December Quarterly Update
Against the depressing backdrop of a conflict at stalemate, worsened by the stubbornness of the parties and the distraction of international attention, Crisis Action’s work on Yemen has focused on trying to shift the dynamics of the conflict through engagement with the new UN envoy, further amplifying Yemeni voices and perspectives, sustaining pressure for accountability for those guilty of crimes, and naming and shaming those responsible for spoiling the prospects for peace.
Setting a precedent for civil society engagement with the new UN Special Envoy for Yemen
Days after Swedish diplomat Hans Grundberg was appointed as UN Envoy, Crisis Action ensured that he met with civil society during his inaugural trip to New York and had a clear picture of civil society expectations for his role. Crisis Action organised an in-person roundtable between eleven New York based partners (CARE, Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), International Rescue Committee (IRC), the NGO Working Group on Women Peace and Security, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P), Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), Humanity & Inclusion, Save the Children and Amnesty International). Crisis Action also assisted 29 NGOs – from across Yemen, the US, the UK, the EU and beyond – to address their concerns to the new Envoy with a letter recommending proactive engagement with the Security Council, a more inclusive peace process, a greater commitment to addressing the economic drivers of the conflict, a more principled humanitarian response, and placing of accountability at the heart of the peace process. The Envoy’s team welcomed this early engagement and committed to sustained ongoing collaboration on civil society concerns.
Crisis Action also convened two roundtables for Yemini civil society organisations and leaders based in different governorates across the country to enable them to align on a unified vision for the peace process and issue a joint recommendation paper as a basis for further consensus-building and advocacy in the future.
Countering the decision to revoke the mandate of the GEE
In contrast with these positive developments, the team were appalled by a setback both for the people of Yemen and the wider fight for respect for civilian protection norms. On October 7th, UN Human Rights Council member states voted against the renewal of the Group of Eminent Experts (GEE) on Yemen, which was the only international mechanism mandated to investigate violations, crimes, and abuses committed by all parties to the conflict. The result – something of a surprise to us all - was the outcome of sustained lobbying by HRC member Saudi Arabia, and overturned one of the landmark achievements of Crisis Action’s work on Yemen to date.
The team sprung quickly into action to work with governmental allies on a strategy to counter this adverse development, including a joint letter from 11 humanitarian NGOs including NRC, Oxfam, IRC and Save the Children to the UK’s Middle East and North Africa Minister, James Cleverly on accountability measures the UK can support and meeting with Christopher Le Mon (Crisis Action former DC Office Director and now Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the U.S. Department of State) to strategise how to persuade the UN General Assembly to establish of an international criminal-focused accountability mechanism that could cover crimes in Yemen.
Boris Johnson, Mohammed bin Salman and 7 others named Top Spoilers of Peace in Yemen
From late September Crisis Action led a joint initiative with its partner the Cairo Institute for Human Rights to reinvigorate international action on Yemen, specifically to deter further atrocities, end the cycle of impunity and build a more inclusive peace process.
Having invited nominations for the individuals most thwarting peace and protection, on 2 November we held an online award ceremony to reveal the 10 awards – including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and twice awarded, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) – as the Top Spoilers of Peace in Yemen. With partners struggling to bring their agendas of accountability and justice to the forefront of the deliberations on Yemen, Crisis Action launched the campaign in September 2021 to coincide with the annual UN Human Rights Council session on Yemen. As part of this work, Crisis Action:
- Convened a high-level panel of judges (3 female and 1 male) comprising Alice Mogwe, President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH); Hadil Al-Mowafak, Research Fellow at the Yemen Policy Center; Huda Al-Sarari, Yemen Human Rights Defender and Reed Brody, international Human Rights Lawyer.
- Coordinated over 100 nominations from civil society partners across the 10 different categories, with some partners ‘going public’ with their nominations.
- Supported CIHRS to host a virtual Awards Ceremony live streamed on Facebook (and available on YouTube and the campaign website) to ensure wide public participation, where the judges announced the winning spoilers and the egregious acts that put them at the top of the lists of crimes committed. Among those to join the webinar were civil society activists from across Yemen and the wider MENA region, the US, UK and France, as well as a few key Yemeni journalists.
- Secured widespread coverage, especially in Yemen and across the Arab region, including on Daraj Media, and also on some western media including La Croix in France and Sky news, who contacted us directly to praise the campaign; ‘We are always interested in telling stories in a visually different and engaging way…’ and said they’d like to explore a future collaboration to expose further the continued atrocities happening in Yemen.
- Mobilized the public in the US, UK, Europe, Africa and the MENA region via social media using the #SpoilersofPeace and #Shaming_the_shameless hashtags reaching about 1.5million people in total.