When the Saudi-led, US-backed coalition entered Yemen in early 2015 to “restore” the ruling government after Houthi fighters seized power in the capital Sanaa, no one imagined that the conflict would escalate into a full-scale war and last nearly seven years. Or that it would trigger the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with the death toll reaching a quarter of a million, leaving 24.1 million people – 80% of Yemen’s population – in need of humanitarian aid.
In March, the United States government announced nearly $585 million in humanitarian assistance to Yemen. The humanitarian crisis in Yemen, further exacerbated by the pandemic, now includes severe effects of climate change. With $4.5 billion spent by the United States on the war in Yemen, a peace process in Yemen could help disentangle the United States from the disastrous Saudi-led war.
A groundbreaking report that was also released this year on the work of women-led Yemini organizations may offer key insights into addressing these overlapping crises.
Yemeni women, especially pregnant women and mothers of young children, are the most vulnerable early victims of climate-related hardships, as well as war-related chemical pollution, mismanagement of natural resources, corruption, displacement, gender-based violence and destruction. of natural habitats.
To strengthen women’s leadership in the face of climate change and these other overlapping crises, the Geneva Center for Security Sector Governance, or DCAF, undertook a year-long assessment that resulted in a groundbreaking report : Gender, Climate and Security in Yemen – The Links and Ways Forward.
Two Yemeni consultants co-wrote the report: Dr. Nadia Al-Sakkaf, Yemen’s first female information minister, former editor of Yemen time, and founding member of the National Reconciliation Movement; and Muna Luqman, one of six finalists for the US Institute of Peace’s 2022 Women Building Peace Award, co-founder of the Women’s Solidarity Network, president of Food For Humanity, and member of the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership.
“The main objective of the project was to train twenty-three women-led organizations in Yemen and build their capacity, raise awareness of climate change issues and analyze the availability of any entry point for peace through the lens of climate change – which we actually found quite a few,” says Luqman.
The report focused on “fragile and conflict-affected states” (including Yemen, Mali and Colombia) where climate change “jeopardizes efforts to secure peace and security while deepening inequalities between the sexes”.
Last year, DCAF designed a series of participatory hybrid learning and advocacy workshops on gender, climate and security for women’s rights organizations in Yemen. Representatives of twenty-three organizations from seven Yemeni governorates met in four “clusters”. Beyond knowledge sharing, participants heard from leading climate change experts and advocates, including Tareq Hassan, director of the Arab Youth Sustainable Development Network, and Bilkis Zabara, former director of the Center for Research and gender development studies at the University of Sanaa.
Luqman and Al-Sakkaf have documented the basic extent of the impact of gendered climate change on peace processes in Yemen. They examined the results of surveys of twenty-five women-led organizations and interviews with more than thirty-five men and women, including environmental specialists, academics, local NGOs and community organizations. Civil society. Meetings with state and local actors across Yemen helped define “awareness of climate change as an important entry point for peace”, says Luqman.
When workshop participants were tasked with identifying their main climate change-related projects, they initially defined their work as purely “humanitarian”. Once they detailed their activities, Luqman realized that they had already worked at the intersection of climate change, gender and peace without defining it as such.
In Yemen, extreme drought and flooding, rising sea levels, changing rainfall patterns and more frequent and violent storms are destroying agricultural land, leading to food insecurity and population displacement. Displaced people are further traumatised, the report says, by rejection from host communities who are unwilling to share dwindling resources.
Using siege and blockades, Yemen’s warring factions are also militarizing access to water. The control of natural resources, especially water, accentuates the armed conflict in Yemen.
Civil society organizations led by women are particularly well placed to address these challenges. Their local knowledge and perspectives fill the wide gaps left by local and international organizations. On remote frontlines in Yemen, women-led organizations have helped facilitate negotiations to open humanitarian corridors, release detainees, provide water and food resources, and demilitarize youth and schools.
Civil society organizations led by women are particularly well placed to address these challenges. Their local knowledge and perspectives fill the wide gaps left by local and international organizations.
As climate change takes an even heavier toll on resources, these organizations are empowering young people and women, who are most directly affected by the crisis, to tackle it in their own communities.
Irtefaa Ameen Ahmed Sallam of the Yemen-based organization Cleaning and Development Fund, which participated in the assessment, highlighted in an interview how torrential rains crippled infrastructure in Taiz (the mountainous southwestern city renowned for coffee production and now under the control of the Houthi militia). The accumulation of garbage has created a “sewer explosion” there. She coordinated trash removal with large machinery and hired a team to disinfect the trash piles to prevent infestation and disease. Religious extremists threatened her not to come off the streets. But having lived with the “ever-present threat of death… from missiles or live ammunition”, Sallam said she was not discouraged from continuing her “peacemaking process”.
The end result of the workshops was the Yemen Climate Change–Women, Peace and Security Nexus Network, a coalition of groups that participated in the assessment. climate change at all levels of government.
The Network has drafted eleven recommendations for national, regional and international stakeholders. These include topics ranging from “climate considerations and their gender dynamics in any future political agreement”, to “unbiased and gender-sensitive coordination”, to the management of natural resources and the fight against climate change, to “planning a gender-responsive and gender-responsive crisis response to coordinate” the actions of security providers. The Network also called for the inclusion of women in “decision-making and policy-making circles”, the promotion of “positive coping mechanisms and sustainable livelihoods for marginalized women” and the education of women and girls to better cope with “climate shocks”. By increasing the resilience of the “agricultural sector to improve food security chains” and deploying economic empowerment measures, the recommendations call for support and funding from the international community to address gender, security and climate issues. in peacebuilding.
Finally, the recommendations outline how peacebuilding and gender issues should be “addressed to support adaptation and resilience to climate change”.
“We are fighting to ensure that this awareness is fully integrated into the peace agreements which we hope will finally materialize,” says Luqman, referring to a UN-brokered ceasefire that recently ended. expired and fighting has now resumed.