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Britain Has Been Instrumental in the Yemen Humanitarian Effort - But Questions Must Be Asked of Arms Transfers to Saudi Arabia

04/05/2016 08:47

Today the International Development Committee released our report on the Crisis in Yemen, our fourth report of the Parliament. Yemen faces a massive humanitarian crisis, with over 80% of the population in need of assistance.

DFID has been instrumental in supporting and facilitating the humanitarian relief effort. Although DFID has been one of the leading international forces responding to the crisis, we believe that other countries need to do more to match the efforts of the UK. It is vital that other donors, in addition to the UK, rapidly provide necessary funds to support the UN's $1.8billion 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan. This money will go a long way to helping ease some of the many pressures that this conflict has caused.

As this conflict has continued, many basic services in Yemen have suffered as a result. We noted that education, healthcare, nutrition, water and sanitation have all fallen victim to the ongoing conflict. Damage of facilities, lack of staff and a lack of medicine is stretching Yemen's healthcare system to the point of collapse and DFID need to use the resources and expertise it has in strengthening healthcare systems to ensure that this doesn't happen. The same is true for nutrition, water and sanitation; DFID has been fundamental in maintaining these programmes but more needs to be done to scale up these efforts.

As ever in major conflicts, the risk to civilians and humanitarian staff is severe. It is vitally important that all sides in this conflict adhere to International Humanitarian Law (IHL) to ensure that civilians and humanitarian workers are protected. We received evidence from humanitarian organisations which suggests strongly that humanitarian law has been breached. This undermines the relief effort. In light of the compelling evidence, we recommend that an independent international inquiry into alleged violations of IHL by both sides of the conflict in Yemen should be set up without delay.

The evidence we have received raises questions over the Government's continued licensing of arms transfers to Saudi Arabia. Based on the strength and credibility of the evidence we have heard, we welcome the Committee on Arms Export Controls inquiry into the use of UK manufactured arms in Yemen and hope it will consider the case for suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia until there is evidence that there is no 'clear risk' that arms exported from the UK "might be used in the commission of a serious violation of IHL" in Yemen.

The International Development Committee is encouraged by DFID's focus on the long term development of Yemen and the department's support for UN efforts to facilitate peace talks. We urge the Government to apply pressure on all parties to the conflict so we can see progress in the peace talks and particularly to ensure that the accompanying ceasefire is adhered to by all sides. The ultimate goal is a long lasting peace for Yemen and an opportunity for its people to rebuild their country.

Stephen Twigg is the Labour MP for Liverpool West Derby and chair of the International Development Select Committee

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