With Yemen on the brink of famine, the head of the UN called the cuts a “death sentence.”
There has been huge condemnation against cuts of millions of pounds to the UK’s overseas aid budget.
In the first brutal revelation of how Britain’s aid budget will be affected by dropping funding from 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5%, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office Minister James Cleverly told a conference Monday afternoon that the U.K. will be donating just £87 million ($120 million) to Yemen relief efforts in the coming year. That’s less than half of the £196.6 million the U.K. donated at a Yemen pledging event in 2020 and around 40% of the £214 million total in U.K. donations to Yemen in 2020-2021.
The vastly reduced amount comes despite FCDO’s classification of humanitarian need as a priority area that would be given protection from its spending cuts. “Famine is bearing down on Yemen,” according to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who said 20 million of the country’s people were in need of humanitarian assistance and protection.
The other she dropped when Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed Cleverly pre-budget softener and announced that he is cutting the aid budget from 0.7% of the country’s Gross National Income (GNI) to 0.5%.
It’s a decision that breaks the Conservative Party manifesto pledge to maintain the commitment and undermines a minimum target for aid spending that is enshrined in UK law.
International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015
Duty to meet United Nations 0.7% target from 2015
(1)It is the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that the target for official development assistance (referred to in this Act as “ODA”) to amount to 0.7% of gross national income (in this Act referred to as “the 0.7% target”) is met by the United Kingdom in the year 2015 and each subsequent calendar year.
(2)Whether the 0.7% target has been met by the United Kingdom in any year is to be determined for the purposes of this Act by reference to the amounts specified for that year in an annual report (in particular, the percentage specified in accordance with paragraph 1(h) of the Schedule to the 2006 Act).
The reduction in overseas aid can only be sanctioned by parliament
Ministers have acknowledged they must hold a Commons vote for the proposed cut in aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income to be lawful, although Boris Johnson, is trying to prevent a vote from taking place before he hosts the G7 in June.
The Foreign Office said the £87m pledge for Yemen compared with a £164m total promised by the government at the same conference last year, but that through 2020-21 the government provided a higher total of £214m.
The chance that the UK will boost its total pledge this year, however, is less likely owing to the general cuts in UK aid programming. If the £87m is not increased, it would be the lowest annual amount provided since 2015.
There may be an argument to cutting the aid budget and that should be played out in parliament, however, if it was to be cut there is a greater argument that those cuts should not be to aid sent to Yemen.
A brief background to the war in Yemen
Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when Houthi insurgents—Shiite rebels with links to Iran and a history of rising up against the Sunni government—took control of Yemen’s capital and largest city, Sana’a, demanding lower fuel prices and a new government. Following failed negotiations, the rebels seized the presidential palace in January 2015, leading President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his government to resign.
Beginning in March 2015, a coalition of Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia launched a campaign of economic isolation and airstrikes against the Houthi insurgents, with U.S. logistical and intelligence support.
Hadi rescinded his resignation and returned to Aden in September 2015, and fighting has continued since. A UN effort to broker peace talks between allied Houthi rebels and the internationally recognized Yemeni government stalled in the summer of 2016. As of December 2017, Hadi has reportedly been residing in exile in Saudi Arabia.
A coalition of Arab states are involved in the war on Yemen
In 2015, Saudi Arabia formed a coalition of Arab states to defeat the Houthis in Yemen. The coalition includes Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan and Senegal. Several of these countries have sent troops to fight on the ground in Yemen, while others have only carried out air attacks.
The UK, Germany, France and the US have all supplied billions in arms to fuel the conflict. A conflict that has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The irony of UK overseas aid going to the victims of this conflict is not missed, the fact we are supplying the arms to create the misery of millions speaks of something twisted, dark and sinister and not just hypocrisy.
The US have recently stopped exports of arms to Saudi Arabia
Biden signalled that the US would no longer be an unquestioning ally to the Gulf monarchies, Biden said the conflict in Yemen, which has killed more than 100,000 Yemenis and displaced 8 million, had “created a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe”.
“This war has to end,” Biden. “And to underscore our commitment, we’re ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arm sales.”
However, he said the US would continue to provide defensive support to Saudi Arabia against missile and drone attacks from Iranian-backed forces. US forces will also continue operations against al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula.
In order to rebuild American “moral leadership” Biden said he would also restore the US refugee programme, and announced an executive order that would raise the number of refugees accepted into the US in the first fiscal year of the Biden-Harris administration to 125,000.
Unfortunately the US newfound “moral leadership” did not extend to Syria, the US felt it expedient to order Airstrikes in Syria in what was described as retaliatory strikes against the militias whose attacks in Erbil this month killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member.
Yemen risks worst famine on the planet in ‘decades’, say UN officials
The UN hoped to raise $3.85bn (£2.76bn) from more than 100 governments and donors at a virtual pledging conference on Monday to avert widespread famine in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, but received $1.7bn – less than half – in what the UN secretary general described as a “disappointing outcome”. The total raised at last year’s conference fell $1.5bn short of what was sought.
“Millions of Yemeni children, women and men desperately need aid to live. Cutting aid is a death sentence,” António Guterres said in a statement.
The figure pledged was less than the UN received in 2020, when donations were hit by the coronavirus downturn, and $1bn less than what was pledged at the 2019 conference, he added.