After the Arab Spring overturned the authoritarian president in Yemen, a long and complicated civil war began, resulting in one of the largest famines in modern history. The fight for power started between the old president, now deceased, and the new president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who remains in control. The war has since then evolved into a multi-sided battle for territory and power between Hadi’s government, a Shia Muslim movement in the north, separatists in the south, and al-Qaeda and other Islamic states making territorial gains. Each side is backed by other Muslim countries, including Saudi-Arabia—who backs Hadi’s current government. Saudi Arabia has installed a tight blockade on Yemen to theoretically stop Iran from smuggling weapons to rebels, but this has resulted in “the world’s worst man-made humanitarian disaster,” as stated by United Nations officials. Millions have been killed during this grueling civil war due to famine, air raids by surrounding Muslim countries, and the world’s largest cholera outbreak (Yemen Crisis, 2018).
The conflict in Yemen is a controversial humanitarian issue because many people believe that not enough is being done towards UN intervention and assistance. UN officials report that more than 6,800 civilians have been killed since 2015, over half caused by air strikes. Humanitarian assistance is needed by 22.2 million Yemeni (75% of their population), and of those, 11.3 million people require urgent assistance to survive (Yemen Crisis,2018). Yemeni citizens, along with bystanders in other countries, are calling for the United Nations to intervene, categorizing this as an urgent humanitarian crisis. However, the UN has already made several failed attempts to negotiate a peace deal, and they are hesitant to take their involvement to the next level. It is clear that there is no lack of need for civilian assistance in Yemen, but justifying UN intervention is not easy, especially when the conflict is considered a civil war. UN intervention and supervision in a civil war faces a fine line between protecting the welfare of the citizens, and undermining the sovereignty of the current government to solve its own domestic affairs.
My personal opinion on whether or not further intervention in Yemen is called for is a toss between morality and practicality. There is an undeniable need for civilian assistance in Yemen, but this would also require political intervention. At the beginning of the conflict, intervention was not needed because it was a civil war with two clear sides and minimal or unknown human rights abuses. However, the conflict has since become a more complicated matter with more than two opposing sides competing for territory. Ultimately, I believe further UN humanitarian intervention should be implemented because of the failure of the current government, run by Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Hadi’s government has allowed for an environment where corruption, unemployment, food insecurity, and rebellions have prevented basic governmental functions to continue—including providing infrastructure, protection, and access to healthcare for his citizens. Additionally, Hadi has allied himself with Saudi Arabia, which is carrying out numerous air raids on civilians and blockading the country, causing widespread famine. Hadi has failed to protect his citizens’ welfare, and most of the people now support the leadership of the Shia movement in the north, regardless of if they are Shia or Sunni themselves (Yemen Crisis, 2018). The UN’s hesitation to intervene is because they don’t want to undermine the government’s sovereignty; but when the government fails to protect the commonwealth of the people, and when the people’s support is not behind its government, further intervention by the United Nations is justified and is necessary.
“Yemen Crisis: Why Is There a War?” BBC News, BBC, 20 Nov. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29319423.