In the aftermath of the 2011 popular uprising to bring down the Saleh regime, Yemen has faced immense pain and conflict between different local and regional powers. Various conflict actors have committed war crimes and grave human rights violations and have caused a severe humanitarian crisis.
In 2022, a UN-backed truce was finally established and lasted for six months. Afterwards, there has been no agreement any more for a new truce. The truce was a major change in the political environment and has meant significantly less fighting and bombardment, and hence a general improvement of the humanitarian situation. However, many major political and humanitarian issues remain unresolved. The civic space in Yemen is considered almost closed. Grassroot organizations lack protection and opportunities to access international networks.
Rebuilding civil society
PAX believes the warring parties should respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians. Regional and international powers, that play a role in the Yemeni conflict, need to prioritize the needs and protection of Yemeni civilians. Yemeni civil society needs the space to voice the society needs, address them, and activate accountability process. For a sustainable peace to be achieved in Yemen, independent accountability mechanisms need to be established and supported and the Yemeni civil society needs the space and means to play an effective role in all peace actions at all levels.
What is PAX doing?
PAX and its partners are supporting the Yemeni civil society to achieve sustainable peace through the Strengthening Civil Courage programme.
It is a five-year programme which started in 2021 and seeks to ensure that Yemeni civilians represented by civil society play an active role towards ending the conflict and building inclusive peace and accountability processes, on local, national and international level.
The programme has the following objectives:
- Civic Space: Yemeni civil society activists, particularly women and youth-led civil society, contribute to expanding civic space in Yemen with safe and inclusive initiatives promoting creativity, gender equality and dialogue.
- Conflict and human rights: Yemeni civil society increases access to (gender-) inclusive justice and accountability processes, and has its concerns, and those of its victims and survivors of human rights violations, reflected in local, national, and international agendas.
- External Stress factors (weapons, conflict & environment): Calling for strict application of international standards on arms export control, protecting civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and addressing the environmental impacts of the conflict on lives and livelihoods.
Who are we working with
This programme is implemented in partnership between three Yemeni partner organizations (Mwatana, the Civic Alliance for Peace and Resonate Yemen), and three alliance members (Amnesty International Nederlands (AINL), ABAAD, and PAX). It builds upon the experiences of these organizations, shared values, complementarity of approaches, strategies for solidarity and experience sharing.
PAX has previously worked with Mwatana on these publications:
- Day of Judgment – The Role of the US and Europe in Civilian Death, Destruction, and Trauma in Yemen, March 2019;
- The Degredation of History – Violations Committed by the Warring Parties against Yemen’s Cultural Property, November 2018
What has been achieved already?
In 2021 and 2022, 10 small Yemeni civil society organizations, and 30 Yemeni youth have had their advocacy skills strengthened and have been supported by the Civil Alliance for Peace to conduct advocacy activities in different parts of Yemen. The advocacy activities led to the following results:
- Women in Saioun, Hadramout, gained a better and safer access to court for family related cases.
- 27 women volunteered to join the police for the first time in Shabwa. The involvement of women in the police force improves women’s protection against violence.
- 12 trained women passed their knowledge on advocacy tools and strategies to 120 youth in 5 different governorates in Yemen. A group of the trained youth advocated for and managed to secure needed student housing after engaging with relevant authorities and local leaders.
The power of story telling
On 22 February 2022, the first Resonate Talks event was held in Almukallah, Hadramout, where 8 Yemeni local change-makers shared their peace-building experiences with a wide audience. This event is the first of its type in terms of full localization and peace-building focus. 43 youth volunteered to help organize the event, which was attended by 150 people. The event online campaign, which focused on the importance of peacebuilding locally, had a total reach of more than 1 million and had total views of 376K.
Training on peacebuilding concepts
Additionally, Resonate! Yemen trained 21 young women and men and local council members in Almukallah on different peacebuilding concepts and created opportunities of collaboration between them. The youth group were supported to become community leaders and created and implemented their own initiatives addressing community needs. 829 of people benefited from these initiatives.
Mwatana established a Training Unit to build the capacity of staff, field researchers, stakeholders, Yemeni organizations and human rights activists in the field of documenting human rights violations, and provision of legal support to victims of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and torture. This unit is making use of relevant training manuals that were contextualized and translated to Arabic with support of Amnesty International.
Research & publications
As part of the work on conflict and environment, partly due to a PAX research publication (and subsequent media attention) on oil pollution risks in the port of Aden, UNDP, in cooperation with local authorities, set out a process to address the issue, including through a ‘port wreck removal consultancy’.
Mwatana and PAX co-produced a research, titled Not a Single Body in One Piece, documenting cases of use of explosive weapons in conflict. This report has contributed to growing awareness of the devastating consequences of the use of explosive weapons and reiterating our call for an independent accountability mechanism. In 2023, Mwatana and PAX for Peace released their joint ‘False Exonerations’ report.
In 2023, PAX worked to address the role of corporate actors through one research publication on the financial sector and arms companies. The report focuses on corporate responsibility to prevent, mitigate and remediate human rights violations including those in war zones like Yemen, and explains how arms producers and financial institutions fail to take their respective responsibilities.
Country lead Yemen: Rajin Alqallih-van der Zijde, Alqallih@paxforpeace.nl