Creative Coalitions: A Handbook for Change

Case Study: Working Behind the Scenes to Expose the Harm Done by Saudi Raids in Yemen

Violence in Yemen escalated rapidly following the start of a Saudi Arabia-led bombing campaign in March 2015. Both sides were breaching international humanitarian law (IHL) by failing to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Crisis Action built a coalition focused on increasing the pressure for a ceasefire, particularly by focussing collective efforts on one of Saudi Arabia’s main allies: the UK.

In order to put the UK government under sufficient political pressure for them to change course, Crisis Action orchestrated a concerted media campaign, building bespoke coalitions to show very publicly that the UK’s support for the Saudi abuses in Yemen was:

Crisis Action played a significant role in all the elements of this sustained, coordinated media campaign - but we were not publicly associated with any of them. This shows what’s possible working behind the scenes, and how powerful it can be: amplifying a series of different voices speaking out from their own experience can carry more weight, be more authentic, than the same coalition repeating the same message.

The campaign had the impact we were seeking. On 15th December, a ceasefire was agreed between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis in UN-mediated talks. We heard directly from the UN’s envoy on Yemen, and from policy-makers in the UK and the League of Arab States, that the coordinated public pressure had been instrumental in getting the UK and Saudi Arabia to push for a ceasefire.

Fighting resumed some months later, but during that ceasefire bombs were not dropped, lives were not taken. That is the impact smart coalitions can have.

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