How useful is aid in Yemen?


President Hadi recently departed Yemen to undertake a foreign tour, meeting key allies and Western leaders. President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron both recently met Hadi, as did the Jordanian King.

Top of the list of any discussion between the U.S. and Yemen is counter-terrorism. Yet there is an increasing acceptance that this must go hand in hand with a concerted attempt to build up the Yemeni government, improve Yemeni infrastructure and invest in civil society initiatives. Drones alone will not fix the al-Qaeda problem. However, as I argued last year, pouring in aid is of little use if the government is unable to distribute it efficiently (an argument which holds across the aid spectrum, not just in Yemen).

This argument was considered this week by Abubakr al-Shamahi, a British Yemeni journalist, in the Guardian. The piece is worth reading in full, yet seems to come to the same uneasy conclusion as many policy makers: that while keeping on pumping millions of dollars in aid into Yemen is ineffective, nobody is coming up with a better alternative.

It seems patently clear that just throwing huge amounts of Western money at the problem is not the solution – just look at the problems that remain in Africa. However, making the argument that such countries will improve with less U.S. economic assistance but more U.S. drones and missiles is also clearly problematic, to say the least. There remains a significant amount of further fresh thinking to be done by the academic and policy community as to how governments can reconcile these two positions.


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