran has continued to back Houthi actions making it difficult to find a political solution. The Iranian support on Houthi has threatened Saudi Arabia fight against the Yemen rebels.

Political Decision

At the end of January 2018, the defiant Southern Transitional Council (STC) blamed the government for perpetrating corruption and called for the impeachment of Ahmed bin Daghar. The Prime Minister. However, the government rejected the call referring it as a coup “against legitimacy and the country’s unity” when the STC attempted to seize the military bases and government facilities in Aden. On April 4th, 2018, the UN chief called for the immediate political solution to end human suffering in Yemen. The UN suggested for the appointment of attorneys general in Yemen as one of the measures to respond to the humanitarian crisis in the country.[14]

General Understanding

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is due to political competition. As much as this can be true, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is much more than perceived. The cause of all these problems finds itself among the elite political class who are unable to address the challenges affecting the majority populace.

 Human security Theories

Human Security Definition

In 1994 UNDP defined human security as an element comprising of two components. First, human security as being safe from chronic threats such as repression, disease, and hunger. Secondly, human security as protection from harmful and sudden disruptions that may occur in one’s daily life. These disruptions can occur in homes, communities, and jobs.

7 Dimensions of Human Security

  • Political Security
  • Health Security
  • Community Security
  • Personal Security
  • Economic Security
  • Environmental Security
  • Food Security

Two Early Schools on Human Security

Freedom from Fear-Limits the practicing of human security to protection of people from violent and injurious crisis while at the same time putting into consideration that humanitarian crisis is caused by inequalities, lack of state capacity, poverty, and other factors.

Freedom from want-Advocates for the holistic approaching in the efforts employed to achieve human security. This school of thought holds that threats to human should be expended to include natural disasters, diseases, and hunger since they are major inseparable in addressing the critical issues causing human insecurity. Besides, these factors have been proved to cause human death more than terrorism, genocide, and war combined.

Applicable School of Thought in Yemen Context  

The Yemenis have experienced deadly conflicts, especially from both the internal, Houthi and external militias such as Al Qaeda and Islamic State. Therefore, Freedom from fear the best approach to solve humanitarian crisis in Yemen. It will provide emergency aid through peaceful-building, resolution, and conflict prevention. Ideally, this school of thought limits the rates of violence in a more manageable and realistic away towards achieving the human security.  Alternatively, freedom from fear advocates for the economic cooperation, human rights protection and collective security which are some of the key aspects missing in Yemen context.

From international relations perspective, Yemen’s situation can be described from Iran‚Äôs offensive realism theory through its actions of curtailing Saudi Arabia efforts to ensure peace in the country. Internationally, UN has been very contributive in finding the solutions to the humanitarian crisis. Since, April, 3rd UN has been convening in Switzerland to propose for the long-lasting solution in Yemen.


The current humanitarian crisis in Yemen cannot be attributed to the political turmoil alone. In fact, all the seven dimensions as outlined by the UN are applicable in the Yemen context. The situation has been worsened by the stubborn standpoints among the militias, rebels, external actors and politicians. There is a need for immediate intervention by the United Nations and the world at a large to step in and rescue the suffering civilians in the country.


[1] Nikbakht, Daniel, and Sheena McKenzie. 2018. The Yemen war is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, UN says. April 3. Accessed 2018. https://edition.cnn.com/2018/04/03/middleeast/yemen-worlds-worst-humanitarian-crisis-un-intl/index.html.

[2] BBC News. 2017. Yemen conflict: How bad is the humanitarian crisis? March 28. Accessed April 4, 2018. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-34011187.

[3] CARE. 2017. HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN YEMEN. Accessed 2018. http://www.care.org/emergencies/yemen-humanitarian-crisis.

[4] Michigan State University. 2018. Yemen: Government. Accessed 2018. https://globaledge.msu.edu/countries/yemen/government.

[5] Phillips, Sarah. 2017. Yemen and the Politics of Permanent Crisis.

[6] Clausen, Maria-Louise. 2015. “Understanding the Crisis in Yemen: Evaluating Competing Narratives.” Italian Journal of International Affairs 50 (3): 16-29.

[7] Brehony, Noel. 2015. The current situation in Yemen: causes and consequences. The Norwegian Peacebuilding       Resource Centre (NOREF)

[8] Royal Institute of International Affairs. 2015. “Yemen: Key Players and.” The Middle East and North Africa Programme Workshop Summary. Royal Institute of International Affairs. 1-16. https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/events/2015-11-07-yemen-key-players-prospects-peace-meeting-summary_4.pdf.

[9] Akram, Mehwish. 2018. Turmoil in Yemen: Implications for the Regional security of Middle East. January 27.        Accessed 2018. https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2018/01/27/turmoil-yemen-implications-regional-security     middle-east/

[10] Akram, Mehwish. 2018. Turmoil in Yemen: Implications for the Regional security of Middle East. January 27.       Accessed 2018. https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2018/01/27/turmoil-yemen-implications-regional-security     middle-east/

[11] Akram, Mehwish. 2018. Turmoil in Yemen: Implications for the Regional security of Middle East. January 27. Accessed     2018. https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2018/01/27/turmoil-yemen-implications-regional-security-middle-east/

[12] United Nations. 2018. 2018 Yemen High-Level Pledging Event. April 4. Accessed 2018. https://www.unocha.org/2018-yemen-high-level-pledging-event.

[13] Zimmerman, Katherine. 2018. Yemen Situation Report Situation. March 27. Accessed 2018 2018. https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/yemen-situation-report.

[14] United Nations. 2018. With 22 Million People across Yemen Suffering, $2.96 Billion Humanitarian Response Must Be Full, Rapidly Funded, Secretary-General Tells Pledging Conference. April 3. Accessed 2018. https://www.un.org/press/en/2018/sgsm18968.doc.htm.

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