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Yemen: “Give peace a serious chance”

As published by the Middle East Institute

Mick Mulroy
Non-Resident Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Yemen Steering Initiative

This past week, I participated in the defense and security portion of the Yemen International Forum in Stockholm, Sweden, a conference that is making the most of the ongoing cease-fire in that war-torn country. As the United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, said during his address at the conference, it is time to “Give peace a serious chance.”

Like many of the participants in the Forum, I have dedicated a considerable part of my career to the issue of Yemen: I served there in the past, was responsible for U.S. defense policy for Yemen while at the Pentagon, and currently co-chair the Yemen Steering Initiative at the Middle East Institute. But when it comes to the future of Yemen, it is the people of Yemen that matter the most.

The political entities in Yemen that worked together to bring about this cease-fire deserve congratulations. The countries that facilitated this, along with the current and former teams at the United Nations that supported it, should also be commended. In contrast, the countries that continue to use Yemen to launch attacks on their perceived enemies in an attempt to avoid attribution need to be held up to the international community as pariahs.

But this cease-fire cannot be wasted. It is time for diplomacy to take over to ensure a permanent solution. This diplomacy must aim to benefit the people of Yemen, ensuring the expeditious delivery of life-saving humanitarian aid and facilitating the country’s economic development so that one day such humanitarian aid will no longer be necessary.

The military and security force’s prime concern and main focus should be supporting efforts to protect the people of Yemen and to develop the infrastructure necessary to move the country beyond what the U.N. has characterized as the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. This effort should be focused on defensive capabilities and local security, bringing all productive military and security capabilities under one entity and professionalizing them with an emphasis on their respect for human rights. Such an entity should also be fully capable of securing both land and sea borders.

Of course, this effort will not be easy and will require significant assistance. Working alongside Yemen, the international community must develop a comprehensive plan to provide that assistance. This will not only create a framework through which all political entities in Yemen can visualize a clear path forward, but also offer donor nations an understanding of how their continued contribution plays into the greater effort.

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