Arms exports to Saudi Arabia worth three times...
In late 2017, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock warned that Yemen was then facing “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades with millions of victims”. “We prevented famine two years ago,” Lowcock told the Security Council in November 2020. “More money for the aid operation is the quickest and most efficient way to support famine prevention efforts right now.” He said the world body had received less than half of what it needed – about $1.5bn – this year for its humanitarian operations in Yemen. Last year it received $3bn.
In September, Lowcock for the first time singled out Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait for not responding to the UN’s appeal. Days later, Kuwait announced a $20m donation and Saudi Arabia publicly committed to providing $204m to UN aid agencies, part of its $500m pledged in June. The UAE, which is a part of the Saudi-led coalition, did not announce any funding for this year.
According to Oxfam, members of the G20 ) 19 countries plus the European Union (have exported more than US$17bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since it became involved in the conflict in Yemen in 2015 but have given only a third of that amount in aid to people caught in the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.
After five years of conflict, Yemen was already suffering the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis with 10 million people going hungry, the largest cholera outbreak on record and only half of hospitals fully functioning. Oxfam reported in August that there has been one air raid every ten days on hospitals, clinics, wells and water tanks throughout the war. The arrival of coronavirus has only worsened these dire circumstances. And yet the United Nations’ response plan to get clean water, food and medical care to the most vulnerable, is only 44% funded this year.
Saudi Arabia’s decision to lead a coalition of eight countries in support of the internationally recognised government in Yemen escalated the conflict and has been responsible for all air raids over more than five years.
When arms exports by G20 nations to other members of this coalition are included, the figure of $17bn rises to at least US$31.4bn between 2015 and 2019, the last year for which records are available. That’s more than five times the amount those member nations of the G20 have given in aid to Yemen between 2015 and 2020.
Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director said: “Having suffered years of death, displacement and disease, the people of Yemen need these powerful members of the international community to bring all parties to the conflict together to agree to an immediate countrywide ceasefire and return to negotiations committed to achieving a lasting peace. “Making billions from arms exports which fuel the conflict while providing a small fraction of that in aid to Yemen is both immoral and incoherent. The world’s wealthiest nations cannot continue to put profits above the Yemeni people.”
Some G20 nations, including the US and UK, give a small fraction in aid compared to the worth of exports by their domestic arms companies to Saudi Arabia. Some, like Japan, have given aid to Yemen but have not exported arms to Saudi Arabia in the last five years. Other countries, like Argentina, have neither given aid nor exported arms to Saudi.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a defence think-tank, Saudi Arabia was the world’s top arms importer between 2014 and 2018, spending $16.9bn on weapons, with at least $4.9bn of that amount spent on European arms. Despite a unilateral ceasefire declaration by the Saudi coalition in April, fighting continues across the country.
Rights groups have criticised the Saudi-led coalition for air raids that have killed civilians at hospitals, schools and markets, and urged the Western governments to halt arms exports to Saudi Arabia and its allies in the stalemated conflict.
Oxfam’s Awssan Kamal said it is “shocking to see that level of business happening” as Yemen enters its sixth year of conflict, with 80 percent of the impoverished country’s 30 million people in need of help. “As we work … to respond to the coronavirus, we’re seeing a dramatic drop in the humanitarian funding levels,”
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the war, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data, including 12,000 civilians. The United States, UK, France are among Governments that are ‘directly complicit’ in the war in Yemen by sending billions in arms exports to Saudi Arabia and are in breach of their own international commitments, including those to regulate the arms trade.